Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A bite to eat by the water

The last days of summer are ebbing away and September is nearly upon us. At about this point in the year I am suddenly reminded of all the ways in which I had planned to take advantage of the good weather, and have mostly not got around to.

So I hastened down to Brockwell Park Lido - but not for a swim. The evenings are not as light as they were, but if you get there in time I can think of few nicer things to do in London in the sunshine than have a drink and something to eat while watching the swimmers in the glinting turquoise waters. It may not be the Med but it feels somehow Continental.

The Lido Cafe has a good reputation for its food, which is mostly justified. We started with two types of fritters - pea & mint and aubergine feta, served with with sour cream (£4.50). The pea and mint ones were reminiscent of deep-fried mushy peas, but in a good way, and with a sweet green freshness of proper peas. I couldn't detect much aubergine flavour in the others. The Real Ale Drinker wanted the half pint of North Atlantic prawn, but was told it was the wrong time of year. He turned down the alternative of tiger prawns and instead chose a very tasty dish of chorizo, piquillo pepper and rocket on toast (£4.75). It was a sort of poshed-up bruschetta, served with some decent, apparently home-made but ultimately unnecessary aioli.

Sea bream fillet at the Lido Cafe

A sea bream fillet (£13.25) came perched on top of a bright green tangle of samphire, with a single large razor clam, small sauteed potatoes and a herby sauce.

Stuffed English courgettes (£11.50) were served with a creamy goats' cheese-filled piquillo pepper and romesco sauce - which is a Spanish sauce made from red peppers and almonds. It was elegant rather than hearty (by which I mean there was still a lot of white space on the plate). The stuffing of the courgettes could have done with more assertive flavours, but it was a summery, imaginative dish.

Stuffed courgettes
The last of the sunshine seduced us into trying the home-made ice-cream (£4.25). The white peach flavour was slightly too delicate, but the hazelnut was deliciously creamy and nutty, with a good scattering of nubbly bits to add crunch. A vanilla cheese-cake with blueberries (£4.50) was decent but not outstanding (I had hoped for a New York-style cheesecake, but this was a unbaked one).

It is one of those places where eavesdropping on the conversation at the next table can easily yield amusement. Our neighbours were discussing their forthcoming holiday to "a little fishing village north of Barcelona". One of them had a child called Otis and was earnestly discussing parenting styles.

Drinks include organic teas, freshly-made juices and smoothies (not in the evening, unfortunately), some thoughtfully chosen wines and even posh Cornish cider, made in a champagne style, for £20 a bottle.

The outside tables have the best pool view, though if your visit is in the evening you will want to take some extra layers. The summer won't last much longer, so don't wait too long before getting round to it.

The Lido Cafe
Dulwich Road
Brockwell Lido
SE24 0PA

020 7737 8183

Open 9am-6pm Sunday to Tuesday, 9am to 11pm Wednesday to Saturday

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