Swine Dining at the Bank Tavern: Review

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A slightly delayed review here, but a review of an experience that was far more positive than I was expecting it to be! Although eating offal is becoming more and more popular, it’s not something that I tend to order when I go out for dinner.

The Bank Tavern at 8 John Street in the city centre, however, love offal. In fact, we were told that pig trotters have featured on the menu in recent months – they’re big fans of nose to tail eating. Having only ever been there for Sunday lunch before (and a damn good Sunday lunch at that), we were excited about the invitation to their “Swine Dining” event that we received through the post.

Essentially, as the name suggests, it was an evening that focused predominantly on the pig. It wasn’t a night on which to expect bacon, pork chops and sausages, though: it was an evening that paid homage to their nose to tail dining philosophy by serving us four offal-based courses, followed by dessert.

Some of the items didn’t faze me at all. Cheeks? Liver? No problem whatsoever. It was when I saw brain and spleen on the menu, however, that I began to wonder if I’d be able to cope…


Swine Dining, Bank Tavern - Menu


With slight trepidation (we weren’t the only ones who were a little nervous…), we took our seats and awaited our bone marrow starter. Served still in the bone, with a little spoon to scrape it out, it had a pretty buttery flavour which went perfectly with the slice of toasted bread that accompanied it. The meaty flavour was less intense than I’d expected, and I happily polished it off. Definitely something I’ll be trying again.


Swine Dining, Bank Tavern - Bone Marrow


No offal in our first amuse-bouche, which proved to be a small glass of the silkiest, smoothest celeriac veloute, accompanied by earthy truffle oil, coarsely ground black pepper and a garnish of fresh peas. A delicious build up to the brain that was to be served as part of the next course…


Swine Dining, Bank Tavern - Celeriac Veloute


The brain terrine was another surprise to me – I hadn’t expected to enjoy it at all. On the outside, we had a coarse pork and pistachio terrine with plenty of flavour, on the inside was the brain, looking exactly as I’d expected. Like a brain.

The texture didn’t do anything for me at all – creamy and fatty, and not particularly pleasant. The taste was a different matter, though. While I was expecting it to have the same iron-filled flavour as many other internal organs, it was more reminiscent, bizarrely, of fish roe. It paired nicely with the richer flavour of the terrine itself, and the segments of blood orange in the salad were definitely welcomed to give my tastebuds a bit of a break.


Swine Dining, Bank Tavern - Brain Terrine


Amuse-bouche number two followed, in the form of a light Pecorino pastry, filled with a smoky and peppery baba ghanoush and topped with crispy pork fat. Outstanding.


Swine Dining, Bank Tavern - Puff Pastry


I was looking forward to the next course: pig cheeks with salt liver. The pig cheeks arrived breaded and in semi-circular form: they’d evidently been slow cooked, pulled and shaped rather than served whole. The salt liver was cooked perfectly, and we loved the added bonus of the homemade black pudding perched on one side of the plate: far crumblier and less dense than traditional black puddings, and nowhere near as rich. The apple compote, as you’d expect, accompanied the dish perfectly too. Probably my favourite course of the night.


Swine Dining, Bank Tavern - Liver and Cheek


Next came the course I’d been dreading. In all honesty, I had no idea what a spleen was before the meal, and so made the mistake of Googling it. Probably shouldn’t have done that. Its function in the body is to filter blood, and Googling “rolled pig’s spleen” took me to this blog, where photos of the raw product didn’t do much to whet my appetite.

Although it was evident that the chef had put a lot of effort into its preparation, I can’t say that it was the most appealing-looking plate of food. The spleen had been rolled with bacon, skewered and cooked, and was served with Chinese-style pork dumplings in an aromatic broth.

The dumplings were full of flavour, their cases soft and just the right thickness. The broth was light and aromatic, packed full of fresh herbs. I think some of the diners around us were glad of the additional elements, judging by the amount of the star attraction that was left in their bowls at the end of the course.

Me? I loved it. The intensity of the flavour was huge – think liver, but even stronger. With the salty bacon included, the lightness of the broth was actually pretty good for dissipating some of this richness between mouthfuls. I couldn’t finish the whole lot as it was just too rich, but I gave it a damn good go.


Swine Dining, Bank Tavern - Spleen


Surprisingly, dessert featured no elements of pig whatsoever – probably for the best. I chose a bowl of assorted sorbets, with the blackcurrant far and above the standout flavour.


Swine Dining, Bank Tavern - Sorbets


Others at our table opted for the lemon tart brulee – we weren’t sure whether it hadn’t set properly or whether it was supposed to be so runny, but it was beautifully tart and creamy.


Swine Dining, Bank Tavern - Lemon Tart


Pannacotta with strawberries and black pepper was also a hit, the pannacotta with a decent wobble and a fresh flavour similar to that of natural yoghurt.


Swine Dining, Bank Tavern - Pannacotta


All in all, a great night – a fantastic showcase of how versatile the humble pig can be. To be honest, I doubt I would have ordered many of the courses if I’d been presented with them as choices on a menu, but I guess that was the point of the evening: to challenge our preconceptions of offal and show us just how tasty it can be. I think it might be time for me to give offal more of a chance in the future…


Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.



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