Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec
140 Newington Butts
020 7582 6800
As far as jazz bars go in the South East, it’s slim pickings, but Toulouse Lautrec really is a diamond in the rough.
On the first floor the fine dining restaurant is romantically lit, all cosy booths and white linen, while upstairs it expands into a darker, intimate cocktail lounge.
Laced with red velvet curtains, rich wooden furnishings and artwork from the bar’s namesake Monsieur Lautrec it echoes an old Parisian theatre, completely sheltered from the mean streets of Elephant and Castle outside. A man sits at the white grand piano playing beautifully, summoning a slight Casablanca feel. The bar staff are impeccably polite; it’s both formal and casual all at once with efficient table service but the ethos that people should be left alone to enjoy the music and ambience.
The evening’s main live act steps onto the tiny stage, which I am about three-foot from at a small table in the front; a number of audience members have travelled specifically to see the musicians. There’s something incredibly civilised about sipping champagne and eating prawns against a backdrop of live jazz.
The wine list is mostly French, and chosen by the people, so to speak, as the director and co-owner Nolan Regent hosts wine tastings where patrons can advise him on which wines to order. The Brut Tête de Cuvée La Cheteau Crémant De Loire (£6.50 a glass) is complemented perfectly with the deep fried prawns, which are served with a homemade tartare sauce (£5.50). For fans of imported lagers, the beer list comprises specialist Belgian beers ranging from £3-£6.40 a pint. Upstairs the bar menu offers a selection of delicacies like escargot from Burgundy to French cheeses, smoked salmon on Blinis and Cumberland sausages with crispy chips.
For a slice of luxury with a Parisian twist, you have nothing to lose.