Saturday, September 11, 2010

Waterloo & City - All Aboard for the Best Happy Hour for Foodies on the Westside (CLOSED)

Waterloo & City is an unexpected name for a British gastropub, which has come to mean - to this blogger at least - an express train to the best Happy Hour for foodies on the Westside.

An instant classic that recently joined the ranks of 'affordable gourmet' stationed in the bourgeoning foodie mecca that is Culver City, the place is named after a a railway line in the London Underground (aka "the Tube") - that only services two train stations "Waterloo", and "City" (for London City) - which, according to the website, is where Executive Chef Brendan Collins' initiated his youthful adventures.

Waterloo & City's website also explains that it is a traditional British gastropub, which means "it has the relaxed, easy atmosphere of an English pub while serving extraordinary gastronomic cuisine."  This for me translates into gourmet 'for the people', incredible food without the pretentiousness - a concept that I love. 

Waterloo & City has taken a former greasy spoon diner located just a mile or so south of the emerging dining scene of downtown Culver City, and transformed it to a sophisticated yet laid back venue, creating an inviting space with a wide open layout that maximizes natural light and allows diners to enjoy the almost always gorgeous SoCal weather.

I personally love the hammered copper counter at the bar, which I have already made myself at home at on multiple occasions, for their abfab Happy Hour that runs DAILY from 5pm – 7pm (yes, that includes weekends!!!).

A selection of refreshing pubtails are offered at $6 during Happy Hour, which are regularly $10-$12.  I'm partial to The Westside - a mojito-inspired drink made with gin, watermelon, mint, and lemonade.  My friend, who recently returned from a trip to Italy with a newfound love for Aperol - was delighted to find that Waterloo & City is one of the few places that serve the liquor in L.A., in the form of Aperol Spritz - a pubtail consisting of Aperol, sparkling wine, club soda, and orange. Wine and beer of the day are also available for $5 or $4, respectively.  You can also order well drinks for $5 during Happy Hour.

The drinks are a good deal, but that for me is not what pulls me in to Happy Hour time after time - it's the amazing small plates and gourmet pizzas at just $6-$9 each (all but the cheese plate, which is $12 for eight cheeses).  Here are a few of the dishes that, at mere thought, have a Pavlovian effect on me.

Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Mousse
($7 at Happy Hour)
The Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Mousse, at just $7 - is an incredible deal.  The same dish at dinner would be $12.  Its smooth, creamy rich texture is offset by a sprinkling of coarse truffle and sea salt, and a trio of crunchy and sour sides (cornichon, pickled pearl onion, giant caper).  The slab is perfect - my only suggestion for this plate is to offer more bread, as 3-4 pieces is simply not enough for the amount of mousse, unless you intend to pile on an enormous mound to each slice.  Also, though it appears that the bread is fresh (there is a large amount of loaves sitting open in the serving area behind the bar - that don't look pre-packaged) - it tasted a bit too crusty.  Given the quality of the mousse, I would have expected the bread to taste at least at the caliber of La Brea Bakery bread.

Moroccan Spiced Lamb, Manchego cheese, Ras El Hanout
($9 at Happy Hour, $13 regularly)

The pizzas on offer are also amazing, with portions big enough to serve as meals in themselves.  Types of pizza change from time to time, but my favorites have been the unique Moroccan spiced lamb meatballs, manchego cheese, with ras el hanout (and an amazing sauce tasting of layers of spices I can't even begin to name), and the hynoptic wild mushroom with smoked mozzarella and truffle oil.  A steal at just $9 Happy Hour pricing ($13 regularly)!

Waterloo & City also offers tons of blackboard specials - both for drinks and food.  A recent highlight for me includes a jar of Hudson Valley Foie Gras Port Gelee and Armagnac Prunes, and Toasted Brioche.  One of these blackboards sit over the opening to the kitchen, another reason I love sitting at the bar - it's strangely mesmerizing to see the muted bustling in the kitchen, and the owners have showed that they pay attention to every detail - all the kitchen staff are wearing bowler hats, which gives the visual an idyllic, charming sort of '20s look and feel and adds a bit of whimsy to the dining experience.

Beyond Happy Hour, Waterloo & City also has a great dinner menu, with prices that are also fairly reasonable - though it is not as across-the-board consistently incredible as the Happy Hour menu. 

I was excited on a recent trip to see Steak Tartare on the list - served with truffle pork pate, quail yolk, and toast at just $13 for half portion, $18 for full.  Though the pieces felt a bit mashed together and overall just a tad too oily for my taste (I have yet to find a place to top the steak tartare at Petrossian, which is handcut, with a ribbon of caviar woven through) - it was a great deal for the price, and the quail yolk, which is hard to come by, was a nice (and tasty) touch.

Waterloo & City is also known for its charcuterie and terrines. 
As I was with my 'Foodie Mentor', another adventurous soul, for dinner one night -  we decided to try the terrine of pig trotters and sweetbreads, with salsa verde ($11).   It was divine, though the flavor and texture of the sweetbreads could have been highlighted a little more - it was a little lost in the overall terrine, in my opinion.   We also ordered up the "Commoner" chef's charcuterie plate ($17 - referenced as "Cured Meats Selection, Cornichons, Pickled Onions" on menu) - which came with prosciutto, salami etc. which all were amazing. 

Not entirely sure how we found room for additional dishes after the meat feast - but I did want to try the main menu - and my eyes immediately went to the Hand Rolled Tubes, Lobster, Fried Pork Belly, and Asparagus (small portion $14, full portion $20) since it was basically a mix of my favorite shellfish, favorite cut of meat, one of my favorite vegetables, and pasta!  Despite my high hopes for this dish, unfortunately the sum of the ingredients did not transcend its parts - it didn't feel like the various components came together in a cohesive way.  Frying the pork belly in batter ended up being sort of overkill - part of the beauty of pork belly is the lusciousness of the fat and the balance of that with the substance of flavorful meat.  Putting batter around the whole thing overwhelms the textures and flavors of the pork belly so that you really only register the fried shell, before biting into the meat and fat which then feels like an unstructured, greasy mess.  The pasta also felt just slightly overdone. 

'Foodie Mentor' wisely chose the Summer Truffle Capellini in Brown Butter and Parmesan (small portion $12, full portion $18) and thoroughly enjoyed the dish.  It was rich in flavor, but light and frothy in texture.
Regrettably, I haven't been able to find room yet to sample the desserts - but the menu looks very tempting, with Sticky Toffee Pudding and Panna Cotta among the highlights.  Maybe next time!

I have recommended this place to a wide range of friends and should call out here, based on a few of their feedback, that with the current slate of customers at Waterloo & City, that it is not for a rowdy crowd (I LOVE it all the more for this, but wanted to note for those looking to have a very lively Happy Hour where people mix and mingle to a throbbing soundtrack, or are looking for a typical pub scene, not to expect it here).  At the moment, the crowd skews towards the more mature - while you will see a smattering of late twenties and thirty-somethings at the bar and in the dining area, they are there usually as couples or small groups of friends/girlfriends, and outnumbered by those in older demos.  This may be due to the place being relatively new, and located in a more residential area where a family diner used to be - but I expect that as more people begin to discover this neighborhood gem (along with the addition of "The Wreck Room" complete with billiards, arcade game and darts) that you will start to see more of a mixed crowd. 

That said, Waterloo & City's Happy Hour is fantastic for the more sophisticated but laid back, people looking for good food and drinks at a great price, in an upscale but inviting space - perfect for foodies like me, and definitely my idea of the best Happy Hour on the Westside.   

On a 7 point scale:

Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 5 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%


Waterloo and City
12517 W. Washington Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Ph: 310.391.4222

Waterloo & City on Urbanspoon   Waterloo & City in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

1 comment:

  1. This place looks amazing. I once read some interesting information that an actor (Kip Pardue) was one of the owners. I'm not sure if that's true but either way, the food looks incredible. Thanks for the review and the photos (they're making me hungry!).



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