One could easily miss it! Counter truly is under the arches at Vauxhall station. Its entrance is understated but don’t pass by. This is worth a visit at any time of day. It has great character and is something of a Tardis. Its narrow frontage opens onto London’s longest restaurant, its 175 covers in a 200-foot long arch! Yes, a large restaurant but its architecture contrives to create an intimate ambiance.
Counter is a brasserie, a breakfast venue, a lunch café, a convivial dinner spot and a venue for late night revels. Some days see Counter opening at 7am and closing as late as 1.30am. The atmosphere and clientele change over those hours, although many of those visitors are regulars. The location couldn’t be more convenient but it’s the food and the service that are the cornerstones to success in a city that boasts plenty of choice.
I have visited for dinner and also for a hot winter afternoon snack but this was my first daylight encounter with Counter. Brunch is a casual meal and one to be shared. One sits comfortably, ponders menus, chats with friends, makes plans for the rest of the day and eats …and drinks. Brunch isn’t a meal to hurry.
Chicken Fried Rabbit
Counter is vibrant at any time of day or night. Brunch finds tables filled with animated hungry folks who want either classic breakfast offerings or more lunchy temptations. Along with their chosen plates they will likely enjoy a Bottomless Bellini, a glass of prosecco or, my favourite, a Bloody Mary!
Brunch with some sort of fizz is standard these days but this was the first brunch in ages that has offered me a Bloody Mary. It’s more spiced than others I have tried but was absolutely to my taste. If you aren’t interested in a hit of zing then order one without chilli …I think that would be called an alcoholic tomato juice and would be, in my opinion, standing in Mary’s shadow. I hope Counter is never tempted to change that recipe for the sake of the timid.
Counter has familiar egg dishes such as the ubiquitous Eggs Royale with Smoked Salmon, poached eggs, hollandaise, and a muffin, as well as the original Eggs Benedict, but they also offer some departures which are worth trying. Chicken Fried Rabbit was a new one on me. I love rabbit, yes, I admit it – I enjoy eating bunny. It’s a mild-flavoured meat and it should be more popular as it’s sustainable. The ‘chicken-fried’ element refers to the coating which is similar to that used for poultry or, in the US, for chicken fried steak, which is a brunch staple.
The Counter brunch introduced me to Spiced Avocado. This was served with poached eggs, and presented on toasted sourdough from a local baker. I also had a serving of crispy bacon which complemented the creamy avocado. The spicing was delicate and didn’t overpower the green fruit – or is it a vegetable?
New York diner
My guest, a man with an appetite for all things meaty, ordered the substantial Pastrami Sourdough open sandwich. The slices of cured beef were topped with fried eggs, melted Swiss cheese and hollandaise sauce. This would not have been out of place in any New York diner.
Baked Alaska Bomb was that still-peckish companion’s dessert, who proffered the lame excuse that he hadn’t had that flavourful rabbit starter. This sweet tower consisted of ricotta ice cream, blueberry sponge, blueberry compote with a cap of grilled (I suspect blow-torched) glistening meringue. This was a delightful presentation of a dessert which was full of berry flavour but it was that ricotta ice cream that was outstanding. This is perhaps some of the best ice cream I have had in any casual restaurant anywhere. Don’t miss this one.
I had expected to enjoy Brunch at Counter Vauxhall Arches and I did. It’s a casual spot with polish. The menu offers something for every taste and appetite and the service is friendly. I am now devoted to spiced avocado with a side of Bloody Mary!
Opening times – Bar and Brasserie
Monday to Thursday: 7am – 12.30am
Friday: 7am – 1.30am
Saturday: 9am – 1.30am
Sunday: 9am – 12.30am
Counter Vauxhall Arches
50 South Lambeth Place
Phone: 020 3693 9600
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018