It’s certainly a surprise to say that, despite it being the capital’s second busiest station, London Waterloo is somewhat bereft of great dining options.
Sure, the clarion call for your 18:38 to Surbiton may ring out crisply, and instructions to ‘mind the gap’ remain insistent, but when the culinary conductors come a calling, this most bustling of transport hubs often falls silent.
You could, of course, seek solace between the buns of Burger King or scoff a sausage roll on the station concourse if you’ve got a train to catch, but if you’re blessed with an hour or two to spare, then rest assured; just outside of London Waterloo station there are some fantastic places to have lunch or dinner. With that in mind, here are the best restaurants near London Waterloo.
Lasdun at the National Theatre
Ideal for old school yet modern British brassiere style plates that sing with seasonal produce…
You’d think that the area surrounding London’s National Theatre would be positively teeming with smart, creative places to eat pre and post show, but that simply isn’t the case. Or rather, wasn’t the case until Lasdun opened.
In a rather barren stretch of the South Bank in terms of eating options, where chain restaurants rule supreme, the 2023 opening of this stylish restaurant within the National Theatre building has caused quite the stir, garnering several positive reviews in the weekend papers before its first chicken, leek and girolle pie had even been polished off.
You don’t have to be an avid consumer of the Real Housewives Of Clapton Instagram account or a Hackey resident to be familiar with the East London pub the Marksman, with its Fergus Henderson inspired plates of austere perfection, and the Ladsun, from the same team, continues with this tradition.
Named after the renowned architect Denys Lasdun, who designed the iconic National Theatre building in a similarly flinty fashion, this restaurant is a testament to his legacy. A collaboration between co-founder of Lyles John Ogier, KERB, and the team behind the Marksman, Jon Rotheram and Tom Harris, there’s a commitment to seasonality and simplicity here that you’d expect, with a knack for finding beauty in the seemingly old-fashioned.
Their menu is a comforting blend of traditional dishes with flourishes of luxury, like fish cakes in mussel sauce, devilled eggs topped with caviar, and a glazed beef, barley and horseradish bun, all crafted with a touch of surprise and restraint. The menu also takes inspiration from London itself; that means eel and that aforementioned pie will likely be on the menu when you visit.
Lasdun’s interior design pays homage to its namesake, featuring dramatic uplighting, a marble bar, and chrome lighting fixtures that echo the Brutalist architecture of the theatre. It’s a gorgeous, inspiring place to spend time.
Address: Upper Ground, London SE1 9PX
Ideal for eating bang-in-season grub at any time of year, all in a striking 19th-century drawing room…
Spring Restaurant, located in the iconic Somerset House in London, is a culinary gem that deserves a spot on any ‘best restaurants near London Waterloo’ list, despite you having to cross the Thames to get there.
Not to worry; there’s pedestrian access over Waterloo Bridge, and whilst perhaps not long enough to properly build up an appetite, on a crisp, effervescent evening, the stroll can be kind of beautiful.
Anyway, the chef at the stoves at Spring is Skye Gyngell, an Australian native who has made a name for herself as one of Britain’s most acclaimed chefs. Gyngell first gained recognition on these shores in the early 2000s at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, where her fresh, seasonal cooking style earned her a Michelin star and left a lasting legacy on London about how simple, ingredient-led Italian cooking can be served in the city
In 2014, she opened Spring, which has quickly become considered as one of the best places to eat near Waterloo and the Southbank. It’s a family affair here, with the restaurant’s interior designed by Gyngell’s sister Briony Fitzgerald, and that sense of wholesomeness also translating onto the plate, with just a few bang-in-season ingredients gracing each dish.
Whilst the lunch and dinner a la carte sees prices reaching River Cafe levels, the set menu is much less bank-breaking, with three courses currently clocking in at £33. On that menu, the current main of onglet steak, served both gnarly and blushing blue alongside a Jerusalem artichoke purée, is a delightful transition from late summer into autumn proper.
Even more interesting is Gyngell’s innovative Scratch menu, which features dishes made from ‘waste’ produce. Running from Tuesdays to Saturdays between 5:30pm to 6:30pm and limited to 30 guests each service, it’s a thoughtful, thought-provoking approach to fine dining. A case in point, the remilled coffee cake dessert, using grounds from post-meal espressos previously served to guests. Served with an ice cream made of ‘spent’ figs (essentially, those on the turn), it’s a gorgeous encapsulation of the chef’s philosophy. 3 courses are yours for £30.
Address: Lancaster Pl, London WC2R 1LA
Anchor & Hope
Ideal for sophisticated pub grub with a Mediterranean bent…
Though this is a pub first and foremost, the menu here carries plenty of intrigue and a decidedly Mediterranean bent, whether you’re enjoying a simple snack of creamy, spreadable calf’s brain on crostini or a something altogether heartier like blushing fallow deer done in a Provencal style and draped over wet, parmesan laden polenta.
Even the ‘worker’s lunch’ here, a snip at £16 for two courses, is far removed from your pub Ploughman’s. Recently, a quail, roast on the crown, was paired with couscous and a tzatziki positively humming with garlic. Very delicious indeed, and remarkably well-suited to a freshly poured pint.
Address: 36 The Cut, London SE1 8LP
Ideal for fish & chips…
Should you be keen for more traditionally ‘British’ fare just a short stroll from the station, then Masters Superfish has been dunking the good stuff in bubbling vats of fat for generations.
Here, the fish is sourced from Billingsgate daily, the chips are the kind to render a sheet of newspaper translucent, and the pickles are bottomless and full of bite. What more could you want from a chippy?
Though you can enjoy your fish and chips in the Masters’ canteen-like surrounds, you could of course head back to Waterloo with a takeaway the size of a baby under your arm, and make the whole train carriage jealous as you embark on your onward journey. Decisions, decisions.
Address: 191 Waterloo Rd, London SE1 8UX
Limin’ Beach Club
Ideal for some of the best Trinidadian food in the city…
If you were going on GPS only, you might assume Limin’ Beach Club has found something of an unlikely home at Gabriel’s Wharf, just off the South Bank’s main drag. But visit this ode to the beloved Trinidadian pastime of limin’ and you’ll quickly understand why it’s settled into a soca-soaked rhythm here; on a stretch of sand adjacent to the Southbank Centre, chef Sham is slinging out some of the best Trinidadian food in the city, all from a nautically-coloured beach hut.
Here, cooked to order roti is simultaneously flakey and crisp, and is served alongside either curry (a choice of oxtail, sea bass or chickpea on our last visit), or a leg of chicken properly blistered and burnished on the restaurant’s massive charcoal grill.
Of course, you’ll want to order some doubles while you tuck into a rum cocktail or two. Trinidad’s national dish, at Limin’ it’s an intricately spiced affair of dangerously sloppy channa (chickpea curry) sandwiched between two bara (fried flatbreads) which are then folded and consumed as tidily as is conceivable. Fortunately, if you make a mess here, you can just sweep it under the sand!
Don’t actually do that, of course…
Address: 56 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PP
Ideal for the flavours of Tel Aviv with plates full of verve and vibrancy…
Head back beyond London Waterloo station and into Bankside’s Old Union Yard Arches, and you’ll find a thriving little courtyard of culture and culinary intrigue.
Nestled in here is Bala Baya, a restaurant inspired by the smells, sights, sounds, and, of course, flavours of chef Eran Tibi’s upbringing in Tel Aviv.
The celebration of the multi-sensory is apt, as it’s noisy in this lively yet functional space, with large groups descending on Southwark for plates full of verve and vibrancy. This is food built for sharing, make no mistake, with long and leisurely lunches of feasting and frivolity very much encouraged here.
The prawn baklava is something of a signature here (certainly in our eyes), coming with piquant notes from lime syrup and cream, and given an aromatic edge with a dusting of pistachio and rose. Just fabulous, and served to allow every member of the squad a portion.
Union Viet Cafe
Ideal for some stunning Southern Vietnamese flavours…
Whilst the majority of genuinely great Vietnamese food in London is found in and around Shoreditch’s Kingsland Road, you can still find a few gems south of the river, and one of those is Union Viet Cafe.
A ten minute walk from the station and one of the best places to eat near London Waterloo, Union Viet Cafe swings more Southern Viet in its delivery, with the dishes generally sweeter and spicier than their more austere Northern counterparts.
Here, the Ho Chi Minh City streefood staple bo la lot – minced beef wrapped in vine leaves and grilled – is bang on the money, served alongside lettuce, herbs and dipping sauces so you can make your own wraps, just as it should be.
The delicate, smoky bun thit nuong, which sees thin slices of pork belly grilled and served over fermented rice noodles and loads of herbs, is a real winner for a swift light lunch. Or, you could settle in for something heartier; the restaurant does a range of noodle soups, including pho, bun bo hue and more.
Address: 120 Union St, London SE1 0FR
Ideal for a seasonally-led omakase offering…
We end our tour of the best places to eat near London Waterloo at Hannah. The kitchen here is led by Daisuke Shimoyama, a former head chef of Michelin-starred sushi restaurant Umu, with the main event dinner menu a seasonally-led omakase offering.
Though that will last several hours and set you back £165, lunches at Hannah are a more laid back affair, with bento boxes the order of the day (or, at least, the service). An intricately presented sushi bento with ten rolls, two sets of sashimi, seasonal vegetables and miso soup is an absolute steal at £26, and has to be one of the best value lunches in all of London for its quality.
And with that, conversely, we’re off to endure one of the worst value experiences in all of London; getting a train out of here.
If you haven’t found anything in and around Waterloo to satisfy your hunger, then why not take the train a little further south to Battersea, and check out some of the great places to eat near Clapham Junction. A tour of London’s train stations never tasted so good!