Food & Drink: Three cheers for the new brigade: The Waterloo landmark that was once a fire station is ringing the right bells with diners, says Emily Green

SUCH old public buildings as remain in Waterloo and its south London environs are slowly being reinvented. The railway station is still a railway station, but the library is now a bedraggled community centre, and a nearby mental institution has become a hotel with very small windows. The local fire station has had several changes of use. Until recently it served as a doss house; then, three weeks ago, it became a bar-restaurant.

These changes sit uncomfortably here, as does so much of the bungled town planning. But the Fire Station restaurant has three things going for it: it is particularly handy for commuters and theatregoers patronising the Old Vic, it has friendly, able staff, and it serves excellent food.

Two of the three partners have a background in theme restaurants. They considered housing an American dining car in the station's engine room, only to find that it would not fit through the doors. Then one bright spark suggested they simply kit the place out with a bar, tables, chairs, a kitchen, and find a good cook.

They needed lots of tables and chairs, for the place is vast. Original tiled walls mean that music booms. Guests holler. The kitchen, somewhat theatrically, is on an open-plan platform overlooking the dining room.

The chef they chose, 34-year-old Dan Evans, is first-rate. Although this is his first foray south of the river, he has fed a fair number of Londoners. He cooked for three-and-a-half years with Alastair Little in Soho, spent 18 months as head chef of Odette's in north London, and for a year was head chef of 192, the west London bar-restaurant.

Praise for his food at the Fire Station must come with a proviso. Mr Evans is not so much its chef as a consultant chef, hired to set up the kitchen. He may leave after December, by which time the cooks he has hired and trained will, it is hoped, be sending out food as good as his.

For most young chefs, this would be aiming high. You would have to go to Paris, or Bibendum, to find jambon persille as good as that served at the Fire Station for pounds 2.75 last Friday night. The ham, herbed liberally with chopped parsley and set in a delicate jelly, was served with toasted brioche, hot mustard, green beans that had been coated in a sweetish mustard sauce, and a pleasing little dollop of a Puy lentil salad.

What were listed as tortelloni were actually more like cylinders of tender pasta, filled with ricotta and spinach, and set in a fresh tomato sauce, available in small or large portions (pounds 3.75 or pounds 5.75).

An egg, anchovy and leek salad is the sort of bonne femme dish that too few chefs deign to make. More is the pity for it is simple and, again, delicious. Ditto for melting, well-seasoned duck livers on a great pile of salad leaves.

Wines show promise. All are available by the glass. A four-year-old beaujolais from Regnie, at pounds 1.90 per glass, is a good basic red. A white Spanish sparkler, Catalan Cava Raventos i Blanc, at pounds 15, is an intelligent alternative to cheap champagne.

HOW to commend a restaurant called Big Night Out? The name suggests an American diner in a fire station. The reality, in a lovely parade in Regent's Park, north London, is a civil, somewhat trendy restaurant where small, witty gestures are preferred to outright wackiness. For example, while the room is cool and spare, the staff uniform appears to be purple denims. And while the cooking veers towards the formal, the execution is sure and prices are realistic. The set lunch is pounds 9.50 to pounds 13.50; set dinner pounds 13 to pounds 16.50. A dinner a la carte with the works might cost pounds 30 to pounds 40.

The owners, Hugh O'Boyle and Richard Coates, began working together 10 years ago at the Ritz, and formed an outside catering company in 1988. Victim number one of a silly name, it was called A la Kart.

It was far from a la carte during a recent lunchtime sitting at Big Night Out. A fixed price, no-choice menu offered mussels with pesto, grilled chicken, and a chocolate terrine. The mussels were good. The chicken was even better, its skin crisp and seasoned to the hilt. The overriding flavour was of sage, billed as an ingredient in an accompanying tomato confit, but which seemed to have been deployed everywhere. The meat sat on rosti, a faddish arrangement, prone to greasiness, not just from the frying but from the meat juices. The chocolate terrine, in a coffee cream, was spot on.

I questioned the lack of choice. Evidently others had, too. The owners are now expanding the lunch menu to a choice of two starters, two main courses and any pudding.

The dinner menu offers good choice and a certain whimsy in the naming of dishes: 'rillette of duck' is actually a terrine with shallots, a lean and good one, served with braised wild mushrooms. The lobster ravioli was OK, the pasta tough, the accompanying shellfish sauce excellent.

Baked rabbit, again strangely served on a rosti potato cake, merited full marks for technique. The skin was well seasoned and crisp, the meat moist - something of a feat, given that the bone had been replaced with ham and herb forcemeat. Roast brill was excellent: this cook can certainly season and finish a crust, here using industrial quantites of fresh herbs. Mangetout and tomatoes, also highly herbed, were arranged artistically around the plate, with a generous dousing of flowery French olive oil mixed with truffle oil and a dash of remarkably good vinegar. Tagliatelle, overcooking slightly beneath the brill, sopped up some of the good juices.

The wine list is pricier than the food. The average bottle costs pounds 20. Much is from the New World. A Hogue Cellars 1990 Merlot from Washington State (pounds 19.90) was delicious. An Australian rose, Charlie Melton 1993 Rose of Virginia (pounds 14.60), was the colour of an evil fizzy drink, but had a light fruity flavour: a perfect summer wine.

The Fire Station, 150 Waterloo Road, London SE1 (071-401 3267). Bar open 12noon-11pm Mon-Sat, restaurant open 12noon-11.30pm (last orders) Mon-Sat. Vegetarian dishes. Loud music. Cash and cheques only.

Big Night Out, 148 Regent's Park Road, London NW1 (071-586 5768). Vegetarian dishes. Children welcome: special portions on request. Open lunch Tues-Fri and Sun, dinner Tue-Sat, afternoon tea Tue-Sat. Access, Visa, Amex.

(Photographs omitted)

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
News
In other news ... Jon Snow performed at last year's Newsroom's Got Talent charity event
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?