119 Waterloo Road
For commuters spilling out of Waterloo station, there’s finally somewhere across the road where you can fill up on restorative food and notable cocktails. The brasserie sits on Waterloo Road, within sight of one of London’s busiest stations, and the theatrical allure of The Old Vic. If you’ve got a night booked out at said theatre, you could do little better than to slip into the brasserie for some very good cocktails as a pre-theatre warm up. A pre-theatre dinner deal is also available, though you may very well end up wanting to spend your evening here, instead of heading off somewhere else.
As you step inside the restaurant, you inevitably end up walking past the bar, which is festooned with glass baubles, hanging above its sleek black surface. Soft red shades counter the lustrous black tables with a modern twist on the classic brasserie. We climbed into our high-slung chairs and peeked out through the window at The Old Vic, winking back at us with its name in lights. Before we got as far as the menu, the waitress came over to ask us if we’d like to try the cocktail special of the day. We willingly nodded, and soon enough, two passion fruit martinis arrived, each accessorised with halves of passion fruit and both tasting delightfully tangy and tart. After a few gleeful sips from our martini glasses, we decided that this is where we will come for cocktails from now on. No question.
A look through the menu had us stumped, as there was plenty of choice. The Jerusalem artichoke veloute sounded tempting as did the crispy brie tatin, but we decided on a bowlful of French onion soup, and the seared scallops with puy lentils. Both whetted our appetite - the scallops were suitably plump and the French onion soup managed to sooth away our windswept expressions from the gale force winds we had been battling against outside.
We had a glance through the wine list, which turned out to be a lengthy read, it being quite a sizeable selection. Having glamorously licked our martini glasses clean, we decided on a glasses of Pinot Grigio and Marcon Lugny ‘Les Charmes’ to accompany our lamb shank and braised beef cheeks. Both dishes were decent winter warmers, with lamb and beef melting on impact from our forks. We had ordered side dishes of green beans and potato dauphinois, although the lamb shank did end up arriving with some unannounced beans of its own. Portions at the Waterloo Brasserie are a good, but realistic size, which meant we just about had room for a sweet course. We both opted for the almond tuile, complete with vanilla ice cream and rhubarb marmalade. A definite sweet note to end on, with the sharpness of the rhubarb cutting through to strike a little balance.
We sat there, feeling a little full by now, soaking up the atmosphere of the place. From our table at the front of the restaurant, there was a familiar feel to the dining space, with a view of people enjoying their glasses at the bar, and the welcoming bustle of knowledgeable staff. Even a trip to the toilet proved to be an interesting route through the restaurant: past a glass-walled wine cellar, through another more intimate dining space, and accidentally into a cleaning cupboard (it was quite dark…), before finding the ladies in all its mirror-ceilinged glory. The Waterloo Brasserie has cleverly been designed to be many things. Besides boasting toilets with a definite talking point, the brasserie offers up intimate dining, relaxed dining, stylish dining and cocktail quaffing all within spitting distance of one of London’s biggest stations. Tempting as it is to rant about why a place like this hasn’t sprung up sooner, it’s probably far more enjoyable to fill your mouth with its menu instead.
119 Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8UL
Tel: 020 7960 0202
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar