Waterloo station, a commuter’s paradise, the starting location of many Great British Holidays, and arguably, home to some of the most offensively overpriced croissants on the planet. Luckily for your taste buds and the poor innocent souls who are going to be spending the next three hours on the South West Railway to Plymouth with your grab-and-go lunch, there are actually a lot of tip top places a quick walk from the station. From a proper sit-down sushi dinner to a family-owned café serving irresistible takeaway sweet treats, these are the places right near Waterloo station that will satisfy you so much more than that dodgy pasty.
For Coffee & a Delightful Snack
For fans of caffeine and rhyming words, there are few London coffee shops that will sort out your latte craving quite as well as Sista Barista on Westminster Bridge Road. Not only does this family-owned café do an apple and cinnamon bun that is entirely worth the mess of sugar that’s about to conquer your lap, it’s home to one of London’s best iced coffees. Their frappuccinos are downright delicious, like the kind of delicious where you keep saying ‘fmu frappuccinos are great’, they’ve got a vast range of hot coffee options too, ranging from chai lattes to cheap and cheerful espressos, and we haven’t even mentioned the savoury snacks yet. The falafel wrap? Fantastic. Just be warned that this place is popular with local office workers, so allow a little extra time for any queues.
If you are a straightforward creature who believes that tasteful foliage and coffee is the source of eternal happiness, then you’ll also like Travel Café. A plant shop with a coffee window in the back corner, they’ve also got you covered with all the caffeine classics.
For a Proper Sit-Down Situation
Hannah Japanese Restaurant
We’re always going to have a real soft spot for a restaurant that declares the fish it uses ‘are locally sourced… but nothing from Sea Life Aquarium’. Now that you can rest assured that you’re not about to eat the puffer fish you just witnessed floating about down on the other side of County Hall, you can fully appreciate all of the futo maki, charcoal grilled eel, and white fish rolls this charming Japanese spot has to offer. If it’s a proper sit-down dinner you’re after, then the full omakase tasting menu should definitely be on your radar, but the lunchtime à la carte menu is also packed with delicious things like the lobster katsu donburi. If you’re currently reading this and are thinking ‘WHY GOD WHY, I have to catch a train from Waterloo in 40 minutes but I really fancy some sush’ - relatable - then know that they’ve also got daytime bento boxes that will make you very happy.
Or give decent little tapas-style spot, Banh Bao Brothers a try. Expect bao, popcorn chicken, and cocktails.
For Drinks & a Light Bite
Whether you’ve spent the day working away (repeatedly refreshing Twitter) at your office in Waterloo or have just jumped off a train that cost you more than a flight to San Francisco, wine is a good idea. Let us introduce you to Unwined, a little Waterloo wine bar that has the kind of by-the-glass wine list that you should treat as a Friday night to-do list and affordable bottles that are perfect for date night. It’s casual but still cosy and they have regular guest residencies in the kitchen cooking up small plates and great little snacks that’ll keep your bottle of Beaujolais company. Sadly for anyone who is reading this on a Saturday afternoon, Unwined is closed at the weekend for private hire events but this place should still be on your radar for any and all Waterloo weekday wine needs.
If you’re after that all-important Saturday night drinking den ft. crispy halloumi, then Hello Darling is a good shout. Less about the light bites and more about the booze? Waterloo’s go-to kooky pub, Vaulty Towers has got you covered, and The Vaults is an underground live events and bars space that should be at the top of your agenda for a heavy-duty sesh.
For a Quick Grab-and-Go Lunch
Egg mayo sandwich or ham and cheese? Egg mayo or ham and cheese? Egg mayo or ham and cheese? And on and on it goes, until you eventually just buy a pack of Snack A Jacks, a family-sized bag of Haribo, and a packet of Rennies because we all know that mainlining those Tangfastics is about to cause chaos with your digestive system. Step away from the blinding lights of the pharmacy lunch deals and make your way to Lower Marsh Market instead. One of London’s longest running market streets, you’ll find traders serving everything from poké to Italian classics, and a fiver will get you far here. Our personal favourites are the hefty falafel wraps from Falafel Rush, the £6 katsu curry from Daddy’s Japan Soul, and the cute little one-hand-friendly momos from Himalayan Dumpling. At the weekend, you’ll also find stalls selling accessories, flowers, and even old school vinyl.
For Pizza. Because, Pizza.
Crust Bros Pizza
Crust Bros sounds like the only fraternity we’d ever actually want to join. Here’s hoping the initiation process includes seeing how many garlic mayo pots you can down in under ten minutes. A casual industrial-look pizzeria, this place has got everyone’s lunch, dinner, and takeaway needs covered. We’re talking gluten-free dough, countless vegan options, and even truffle mayo pots for your mate who wants to feel boujie before getting the train to ‘the beautiful coast’ (rainy Bournemouth). Given their name, it makes total sense that the highlight here is their thick doughy crusts fresh from their hefty yellow pizza oven, and the vast range of toppings are winners too. Some of the pizza names may make you feel like you’re in an Italian stoner’s wet dream - ‘Cheesus Christ’, we’re looking at you - but you can’t go wrong when the prices start at £7.45 and the cocktails are 2 for £10 before 7pm.
For more Italian-inspired fun head to Scooter Caffé, a casual daytime coffee shop that turns into a great little dive bar-feel date spot come evening.