NOTE: Sadly, Hello Darling has now closed.
Allow us to introduce your new favourite Waterloo restaurant.
As restaurants go, it looks rather unique, and that’s because it actually comes from a team of theatrical set designers (Darling & Edge) who, having dressed the rooms for some of London’s most unusual supperclubs (from Gingerline’s Grand Expedition to the bar at Alice’s Adventures Underground and Vaults supperclub, Beauty and the Feast, etc.) are now taking a leap with something a lot more permanent.
That Permanent thing is Hello Darling, a grand, four-storey building next to the Old Vic on Waterloo Road. And it’s a stunner, whose whimsical interior looks like something straight out of a pop up storybook – all Victorian flourishes, watercolour tones and floral embellishments. The ground floor is home to the main event: an intimate 80-seater restaurant & cocktail bar, kitted out with ceiling frescoes, draped curtains, and stunning artwork on the walls.
There’s almost too much to describe. The kitchen is hidden behind a huge floor-to-ceiling china dresser stuffed with crockery. There’s a huge, theatrical style proscenium arch hung with stage curtains, inviting the eye to look at the pair of contrasting private dining booths behind it. They’re laid out one on top of the other, with the upper one accessed via a small spiral staircase you otherwise might not even notice. The chairs are all mismatched. The tables are all individually hand-painted with their own unique designs. There are inventive flower arrangements scattered about everywhere you turn. Hell, there’s even a flower menu you can get after your meal, should you want to go home with some of them.
And speaking of menus, manning the pans is Natalie Coleman, who’s using not only fresh, Mediterranean-leaning ingredients but also her experience as a Masterchef winner to put together a pretty mouthwatering menu of small plates. They’re opening with dishes like blowtorched mackerel with dill and cucumber; soft shell crab with yuzu and kohlrabi; asparagus, wild garlic and broad beans with pearl barley; and harissa quail with sumac and yoghurt. And you can follow that up with rhubarb and frangipane tart; tonka bean chocolate melting cake; and crispy nectarine parcels with lavender custard…
At this point, we should probably mention the huge, 360-degree cocktail bar slapped in the middle of the space (see? There’s a lot to get through here) because they’re serving some pretty delicious drinks; expect a Raspberry & Geranium Sour (made with rum, raspberry liqueur, geranium, lemon & rosemary); and a sage-loaded Martini made with yuzu & dry vermouth. Everything can be made vegan or gluten-free, and they have a bunch of sharing cocktails coming, too.
This is all on the ground floor, and you’ll remember us mentioning that this is a four-storey building. Well, they have some pretty grand plans for the remaining decks – they’re currently in the process of turning the two upstairs floors into a party space accessed through a painting opened by a secret key. It’ll essentially be a full-time house party with half a dozen rooms, and a six-foot high, three-dimensional tigers head (frozen in mid-roar) stuck to one of the walls – a leftover from one of their more ambitious set-designs.
Downstairs will be a dark, secluded club space that they might turn into a jazz bar, or simply open into a dancefloor. But whatever they do…
…it’ll be darling.
NOTE: Hello Darling has now closed.
Hello Darling | 131 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UR
Like drinking in elegant parlours? Pay a visit to Zetter Townhouse