Once upon a time, there were pre-show drinks and dinner needed to be had… Well actually not ‘once’ as seeing an array of West End shows is almost mandatory in the city. The pop-up storybook of London opens and towering up from the pages is this flourish of a restaurant. With neon script, swirling over the building - as if it too could be a theatre - 'Hello Darling'.
This restaurant is like having a house party at your quirky, artistic friend’s apartment - both in the deco and in the homely atmosphere. It is a work of art, however, it’s not to be looked at, but lived in. It’s a labyrinth of hand-painted tables, a dresser with patterned crockery, curtain draped doorways and private booths all individually designed - one is like having cocktails in a pillow fort which is every adult’s dream. And a bathtub…? You really can sip cocktails fully dressed in an empty bathtub - and if that doesn’t say house party then nothing will.
It’s the newest creation from theatrical set designer duo Darling and Edge and art venue The Vaults, with a seasonal menu designed by 2013 Master Chief winner Natalie Coleman. The menu is small plates and sharing platters each divided into the three categories of vegetable, fish or meat. The small plates allow for you to discover the intricacy of flavours - and to taste more than one of the delicate dishes. Such as a salad of wild garlic, asparagus, pearl barley, broad bean and peas or the curried scallops with coconut and coriander.
There is a 360 degree bar in the centre of the ground floor serving a botanical cocktail menu that makes your tongue fizzle. That's maybe the one thing about this place that is very different to a house party - the drinks are far more sophisticated, for example, the Hibiscus and Green Tea Mojito (spiced rum, hibiscus and green tea liqueur, mint and soda).
Although this is a restaurant and botanical bar there are three menus… One for food, but also one for artwork and another for flowers. Many of the art pieces are done by Brogan Woolf, but each creation is from local London artists. And they offer small posies for £5 for you to take home with you.
A booth with star constellations on the ceiling, spiral staircases and a paper mache tiger head on the wall over the victorian furniture. I keep listing the wonder of this place and never seem to get to the end. It’s an 80 seater and there are plans to turn the basement into a late-night bar and the two other floors into a cabaret/magic show space. It’s like knocking on a door, whispering a password and stepping into another world.
As their website says Hello Darling is "an intimate supper-club and a minds-&-mouth open cocktail bar" it's a beautifully creative space that will have your mind opening up to the delightful and whimsical possibilities.
131 Waterloo Road
(next to The Old Vic)
London, SE1 8UR
Written by Caroline Louise Hamar.