Down by the waterside: Lido Cafe review

Carina Murphy doesn’t go for a swim

The lovingly restored 1930s art deco Lido Café on the edge of Brockwell Park will be familiar to most I’m sure. When it reopened in 2009 I was in the first haze of new-born, err, bliss, and, in constant need of decent coffee and refuelling, spent many a morning, segueing into lunchtime and late afternoon here.

Today, the short, simple, menu is still designed for ease of use by south London millennials, yummy mummies and post swimmers and it’s still relaxed, informal, bustling and user-friendly.

Breakfast on smashed “avo” with seeds, herbs and pickled chilli on sourdough. The halloumi burgers and chips, seasonally changing salads and freshly baked cakes take you through the afternoon, while you can watch hardier types than I taking a dip in the unheated pool and think “how nice/not a chance”.

I asked a fellow journo to join me for a sneak preview of Lido Café’s festive menu. “So I’ll see you at the lie-doh” I concluded. “I think you’ll find it’s the lee-doh” retorted he, and even sent me a clip of Bryan Ferry clearly taking artistic licence in Do the Strand. Undeterred by this “you like tom-ayto and I like tom-ahto” style blip, we didn’t call the whole thing off.

Chicago hailing chef Lily Ferguson-Mahan has devised a Christmas menu to be served until 22 December, evenings only and booking more or less a necessity.

A ginger and pear martini with honeycomb (non-alcoholic available if you really must) was a warming introduction to starters of confit duck, apple jelly and sourdough and fig, blue cheese, filo and honey.

It was followed by highly successful main plates of roast free-range Suffolk guinea fowl in garlic and herb butter, perfectly cooked whole-roasted gilthead bream with lemon and tarragon and, beautifully presented, but texturally samey, whole roast acorn squash with whipped maple sweet potato and walnuts.

The idea is you also choose three sharing side dishes for the table. Of the ones we tried, cornbread, blue cheese and walnut stuffing was the best and I’d be tempted to try the beer mac and cheese, because you know, duh.

But we did find some of the others occasionally heavy on sweetness: maple roasted sweet potatoes, golden, red and candy beetroot with warm vinaigrette and kale and quinoa salad with feta, apricots and almonds. It might be wiser to opt for the buttered cavolo nero.

It’s also worth swerving the sweeter sides to save yourself for an extremely moreish dessert of pecan pie with brandy crème fraiche. A sensibly short but interesting drinks list with a focus on craft beers completes the picture.

You might have noticed that our American chef has brought a decidedly Thanksgivingy feel to Christmas and, if you’re bored by the thought of turkey already, this menu clearly dances to an innovative festive tune. Particularly as, alongside the pom-poms cascading in wintery colours from the ceiling, the Lido Café got a suitably snowy makeover before the menu launched.

All very festively satisfactory really, £29 for three courses, £35 for four.

Now, if only we could solve the problem of how to pronounce it. Answers on a postcard please, but do keep an eye on those last posting dates. Merry Christmas.

Brockwell Lido, Dulwich Road, SE24 7737 8183@thelidocafe