COUNTER, the latest restaurant offering to open in the vibrant Vauxhall Arches neighbourhood, has a decor I’d call trendy modern glamour which others have dubbed ‘Deco meets Disco’. For those looking for something new and fresh, COUNTER brings the traditional brasserie firmly into the 21st century. Glittering antiqued mirrors and a palette of lacquered grey tones are highlighted with brass detailing and custom-made lighting set off against reclaimed teak floors.
Having taken a wrong turning and entering the building at the back through COUNTER’s edgy and slightly naughty little gay brother BackCOUNTER, walking along the length of the restaurant to get to the host was proof that this is quite definitely London’s longest restaurant housed in a 200-foot long arch. And yet despite the long walk, the interior seems open and spacious.
Our funky and friendly mixologist rose to the challenge of producing something that was equally as delectable as it was photogenic. Out on the impressive brass-topped bar came the fruity orange-coloured Counter Punch which was garnished with pineapple and possibly the largest cherry I’ve ever seen followed swiftly by the Goding Fizz which was an aromatic take on gin and tonic served with cucumber and a proud sprig of rosemary.
After pre-dinner drinks we were shown to our table by the lovely Eduardo who is clearly passionate about both food and its service in equal measure. Talking to him and other key members of the team at COUNTER, it soon becomes clear that this new restaurant has been well researched and well put together. From the decor and seasonal menu to the staff and music. The eclectic yet chilled soundtrack was a mix of funk, classic disco and retro tunes which played unobtrusively in the background at just the right level to pick up on favourite songs whilst creating a relaxed vibe to enjoy the French-American cuisine.
This 175-cover restaurant serves up an eclectic feast of freshly made (and seasonal) French and American inspired dishes priced from £12-22 for main courses and £6-10 for hot breakfast meals. Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner the menu at COUNTER packs a culinary punch.
To start the meal, I chose the Chicken and Bacon Terrine studded with bright green pistachios and served with an treacly Redcurrant Chutney spiced with cloves, star anise and cinnamon. The sourdough bread alongside this slice of meaty goodness has been briefly toasted with edges slightly charred so the airy light texture is not lost. The spicy chutney perfectly complements the chicken terrine and nutty pistachios. Personally I would have preferred something more dense or crunchy than the sourdough but everything worked well on the plate.
My dining companion decided on the Scallops served on Fennel Purée with Tarragon and Tangerine. Such a ubiquitous choice on many of London’s menus, scallops can be a sometimes boring choice as they must be cooked and served so simply. So it was refreshing to see these served with an inspired choice of fennel purée which looked appealing on the plate and was even more appealing to the palate.
Foregoing the carefully curated wine list which comprises exclusively of French and American wines and instead returning to the cocktail list for some imbibed inspiration, our mixologist produced the perfect dinner cocktails of a classic faultless Bellini and a Vauxhall Vesper which is their take on the classic Vesper Martini made famous by James Bond in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale. Here COUNTER mix gin and vodka with sweet vermouth and Cointreau instead of the traditional Cocchi Americano and serve the cocktail with a flamboyant twist of orange.
Rather than choosing it as a starter, we decide to try the Mac and Cheese Balls served with Chipotle Sauce as a side dish. These moreish balls are crispy on the outside thanks to the cheese used as the crumb yielding to a soft slightly creamy filling of macaroni in a light cheese sauce. Although I’m not normally a fan of the famous American dish, this version ticks all the right boxes of fried comfort food. It’s not surprising this dish is one of the most popular on the menu.
For our mains I went with the Fillet Steak which was cooked to medium rare perfection, served on a bed of tender crisp Green Beans and topped with a grilled Portobello Mushroom. The steak was served with Café De Paris Butter. I couldn’t tell how authentic the recipe was but the dish was very tasty.
My dining companion went for the Skate Wing which was generously proportioned and served with a decent portion of juicy Clams, well seasoned Samphire and a simple Beurre Blanc. What COUNTER realise which many other restaurants do not is that samphire should be well salted so it has that taste of the sea reminiscent of its origin growing by the sea.
Having enjoyed a delicious main course and even more delicious conversation with Eduardo and our friendly waiter who turned out to be a fellow Cambridge alumni, it was time for dessert. Although the Poached Peach looked like a tasty summer treat, we couldn’t resist going retro and ordering the Banana Split and the classic slice of Americana which is the Mississipi Mud Pie. The pie was a dense piece of chocolate heaven served with brownie bits and a rich fudge sauce.
The Banana Split did not disappoint and was a scrumptious combination of caramelised banana and vanilla ice cream covered with chocolate sauce, toasted hazelnuts and whipped cream. Not one for the calorie counters but since when did anyone start counting calories when reviewing dessert!
As we said our goodbyes to Eduardo and his colleagues who had looked after us so well, I couldn’t help but wonder how soon it would be before I returned to order another side or two of Mac and Cheese Balls. COUNTER is definitely worth a visit and is a welcome addition to the pleasure-seeking neighbourhood of Vauxhall. COUNTER is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Vauxhall Station, 7-11 South Lambeth Place, London SW8 1SP
020 3693 9600