If you were looking to book a table for dinner at a South London restaurant with great food and a vibrant atmosphere, a café at an outdoor swimming pool may not be your first choice. Let’s face it, it probably wouldn’t even be part of the decision making process. However, if you are in the know about The Lido Café at Brockwell Park in Herne Hill, it is very likely to be near the top of your short list and possibly your number one selection.
The recently refurbished Art Deco pool and buildings are Grade II listed and make for a striking setting for lovers of 1930s architecture. The real interest here is the food and drink. We started with bread, oil, dukka (an Egyptian spice mix) and giant green olives to keep us occupied while we settled on the starters. The dukka is well worth sampling if only for the fun of guessing what’s in it.
It’s fair to say the menu is limited, but that can be a good sign when it focuses the mind of the chef. It was still difficult to decide what to order as every option presented was attractive and the exceptional provenance of the ingredients was written all over the menu. We settled on a Spanish themed dish of chorizo and piquillo peppers on toast and a local scallop and Scottish black pudding plate. Both were extremely well balanced dishes, cooked with skill with the emphasis placed on flavour and at around a fiver each a bargain.
Despite several seriously tempting main courses ranging from £11 to £16 we couldn’t resist sampling the dry aged burgers with home made brioche buns. The beef is hung for at least 4 weeks and you can tell the care that is taken when you take your first bite. The attentive but friendly service deserves a mention here – we found out the beef was from a specific farm in Hampshire and if pressed I’m pretty sure they would have let us know the name of the relevant cow. One of our party described it as the best burger they had ever eaten and it certainly wasn’t far off (Scout London advice: add Emmenthal if you are ordering one). Unbelievably on a Wednesday you can get one of these burgers (with chips and salad) and a pint of local ale or a glass of wine for only £9.
Desserts did not disappoint, with delicious pear tarte tatin and the apple crumble with salted caramel ice cream standing out (less than a fiver each as well).
Good food is nothing without good drink in our book, and it is here that The Lido Café really does itself justice. The wine list is thoughtful and the mark ups are remarkably low – we sampled a delicious Portugese red in the Dao Reserva which was an absolute steal for £20. Meantime ale and lager is available on draught and there were some great selections on a short list of aperitifs and digestifs, with a Pedro Ximenez sherry and the marvellous Ardbeg single malt being our choices to round off a fantastic meal.
All in all, The Lido Café is a revelation for its high quality (but low cost) food, drink and service. The restaurant was busy and buzzy on a Saturday evening, but we got a table at short notice when other local restaurants were full. The Lido Café really deserves to be packed to the rafters; get there soon before word spreads.
The Lido Café
National Rail: Herne Hill