I was quaking inside as I approached The Fire Station. Not only was its exterior thronged with what looked like half of London enjoying after-work drinks, the city’s remaining residents were apparently inside, enjoying the restaurant’s bar area and, it’s fair to say, making their presence felt. The noise had to be heard to be believed, leaving me wondering if this was the right place for a quiet catch-up over dinner.
Not to worry. The layout of The Fire Station has changed since I was last there (a good ten years ago) and the restaurant is now a separate, much more peaceful room at the rear of the building. Phew.
It’s not just the layout that has changed. I remember visiting The Fire Station when it was one of just a handful of restaurants in the Waterloo area; competition was limited and The Fire Station traded, not always fairly, on that fact. By which I mean that the food was pricey – and the quality didn’t always match.
Now, of course, Waterloo has been transformed, thanks to the revitalisation of the Southbank. Restaurants abound, as do street food stalls; it’s a foodies’ paradise. I was interested, therefore, to see how The Fire Station had responded.
Not in the way I would have expected, that’s for sure. The menu’s focus has shifted to pizzas, burgers and interesting side dishes, with the prices far more competitive than they used to be. There’s also a very appealing drinks list, which our lovely waitress spent ages talking us through, helping me to identify a cocktail served without ice (a particular bugbear of mine). That turned out to be a Porn Star Martini: an addictive blend of Absolut Vodka, Briottet Crème d’Abricot, pineapple juice, passion fruit syrup, lemon juice, Ms Better’s Botanical Foamer and a shot of Prosecco.
Neither MB nor I can resist halloumi in any form, so the Halloumi Fries as a starter were a no-brainer. Served with harissa yoghurt, mint and pomegranate seeds, they were a delight and disappeared faster than I care to remember.
The salads looked quite tempting, but let’s be honest, we were in search of some good old-fashioned carbohydrate and our mains were chosen accordingly. I don’t eat meat, but if I was going to be tempted, a Fire Station burger would do the trick: the meat is handcrafted into two patties, piled with all sorts of delectable add-ons and served in seeded brioche buns. MB plumped for the Cheese Burger, with sides of Sweet Potato Fries and Tequila & Lime Slaw (I did say it was a carbs night). He loved both his Burger and the Fries, with the Slaw proving the only disappointment of the evening; having tried it myself, I can confirm that it tasted of absolutely nothing.
Very obligingly, the restaurant had agreed to make me a Peri-Peri King Prawn Pizza without the chorizo, and I loved my thin base with its peri-peri marinated crustaceans, enlivened with red chilli, marinated buffalo mozzarella and rocket; the prawns were plump and juicy and the filling had just the right amount of kick.
You wouldn’t think we would have been able to fit in a dessert, would you? Fortuitously, however, The Fire Station serves sharing desserts, meaning we could order the Chocolate Donut Mess without too much guilt. This scrumptious mix of chocolate hazelnut sauce, vanilla ice cream, honeycomb, flake, whipped cream and chocolate-covered mini donuts proved exactly the sweet treat we needed to complete our meal.
This was unabashed comfort food and we were unabashed in our enjoyment of it – and in being able to relax in a welcoming, mellow environment where we stayed long after we finished eating, chatting away and under no pressure to vacate our table. A thoroughly enjoyable evening: I am, most definitely, a Fire Station convert.