Being a resident of bustling Waterloo, I was thrilled to hear the arrival of a new, premium, all-day restaurant and bar with a focus on the best of British food. Florentine, situated a stones throw from Lambeth North station and 10-minute walk from Waterloo, is a lovely, light, airy space with a separate restaurant and bar area that offers a sense of Sunday laziness and relaxation in what is normally a stressful part of London.
The menu is in the style of a Brasserie, as is the elegant bar, which offers a range of interesting British cocktails, British sparkling wines, craft beers, and classics. DJs play throughout the evenings and weekends here too, rendering it a great spot for post-work chill vibes for Waterloo and Lambeth North residents.
For food, one can expect a Breakfast menu (served from 7am – 11.30am) that features your usual croissants, granolas, smoked salmon bagels, and pancakes, to an extensive ‘Eggs’ menu that is available all day, nibbles (served from 12pm – 22.30pm), starters (including a smoked burrata that looked amazing), salads, mains (think: steamed cod, grilled sea bass, veal Milanese, etc) and then, finally, the Florentine specials: ‘Big to Share’ dishes. Here, one can enjoy the Tomahawk (a kilo of grass-fed beef, 35 day aged on the bone), an entire Roast chicken, or, finally, the Florentine showstopper: an entire Ostrich egg full English breakfast for 4 people. Given one single ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 normal hen eggs (!!), at a price of £65 for four, with the full English accompaniments of Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, streaky bacon, Cumberland sausages and baked beans, this is actually a pretty sweet deal for the hungry brunchers and one I’ll probably drag friends down to try with me at some hungover point in my near future.
Thus, as a huge fan of the all-day dining concept for its apt flexibility for all-day indulging on a lazy weekend, my guest and I arrived for a 3pm late lunch before heading out for a long evening of multiple birthday and house parties: fuelling ourselves up was the agenda and Florentine proved the perfect spot.
Greeted by kind and enthusiastic staff, we enjoyed two pre-lunch cocktails at the bar from the eclectic menu. Recommendations were the Florentine Fizz – a concoction of absolut vodka, st germain, lemon and Prosecco that I enjoyed, and a Thyme to be Great – a thyme infused beefeater gin, st germain, pink grapefruit and tonic water. Mine was delicious – light and refreshing, though surprisingly potent (or not so surprisingly – it was small with apt amounts of alcohol, but its lush freshness ensured one was oblivious). My guest’s beverage was sweeter yet no less fresh (no cloy, sickly sweetness here), and instead, reminiscent of the light Spring day of the occasion. Along with our cocktails, we were invited to enjoy the tempura of Okra with soy sauce which was a delectable dish of light, fluffy crispy batter encasing rich and oozy warm Okra, served with a deliciously moreish thick and slightly sweet soy sauce.
Once finished with the cocktails, we arrived to our table where we began with a basket of rustic bread with rosemary and sea-salt. At an absolutely ridiculous price of £2 for at least half a crusty, premium baguette that was oozing in zesty olive oil and large flakes of sea-salt with toasted rosemary, this delicious dish alone was a signifier of the good things to come. Surprisingly affordable for zone 1, yet abundant in quantity and palpable in its premium quality, we were pleasantly delighted.
Before we were too full on the bread (trust me, the portion is such that two baskets of this and you’re finished), we were delivered a plate of Iberico Bellota 5J with Pan con tomate – a delicious plate of Iberico ham with excellent toasted bread and my favourite Español tomato sauce, and the Tuna tartare with avocado, chili, lime and ponzu sauce. Both dishes were excellent.
Along with these two starters, our hospitable waiter suggested we try the Roasted squash and kale salad with cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, chicory and chive dressing. This salad, was in fact, my favourite. Chunks of roasted butternut squash, with crunchy nuts and topped with a zesty, herby dressing, this was particularly delicious with the rosemary bread. The freshness and lightness of the locally sourced ingredients, coupled with the aromatic English herbs, gave the dishes a sense of health and home-made comfort that was incredibly satisfying.
To drink, we enjoyed two glasses of Estandon Lumiere de Provence Rose (2014) from France, which was an aptly rich and flavoursome rose that complemented and stood up to the hearty roasted flavours of the squash, and richness of the tartar.
For the mains, though of course we were full by this point, having consumed essentially half a baguette and four small dishes already (gluttons that we are), we were recommended the grilled sea bass with spinach, roasted vine tomatoes and amalfi lemon, and the wild mushrooms, ricotta and truffle flatbread. The sea bass was excellent. Light, fluffy, and lean yet rich, it was delicious with the creamy spinach and fresh tomatoes, which, incidentally we decided to further enjoy through a side dish of heritage tomato and basil. This was a lovely bowl of more locally sourced colourful tomatoes, from green, to dark red, to scarlet, redolent of England’s vibrant Springtime. The flatbread was large in size (akin to a pizza) yet showcased paper thin crispy bread oozing in more golden olive oil and topped with flavoursome wild mushrooms, chunks of rich ricotta and shavings of truffles. Ultimately this dish finished us off: it is as rich as it looks, despite being deceptively light and elegant in taste, whilst the truffles added a satisfying decadence.
With the mains, our waiter suggested the Romanian Daciana Sauvignon Blanc (2014) which was as packed with flavour as one would expect of a Romanian wine (a country that hosts some of my favourites, and is well worth exploring), and versatile enough to marry well with both the light sea bass and decadent truffle.
For dessert, after a brief pause, we opted for the tiramisu and selection of ice cream and sorbet (Hazelnut, raspberry and passion fruit). I’d forgotten just how excellent tiramisu can be until this dish, which was brimming with coffee richness yet deliciously sweet and creamy, whilst the ice creams were brilliantly refreshing, packed with flavour.
Finishing with tea and coffee, our appetites were satiated and our serotonin levels elevated, yet our wallets felt unharmed. Florentine’s ability to pack in premium products with an emphasis on fresh, local flavours that showcase the best of Britain’s delights, in a relaxed, informal and accessible atmosphere is really something quite special. A welcome addition to the London scene, I look forward to returning to this brilliant new local.
6 Hercules Road
London SE1 7DU