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Wednesday 8 September 2010

London Restaurant Reviews - Meson Don Felipe

Twenty-three Years of Spanish Food and Wine in London's Southbank

Meson Don Felipe, opened in 1987 on The Cut near Waterloo Station, was one of the first restaurants I visited in London nearly twenty years ago, and is one of the few I keep returning to after all these years.

A real Spanish institution, Meson Don Felipe is a great place for good and unpretentious tapas, live flamenco music and great atmosphere. The place is nearly always heaving - I love sitting by the bar, starting my evening with a chilled bottle of bone dry Manzanilla Sherry (‘La Goya’, Delgado Zuleta - @ £10.50 for ½ bottle) , and some "Almendras" (Toasted and salted marcona almonds) @ £3.50 and "Aceitunas" (Marinated Spanish olives) @ £3.25, while I peruse the tapas menu.

The menu has hardly changed in the 18 years I have been a patron but "daily specials" are always on offer so there are always a couple of new dishes that can be ordered on any visit.

Last month, I went back to Meson don Felipe with Dr G, one of my oldest friends Gary of StartSpace on Columbia Road (see blogroll), and his partner Pablo who is a Brazilian artist.

We ordered a selection of tapas which were as good as expected - hardly haute cuisine but tasty and the perfect accompaniment to the Spanish wine being ordered.

"Pescaditos Fritos" (Deep-fried whitebait) @ £4.95.

"Bacalao frito con alioli" (Deep-fried fresh cod with garlic mayonnaise) @ £5.75.

"Higaditos al jerez" (Chicken livers in Sherry sauce) @ £4.95.

"Patatas Riojanas" (Potatoes cooked with chorizo) @ £4.75.

"Champiñones con Setas" (Mixed mushrooms cooked in oil and garlic) @ £4.75.

"Habas con Jamon" (Broad beans with cured ham and mint) @ £4.95.

"Chorizo Castellana" (Hot and spicy Spanish sausage) @ £4.95.

"Jamon y Queso" (Plate of Spanish cured ham, manchego cheese, quince conserve and grapes) @ £5.95.

"Croquetas de atun" (Tuna fish croquettes) @ £4.95.

Meson Don Felipe's Spanish wine list is one of the most comprehensive I have encountered in London, and also one of the most reasonably priced - there are many choices of wine by the glass from £3.65 while bottles start at £13.25.

We ordered a 2005 Muga Reserva @ £26.75 which was a blend predominantly of tempranillo and garnacha, aged for 30 months in oak (6 months in large vats, and 24 months in small barrels), and had deliciously soft tannins, lovely dark berry fruits and a long finish. This was a complex and well balanced wine.

Meson Don Felipe is my place of choice whenever I go to the Young or Old Vic theatres or the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank. It can get very busy, so I would recommend booking a table (tables can be booked until 8pm only) if more than two people are coming.

Alternatively sit by the bar and soak up the wonderful atmosphere while watching the staff and other customers going about their business. Service can be erratic at busy times and level of English spoken varies a lot - there have been times when I have not been able to book a table (even though I can speak Portuguese) as people taking the bookings could not communicate in English, but it is worth persevering.

Cost: Around £30 per person including food and Spanish wine.

Likes: wonderful live flamenco music, great atmosphere, and lovely food. Meson's wine list is excellent and very good value.

Dislikes: service can be erratic at busy times and English is not always tip top which some might say adds to the charm of the place.

Verdict: Meson Don Felipe is a real Spanish institution on London's The Cut, serving consistently good, unpretentious and familiar tapas dishes at reasonable prices. The Spanish wine list is also excellent. One of my London gems. I cannot wait to return.

Meson Don Felipe
53 The Cut
London, SE1 8LF
Tel: 020 7928 3237

Meson Don Felipe on Urbanspoon


  1. It makes a nice change to see an old-timer get blogged about. And its also good to see decent sized portions!

  2. How fun! Never been. It just made the list.

  3. Ah, I went here a couple of months ago, sat at the bar after a few beers in a local pub. I loved it - really great atmosphere

  4. I tried to go there twice in the past (without reservation) and never got a table! It looked and smelled good. So I would highly recommend reserving before you go. Tel no. 0207 928 3237. Address: 53 The Cut, London, SE1 8LF.

  5. i work round the corner (5mins walk!!) from it for 3 yrs and had never heard of it. From your feedback, looks like i got to try. Will post more feedback once I have been. From the look of the photos, I suspect I would concur with you.

  6. Good tip Luiz particularly for when visiting the Old Vic. Atmosphere looks good fun from your pictures.

  7. @ Mr Noodles - welcome back, nice to see you here again, been enjoying your Asian posts for a few days now. We ought to try this place sometime if you fancy.

    @ Greedy Diva - I can see a nice group of us going back there soon!

    @ Lizzie - lovely to see you last night Lizzie, we never got to talk much! Loved those beers. Glad you also enjoyed Meson don Felipe such a great place in my opinion.

    @ Louise Wong - Hey Louise, thanks for your comment and the info, looking forward to seeing you on Sunday at Charmaine's Malaysian dinner.

    @ Martin - I am surprised Martin as you seem to know so many places in the area - the food is good (but not haute cuisine, it is simple but tasty) but it is the atmosphere and the wine list that sells it to me over and over again.

    @ Gourmet Chic - Thanks Cara, the Young Vic has also had a revamp and the bar there looks great although I haven't eaten there yet. I love Meson Don Felipe, their wine list is fantastic.

  8. Oooh this place sounds great...

  9. Ah! that brings back memories... for years this was my go to restaurant for a rare 'posh' night out (I lived in Tooting at the time and earned peanuts) combination of the food, the buzz and the hilarious Spanish guitarist sat on a tiny little platform above your head!

    It's not going to win any awards for the food. It's cheap and fair but wouldn't beat a Dehesa or Barrafina for quality of cooking. But as one of the first tapas restaurants in London, and as a top local restaurant that has hardly changed (or dropped the quality) in the years I've known it, I'd be devastated if it ever changed.


  10. This is purely my opinion. I judge all tapas on the quality and preparation of the Chorizo. I can tell be your lovely photo's (Chorizo) that I would be disappointed with the food. Never stew Chorizo as you get a rubber like texture. Nothing wrong with it being cooked al la cidre but it needs to roasted off before hand. Luiz, you need to give me a date and I will take you to the best local tapas in London, based in Clapham (El Rincon Latino)

  11. All on board with your comments, haven't been to Meson Don Felipe in years but good to know it still does the trick:-D

  12. @ Kavey - I love this place, it has such a vibe and some wonderful memories too.

    @ Grumbling Gourmet - you got it really right Rich, this exactly how I feel about Meson. Another similar place which I used to love but closed down ages ago was The Upper Street Fish Bar, that was also a much loved venue and it was sad to see it closing down. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    @ Lee - I love El Rincon Latino in Clapham and used to go there quite often when I lived in Dulwich. The food at Meson is not exceptional but is the buzz, wine list and live music that sells it to me.

    @ Hungry Female - and indeed it does, thanks for your comment.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  13. Luiz I just LOVE this place - used to go realy often when I was at law school... Used to go to the Hope & Anchor or Anchor & Hope for wine in tumblers, then pop across for tapas and to listen to the guitarists. Thank you for reminding me to go again!

    Hasta luego (am doing Spanish class too), Sasha x

  14. Thank you!!!! An absolutely fantastic place, the food was delicious and the atmosphere was buzzing.


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