This popular and unpretentious Spanish restaurant is a great stop for tapas – as long as you can get in.
From the outside, Meson Don Felipe looks dark and quiet. It’s quite the opposite once you get through the tiny doorway, which is usually wedged open by a queue of waiting customers. Waterloo station is a five minute walk away, and it’s very close to both the Old and Young Vic theatres. It gets extremely busy in the evenings, so if you don’t have a booking, arrive early or you may struggle to get a table. The restaurant itself is small and cosy, with a large wooden bar dominating the central space. The rustic decor is cheerful and bright, with ceramic plates adorning the walls. Tables are packed in tightly and the restaurant gets quite cramped. The best seats are up at the bar itself.
Meson Don Felipe has the unfussy charm of a real backstreet Spanish restaurant. Bustling, fun and informal, it attracts an older crowd of commuters, couples, lively groups and theatre-goers. Its proximity to the theatres and the station means the restaurant fills up early in the evening, and it doesn’t calm down until well after ten. There’s a smattering of live flamenco guitar music most evenings, and it can get noisy. Service is prompt and efficient, though not overly friendly.
Meson Don Felipe serves up a classic selection of tapas dishes, ranging from about £3 - £6 each. Seafood and fish dishes, such as calamares frito, are excellent: the batter is light, the squid inside is fresh and firm, but not rubbery. Salted whitebait arrives piled high, cut with sharp lemon juice. The tail-on prawns are flavoured with garlic oil and a hint of coriander. Fried slices of battered aubergine are great too – crisp and firm on the outside, deliciously gooey and mellow-tasting on the inside. Salads are simple but fresh; full of crunchy lettuce, sliced pepper and tomatoes, and a generous helping of artichoke hearts. Chunky, peppery chorizo is served sizzling and slightly crisp around the edges, and the patatas bravas have a zingy, chilli-rich tomato sauce.
Some of the other standard Iberian favourites are a bit disappointing, though. The paella is too salty, and they’ve skimped on the chicken and prawns. Pan con tomate is bland, ordinary toast. For desserts, rich chocolate fondant and traditional vanilla and egg flan are the highlights.
Strong, sugary sangria is served by the glass or jug, with plenty of sliced fruit. The Spanish wine list starts at around £11, and a range of Spanish beers are available by the bottle or on draught. There’s also a great selection of liqueurs and brandies from about £4 a glass, including sweet cinnamon-flavoured Ponche.
The Last Word
Meson Don Felipe offers great value for money, and its style is Spanish through-and-through. Simple, authentic dishes and a buzzy, lively atmosphere make this a favourite destination.