Restaurant Review: Florentine, Lambeth

kiri | 12th April 2018

By Tom Gatehouse

Lambeth North on the Bakerloo Line. Ever been? Didn’t think so.

Snuggled up next to Waterloo and the trendy South Bank area – in what is technically the geographical centre of London – Lambeth North and the immediate surrounding area doesn’t initially seem chock full of activities bar a Sainsbury’s Local and a rather fab looking church. Historically, there’s a jaunty cockney dance and song named after it – “The Lambeth Walk”.

My companion, Grenouille, and I were here in the mighty county of Lambeth to check out a certain restaurant found in the bowels of the Park Plaza London Waterloo – Florentine. An all-day, Brasserie-style restaurant and bar; Florentine is found down Hercules Road and have an appropriately named burger to boot.

The Herculean Burger, which costs an impressive £60, rocks in at around 2.2kg and comes with Montgomery cheese, Portobello mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, streaky bacon, black truffle, chips and sweet potato fries.

How’s that for an activity! Last time I saw something that gargantuan was on a stag-do at the Man vs Food restaurant in South West London.

To me, the term ‘all-day dining’ could refer to a road side café down some obscure, tumble-weed ridden Route over the pond. But Florentine is far from a casual diner full of undesirables. Think art installation meets hotel foyer in Hong Kong. Spot lights droop from mysterious red string, celebrity portraits hang emblazoned with items from the menu and golden beehive-type wall mounts and curtains glow into the night. It’s considered and very pan-global.

We gave the bar a spin while our table was sorted out, namely a glass of prosecco and their special Easter cocktail – “Chocolate Dream”. It was only served over the Easter weekend but, hell, it was dreamy: Diplomatico Reserva Rum, Mozart Chocolate Cream Liqueur, double cream, a shot of Espresso coffee, honey syrup and a dash of vanilla essence.

Turns out, quite obviously really, that the Herculean Burger is meant for at least four people. Not that’d stop me on a stag-do, mine or otherwise, but I was intending to leave Florentine on my own terms after a meal rather than in an ambulance.

So, having been plonked on a table opposite the semi-open kitchen, we first had a crack at the fried squid with lemon mayo and a starter portion of the buffalo ricotta ravioli.

The ravioli won the round with aplomb.

Three plump packets, swimming in a herby sauce with shards of truffle struggling to stay afloat; it soon became necessary to order a portion of Florentine’s home-made rustic bread with rosemary and salt so not a single dribble went to waste.

Now, the name Lambeth apparently dates back to 1062 as “Lambehitha”, which means landing place for lambs. Lord knows what the lambs were doing in South London to warrant naming a county after their movements, but I thought it only right to order lamb for my main some 956 years later to keep the flag flying.

Braised lamb shank with roasted sweet potato, to be exact, with Grenouille sending off for a 32-day aged rib-eye steak. A straight battle between the lamb and the cow, then.

I must admit that the humble cow came out on top. A devastatingly supple cut flanked with proper chips and a hefty plop of béarnaise. Classic, simple and always a world beater. My lamb was a close second, mind you, paddling in a soft jus and on the bone, chaperoned by a lengthy, very recently burst sweet potato.

I’ve rarely come across a waiter so energetic about their kitchen’s dessert options and I was put in an emotional arm-bar about their Venetian doughnuts which I concluded would only be appropriate if they came up with the goods.

And, spewing custard all sorts, they did, going surprisingly well with an espresso martini from the commendable chaps behind the Florentine bar.

We had a little look for a clip of the “Lambeth Walk” on our way back (another exhilarating activity) and found one Mr Robert Lindsey throwing out a cheeky rendition on stage in the 80’s. Rounds this little piece off quite well, too:

“Everything’s free and easy, Do as you darn well pleasy, Why don’t you make your way there. Go there, stay there.”

“Once you get down Lambeth way, Every evening, every day, You’ll find yourself doing the Lambeth Walk. Oi!”

Florentine Restaurant & Bar
Address: 6 Hercules Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 7DU
Phone: 020 3146 5800
Twitter: @florentineLDN