Thanks to a theatrical new opening Hello Darling, Waterloo has a restaurant that's a destination in its own right, and of course the ideal spot for pre- and post show dining.
Combining the talents of Masterchef winner Natalie Coleman and stage design whizzes Darling and Edge, it specialises in seasonal small plates served up in a marvellously maximalist setting. After the reign of Scandi minimalism, the four-storey Victorian town house on Waterloo Road (just behind The Old Vic) is a riot of drama and detail.
On the ground floor is an 80-seater restaurant and bar. Everything is artfully mismatched and quirky as Darling and Edge draw on their experience designing for Gingerline and immersive show Alice's Adventure's Underground to create a permanent space that's full of stories and buzzing with the promise of a good night.
There's a 360 degree bar in the centre of the room serving vibrant botanical cocktails, complimented by an array of elaborate flower arrangements (which you can purchase and take home with you). Each table is hand-painted by a different artist, gilt-edged mismatched china recalls playing at tea parties, and a large proscenium arch with velvet curtains shrouds the space in theatricality. The kitchen is tucked away behind a vast dresser filled with patterned crockery and our cosy private dining booth was hidden beyond a spiral staircase, enclosed by an astrological fresco on the ceiling.
The eclectic aesthetic is reflected in the menu, which consists of sharing plates divided into fish, vegetables and meat. But there's nothing over the top or extravagant about the flavours. Chef Natalie Coleman balances creativity and subtle, leaving the seasonal ingredients to shine. A salad of wild garlic, asparagus, broad bean, peas and pearl barley is as light and fresh as spring on a plate, while the tomato ragu with halloumi croquettes is rich and comforting.
The fish and shellfish selection spans an irresistibly soft-yolked haddock scotch egg to an intricate Tuna Carpaccio, given a burst of sweet, sharp and spice with watermelon, radish and wasabi. And the highlight from the small but thoughtful meat selection is a succulent duck leg confit.
After advising that two -three dishes per person is plenty, our waitress warned us to save space for the tonka bean melt in the middle chocolate cake. As the dish that Coleman won Masterchef with in 2013, it has all the trappings of a classic and we miraculously muster up the appetite to devour one each (share at your peril...).
As if the restaurant isn't enough of a feast for the senses, Hello Darling is still growing and transforming into a party and performance destination. Plans are afoot to turn the basement into a late licence drinking den, while the top two floors are shaping up to become the whacky party spot, cabaret bar, magic show, immersive theatre hybrid you didn't know you needed.
We look forward to saying hello to this darling of a restaurant for many a drink, meal, and late night party.
|What||Hello Darling, Waterloo review|
|Where||Hello Darling, 131 Waterloo Rd, London, SE1 8U | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
|Website||Click here to book now|