Note: Waterloo & City closed in early 2015. But Brendan Collin's latest restaurant, Birch, in Hollywood, will surely continue to serve up his delicious fare.
Hanging out with chefs comes with obvious benefits. When my dear friend and neighbor, the Uber Chef (I have to start calling him something other than Chef and he does, after all, live above me), told me he might move to London to head up a restaurant, he admitted he was worried about feeling a bit lonely.
“Are you kidding?” I said. “You’ll be the executive chef at one of the most well-known restaurants in the world. Everyone is going to want to be your friend.”
On our way to Waterloo
Several times I’ve mentioned this restaurant which is, lucky for me, a neighborhood joint. It’s also known as one of the better restaurants in L.A. The food is English pub fare – but that classification doesn’t do justice to what the chefs are doing there.
The first time I tried the chicken liver pate, I was underwhelmed. This is going to sound funny – but I think it was too cold. The second time I tried it, it had been sitting out on a platter at an event. I wanted to put the platter to my face and lick it. I swear, there had to be something illegal in that pate to make it that good.
While I was out nearly tipping over a sailboat on Wednesday, Chef Lou texted: did the Uber Chef and I want to try a new lamb pate? Now, you have to understand. This is the kind of request I will drop everything to accommodate. Hell yeah, I wanted to try his lamb pate. But by the time I saw his text I was drenched in salt water, sloshing around in wet jeans and never so in need of a hot bath in all my life.
“Can we come tomorrow?” I asked.
A carnivore’s playground
I’m a big fan of the food at Waterloo because I’m a charcuterie fiend. So I want Chef Lou to be my best friend forever. (Okay, my next best friend after the Uber Chef.) Lou is in charge of the charcuterie. He’s taught charcuterie. He’s badass at charcuterie.
Part of me wants to refrain from writing anything about Chef Lou’s new lamb terrine. You need to just go and try it yourself. As I reflect on it now, I wonder if he really wanted our input. Maybe he just wanted to say, “You gotta try this f*#$*&*n amazing thing I made before we sell out of it.”
The lamb terrine was a meal. Like eating the boiled down essence of a lamb stew, refined by technique and sliced to effect, revealing the layers of ingredients and flavor: lamb shank, tongue, neck and belly meat alternating with turnips and gelatin he made himself from trotters.
Typically, the battery on my camera was dead. So I took these shots with my iPhone. They don’t do justice to how sexy this terrine was. So like I said, you’ll just have to go try it.
The best happy hour. Ever.
The Uber Chef and I hadn’t meant to linger. We were both wanting to keep it light, try the pate and go back to our separate apartments and eat salads. Which of course we didn’t do.
Two weeks ago I went to a series of happy hours in Venice. I was happy to pay less for a small selection of edibles. But if you are anywhere close to Waterloo & City at happy hour – I mean, if you’re, say, within a half-hour’s driving radius, there is no reason to go anywhere else.
The Uber Chef ordered the pastrami sandwich. “I’m not going to eat,” I told him. I told the bartender, too, as if she would stop me.
I think the first words out of Chef’s mouth were something like, “This is f#$(&n delicious.” Unfortunately for my waistline, I love pastrami. When I worked at the cheese shop in Brooklyn, I would haunt the meat slicer after anyone had sliced pastrami and grab up any extra bits. At the end of my shift, I’d slice a handful, weigh it, pay for it, and walk home eating it out of the wax paper.
“What’s that almost floral sweetness?” I kept asking Chef. “Is it honey?”
“Cole,” I told you, “they put the damn thing on raisin bread.” Yes, they did. They put a pastrami sandwich on raison bread. A little thing like that puts that sandwich into a whole ‘nother ball park. Oh my god was it good.
Chef also ordered a ravioli dish and beef eggrolls. Jesus. The beef eggrolls reminded me of an empanada I had in Mexico once, which was deef-fried and contained raisins. They were served with a curried salad of turmeric-heavy yoghurt and cucumbers. The ravioli were filled with a kind of corn pudding and tossed in a light, summery soccotash and pork sausage.
I ordered first a watermelon margarita that was successfully watermelony but not too sweet. Then I had a drink called the Cartel with mezcal and lemon bitters that tasted like tobacco and lemon. It reminded me of a tour I once took of an agave plantation where they pack the plants in coals and cover them with earth and smoke fills the hot air with the smell of burnt sugar.
It was the kind of meal I want to go back and eat again. Today. Maybe I should text Chef Lou. See if he’s trying out any new dishes.