Eat Here: Jimmy’s Lodge, SouthbankBy Cass Horowitz
What’s the word for a fondue expert? A Fonduesier? A Cheeselier? Fondanatic? Whatever it is, I like to feel in my own way, I am one. I’ve had two birthdays in a row at Soho’s famous St Moritz and am the first to go for fondue whenever I’m visiting an even remotely Swiss country.
Rule number 1: it has to be cheese. I’ve never understood the appeal of cooking small slithers of meat in bubbling hot oil. It doesn’t make for a better meat dish and you just end up burning yourself. Don’t even get me started on chocolate fondue (not a thing). Rule 2: it has to boozy. Have a fondue in America and there’s a risk you get the under-21 version, I want to taste the kirsch. Finally, always drink red wine. There are plenty of side effects from eating your weight in cheese but red wine can help you avoid a fair few of them, especially the day after. With my rulebook in mind along with my many fondue experiences, I headed to the Southbank where Jimmy Garcia’s latest pop-up aims to bring this perfect pot of happiness to the people of London.
Jimmy’s Lodge: The Lowdown
This isn’t the first of Jimmy’s pop-ups I’ve been to. I was here in this exact spot in the summer where we were served delicious grilled meat and fish from Big Green Eggs. The space has been impressively transformed from a summer rooftop terrace to wooden Swiss-style cabin. They call it ‘The Refuge’ and it’s certainly a world away from the wind and cold outside.
Initially, we were worried it was still going to be a coats on occasion but suddenly, just like every wood cabin, there was a blast of warm air to keep us snug. We weren’t sure of the source but whatever it was it ensured that The Refuge remained just that. There’s probably about ten tables inside in total, it’s certainly cosy – and with unbeatable views of the Thames – a great place for a December dinner.
Jimmy’s Lodge: Eat and Drink
We kicked things off with mulled wine. The bar has all the mulled variations you’d expect and more. The only thing you can’t order is tap water. (Jimmy has yet to be granted permission for a permanent water pipe making this lodge on stilts an even more impressive feat.) They operate a set menu in two shifts, 5pm-7pm and 8pm-11pm, with the standard fondue menu coming in at a punchy £45 per head. That doesn’t include drinks as well as the various extras you’re offered on arrival.
On the steak sharer, you could upgrade your meat to a 600g ribeye steak for £12 or you could forget the fondue and have the Winter Feast (whole baked Mont d’Or, 400g British flat iron steak, venison and red wine sausages) also £12 per person. Why anyone would stray from the traditional fondue I don’t know but either way, a meal here (with drinks) will come in over £50 a head, so is it worth it?
Once we ordered, the starters came incredibly quickly. The kitchen is pretty much contained within the cabin so it’s no wonder they stick to dishes that can be prepared well in advance. We shared a burrata with coal-baked seasonal squash as well as smoked Scottish venison tartare and toasted brioche. They were both quite small but really delicious. At £45 a head you may start to worry you’ll leave hungry, but don’t forget the cheese is yet to come. And so, to the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the fondue. Small burner, check, skewers in hand, check, (slightly tiny) bucket of bread, yep. About Timers I’m happy to report it was an excellent fondue. Definitely enough of it (and they topped up the bread no problem), it was hot, stringy, boozey and moreish. Any fears I’d had were gently washed away by a tide of total cheesy bliss. As nice as it was we could’ve done without the chocolate tart that followed, but by then I was already in a fondue coma with no chance of waking up for several hours.
Jimmy’s Lodge: The Verdict
Jimmy has pulled it off again with his winter lodge. Yes it’s expensive but you’re paying for the positioning as much as the food itself. There’s no other place quite like this in London and combined with the winter market it will make a perfect (if slightly pastiche) Christmas evening. If you’re in a big group the igloos are an Instagram dream and provide a little more privacy than the refuge. Most importantly, it’s a great fondue. Nothing will ever drag me from St Moritz but then again, I’m just one of London’s Fondanatics.
For more information on Jimmy’s Lodge and to book, see here.
Opposite the Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX
Photo Credit: Ben Carpenter