A colleague recently described the area around Waterloo to me as a ‘culinary desert’, and aside from the ubiquitous tourist-filled chains of the South Bank, googling doesn’t reveal many options for a dinner with friends; so Meson Don Felipe it was, which is homed on that intriguing little street between Southwark and Waterloo stations where the Theatres Vic (Old and Young) live.
The trouble is that my chef-ing family have spoiled tapas for me. Whilst this restaurant is heavy on the authenticity (right down to the cramped tables, 70s decor, foreboding frontage and guitarist perched on a balcony), even tapas when I worked in Madrid couldn’t live up to the homemade super-thick tortilla, gambas sizzling with garlic or chicken livers glistening in sherry and cream that are issued from the B family kitchen. The menu at Meson Don Felipe had a tough act to follow, which it did variously well from its extremely large menu.
The entirely Spanish staff seemed to know about gluten and happily checked dishes for me, although I was issued the general guidance “nothing fried or with a sauce” which is either lazy waitering or bad cooking. I see no need for flour in patatas bravas- so points off on that front, as well as for the lack of carbs available to me. There is at least a very good wine selection, so one carafe down with that menu guidance I ended up ordering a confusing assortment of vegetable dishes, which actually worked out in my favour. The espinacas and broad beans were freshly cooked and tasty, if simple. I always delight in the way that all vegetable dishes in Spain seem to involve either meat or nuts! Comparatively the fried and breadcrumbed alternatives my friends were eating looked lacklustre, and less than fresh. I also ordered manchego which was tangy, if a little sweaty and with gelatinous grainy quince paste. Like I said, authentic.
We had to ask for water three times, although the Orujo (Spanish fire water) arrived very quickly- which was probably why at the time I didn’t frown at the bill as the alcohol gently singed my insides, but it clocked in at a pricey £40 a head. I put that down to the area – there’s no competition around. To continue the metaphor- this was more of a rioja-induced mirage than an oasis in the culinary desert of Waterloo.