The Vaults, Waterloo Arches

Last week I ventured deep down into The Vaults at Waterloo to feast.

We did question whether we’d navigated the right way for our dinner, whilst entranced by the colours and designs all around. And the occasional skateboarder.

Super-cool place to begin the adventure!
  

At the end of the epic corridor of graffiti we were directed into The Vaults, where the dining experience would begin. 

The Vault Kitchens are home to numerous ‘pop up restaurants’, and on this occasion we dined with POPDOWN, who are there until mid January (so if this whets your appetite, get yourself there!)

Via ‘The Nudge’ membership we were treated to a few extras before our dinner. This included a very cool cocktail class, so get your pen and paper out – it’s time to take note! I’ve never given cocktails much thought before so was intrigued as to the thought process behind cocktail inventions.

Our mixologist for the evening sat at our long table and class began. With a cocktail, she’s looking for something sweet (natural sugars where possible), something spicy, something bitter, topped off with some alcohol. (Mind you, a good cocktail shouldn’t taste of booze…which is probably why I knock them back so fast!) I was liking the sounds of this.

She had been tasked with creating bespoke cocktails to match each course for this pop-up (how cool is that?) so she began in the kitchen and developed her cocktails from there. We began with the Cucumber Collins, which used juiced cucumber from the kitchen as its base. It was more of a summer drink – I could inhale this fresh, delicious cocktail on a warm evening!

 

Cucumber Collins cocktail:

NB: whilst ‘free pourers’ look cool, cocktail-making is an art. Measuring these quantities accurately will give you a better cocktail

  1. Put a sprig of mint in the bottom of the glass
  2. Add 35ml of your favourite gin on top so the gin infuses with the mint.
  3. Add 25ml cucumber liquid/juice
  4. Now pop in some elderflower liqueur (20ml) – not too much; we don’t want it to be over-sweet.
  5. Add some ice to the glass (NB: The ice is to cool the drink and mix the flavours – not to water it down, heaven forbid!)
  6. Put your cocktail shaker together and give it a few short, sharp shakes to release the aromas of the mint. (Don’t leave mint in glass or it goes bitter – just shake it in so it’s sweet and fresh.)
  7. Hold the cocktail shaker up so you can see the liquid in the clear cocktail glass. Check the mint has been blackened and then you should have infused the flavour enough. Job’s a good ‘un.
  8. Now you’re ready to serve. Pour the liquid through a tea strainer to remove any bits of mint (they get stuck in your teeth and no one likes that)
  9. Add (homemade) lemonade or soda and garnish. NB: The garnish isn’t just there to look pretty. You smell whilst you drink so the garnish should match the cocktail and be placed near the straw.

And there you have it:

 

Before we’d even finished this one, in a classic, “now here’s one I made earlier” moment, the mixologist then produced another beaut. This time it was a toffee apple cocktail and it was sensational. Hanging from the side of the cocktail was a salted caramelly, nut buttery, crumbley treat. I’ve no idea what it was, but it was insane. 10 points right there.
The toffee apple cocktail was another kitchen-based creation from our mixologist but because it was pre-prepared I’ll just list out the ingredients rather than the process:

Toffee apple cocktail

  1. 25ml Calvados brandy,
  2. 50ml caramel liquor (cartron is a good brand)
  3. 25mls green apple liqueur
  4. 12.5ml lemon juice

I should think this is another ‘shake together with ice’ sort of combo. Certainly worth a try!

  

It was a perfect way to begin our evening, but this point I was ready for food.

Fortunately just at that moment we were beckoned upstairs for our feast to begin. It was a really interactive kitchen where diners were encouraged to come and help serve up each course. First up….cabbage! I’d have never thought I could get so excited by cabbage, but look how dreamy it looks!

  

Here we have cabbage, chorizo, red pepper bubbles, lemon swoosh (my word, not theirs) and hazelnuts. I have to say the lemon, chorizo and cabbage were the big players here. It was such a great surprise! Cabbage wins ALL the points.

It wasn’t long until, helped by a little boozy dutch courage, diners began to help construct the next course. Here we have salmon, juniper, finger lime, kohlrabi and nasturtium being prepared.
  

I have no idea what half those words mean but they certainly tasted good. The salmon melted and had both the tart and sweet sauces beside it to bring it to life. Just awesome.

Now we had one of the most highly anticipated courses of our group. The brisket.

I know, I said brisket and then added a photo of a cafetiere. This was just the gravy but I liked the quirky presentation. 

Here she is, brisketting away ready to be eaten.    Melty brisket, crunchy veg and rich gravy. Hearty winter food, or what?!

As we’d booked through The Nudge, we were then offered an additional course before our desert: a boozy tiramasu cocktail which knocked the socks off me! For someone who had earlier told us a good cocktail shouldn’t taste of booze, she’d let this one slide on that front…phwoar it was punchy!

This is not to be confused with the cafetiere of gravy. Definitely sock-knocking-off cocktail in here now.
  

To finish off our meal we had dark chocolate, olive oil, pears and cep. It was bitter and rich, but I couldn’t have handled anything super-sweet at this point so it went down really well.

All in all, a great success in a really buzzing atmosphere to while away the hours in. To book your place (and remember, it closes in a month) visit them here.

 

Enjoy! x

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