Vauxhall, a heady combo of spies, commuters interchanging and gay clubbers in one of London’s oddest neighbourhoods. Dominated by an impossible to cross quadruple-carriageway gyratory system it has the distinct feel of having been cleared first by the Luftwaffe and then by thoughtless townplanners and to few good ends. The soulless ’90s new builds vye with run-down Victorian terraces and grubby underground walkways. But there are some highlights, the innovative MI6 headquarters, the stylised bus station, making the most of a bad hand, and the dining options, which are surprisingly reasonable. So if you’re in Vauxhall looking for somewhere to chow down, Vauxhall arguably has it all.
It’s a ballsy move to name your restaurant after the the US President at a time when the office is at its lowest public ebb. And it totally pays off. POTUS, on the ground floor of Crowne Plaza London Embankment, serves American food, with mac’n’cheese to die for (each macaroni tube is individually filled with cheese by the chef) and steak done just right. The American wines compliment the food well, and the service is attentive and friendly. The cocktail bar is dominated by an impressive, sculpted bar while the dark interior of POTUS is lined with pictures of (some of the more elegant) US presidents of yesteryear.
Great for: Steak and American dining. The bar’s pretty cool too.
Is it a furniture shop or a sliiiiightly overpriced restaurant? Actually it’s both! The Georgian style building sitting on the Vauxhall gyratory is dwarfed by the modern tower blocks that crowd around it, presumably much to a developer’s chagrin, and inside is surprising. Split into a bar area serving drinks and bar food (do not try and order from the restaurant menu in this section, you’ll get roundly told off) and the restaurant bit, with a very limited but reasonably cooked menu. The loos are interesting, with old style magazine cut-outs adorning the walls and the general decor throughout the restaurant is visually fascinating with upmarket bric-a-brac available to buy.
Great for: Quirky interiors and a limited but good menu
One of our favourite London Indian restaurants, Thames-side Choki Dhani is set over two levels and a shisha terrace and is a glimpse of the sort of Vauxhall they’re trying to create with all the recent construction and the arrival of the US embassy. The restaurant looks fabulous, and despite being ultra-modern retains a traditional feel with authentic furniture and a menu that’s filled with genius. Also, I met Pixie Lott there this one time, and she was very friendly.
Good for: Shisha and high-quality Indian food
London does gastro-pubbing incredibly well, and the Fentiman Arms is a good place to head for a Sunday afternoon playing boardgames, drinking and grazing a decent menu of gastro-fare. Burgers and suchlike. There’s also a half-decent beer garden out back and a friendly crowd.]
Great for: Good ol’fashioned pub dining
Whisked up in a private glass elevator, a visit to Mezemiso is memorable. Unusually (we’d venture going as far as ‘very unusually’) fusing Lebanese and Japanese cuisine, the rooftop restaurant is stylish and offers diners and guests panoramic views across London’s iconic skyline as it overlooks the Houses of Parliament and the Thames. Signature cocktails are inspired by historical stories and folklore, honouring, for example Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran with a combination of Sumac infused gin, Lillet blanc, fig liqueur, Arrack and Mymoune orange marmalade.
Great for: Views and the lift journey!
Fusing South American and Asian cuisine, Chino Latino not only serves excellent nikkei food but it’s also got some of the best views in town, looking out across The Thames toward the Houses of Parliament. Accompanied by live music, diners munch away in the dark and alluring restaurant or enjoy drinks in the cocktail bar at the best reason to stay at Park Plaza London Riverbank.
Great for: Nikkei dining and parliament views
Where: Park Plaza Riverbank, Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TJ, United Kingdom
Nearest station: Vauxhall (0.3 miles)
Jamaica it ain’t, let’s face it, but a Thames-side terrace is sort of second best, right? Brightly coloured and vaguely tropical Cottons sits under that massive stepped modern development just next to Vauxhall Bridge. The food is pretty authentic, which is surprising given Cottons hails itself as London’s longest-running Caribbean brand, with rum shacks in Vauxhall, Camden, Notting Hill and Shoreditch. The food includes all manner of jerked meats smothered in Cottons homemade jerk sauce plus a chana dhal curry served with black eyed bean that’s practically famous.
Good for: Terrace dining and rum