Area Guide: London Bridge, Borough Market and Bermondsey
Just Opened London’s Area Guides cover a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Thanks in no small way to the foodie beacon that is Borough Market, the London Bridge area is especially greedy when it comes to gastronomy.
It hogs more than its fair share of the capital’s top dining destinations, shows off an incredible range of international cuisines and has more markets in its part of town than many a city.
Go hungry and eat well.
Best for… anything and everything
The area’s first port of call when it comes to eating and drinking can only be Borough Market itself, London’s foodie behemoth which has been around for over a thousand years and still leads the way when it comes to top ingredients. Among its food-to-go highlights are kid goat koftas from Gourmet Goat, the cheesiest of cheese toasties from Kappacasein, doughnuts from Bread Ahead, dosas and Indian street food from Horn OK Please, and Brindisa’s famous chorizo roll. For more great stalls (and slightly fewer tourists) also head to Maltby Street Market on the other side of London Bridge station.
Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL
Best for… Arabian delights
Dishes span the Levant and beyond at Borough Market’s Arabica, where the chefs deliver on eastern promise. Offerings take in a boldly spiced hummus, meaty lahmacun ‘pizza’, sprightly fattoush salads lavished with sumac, and lamb chops cooked over charcoal.
Arabica, 3 Rochester Walk, SE1 9AF
Best for… Portuguese small plates
The star attraction of the area’s new dining hub Flat Iron Square, this Portuguese bar and restaurant has a particular focus on wines from across the country, while salt cod fritters, lamb rolls and garlic prawns are among the brightly flavoured tapas-style small plates on hand to soak it up. It would be rude not to end a visit with a pastel de nata, one of Portugal’s famous custard tarts. Or begin one the same way, for that matter…
Bar Douro, Flat Iron Square, 66 Union Street, SE1 1TD
Best for… freshly carved jamón
Set amid the foodie bustle of Maltby Street Market, this barely-lit wine and ham bar is a full on Spanish bodega. Cram in for Spanish beers, vino tinto, sherries and Galician cider along with some serious quality jamón carved straight from the legs which hang all around the bar. Be warned that vegetarians may not feel at home…
Bar Tozino, Lassco Ropewalk, Maltby Street, SE1 3PA
Best for… those in the know
Call Me Mr. Lucky
Beneath Southwark Street’s Breakfast Club lies a subterranean secret. Say the right phrase (hint: you’re there to get lucky, right?) and you’ll be led through the kitchen into a speakeasy-style space decorated with strung multi-coloured lights and a wheel of fortune that could see you win the whole bar free shots. Tequila and mezcal are the main players on the cocktail menu, and the Tommy’s margaritas are a particular favourite. It’s open until 1am.
Call Me Mr. Lucky, 11 Southwark Street, SE1 1RQ
Best for… pretending you’re in Paris
This Bermondsey Street bistro is almost as effective at whisking you to off Paris as the Eurostar. Everything from the checked tablecloths to a blackboard showing the short but sweet menu du jour is just as it would be across the channel. Dishes such as onion soup, beef en croute and pot au chocolat are on-the-money while the not-so Parisian prices mean you don’t need to worry too much about your wallet. The service can be somewhat aloof at times, but let’s put that down to authenticity.
Casse-Croûte, 109 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XB
Best for… natural wine
Simply cooked dishes are made with excellent ingredients at this cosy café with a large communal dining table. The likes of pig head croquettes and devilled ox tongue can be enjoyed with a wine list where every bottle is either natural or biodynamic — in fact, it’s probably one of the most interesting lists in London. Natural wine fans should also take a trip to 40 Maltby Street nearby.
Elliot’s, 12 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD
Best for… tacos and tequila
The crew behind tapas group Barrafina are behind this Borough Market taqueria, and it’s another winner. Set under railway arches and clad in corrugated steel, it channels a Mexico City vibe as it dishes up small plates with big flavours alongside plenty of tequilas and mezcals, both straight up and in cocktails. Oozing quesadillas, rich and fiery salsas and succulent grilled meats are all exemplary, but the top spot undisputedly goes to the al pastόr tacos. Made with cured pork meat that’s grilled doner kebab-style, they are a salty, spicy sensation. See our full round-up of London’s best tacos.
El Pastor, 6-7a Stoney Street, SE1 9AA
Best for… steaks and cocktails
The steak supremos behind Hawksmoor chose the surrounds of Borough Market for their sixth site in the capital. As with the other branches, it doesn’t skip a beat when it comes to serving tremendous great hunks of meat, expertly cooked. At this location, there is the added extra of some market specials, made each day based on what the chefs find at Borough, while for good value meals there is a £30 three-course set menu that runs six days a week, and a sensational Sunday roast for £20. The cocktails are enough to warrant a visit in their own right — Shakey Pete’s Ginger Brew (made with gin, ginger, lemon and London Pride) is a modern classic.
Hawksmoor, 16 Winchester Walk, SE1 9AQ
Best for… Chinese in the sky
Dining in The Shard is a spectacular experience, but sadly the views do tend to overshadow the food and prices are often as elevated as the building itself. The best of the bunch is Hutong, on the 33rd floor, which pulls together influences from across China (and particularly the north) for a menu that takes in British Chinese favourites as well as some less commonly seen dishes. Highlights include soft-shell crab served in an oversized basket of dried chillies and flaky baked wagyu beef puffs.
Hutong, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, SE19RY
Best for…tip-top tapas
Spanish chef José Pizarro runs two restaurants minutes apart on Bermondsey Street and clearly didn’t have to think too hard about what to call them. While Pizarro offers more formal dining (and probably London’s best presa ibérica), its little sister tapas bar José is as convivial and bubbly as a glass of cava. Accept that you probably won’t get a seat, and get into the Spanish spirit by scoffing some standing-room-only croquetas and sherry like they would in Barcelona. Looking for more tapas? Here’s our round-up of London’s best.
José, 104 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3UB
Best for… pasta perfection
If you walk past Borough High Street’s Padella you’ll see flour-specked chefs in the window rolling and stretching throughout day and evening. That’s because this restaurant specialises in one thing: pasta. The selection changes regularly but look out for pappardelle with a rich beef shin ragu that’s been simmered for eight hours, or for an exercise in simplicity try a creamy cacio e pepe, made with parmesan and black pepper, and wash it down with wine on tap.
Padella, 6 Southwark Street, SE1 1TQ
Best for… eating Italiano
Head south down Borough High Street, to the district apparently called SoBo, to find this bustling Italian-themed covered market. Stalls in residence include The Italian Job serving craft beer from Italy and closer to home, Badiani offering perfectly soft-scoop gelato, and some less-clearly named shacks selling cheese, charcuterie and cannoli as well plenty of non-Italian foods. Fresco, which turns out brilliant wood-fired pizzas in under ten minutes for under a tenner, is undisputed star of the show.
Mercato Metropolitano, 42 Newington Causeway, SE1 6DR
Best for… an epic tasting menu
Exciting young chef Tom Sellers presides over this loosely book-themed restaurant near Tower Bridge Road. The ‘full story’ tasting menu will set you back £120 and includes five ‘chapters’ which work out to be around 10 courses by the time palate cleansers and the like are included. The dishes are clever, creative and unashamedly showy – as epitomised by its starter of signature bread and dripping, in which the dripping comes in the form of a slowly melting candle. It’s clearly special occasion territory. But rather lovely with it.
Restaurant Story, 199 Tooley Street, SE1 2JX
Best for…top notch British
The name says it all. While this Borough Market restaurant serves a confident menu of classic British dishes, its Sunday roast is a meaty highlight. Its rare roast beef is packed with flavour, the accompanying roasties crisp on the outside and fluffy within, and the team have the perfect Yorkshire pudding down to a fine art. Perhaps most excitingly, it’s served daily, so you can have a Monday roast if you like. And any meal here comes with the added bonus of windows overlooking the bustle of Borough from its first-floor vantage point.
Roast, The Floral Hall, Stoney Street, SE1 1TL
Best for… propping up the oyster bar
The oyster farmers turned restaurateurs behind this seafood spot have a mini-empire of oyster bars now, but this is where it all started. And it’s still the best of the bunch: cosy, compact and overflowing with atmosphere. Take a seat at the bar if you can, and gorge on the best bivalves the capital has to offer along with dishes such as grilled sardines on toast, fish soup, and fish pie. There’s a big selection of porters and other beers alongside a comprehensive wine list.
Wright Brothers, 11 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD