Peter Morrell enjoys a flavour packed lunch in this comfortable and stylish eatery on the South Bank
Over the last few years London’s South Bank has turned from an ugly duckling into an elegant white swan. This change has been most apparent in the number of high quality restaurants that you can now find South of the river.
I recently had lunch at one of the new restaurants and discovered why the culinary reputation of the South Bank is so high. I ate with a friend at Florentine which is part of the Park Plaza London Waterloo hotel. It’s a few minute’s walk from Waterloo Station and across the road from Lambeth North tube, just four stops away from Piccadilly Circus.
When we arrived the greeting was very friendly, the dining space had beautiful décor and the large windows give it a bright airy feel.
As we settled in to our comfortable seats we sipped a glass of the zesty Chapel Down Reserve Brut, one of the finest of English sparkling wines, while reading the menu. To go with the sparkling was the most delicious piping hot rosemary and olive oil bread which we had seen being baked in the restaurant’s clay oven.
The food itself is quite eclectic drawing from many different cuisines. We dithered over our choice of starters, would it be the Fried Squid or the Aubergine Parmiagiana? With a little guidance from the manager we shared two starters, the Iberico Bellota ham and the Smoked Burrata cheese. The Bellota was served with an uplifting Tomato Bruschetta, this ham from acorn fed pigs was marbled with flavour heavy fat and had big, bold tastes that lingered in the mouth. The counter-point to this was the smoked Burrata from Puglia, with a lovely creamy centre it was accompanied by a tricolour of red, yellow and russet heritage tomatoes and basil, all the ingredients were as fresh as a daisy with pure, natural flavours.
The mains were equally difficult to choose. If there had been four of us the full English complete with Ostrich egg would have been an interesting experience. The oven fresh flat-breads with a range of toppings were tempting as was the one kilo Tomahawk steak. In the end our ambitions were more modest, my companion had the grilled Sea Bass fillet while I had Veal Milanese and we shared a portion of chips.
The Sea Bass, served with spinach and roast vine tomatoes, was perfumed and delicate and my veal, which was huge, had a crisp coating with tender meat inside. The chips had a satisfying crunch with a soft, floury interior. My friend and I agreed that the mains were of a very high quality.
There was an imaginative wine list and I could easily have chosen any one of a dozen appealing vintages. Good examples were a Verdejo white from Spain, the trending Chenin Blanc from South Africa and a Papa Figos from Portugal. If wine is not your tipple of choice then there is a good range of craft beers and cocktails on the list.
Our match for the meal was a light Spanish red, the Casa Albali 2015 from Valdepenas in Spain. This Tempranillo / Shiraz blend gave us fruity aromas on the nose with bright cherry and plum flavours on the palate and just a hint to spice. The finish was clean and persistent.
Given the size of the portions desserts were almost beyond us but my friend indulged in a marsala cream filled Venetian doughnut which looked heavy but was in fact as light as a feather. I could only manage a scoop each of very good strawberry and vanilla ice cream.
A word of thanks to the service team who looked after us so well. They were charming and knowledgable, giving us invaluable advice about the wine and the food.
This had been an exceptional lunch, we enjoyed the décor and the atmosphere, the diversity of the menu, the quality of the food and the high level of service. Florentine is a welcome addition to the South Bank culinary scene.
If you can’t make Florentine for lunch it is also open from breakfast / brunch, dinner and serves a Sunday roast.
6 Hercules Road, London SE1 7DU
Monday – Saturday 7am – 11pm
Sunday 7am – 10pm
+44 (0)203 146 5800