Nestled under the old railway arches of Vauxhall Station lies Counter, an all-day bar and brasserie with ‘New-York style contemporary’ food and unique cocktails (including the Dirty Bellini – with a dash of balsamic vinegar to add a slight kick to the traditional drink). With a hushed, slightly exclusive but welcoming feel – we headed there a few weekends ago to escape the chaos of London Fashion Week. Seated in one of the muted grey booths, we immediately settled into a night of incredible food and lovely company.
With a cocktail in hand, we perused the menu and chose an assortment of dishes to try out. There wasn’t too much on the menu that I could initially point out as a ‘safe’ food for me (I’m dairy and egg free) but luckily, our waiter was on hand to offer me some alternatives, tweaking the dishes to make sure I could enjoy them too. I really liked the fact that he had an extensive knowledge of all of their dishes, rather than having to keep going back to the kitchen to double check the ingredients (which obviously I appreciate as they’re being thorough for me – but it does interrupt the flow of your meal). Not a single fuss was made, as he simply added and detracted certain ingredient items to cater for my requirements.
Since the venue is also a very popular bar, in addition to serving a sit down meal – we decided to try out some of the enticing nibbles while waiting for our starters. Homemade vegetable crisps, olives and fried mac and cheese balls. Obviously I had to avoid the latter, but I think you’ll agree – they look pretty incredible. David confirmed that they tasted just as good as they looked.
The vegetable crisps were also amazing – a firm favourite of mine in the supermarket, but Counter’s version surpassed this two fold. Not an ounce of grease or oil tainted the veggie flavours coming through. I could have eaten another entire bowl.
The starters didn’t disappoint either – mine a green salad with samphire and David’s a hanger steak with oyster mushrooms. I was impressed by how quickly they had put together a delicious salad for me, despite it being off menu – and the steak was apparently out-of-this-world incredible, filled with flavour and cooked to perfection. I’m not a massive steak person (I think the last time I ate it was about 6 years ago) but even I was tempted to steal a little bite, as it looked amazing.
Again the mains followed suit with two further amazing dishes. David opted for another meat centric dish – the Lamb Rump with Lyonnaise Potatoes and red wine jus while I had the Halibut, Rock Samphire and Shiitake Broth. Probably a bit of an odd choice for someone who isn’t overly keen on mushrooms however the Halibut was cooked to perfection, with a crispy salt outer layer, softly simmered in broth. I also went for a portion of their Lemon & Thyme fries, which were amazing. You’ll have to excuse the overuse of the word amazing in this review, because I simply can’t find another word to describe the food. David even said it was the best meal he’d ever had in a restaurant, which is certainly telling. No detail had been overlooked and this definitely shows.
Dessert options were a little limited for someone with a dairy intolerance (I really would like to see this improved upon in restaurants, as not having dairy or eggs means you can get more inventive with flavours, fruits and ingredients) however for those who do like to indulge, you have an array of tempting choices. After much deliberation, David opted for the ‘Chocolate Bar’ – a homemade layered treat with pistachio cake, cherry cake and a chocolate ganache style filling, topped with flakes of chocolate and white chocolate cream. A chocoholic’s dream.
We left feeling satisfied, but without that horrid greasy ‘ugh’ aftertaste that many indulgent restaurants offer – as everything was cooked to perfection and it felt like ‘treat’ food. This had everything you could ask for in a romantic dinner for two – good food, great drinks and a fantastic environment, without the ridiculous London price tag associated.
It’s super easy to get to – just a one minute walk from Vauxhall tube station – and if you’re wanting to make a night to it, you can retire to the bar to sample yet more of the incredible cocktail concoctions. We struggled choosing just one each, so good luck!