**Nothing boring about the British Gastropub cuisine by Executive Chef Brendan Collins and Pastry Chef Layla at Waterloo & City is what I've got to say!**
I'm also giving them the nickname "007 chefs" because they are "Licensed to Kill" when it comes to my dieting efforts that are continually derailed. I've been here 3 times in the last 4 weeks and am very likely to go back for more. D*** them for that ;D
Waterloo is less than 5 min away from me, but I avoided it in the past because of the trendy "gastropub" label. On my first multi-city trip to Europe, 2 decades ago, I was less than impressed with London pubs and restos. However, the $35 DineLA deal looked too good to pass up.
Although some restaurants play it safe or skimp on ingredients and/or portions, such was not the case here. I like great deals, but also use LA's restaurant week to "audition" local places I might enjoy frequenting.
Out of all of my DineLA meals in Winter '14, I got the most mileage out of my gastropub buck at Waterloo! No question I was full after my $35 DineLA meal.
I also greatly appreciated the risks the kitchen took with British classics by adding either Mediterranean or Asian components or spices.
COMPLIMENTARY BREAD (from 6pm):
*Bread baked in a coffee can, herbed butter (bread selections are rotated for dinner so if you visit, it might be a different type of bread).
W&O has an in-house pastry chef, Layla who along with her small, but capable crew is responsible for producing the desserts and all of the breads including those used for the notable charcuterie.
The bread was nice and crusty on the outside with a delightfully fluffy interior. I enjoyed this, but the only problem was I ate too much of it.
Most gastropubs including F.O. in Helms do not offer complimentary bread so this was another plus in my book.
*English Pea Soup, Aged Goat Cheese Agnolotti, Proscuitto (signature dish offered according to ingredient availability)
The soup was very delicate, mild and traditionally English in preparation with farm fresh sweet peas, but unexpectedly enlivened with Italian touches such as al dente texture, creamy & sharp taste of the goat cheese agnolotti and the crispy, salty pieces of prosciutto on top.
It was fun alternating between the contrasting flavors and textures of the dish's components. I also did the same with the entree.
*Petrale Sole, Purple Carrots, King Oyster Mushrooms, Meyer Lemon Hollandaise sauce (DineLA special)
I was quite skeptical about this dish, but assured by my excellent server Michael that it was a wonderfully prepared item, so I put my chips in hoping this choice would be a winner. The sole was cooked perfectly with a crisp crust and the accompanying vegetables were likewise textbook-perfect in preparation re: roasting. The curve ball was a flourish of mystery spice sprinkled on top of the dish. It seemed to be Shichimi Togarashi, aka Japanese Mixed Chili Pepper, because I recognized the few black sesame seeds throughout. I asked the waiter to see if that's what the kitchen used and it was. This Japanese spice also contains tiny bits of dried citrus peel so I saw it as a genius move to not only give an unexpected pop to a classic dish, but to also pick up on the inherently lemony flavors of Hollandaise sauce.
For me, the addition of Shichimi Pepper completely won me over and the kitchen's risk paid off. They are very discriminating in its use, but didn't mention it on the menu. For those sensitive to peppers and other spices, you should inquire with the server who can check with the chef or give you recommendations according to your palate.
Rum Baba, Candied Apples, Creme' Chantilly, Rum Raisin Ice Cream (DineLA special)
*This also displayed unorthodox touches, which I enjoyed. Normally, Rum Baba is a yellow cake soaked with rum. In this version, a donut-like base was lightly glazed with rum liquor, filled with the requisite cream in the center, but paired with a housemade rum raisin ice cream and apple-based compote.
For me, it was a 5 star meal that's successfully beckoned me back several times for Happy Hour. I'm only rating it 4 stars for now, because I need to try more entrees on the regular menu.
OVERALL RATINGS AND NOTES:
FOOD: 5 stars for DineLA menu execution and culinary risk
SERVICE: 5 stars. Very attentive, both in the dining areas and the bar/lounge
PARKING: Street parking (side streets or front if you're lucky); $2.25 validated Valet parking if you remember to get your ticket stamped (bring dollar bills and change).
AMBIENCE: 3.5 stars. With its low-maintenance concrete flooring, which I've seen at other places in LA, it gives W&O a harsh industrial look, that clashes with other spaces in the restaurant. As others have noted, the floors do not help with the high decibel sound level.