As an area that’s famed mostly for a sprawling railway station, views of the river and London landmarks (as well as the aquarium, obviously), Waterloo might not immediately strike you as the ultimate destination for dining.
But how wrong you might be. Not only are there many fascinating fledgling spots to try out something new, the neighbourhood also serves as a home to some of London’s best loved and longest standing establishments. For just a glimpse of the best, look no further than our shortlist of culinary discoveries Waterloo has to offer…
You now have absolutely no excuse to end up in Las Iguanas next time you’re passing through.
Union Street Café
This is just one of the 15 UK sites Gordon Ramsay has put his mastery and name to (with a further 21 across other shores). Headed up by Davide Degiovanni – who has earned his stripes at Michelin-starred Ristorante Semplice and Locanda Locatelli, to name but a few – Union Street Café is anything but the stuff of Kitchen Nightmares. With a huge emphasis on seasonality, it’s a temple at which artisanal Italian, small-batch producers are worshipped.
Be prepared to leave enough room for all necessary courses. If you’re willing to take our word for it, go for the artichokes with liquorice, cacioricotta and mint, followed by the Sardinian pork ragu gnocchi, then guinea fowl, before ALL five cheeses and lastly, the hazelnut cake (you’re welcome). Or, leave it up to the chef with one of their tasting menus.
In just the same way that the café is actually a restaurant, the bar is actually an olive grove: tables are romantically set below a canopy of trees and vines to pay homage to the olive through themed cocktail and bar snack menus.
Details: 47-51 Great Suffolk Street, SE1 0BS | Open Mon-Sat 12-12pm, Sun 12-5pm
The Anchor & Hope
Claiming the same lineage as fellow sites Great Queen Street and Canton Arms, The Anchor & Hope has been bestowed with an equal measure of culinary genius. If you’re wondering whether it’s a pub first and restaurant second (or the other way around), then you’re going to find the answer as easily as the ‘chicken before the egg’ conundrum.
While it’s technically half-bar, half-dining room, you’ll often find patrons eating from the handwritten chalkboard menu at every table, while the clink of pint and wine glasses fills both the rooms with convivial chatter. The dishes change regularly, ranging from smoked herring to Spanish-style pig’s cheeks – and whether you manage to work your way through to the brandy list or not, the atmosphere alone is enough to leave you feeling high-spirited.
Unfortunately, The Anchor & Hope is far from a well-kept secret, so make sure you call ahead to ensure a group of you make it over the threshold and don’t forget to try the guest ale on tap if you’re waiting for a table.
Details: 36 The Cut, Lambeth, SE1 8LP | Open Mon-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 12.30-3.15pm
For a taste of other climes, Baltic has what you need. Save yourself the time and money to actually travel, and instead taste your way through a menu inspired by Eastern and Central Europe, with particular focus on the temptations of Poland and Russia. Set in an eighteenth century coach building, stripped back to crisp white walls, the 40ft wooden trussed ceilings are the only reminder that you’re not actually in a Philadelphia advert (in a good way).
With over 70 different vodkas to choose from, you might feel a little hazy by the time it comes to deciding on your meal. That said, it’s likely the Siberian pelmeni (small veal & pork dumplings) and the aubergine caviar blinis will catch your eye and taste buds easily enough. They offer a stellar pre-theatre menu alongside their à la carte and even have live jazz on a Sunday to accompany a Kavka Vodka weekend brunch – twoje zdrowie (cheers in Polish) to that… READ MORE
Details: 74 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA | Open Mon 5.30-11.15pm, Tues-Sat 12–3pm and 5.30-11.15pm, Sun 12–4.30pm and 5.30–10.30pm
Theatre restaurants can sometimes lack the same amount of direction as a clumsily performed primary school play. Occasionally serving as more of a pit-stop than a destination, coupled with the unavoidable need for speedy covers, it’s not always difficult to see why. Until House.
Nestled into one of the many corners of The National’s brutalist boughs, initial impressions of the place take you far from the concrete theatre foyer and plunge you into an elegantly styled, gently lit space that manages to be classic and contemporary at the same time. It’s civilised, but still relaxed, where it feels equally acceptable to order a pint of lager as it does to sip on a martini.
The food is anything but home cooking, unless smoked turbot, kohlrabi kraut, mussels, cider & clotted cream sauce is something you’re prone to whipping up from the remaining contents of your larder. And for anyone who’s feeling particularly theatrical, their Afternoon Tea menu is inspired by some of the theatre’s ‘most celebrated’ shows. Now, we’re just as intrigued to see how you might turn One Man, Two Guvnors into a sandwich or Sweeney Todd into a scone as the next person.
Details: National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX | Open Mon-Sat 5-11pm
Bala Baya is a love story between Israeli-born chef Eran Tibi and Tel Aviv. Boy oh boy, can we feel it in the air.
Set against a backdrop inspired by Bauhaus architecture, the space has been brought to life by multi-award-winning designer, Afroditi Krassa, conjuring the feel of Tel Aviv in the heart of London. The philosophy behind all that they do is centred around the beauty of sharing, bringing Israel’s hands-on, hands-in approach of family-style dining. Open all day, breakfasts of blackberry pitta french toast and Yemeni pancakes become dinners of saffron beef, ‘Crispy, sticky, crunchy’ (which is in fact chicken thighs, bitter orange, harissa, kimchi, butternut squash puree, hazelnuts and sumac), and £42pp tasting menus… READ MORE
Details: Arch 25, Old Union Yard Arches, 229 Union Street, SE1 0LR | Open Mon-Wed 12-3pm & 5-10pm, Thurs-Fri 12-3pm & 5-10.15pm, Sat 10.30am-4pm & 6-10pm, Sun 10.30am-5pm
Sea Containers Restaurant
If the recent Coal Drops Yard development hasn’t been enough to serve your love for Tom Dixon, then do not let Sea Containers pass you by. Designed by the man himself, there’s a bit of quirkiness to be found around every up-lit, gold-leafed corner.
Beyond the iconic view (as well as being an excellent people-watching spot) this restaurant offers ingredient-led riverside food in the form of both small and large plates to be shared, either in the restaurant, or their al fresco terrace lining the fringes of The Queen’s Walk.
For a calm and relaxed meal, this is the place for you during the week. Come Friday night you’ll find the tempo ramped up a notch, before the crescendo of their Grey Goose bloody mary and prosecco bottomless brunch on Saturdays.
Ahoy to that!
Details: 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London, SE1 9PD | Open for breakfast, Mon-Fri 6.30-11am, Sat-Sun 7-11.30am, brunch Sat, Sun & Bank Holidays 12-4pm; lunch & dinner Mon-Fri 12-11pm, Sat-Sun 5-11pm
Meson Don Felipe
It’s almost impossible to put your finger on what makes Meson Don Felipe so special. It could be the bright red walls and ceiling, or the convivial setting, with cosy tables surrounding a well-worn central bar. Or better still, it might even be the live flamenco music from a man perched on a ledge above a doorframe in the far left-hand corner, that makes this haven of chicken livers in sherry sauce, whitebait and broad beans with smoked ham and mint the ultimate, authentic no frills affair… READ MORE
Details: 53 The Cut, South Bank, SE1 8LF | Open Mon-Sun 12-11pm
The Laughing Gravy
Prohibition era slang for booze, The Laughing Gravy is a Southwark institution that, like its namesake, is tricky to find (but worth the effort) and will leave you feeling a little giddy. Headed up by chef Michael Facey (who’s earned his chops with Mark Hix, John Torode and Gary Hollihead), it’s a temple to elegant Modern European cuisine in a lofty, industrially-styled setting… READ MORE
Details: 154 Blackfriars Road, SE1 8EN | Open Mon-Thurs 12-3pm & 5-10p, Fri & Sat 12-3pm & 5-10.30pm, Sun 12-4.30pm
Coming to you from the TAS group, Ev Restaurant offers a one stop shop for the perfect evening of Anatolian atmosphere. Sprawled across three railway arches (along the blooming Isabella Street) are EV Bakery, Restaurant and Bar, covering your meal from start to finish. Expect hot and cold mezze, Mangal-grilled meat and fish, freshly baked Turkish pide and their famed hummus dip, made in-house to a secretly guarded recipe… READ MORE
Details: The Arches 97-99 Isabella Street, London, SE1 8DD | Open Mon-Sat 12 -11.30pm, Sun 12-10.30pm
Mar i Terra
These guys got to Southwark before the Tate Modern did. Nestled off Blackfriars Road, in an affectionally obscure corner by a railway line, you’ll find Mar i Terra where The Hop Pole pub had been for more than 100 years before (who doesn’t love a bit of local landlord history). Cosy and convivial, with just 40 covers and a walled courtyard garden out the back, charming doesn’t begin to cover it… READ MORE
Details: 14 Gambia Street, Waterloo, London SE1 0XH | Open Mon-Fri 12-3pm & 6-11pm, Sat 6-11pm
Inspired by the iconic structure that was built for the 1951 Festival of Britain, Skylon offers a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the South Bank as it perches above the Royal Festival Hall. With floor to ceiling windows running the width of the space, it serves as a welcoming environment to enjoy modern British cuisine at its finest: Carlingford rock oysters and hand dived scallops, Welsh lamb rack Shepherd’s Pie (to share) and Skylon beef burgers… READ MORE
Details: Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX | Open Mon-Fri 12-11pm, Sat 10.30am-11pm, Sun 11.30am-10.30pm
For over 40 years, La Barca has served up traditional food from Tuscany and other regions across Italy, making it the ultimate destination for classics. The highlight of which has to be the spaghetti alla Barca – spaghetti with mixed seafood and tomato sauce, cooked in a paper bag (yes, you read that right)… READ MORE
Details: 80-81, Lower Marsh, SE1 7AB | Open Mon-Fri 12-2.30pm & 6-11.30pm, Sat 6-11.30pm
Written by Izzy Gormezano Marks | Last Updated: 15th July 2019 | Main image: Sea Containers
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