I do enjoy a night out that doesn’t involve getting on a tube or bus. So a fresh and breezy 25 minute walk from our flat to Brockwell Park in Herne Hill, was a nice way to work up an appetite, ready to sample the menu at The Lido Cafe.
It’s an interesting place. As an original lido built during the 1930s, this is a special piece of Art Deco history that you’ll see in a few of London’s parks.
Despite a temporary closure during the early 1990s, it reopened, thanks to pressure from the Brockwell Lido Users Group.
And I think we owe them thanks. Because, the history of the cafe is what makes it special. As you walk through the entrance, you’ll spot a series of black and white photographs of the lido from the early days and various nods to the site’s aquatic history.
(excuse the reflections of my dotty iPhone case)
The cafe itself is surprisingly warm and welcoming, helped by the candle lit tables and multi-coloured pom poms that hang above. The industrial style hanging lights and filament bulbs at the bar give it a touch of pared back style. And even on a dark February night, the floor to ceiling windows allow a glimpse out to the swimming pool. On the other side of the pool you can see the lights of the leisure centre, where keen gym bunnies were running on the treadmill.
The vibe was lovely and relaxed yet upbeat, with young couples, families and large parties all adding to their varied clientele.
The menu here is traditional British produce with a bit of European charcuterie and various little appetisers such as olives and Habas Fritas Picante (spicy Spanish beans) thrown in.
There are just four starters and I was very tempted by the puy lentil and herb scotch egg (not so much the smoked haddock and clam chowder). But as a creature of habit, it had to be the Severn and Wye smoked salmon.
Some might say this is such a simple dish it would be hard to get wrong. But I think credit is very much due here. The flavour combination of the ever so fresh and slightly chilled salmon with the horseradish cream and pickled beetroot was absolutely spot on. I couldn’t have asked for a more deliciously light and refreshing way to start the meal.
Joined by another creature of habit (a meat, pate and terrine loving one) Mr C ordered the Guinea Fowl Terrine. A terrine doesn’t really do it for me. But he was a very happy chap with these rich chunks of meat, flavoured with pistachio and brandy. The bread was a light toasted sourdough and the fig chutney added the light sweet contrast needed with a hearty game dish. It was consumed with enthusiastic ‘Mmms’.
I say I’m not a big fan of game, but I decided it would be wrong not to give the haunch of venison a try.
The result was a mix of great successes and sadly, slight failures.
My first error was in not specifying for it to be cooked medium rare. Should I have been asked? Probably. But on the other hand, who would dream of cooking venison past the medium rare stage?
The result was a piece of dry meat that was tough, and not at all tender, which took all the enjoyment out of eating it.
On the plus, the beetroot and celeriac gratin was a real highlight. It was creamy, buttery and an absolutely delicious compliment to this kind of meat. The cavalo nero (a Tuscan kale) and crushed hazelnuts also added to the earthy flavour of the dish. Big thumbs up for flavour.
Throughout the meal, I was amazed by a little girl on another table who managed to consume the entire beef burger that she could barely get her hands around.
Her enthusiasm to devour the whole thing confirmed to Mr C it was worth trying.
And as he tucked into the juicy dry aged rare breed beef inside a soft sesame seed brioche bun I had a tinge of food envy.
Inside there was free-range bacon and Emmental cheese and gherkins with some really delicious triple-cooked chips on the side.
The menu specified that the burger came medium rare so it deliciously tender. I’m not sure why they’ve missed this off for the venison. But the burger is definitely one of their fortes here.
Oh and how could I forget to mention the buttermilk slaw – so delicious. I’m definitely going back for their £10 beer and burger Wednesdays. (Burger is normally £10.50 and extra for slaw and bacon/cheese fillings).
The wine and cocktail list here is excellent. They have a varied selection of Portugese, Italian, Spanish and French wines and ports. You can also choose from various hot and cold cocktails Frizzante cocktails, dessert wines, spirits, soft drinks, milkshakes and smoothies. Throughout the day, the Lido Cafe also becomes a coffee and breakfast spot. Their new addition of London craft beers also adds to the appeal.
Desserts here come with the wine pairing suggestions which is a nice touch. We didn’t go for it – the rhubarb and custard pie and chocolate mousse were more than enough to satisfy our sweet cravings.
The chocolate mousse was particularly brilliant – we loved the contrast in the espresso jelly on the side.
Following a chat with the waiting staff, it was interesting to hear a bit of insight into the swimming galas that go on here (yes, even in the depths of chilly February).
I shuddered at the thought of them diving into those chilly waters the following morning from the warmth of my living room. But equally, what a privilege it is to have such a historic community hub on our doorstep.
I might not be getting into that pool until the summer months, but I’ll be making a trip back to the Lido Cafe – whatever the weather’s doing – that’s for sure.
Until next time x
Big thank you to the Lido Cafe for inviting us to try their menu. For full details, opening hours and prices head over to their website.
Have you been to The Lido Cafe? What did you think? Please leave your comments and feedback here.
The Lido Cafe, Dulwich Road, Brockwell Lido, London SE24 0PA