Monday, June 14, 2010

Waterloo & City

Over the weekend I attended a birthday dinner at Waterloo & City, the British gastropub that opened last month (May 12th) in Culver City.

Where did the name come from you ask? The restaurant was named for a short underground railway line in London which only has two stations, Waterloo and Bank (formerly called "City", as it is within the city of London). Between its stations, the line passes under the River Thames and is by far the shortest line on the London Underground at only 1.47 miles, it takes only four minutes to travel from end to end.

The masterminds behind the concept are Executive Chef Brendan Collins  (Melisse, Anisette), and his partner GM Carolos Tomazos (Per Se and Le Bernardin). We had a chance to chat with Carolos as he not only greeted our party but also seated us at our table. He mentioned that during the opening process, everything that could have possibly gone wrong, did, and that he was delighted that things were finally up and running. It was great to see him working the room and putting every ounce of his energy into touching each table and interacting with all of his guests as it was a Saturday evening and the place was packed.

Their website mentions that Designers Thoreen&Ritter transformed Crest House Family Restaurant, a diner with attached dive bar, that closed in 2006, into a modern multi-dimensional space that balances the comfort of a pub with notes of whimsy. Unexpected pops of color accent architectural details: recycled church pews that provide seating in the lounge are brightly painted in hues of pink, brown and orange; overstuffed taupe suede banquettes are accented by lime baseboards and black, high-backed wooden chairs. There is a large communal table in the lounge which anchors the 30-foot long copper-topped bar; unadorned wooden tabletops add to the relaxed feel. Antique mirrors, silver platters, and vintage photos accent the walls while black zig-zag wainscoting provides added visual interest. A lush 800-square-foot front patio provides additional space to enjoy food and drink

They had a full bar, complete with seasonal cocktail list, worldly wine selection, and craft beers on tap.  We started with a couple Allagash White beers and then moved on to a friendly 2005 Campo Viejo Tempranillo Rioja Reserva (great value at $21/bottle).

The meal started off with an amuse-bouche, grilled fig topped with burrata, prosciutto and balsamic syrup. For starters, we had chicken liver and foie gras mousse and the braised short rib, Stilton, arugula, and malt vinegar pizza; the pizza crust was thin and crisp and the mousse was ultra creamy and delicious. For the next course it was orange tomato soup with Humboldt Fog ravioli and yellowtail crudo. These were my two favorite dishes of the evening..both were simple and perfectly executed.

When the entrees arrived we passed the dishes clockwise and tasted a bit of each. The best dishes included hand rolled pasta tubes with oxtail ragout and asparagus, pork shank raviolis with choucrout (sauerkraut), bing cherries, and red dragon cheese,  gnocchi vongole with chorizo and clams, and one of the evening's specials, Shepherd's pie. For dessert it was lavender ice cream, sticky toffee pudding with milk ice cream and salted caramel, and apricot jelly doughnuts with creme fraiche ice cream. The sticky toffee pudding tasted like Christmas and the lavender ice cream was perfectly flavored with just the right amount of fresh lavender.

Overall the service was humble, the food was comforting, and the atmosphere was casual and understated with a bit of fanciness here and there...loved it all.

Waterloo & City
12517 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90066
(310) 391 - 4222

Photo Credit: Michael Prince

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