Waterloo is Britain’s largest and biggest station and as such acts in constant flux. It is a transport hub for hundreds of thousands of commuters, sightseers, and Londoners looking for entertainment in the capital.
Regeneration along the South Bank has reignited interest in many of the cultural highlights including the British Film Institute,the Hayward Gallery, Oxo Tower Wharf, Globe Theatre, and the Southbank Centre.
Attracting such a cosmopolitan crowd has given freedom to restaurant owners, who feel empowered to offer diners dishes that are novel or out of the ordinary. Some restaurants such as La Barca, opened their doors in the mid-70s to a very different Waterloo landscape.
However, their winning formula of fine, traditional Italian cooking still makes them an established part of the Waterloo restaurant scene.
Best Restaurants in Waterloo
- Address: 80-81 Lower Marsh, SE1 7AB
- Phone: 020 7928 2226
Established in 1976, La Barca has been bringing the flavour of Italian hospitality to London for almost 50 years. Starting out as mainly Tuscan flavour inspired, it now uses inspiration from many other regions of Italy.
Head Chef, Nicola Stoccoro, the son of a restaurateur was always surrounded by the finest Italian cooking and hospitality as he grew up. La Barca is an elegant restaurant, with an interior of black, white, and dark blue contrasts. Walls and coves display the Italian wines, along with signed portraits of famous patrons.
There is plenty of choice on the menu with more than 15 meat dishes alone. The cooking is traditional Italian and for a little theatre, some dishes are flamed at the table.
Rice dishes include risotto with fresh asparagus and a main of veal escalope with Gorgonzola, cream, and black truffle.
There is an extensive wine list, which is arranged by region to make finding your favourites easier.
- Address: Bishops, 119 Waterloo Rd, SE1 8UL
- Phone: 020 3951 9748
Located in a light and airy basement opposite The Old Vic Theatre, Wahaca Waterloo has been serving Mexican food and drink to a loyal following for several years. There are two co-founders, Thomasina Miers and Mark Selby; Thomasina is the creative engine behind the Mexican theme.
She emigrated to Mexico City, and this ignited her passion with all things Mexican. She wanted to share her enthusiasm with British customers and the first Wahaca restaurant opened in Covent Garden a few years later.
The restaurant is keen to be upfront about its sustainability and welfare credentials. It only uses free-range meat and follows the trend for more choice of plant-based dishes on the menu.
Allergens and intolerances are also taken seriously, with an alternative gluten-free menu, as well as an allergen information sheet. Vegans are also offered a dedicated menu.
The menu includes a section of nibbles, street food in the form of tacos, three-set menus and big plates including enchiladas and burritos. To drink, there are margaritas, cocktails and mocktails, as well as tequila and mescal, and a short selection of European wines by the bottle.
- Address: 113 Waterloo Road, Lambeth, SE1 8UL
- Phone: 020 3034 3424
Just over five years ago Joe Moore found the 9 to 5 routine of his office job too much to bear. He gave it all up and trialled selling pizzas around London. Building on this success he visited Italy to research flavours and equipment.
On his return to London, he spent two years honing his techniques and then settled on his first restaurant, Crust Bros, in Waterloo. He has since sold more than 1 million pizzas.
You can choose from the favourites on the menu, which include vegan options. Or you can build your own, starting with dough, sauce, protein, cheese, and a selection of chopped vegetables. Salads and sides bring up the rear. The restaurant is open12 AM to 23 PM Mon -Sat & till 22 PM on Sun.
For big appetites, Crust Bros offers brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 12.00 to 16.30. This includes free-flowing Prosecco or IPA and a choice of four favourite pizzas.
Black & Blue
- Address: 1 Mepham St, SE1 8RL
- Phone: 020 7928 0736
At night-time, Black and Blue has a distinctive, flamboyant frontage with outside seating and stylish blue-neon lighting. Inside the restaurant is open plan and modern with clean lines.
The menu is a meat-eaters paradise with ribs, steaks, and burgers, although there are a smattering of original vegetarian dishes and salads. There are two fixed-price lunch menus competitively priced at £20 and £24 for two and three courses respectively.
On the fixed-price menus, you can enjoy steak frites with Bernaise sauce or sausage and mash with a peppercorn sauce. For dessert, choose from warm apple and cinnamon pie with custard or Cornish brie with grapes.
Black and Blue has a shortish wine list, where the wine can be ordered by the glass carafe or bottle. The majority of the wines are from Chile, South Africa, Italy and France.
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- Address: 48 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7RG
- Phone: 07474 968275
The cooking at Cubana reflects the complex history of Cuban cuisine, where Spanish, African, Caribbean, and French influences mingle to create the dishes that have such a hold over fans. Sourcing the best ingredients is key to Cubana’s success, as is healthy cooking, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan alternatives.
All the chicken, pork, and eggs used are free-range, along with MSC fish and organic chorizo from Spain. On the menu, Cuban kitchen dishes lead the way as well as tapas, Latin American specialities and dishes from the BBQ.
Selected individual tapas dishes headline the menu, such as organic Spanish chorizo and sweet potato croquettes served with homemade tomato salsa or larger mixed sharing platters. From the grill, there is dry-aged British sirloin served with yucca chips and a salsa verde.
Slow-cooked dishes at Cubana are some of the most popular. They are created from outdoor reared pork, which is marinated, slow-roasted, and then shredded in the Cuban style. The shredded pork is then served with Cuban black beans, plantain and either chilli-rice or brown rice.
A short selection of wines mostly from Spain and Argentina are available by glass or bottle. Alternatively, Cubana offers a dangerous array of Latin American cocktails, which are all freshly made as well as a fine selection of Cuban rums.
Happy hour at Cubana is a daily institution from 4-7 PM, where you can buy 2 for 1 on selected cocktails. If happy hour gets out of hand you can always stay on Friday and Saturday nights, when Cubana becomes a hotbed of Latin rhythms.
- Address: Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 8XX
- Phone: 020 7654 7800
Skylon is situated on the third floor of the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre and offers stunning views from huge floor-to-ceiling windows. The décor at Skylon takes its inspiration from the era of the Festival of Britain and the menu features modern British cuisine.
The à la carte menu is composed of starters, mains and grills, which are unfussy, and surprisingly affordable. Saltmarsh lamb rump is served with herb crust, grape mustard, wild mushroom, and celeriac purée. For dessert, you can choose between vanilla cheesecake, lemon tart or fruit crumble.
The set menu can be taken as two courses for £29.50 or three courses for £35. Main courses include the vegetarian cauliflower steak, sweet raisin puree, pickled artichoke, and cauliflower puree or seabass en papillote, jerusalem artichoke, herb leaf citrus salad, and shaved fennel.
The bar snack menu includes charcuterie and cheese boards, as well as burgers and fries. The wine list runs to 16 pages and spans most of the wine-growing areas throughout the world but there is little choice under £40 a bottle.
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Las Iguanas Royal Festival Hall
- Address: Festival Terrace, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX
- Phone: 020 8629 6921
In 1991 the team behind Las Iguanas launched their first restaurant in Bristol. Diners enjoyed the introduction to Latin American flavours and the brand has more than 50 restaurants around the country. Las Iguanas Royal Festival Hall enjoys a prominent position on the Festival Terrace.
The interior decor reflects the vibrant colours of Latin America, while the food is all cooked from scratch and served with a rich array of premium cocktails to get you swaying to the Latin rhythms.
The inspiration for the menu is wide and varied, from vast cities such as Buenos Aires to local Mexican markets and even the Amazon rainforest. The menu kicks off with Nibbles, consisting of taco sharing boards and Mexican poppadoms. Starters and tapas follow on, with a whole array of chicken, beef and fish quesadillas and empanadas.
Main courses are broken down into sections by country starting with Brazilian, Mexican, Argentinian, and finishing with Cuban dishes. Often with more than 10 or 12 dishes in each section, the menu should be able to satisfy most palates.
Usefully if you search the menu on your mobile you can toggle for gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan to create your own personalised menu.
Also Read: Best Pubs & Bars near Waterloo
- Address: 79A Waterloo Rd, London SE1 8UD
- Phone: 02078 039 892
Fishcotheque, at first glance, might sound like some 70s throwback. However, dig a little deeper and you will discover a restaurant of excellence without any of the pretence so many others seem to think necessary.
The fryers at Fishcotheque first heated up way back in 1974 and the restaurant team have been honing their skills ever since, to provide high quality, traditional fish, and chips. The provenance is simple, with sustainable fish, delivered daily from Billingsgate Market and British Maris Piper’s from the nearest farms.
The narrow entrance to Fishcotheque opens out into an unpretentious seating area, although many customers prefer to buy a takeaway.
The menu continues the theme of simplicity offering a choice of cod, haddock, and rock, all served with chips or cod fish cakes and calamari rings both served with chips and salad.
There is also a selection of burgers including beef, fish, and veggie, all served with chips. And finally, southern fried chicken and grilled chicken kebabs are served with chips.
For dessert, there is apple pie and chocolate fudge cake or the infamous deep-fried battered Mars Bar, all served with ice cream.
It’s difficult to think of another part of London that has quite such a varied array of culture, and good restaurants concentrated in such a small area. This narrow strip bound by the Thames to the north offers all manner of entertainment, from theatre to film, exhibitions to art galleries, as well as the history caught up in the riverside frontage.
Waterloo dining is equally diverse, from superbly cooked fish and chips to the cuisines of many countries. Diners will always enjoy trying out new tastes – and in Waterloo they can.