Every September, my cousin Jimmy visits Santa Monica from suburban New Jersey, and he’s always on the hunt for the same thing: the city’s hottest restaurant. The food is important, and if he can find a story to share with his friends back home, even better. In the past, we’ve visited restaurants like Providence, Father’s Office, Wilson, Rustic Canyon, Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza and Gjelina, and for the most part they’ve delivered. This year, Jimmy brought his wife Connie, and they agreed to try Waterloo & City, the new gastropub that chef Brendan Collins and business partner Carolos Tomazos opened in May.
For whatever reason, the word “gastropub” inspires thoughts of a crammed bar with people crawling all over each other to grab hold of prized bar bites. The original Father’s Office probably helped to foment that vision. However, Waterloo & City doesn’t fit that framework at all. The nearly 150-seat restaurant occupies the former home of Crest House Family Restaurant, a diner that operated for over 40 years. Thoreen&Ritter updated the look, adding a 30-foot copper bar, a communal table, antique mirrors and a spacious patio that suits the SoCal lifestyle.
Waterloo & City has been gaining the most traction due to Collins’ charcuterie. The U.K. native met a need, drawing on his European heritage and training to fill planks with terrines and pates. Bloggers like Eddie Lin previously raved about the King platter, a monstrous platter touting ten different meats. Since only four of us were at the table, we settled for the Prince, ($24) including silky chicken liver & foie gras mousse studded with bits of black truffle (paired with sweet potato jam), a trio of cured meats (coppa, prosciutto and salami), plus a choice of three terrines. Not everybody was enthusiastic about the idea of smoked tongue or venison, so we ordered a mix of daring and conservative. The creamy foie gras terrine was luxurious when slathered on crusty toast.
The chunky terrine studded with chunks of glutinous pig trotters and firmer sweetbreads was more interesting to me, especially given the surprising addition of a single anchovy, which packed a punch. Salty fish with pig’s feet and thymus gland? Why not? Collins garnished the slab with generous dabs of violet mustard and salsa verde. The rosy rabbit terrine was another winner, studded with walnuts, and paired with spicy whole grain mustard and sweet “soused” peaches.
Our waiter suggested that we order one of the house-made past dishes, and we decided on Hand Pressed Trenne ($18). Collins incorporate a judicious amount of tomato sauce, allowing his firm sheets of pasta to shine, layering on flavor with bits of bacon, porcini slices, fresh grated Parmesan and lean but flavorful rabbit meatballs that sported a winning sear.
Collins’ Prime Pork Chop ($24) was the runaway choice for last week’s Dose of Vitamin P, Dose of Vitamin P. Chefs often overcook pork chops, but Collins’ thick-cut, pan-seared specimen was juicy all the way through, served in vanilla- and apple-tinged pan juices, plated on a raft of expertly cooked green beans and topped with a luxurious slab of black pudding. The dark loaf was caramelized at the edges, bound with pig fat and studded with congealed cubes of iron-rich hog’s blood, apples and onion. He finished the feat with chunky apple sauce and a single dehydrated apple chip. This chop was further proof that Homer Simpson was correct in calling the pig a “magical animal.”
Jimmy ordered a Shepherd’s pie with a tomato sauced ground lamb base, herbed panko up top for texture’s sake and rich, buttery mashed potatoes in between. The pie supported vegetables at varying degrees of firmness, including squash, baby artichokes, and peas. The flavor was pretty good, but ultimately, this entree was extraneous. other dishes were more interesting, and eating more than a few bites of this devastating pie would have made further consumption impossible.
The arugula salad ($10) was the night’s only dud, featuring seriously overdressed greens that overshadowed the grilled figs, smoked almonds and single sheet of Parmesan.
We split a pair of desserts, including a Huckleberry and Brown Butter Tart ($9). My cousin, an accomplished baker who’s familiar with British cookery, noted that the pastry likely contained lard, since it was drier, not very buttery. Fine by me. The accompanying scoop of espresso ice cream tasted just fine, but didn’t feel like an especially good match for huckleberry or brown butter.
Sticky Toffee Pudding ($9) arrived as a warm, toffee-soaked brick in a pool of salted caramel sauce. The scoop of milk ice cream provided a cool counterpoint to the rich, flavorful cake.
My cousins were both pleased with the dinner. Jimmy insisted that it was his best L.A. meal in recent years, which made me feel even better about the choice. Collins, a Nottingham native, found success at Melisse, Anisette and The Hall Courtyard Brasserie at Palihouse, but he’s clearly most comfortable when riffing on the cuisine of his homeland.
September 26, 2010 at 2:35 PM
Looks like a great meal. What a spread!
How much was the check in the end?
September 26, 2010 at 2:39 PM
Our meal at Waterloo & City cost a little more than $40 per person, well worth the price, especially considering we didn’t need the salad or lamb shepherd’s pie.
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September 23, 2010 at 12:02 PM
I liked Waterloo & City when I went earlier this summer. Nice vibe and interesting menu. Even if my dining companion and I did choose to order the less interesting items — tuna tartare, shrimp & zucchini blossom fritters, mushroom pizza, and the sticky toffee pudding. The tuna tartare was actually a very clever version though. Probably one of the better tuna tartares I’ve had in recent memory. Loved the sticky toffee pudding too. Would go back for that alone!
September 21, 2010 at 12:37 PM
I love this place. Their charcuterie is awesome and I’ve yet to have a bad dish here. I thought service was also excellent. One time they supplemented an ingredient on the menu (think they ran out of rapini in the pasta so they used beans instead) and when I curiously asked them about the rapini, they apologized and brought over free desserts!
September 21, 2010 at 12:47 PM
Stuffycheaks, glad to hear you also like Waterloo & City. That’s some serious service (hospitality) in response to the Rapini Incident of 2010. Then again, Tomazos previously worked at restaurants like Per Se and the Essex House, so I’d expect service to rise above and beyond at W&C.
September 21, 2010 at 11:17 AM
looks DELISH, i need to go there soon