If you stood outside The Firestation Bar and Restaurant on Waterloo Rd, as a vegetarian, you’d hesitate to go in. There’s a distinct smell of cooking meat coming from it. I’m not so sure that it is actually the meat cooking that you can smell, but they fry their chips in beef dripping and I think that’s the aroma that greets you on the street. That’s not all that greets you on the street, the noise from the busy bar spills over as well. It doesn’t seem to be a promising place for a nice veggie meal, but appearances can be deceptive.
The first room you come to inside is the bar. I’ve never seen it less than packed and noisy either with commuters stopping for a drink before getting the train home or for theatre goers (the Old and Young Vic are nearby). Behind the bar is the restaurant. This is much quieter, thankfully. It’s a big space, even more so with the height from the firestation it used to be. There are nice touches with the tiled walls and fire buckets around that are reminders of its former life.
Service was prompt and friendly without having the waiters hovering over us.
You can’t get away from the the fact that meat features heavily in the menu, but there are three veggie starters and two main courses. And, while the starters involve cheese, neither of the mains do!!! I know, someone who thinks you can feed vegetarians without shoving big lumps of cheese at them – it’s almost unheard of!
I had the Heritage Tomato on Roasted Garlic Foccacia as my starter.
This was a bit underwhelming. For a start it came hidden under a big pile of undressed rocket leaves. Now I’m as big a fan of green leafy vegetables as you’re likely to find, but both courses had this foliage. A garnish I can understand, but this was like a small greengrocers’ stall had been upended over the plate. I had to move it aside to be able to take a picture. I couldn’t really taste the garlic in the foccacia and while there was a decent selection of different varieties of tomato they were served raw and fridge cold so there was no differentiation in flavour to be descerned. Cold tomatoes on toast with a light sprinkling of crumbled goats cheese. Not brilliant.
The main course made up for it. I went for the potato gnocchi with sunblush tomatoes and roasted artichokes. This came with the rocket haystack, but at least it was mentioned on the menu and the leaves wilted and became one with the rest of the food. This is a dish with gutsy flavours. The sunblush tomatoes dominate, but the artichokes stand up to them and then there’s the creamy bite of the pan-fried gnocchi to add a solid background. It’s a great dish and proves that you don’t need to have a solid lump of protein in a meal for it to be satisfying.
So, a bit of a mixed bag, really, but worth a another visit at least.
Meal and drinks for one came to £24
The Firestation Bar and Restaurant
150 Waterloo Road
Tel: 020 7620 2226