I’d passed Southwark Street’s brand new Lantana on my way back from a work lunch at Hutong (on which, more another time) and was stunned to see it in this part of town: a new opening from an all-day Antipodean café, how could I have missed it?! By way of follow-up, I browsed their website that evening and, to my relief, it had opened that very day and had a soft launch that week. Phew! Picking a brunch spot with my foodie friends was easy: I naturally opted to defer my suggestion of the nearby Where the Pancakes Are, and secured a timely booking for the following Sunday. Panic over!
I was amazed that Lantana actually still had reservations available during their soft launch. Their Fitzrovia and Shoreditch outposts have been a huge success, particularly for brunch: think plenty of #avocadoes, well-roasted coffee beans…The staff rightly pride themselves on their super-smooth coffee-making and brunch skills, though I had a quick look at their Lunch and Evening menus and I think this place may just remain on My List for exactly this. Indeed, one of my companions who I brunched with had visited earlier that week and rated their Falafel very highly. It turns out that I was very lucky indeed to have a reservation: they’d actually overbooked and when a member of staff phone me the day before to rearrange, I defiantly resisted. Website malfunction, please?!
Though I say I was stunned to see Lantana on Southwark Street, this walkway is now home to a host of new openings. It’s actually modelling itself upon Manhattan’s High Line, seeking to create a more grounded version of the same, offering an opportunity for small, independent businesses – or, unsurprisingly, expanding chains (e.g. Caravan and Lantana) – to thrive and showcase their talents. This sense of the old and new makes the street ideal for an Autumnal Sunday stroll, past the slightly dilapidated-looking Menier Chocolate Factory and the very enticing Neapolitan-sourced water pizzeria O’Ver, to the new (fairly) new Flat Iron Square Market which our table overlooked. The neighbourhood around Southwark Street is very “up and coming” (though, where isn’t in London?!). Positioned in a very central part of town, it’s an eclectic mix of the creative, architecturally inspiring structures (Victorian railway arches and very instagrammable streetart) and foodie haunts. And to top it off, it’s South of the river – win!
The space inside Lantana is instantly likeable – relaxed, simple and full of natural woods, it’s ideal for a weekend brunch. The décor feels very at home on the Low Line: raw-looking grey oak floor, simple blue chairs, exposed concrete walls, and blooming flowers in Italian tins. On that theme, Lantana’s name actually comes from the flowering plant that was transported from South America to Australia by immigrants where, because of its hardy, tenacious nature, it too hold, becoming an iconic Australian plant.
Now, onto the brunch itself. In keeping with my ideal brunch dish and continuing my search for London’s best fritters – a contest which Timmy Green and Brew are in joint first position – I went for the Corn fritters with fresh spinach, roast tomatoes, smashed avocado and chilli jam (£12.50). I also asked for a sprinkling of hazelnut dukkah. This, I think, should be added as a permanent fixture to the dish (a la Timmy Green): not only did it lend a welcome crunch, but it also seasoned the dish into something a whole lot bolder. Perhaps the batter itself could be better seasoned? The fritters themselves were vividly yellow: query whether turmeric – the nightmare (or rather daymare given its intensely yellowy hue) of so many chefs had been added to the batter? The fritters were a little dry – especially compared with my companion’s moist looking Courgette Bread – though the smashed avocado gave a creaminess. The generous smear of Lantana’s signature chilli jam also went a long way in adding a sweetly tangy dimension to the dish.
The brunch plates definitely don’t disappoint – they’re unfailing and very instagrammable – and we had serious food envy at the sight of spiralised cucumbers sitting atop, yep you guessed it, smashed, avocado. However, the food could be a little more adventurous in terms of seasoning and flavour combos. Nevertheless, Lantana presents stiff competition to the nearby Caravan on the Low Line, especially for brunch and coffee. I look forward to Southwark Street’s next opening!
Lantana, 44-46 Southwark Street, SE1 1UN