Twenty-three Years of Spanish Food and Wine in London’s Southbank
Meson Don Felipe, opened in 1987 on The Cut near Waterloo Station, was one of the first restaurants I visited in London nearly twenty years ago, and is one of the few I keep returning to after all these years.
A real Spanish institution, Meson Don Felipe is a great place for good and unpretentious tapas, live flamenco music and great atmosphere. The place is nearly always heaving – I love sitting by the bar, starting my evening with a chilled bottle of bone dry Manzanilla Sherry (‘La Goya’, Delgado Zuleta – @ £10.50 for ½ bottle) , and some “Almendras” (Toasted and salted marcona almonds) @ £3.50 and “Aceitunas” (Marinated Spanish olives) @ £3.25, while I peruse the tapas menu.
The menu has hardly changed in the 18 years I have been a patron but “daily specials” are always on offer so there are always a couple of new dishes that can be ordered on any visit.
Last month, I went back to Meson don Felipe with Dr G, one of my oldest friends Gary of StartSpace on Columbia Road (see blogroll), and his partner Pablo who is a Brazilian artist.
We ordered a selection of tapas which were as good as expected – hardly haute cuisine but tasty and the perfect accompaniment to the Spanish wine being ordered.
“Pescaditos Fritos” (Deep-fried whitebait) @ £4.95.
“Bacalao frito con alioli” (Deep-fried fresh cod with garlic mayonnaise) @ £5.75.
“Higaditos al jerez” (Chicken livers in Sherry sauce) @ £4.95.
“Patatas Riojanas” (Potatoes cooked with chorizo) @ £4.75.
“Champiñones con Setas” (Mixed mushrooms cooked in oil and garlic) @ £4.75.
“Habas con Jamon” (Broad beans with cured ham and mint) @ £4.95.
“Chorizo Castellana” (Hot and spicy Spanish sausage) @ £4.95.
“Jamon y Queso” (Plate of Spanish cured ham, manchego cheese, quince conserve and grapes) @ £5.95.
“Croquetas de atun” (Tuna fish croquettes) @ £4.95.
Meson Don Felipe’s Spanish wine list is one of the most comprehensive I have encountered in London, and also one of the most reasonably priced – there are many choices of wine by the glass from £3.65 while bottles start at £13.25.
We ordered a 2005 Muga Reserva @ £26.75 which was a blend predominantly of tempranillo and garnacha, aged for 30 months in oak (6 months in large vats, and 24 months in small barrels), and had deliciously soft tannins, lovely dark berry fruits and a long finish. This was a complex and well balanced wine.
Meson Don Felipe is my place of choice whenever I go to the Young or Old Vic theatres or the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank. It can get very busy, so I would recommend booking a table (tables can be booked until 8pm only) if more than two people are coming.
Alternatively sit by the bar and soak up the wonderful atmosphere while watching the staff and other customers going about their business. Service can be erratic at busy times and level of English spoken varies a lot – there have been times when I have not been able to book a table (even though I can speak Portuguese) as people taking the bookings could not communicate in English, but it is worth persevering.
Cost: Around £30 per person including food and Spanish wine.
Likes: wonderful live flamenco music, great atmosphere, and lovely food. Meson’s wine list is excellent and very good value.
Dislikes: service can be erratic at busy times and English is not always tip top which some might say adds to the charm of the place.
Verdict: Meson Don Felipe is a real Spanish institution on London’s The Cut, serving consistently good, unpretentious and familiar tapas dishes at reasonable prices. The Spanish wine list is also excellent. One of my London gems. I cannot wait to return.
Written by Luiz Hara. You can read more of his restaurant reviews and articles on food in London at The London Foodie.
Meson Don Felipe