Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Eating & Drinking In...Waterloo

Here's my latest piece for Flavour London magazine, an area guide to eating & drinking in Waterloo.

Waterloo is no shrinking violet. Acting as London’s gateway to the Southbank, the namesake station is the busiest in the UK boasting over 1,500 trains in and out daily. It’s also the local stop for the country’s most popular tourist attracting, helping 3 million a year onto the London Eye.  What far too few of the area’s visitors realise is that Waterloo is also fast becoming a foodie hub for the capital. A hub for those who find Borough too busy and the centre too chaotic. It’s a place solely for those in the know. Let Flavour fill you in...

Lower Marsh
Tap out and turn right as you leave Waterloo Tube station to find Lower Marsh, an ancient market street that overflows with charm and character.  Head here on a weekday and you’ll find the narrow road lined with food-to-go stalls and an occasional veg seller.
If you’ve shopping to do, you’ll have to avoid being lured into brightly coloured Cubana ( which sits on the street’s corner. This modest Cuban restaurant churns out plate after plate of delicious and underpriced delights. They make their money instead on the Mojitos and other suppable cocktails which whizz off the bar of an evening. Catch their happy hour from 5-6.30 and join the party.

One of the first stalls you’ll see as you head down Lower Marsh is Buen Provecho, which has widely been hailed as one of the best places to eat Mexican in London. Try owner Arturo Ortega Rodriguez ‘s legendary pork pibli tacos or indulge in a toasty cheese quesadilla. Just make sure you add a dollop of roasted tomato and chipotle salsa – it will make your tongue sing.

As you continue down the street, you’ll find a changing selection of stalls offering everything from curries to crepes, and falafels to fish. Look out on the left for Greensmiths Deli ( , which houses just about any gourmet ingredient you could wish for. Included within is a Ginger Pig concession selling all manner of own-reared meats alongside hearty snacks in the form of scotch eggs, game pie and some quite unbeatable pork and stilton sausage rolls. There’s also a Waterloo Wine Co mini shop inside to help with some local drinking, not that the wines actually made in the area, unfortunately!

Want somewhere to go and eat that sausage roll? Head down a little further until you get to ScooterCaffe, a gem of a place that’s loved by all who enter. There’s no name on the front but look out for a big red sign saying bar, and a scooter or two in the window. The premises used to be a scooter repair shop, but turned into a cafe after word spread of the excellent coffees they were serving to waiting customers. Italian vintage coffee machines are the secret here, whilst chatty staff, eclectic furnishings, board games, a cosy basement and some resident cats all help make it as brilliant as it is. There’s no food bar an occasional cake on offer, but you’re welcome to bring your own – which is where that sausage roll comes in. They’ll happily whip you up a cocktail or two, as well.

Drop down the steps by Waterloo Bridge and you’ll find yourself at the heart of the Southbank. Visit here on Friday, Saturday & Sundays to find the Real Food Festival Market ( on Belvedere Road in the square behind Royal Festival Hall. Chef demos, tastings and specially themed stalls abound, alongside regular favourites such as Woodwards Farm selling raw beef as well as their signature burgers.

A lot of the restaurants on the river can be quite tourist focused, but Canteen ( near to the market is hard to beat for seasonal, British food at a decent price. And their breakfasts are enough to cure any hangover. Trust us.

If you’re feeling fancy, head into Skylon ( in the Southbank Centre for a meal that will leave a lasting impression but a potential dent in your wallet, or to the nearby Westminster Bridge Park Plaza Hotel to sample the finesse of Joël Antunes’ cooking at Brasserie Joël ( If it’s not quite such a special occasion, head back a street or two to uncover some much more fairly priced secrets. 

The White Hart ( on Cornwall Road might be more Royal Oak than The Ivy,  but its proximity to the National Theatre, The Old Vic and ITV’s studios means it draws in all the stars. There’s an A-list wine selection, loads of ciders, and (this must be what attracts the celebs) wasabi nuts to nibble on. A hearty pub menu of seasonal dishes is also a good bet. Alternatively, head round the corner to The King’s Arms on Roupell Street where you’ll find a stunningly good Thai curry for a fiver at the back of an otherwise traditional old boozer.

Whilst in the area, you may want to call in at Konditor & Cook, too. The expertly made, gooey in the centre, massive fruit meringues which adorn the window say more than any words can, but in short it’s an essential for anyone with a sweet tooth.

The Cut
Heading east from the station, you’ll find yourself on The Cut, home of The Old & Young Vic theatres, and met at the end by Southwark Tube. The Anchor & Hope is the must-visit destination here, having previously been crowned London’s best Sunday lunch. It’s founders come via St. John and the place that coined the phrase gastropub, The Eagle, so it has good pedigree. Popularity can be a problem if you don’t get a seat, so it’s good to know that for one session only at 2pm on a Sunday they’ll take bookings.

Nearby you’ll find Culture Grub (, a Chinese noodle bar and restaurant which receives rave reviews for its authenticity, though you may have to put up with service that’s far from the friendliest. It’s worth it. Across the road is Meson Don Felipe (, a tapas bar that comes complete with live guitar strumming, regular flamenco and jug loads of sangria. The service is friendly here, too. Cocktails, dumplings and borscht are available at Baltic round the corner on Blackfriars Road, creating an impressive multicultural triangle.

Slide down the side streets towards Waterloo East station to find a romantic oasis of cafes flanked by flowers and floral adornments under the arches on Isabella street. Feast on mezze at Ev ( restaurant and find the ingredients in their deli next door if you feel so inclined to recreate your dishes at home. Alternatively, just pop next door to Jack’s Bar & Cocktail School ( for a cocktail or three.

Best thing about Waterloo? If you get carried away, you’re never short of a night bus home.

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