Toulouse Lautrec | An old-school French restaurant and jazz bar
French artist Toulouse-Lautrec reportedly hollowed out his walking cane and filled it with booze so that he’d never be without alcohol.
At this eponymous Kennington haunt, they mainly stick to glasses – but you can nevertheless embrace the decadent lifestyle of the bohemian bon viveur thanks to their lavish French dishes, extensive wine list, and nightly programme of live music and cabaret.
It’s where to make haste if you ever feel like pretending you’re in Paris in the 1920’s for an evening. A bit like Owen Wilson did in Midnight in Paris. And unlike Owen, you don’t need to take a mysterious magic car ride to get there – only the tube to Kennington or Elephant & Castle (it’s about halfway between the two).
In your effort to live a highly romanticised French version of yourself; the evening begins in the dining room. It’s a warm, brasserie-style space with scuffed wooden floors, rustic chairs and tables lit with lampshades and candles, covered by white tablecloths. Up the stairs is the Piano Room, which provides an atmospheric musical score to your meal in the form of a grand white piano and sometimes vocals from the person playing, if you fancy it. A man named Hervé Regent and his two sons Nolan and Florent run the show, and after giving you a warm welcome and gesturing you to your seat, you’re presented with a menu. That menu? It’s wholeheartedly French, believe it or not…
The full inventory is here and no one is left out: baskets of bread with salted butter; cheese and charcuterie; snails with loads of garlic; foie gras; steak tartare prepared before you at the table; and hearty, rich mains like cassoulet or guinea fowl with a creamy mushroom chestnut sauce. To drink, there’s Belgian beers and there’s also ample wine too, of course – no prizes for guessing where the majority of it comes from.
Once you’ve wiped away the final remnants of dessert from your mouth (tip: creme brûlée is a signature) and emptied out the bottles of beer or wine, don’t think the night is coming to a close. Make your way up the very dimly-lit third floor jazz bar (that resembles more of an attic with room for 65) and to one of the marble-topped tables, classically arranged as it would be at a cabaret, that give way to a prime view of a small stage where a jazz band pitches up for the night. You get all genres – from funk, soul, swing and blues to big band and even a bit of burlesque – and you get it every night of the week, without fail. On Mondays at 9.30pm (after a warm up from the house quartet) the stage is reserved for L’Art de Jazz, a jam with some of London’s most promising jazz talent.
Who really put on a show…
NOTE: Toulouse Lautrec is open daily. You can book the restaurant, as well as tickets to shows at the jazz club (highly recommended) on their website, right here.
Toulouse Lautrec | 140 Newington Butts, London SE11 4RG
Love dinner and a show? Good thing there’s lots of great London restaurants with live music…