Walter’s in West Dulwich is a lovely new independent neighbourhood restaurant which – for our money, at least – epitomises everything that good hospitality’s about.
Forget the private equity money; the chain restaurants; the global brand roll outs; the awards and the flamboyant instagrammable interiors – hospitality at its heart is about welcoming friends in from a cold (and right now, a rather unforgiving) world with a smile, and a plate or two of something delicious to enjoy with friends and loved ones.
And Walter’s – which launched around a week ago in what for many years was Café Rouge, in West Dulwich – does just that. During the pandemic, and for weeks after London began to creep back to life, local Dulwich resident Rob Hampton – co-owner of Covent Garden Seafood Bar & Kitchen, The Oystermen with Matt Lovell – would peer through the windows of the place, wondering if it was ever going to reopen. Turns out that was a no… so he and Matt set about acquiring the space, while sketching out plans for the local neighbourhood bistro they’d ultimately like to live next to. And through a combination of now all too common Brexit and pandemic-related delays; mishaps; staffing and logistics challenges; increased food prices; and often an inability to even source basic ingredients, they’ve against all odds opened the local neighbourhood restaurant that they’ve been dreaming of. And it’s wonderful.
Perhaps it was knowing the challenges they’ve overcome, and continue to face (on the day we went along, due to ongoing staffing issues, co-owner Matt was KP-ing in the kitchen), or perhaps it’s because of the proliferation of chain restaurants in Dulwich – or even just the appreciation, through two years of a pandemic, how important places like this are to bringing local communities together.. but yeah, all our thumbs are up.
Loris at the front of house welcomed us with a big smile and a glass of bubbles, immediately jumping into explaining how hard it is to find amazing arancini in London and how much we’d enjoy head chef Khalid Hassan’s (ex-Social Eating House, L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon and Murano). And he was right. The menu’s fairly eclectic, but everything on it – in true Oystermen fashion – is made with ingredients that are as locally sourced as possible, from that Truffle Arancini and a delicious Peanut Glazed Chicken Salad to start, alongside mains like a whole Sea Bass (with fresh mussels & sea herbs), Braised Ox Cheek (with buttered mash, balsamic shallot, watercress, shallot crisps & chive oil) and a Mushroom Orzo Risotto (with slow cooked duck egg, salsa verde & crispy potato) to Caramel Parfait with coffee reduction & popcorn, and Stilton Mousse for dessert.
They’re also serving up classic cocktails, whiskies from around the world and a hand-picked selection of wines from behind a beautiful antique bar, and have a dedicated cellar downstairs, which will soon double up as a private hire space… and triple up as an events room for tastings led by the Oystermen themselves. Currently accommodating up to 50 guests at a time in what is a relatively intimate space, they’re open from Wednesday to Sunday each week – with a plan to add in Mondays and Tuesdays as word begins to spread.
If you live in the area – and even if you don’t – this is exactly the sort of local restaurant that London neighbourhoods need to thrive. So if you can book, do…
NOTE: Walter’s is now open. You can check out their menu, book a table and read more about the restaurant and the team behind it on their website right HERE.
Walter’s | 84 Park Hall Road, Dulwich, London, SE21 8BW
Want to find other new restaurants? See our pick of the best recently opened restaurants in London.