London Bridge foodie guide
Discover our favourite places to eat and drink in this south London areas, from cult pasta joints to Portuguese small plates and intimate wine bars
Here are our favourite London Bridge restaurants. The best foodie spots include shopping at Borough Market, homemade pasta at Padella and French bistro Casse Croute. Check out our ideas for eating and drinking in London Bridge, from Borough Market to Bermondsey Street...
Elliot’s, Borough Market – for bistro vibes
Since opening in 2011 in the buzzing surroundings of Borough Market, Elliot’s has focussed on working with small-scale producers for both its drinks and produce, much of it sourced from the market itself. The bar adopted an all-natural or low-intervention wine list early on and has worked with Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron on its wine list.
All the wine producers share the same mindful approach to wine-making as chef-owner Brett Redman does to cooking simple dishes such as grilled sweet and sour squash with chicory and Tunworth cheese, or cauliflower caponata and flaked almonds. Elliot’s also makes its own soft drinks and seasonal infused spirits.
Stoney Street by 26 Grains, Borough Market – for seasonal small plates
Small plates that celebrate the very best ingredients is the order of the day at Alex Hely-Hutchinson's second outpost, but if you’re not sure what YQ pastry or Baron Bigod is, flip your menu over to read the page dedicated to the people growing the food. Cheeses are sourced from neighbouring Neal’s Yard Dairy, while YQ (standing for yield and quality) flour comes from Wakelyns, a Suffolk farm.
A good place to start is with a few slices of the soda bread – slather it first with whipped salted butter, then a top layer of punchy confit garlic butter. Share a wholegrain spelt tart, the nutty pastry crumbling under the weight of sweet roasted squash, Colston Basset stilton and shavings of russet apple. If you only fancy a nibble, there’s Greek unpasteurised olives and plates of silky charcuterie.
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Tatale, Southwark – for pan-african dishes
The mission of Akwasi Brenya-Mensa's restaurant is to tell stories through food. The Africa Centre provides a vibrant backdrop, adorned in hand-woven Ghanaian kente cloth fabrics and African art, while Akwasi stands at the pass to add finishing touches to his succinct selection of creative pan-African dishes. Crisp ackee croquettes contain creamy, zingy centres, while buttermilk fried chicken wings are coated in peanut-based chichinga spicing and served with lip-smacking Ghanaian chilli oil. The red red black eyed bean stew is a comforting favourite from Akwasi’s childhood; a perfectly riotous amalgamation of textures and subtle spicing – creamy black eyed beans, fermented locust beans, tart pickled onions, crushed plantain chips and lemon balm drops, topped with a whole caramelised plantain to break into the stew. The most unique dish on the menu is the omo tuo, a perfect cylinder of mashed rice topped with black and white sesame seeds in a rich, silky moat of groundnut soup laced with parsley oil.
Chin chin is a favourite sweet snack in West Africa, that makes its way into dessert as a crumbly topping to a deconstructed apple cheesecake, that we recommend to share. Finish (or start) with a nectar negroni, that uses Bayab burnt orange and rose gin for a sweet and floral twist on the classic. tataleandco.com
Santo Remedio, Tooley Street – for vibrant Mexican cooking
This lively Mexican restaurant bursts with colour and fun vibes, from the uplifting Latin beats bouncing off walls papered with tropical patterns to the multicoloured broken tiles creating a focal point in the mezcal and tequila bottle-lined bar. Go classic and order a zippy margarita, or be adventurous and try the delicate hibiscus or smozy mezcal varieties, the latter complete with zingy chilli salt round the rim.
Start with guacamole topped with fried krickets (think crispy onions more than critters!) and a citrusy tuna tartare on crunchy tostadas, finished with creamy chipotle mayo. Next, order a one of the slow-cooked, bone-in sharing dishes for the table (fall-apart lamb barbacoa, short ribs slathered in an intense mole negro sauce, or whole grilled mackerel with pineapple) to shovel into soft, handmade corn tortillas along with refried black beans, crunchy slaw and jalapeño potato salad.
Padella, Borough Market – for pasta
Padella’s short menu features eight handmade, fresh pasta dishes, inspired by the greatest hits that have made Padella’s sister restaurant Trullo in Highbury one of the most accomplished and respected neighbourhood restaurants in London. With a laidback atmosphere and reasonable prices, Padella is the perfect place to escape the tourists at Borough market.
Showcasing classic Italian techniques, the simple menu is built around slow-cooked sauces and ragus from the owners’ travels around Italy. Traditional pici cacio e pepe, a simple, yet brilliantly executed dish of parmesan, lemon and black pepper is an example of how confident the team are in their products. Made without egg, for a slightly doughier texture, the pasta acts as a magnet to the sauce. We loved it so much we asked them for the recipe, try it here.
Padella’s signature dish though, is pappardelle with eight-hour Dexter shin beef ragu, and it’s easy to see why. The rich and succulent flavour of the slow cooked, fall-apart beef combined with the juicy fresh tomatoes and just the right amount of garlic makes the sauce the real hero here.
With traditional Italian flavours at the heart of the menu, from Dexter beef carpaccio to bruschetta with baked borlotti beans, there’s plenty to please. Burrata fans won’t be disappointed – the Italian classic is sourced by artisan supplier L’Emporio fine foods and simply drizzled with Tuscan Chiarentana estate olive oil.
Finish off with an espresso, the only coffee Padella serve, or add a shot of grappa or sambuca for a caffe corretto, in true Italian style.
Bar Douro, Flat Iron Square – for Portuguese small plates
This wine bar/restaurant fuses traditional Portuguese cervejaria interiors with original industrial features from the London Bridge railway arches – pretty blue and white tiles line the marble-topped bar that provides the only barrier between diners and the small open kitchen, while exposed aluminium piping in the curved railway arch roof becomes part of the decoration. A mezzanine level cleverly utilizes the space at the top of the arch’s curve to showcases the owner Max’s impressive Portuguese wine collection.
Max speaks with great knowledge and enthusiasm about wines from Alentejo, Lisbon and The Douro Valley, along with lesser-known Portuguese winemaking regions that he aims to put on the map.
Small plates at Bar Douro are true to Portuguese traditions, with a few of chef Tiago’s modern twists – tender grilled octopus tentacle was served with sweet potato as it is in tabernas across Tavira in the Algarve (try our Portuguese fish stew for a taste of this kind of cooking), bitter grelos (turnip tops) were sautéed with wafer-thin slices of fried garlic, and suckling acorn-fed Bisaro pig was cooked sous-vide then pressed and served, true to tradition, with homemade crisps. Another standout dish was a delicate mix of wild mushrooms (king oyster, Portobello, shiitake) served with roast chestnuts on a silky chestnut purée and topped with a delicate tempura spinach leaf.
Save room for pudding. We had a preview of a super light olive oil cake, beautifully presented with jewel-like pieces of quince and swirls of whipped requesón (a Portuguese ricotta-like cheese). But, go all out with baba de camelo, a bowl of thick, creamy dulce de leche mousse decorated with wafer thin pieces of dark chocolate, or keep it traditional with gooey warm pastel de nata and lightly spiced cinnamon ice cream.
Casse Croute, Bermondsey Street – for French bistro vibes
You'll be lucky to bag a table at this tiny French bistro on foodie Bermondsey Street. From the moment of calling up to book, you're greeted with French charm and a friendly "Bonsoir". Bookings are scribbled across white paper covers to save the gingham table cloths beneath from crumbs and butter. Which the chefs at Casse Croute don't hold back on. A whole sole comes drizzled in the stuff, lamb shoulder with slow-cooked ratatouille has a generous helping, and the mash is whipped up with more butter than potato, just how we like it.
In true neighbourhood bistro style, a short menu of French classics is chalked up on the black board. The selection of three starters may feature refreshing salades nicoise, chunky game terrines and silky salmon rillettes. Mains are simple yet well executed, focusing on the classics – bavette with creamy gratin dauphinois potatoes, hake on a bed of fennel, roast chicken with crunchy green beans – while the indulgent, cream-heavy desserts are worth leaving room for. Try mille feuille, crêpes suzette, apple tart, and luxurious chocolate fondant.
Nestle in to a red leather banquette, sink a carafe of French wine, and give an in-the-know nod of appreciation to your neighbour (you may be touching shoulders, after all).
José Tapas Bar, Bermondsey street – for tapas
A sublime, if tiny, tapas bar where compulsive ham croquetas are creamy and full of jamón, this was the first of chef José Pizarro’s growing stable of Spanish restaurants. Find a corner to burrow in and enjoy a glass of sherry and a game of padron pepper roulette (who will find a spicy one?), along with some patatas bravas and tortilla for good measure. The blackboard menu’s daily selection might include rich, boozy chorizo al vino, crisp baby chicken and potatoes with punchy Romesco sauce, and fresh pisto with delicate duck egg. Puddings are excellent – try the creamy rice pudding or the rich, velvety chocolate pot that’s given a savoury finish with olive oil and sea salt.
Where The Pancakes Are, Flat Iron Square – for brunch
This is a pancake house with serious style. Following various residencies in London, Patricia Trijbits is happy to finally welcome diners to her first permanent space in Flat Iron Square, a collection of newly converted railway arches near London Bridge. A custom-built oak bar and kitchen area along with wooden tables and seats based on retro Dutch school chairs give the space a calming Scandi feel. The railway arch is warmed up with a whole wall of white felt cut outs and ceiling planters that brim with greenery to intermingle with modern light installations.
As it says on the tin, this clean and bright spot specialises in stacks of buttermilk pancakes. Where The Pancakes Are takes pride in its sourcing of ingredients, with high welfare eggs from Kent, organic flour and 100% pure maple syrup, hand-tapped in Quebec, Canada (plus, it’s packed with minerals and antioxidants). Try the popular savoury dish found within the section titled 'Dutch babies' – an American interpretation of a 17th century German oven-baked pancake recipe, it's a Yorkshire pudding-esque pancake layered with asparagus, goat's and cheddar cheese, decorated with roast thyme and rosemary sprigs with a side salad of fennel, rocket and kale.
Click here to read our full review of brunch at Where The Pancakes Are
Hawksmoor, Borough – for a special occasion
Although he worked at Michelin-star level with the likes of Marco Pierre White and Pierre Koffmann, former British soldier Richard Turner’s name is now synonymous with barbecuing. “I first started cooking over live fire 10 years ago in the gardenof my pub, The Albion in Islington,” says the executive chef of the Hawksmoor restaurant group, which has sites in London and Manchester.
“I bought a huge barbecue to cope with the seasonal fluctuations of the pub and acquired a reputation as a live-fire cook.”
He prefers to use fruit woods, particularly apple and cherry, although the restaurant group’s decision to cook this way was “a happy accident” as their original Spitalfields site inherited a charcoal grill from the previous Turkish restaurateurs.
“To be honest, as a business, it is rather expensive. A live-fire restaurant needs state-of-the-art extraction and filtration, which can add hundreds of thousands of pounds to the cost of your kitchen build.”. thehawksmoor.com
Vinegar Yard, London Bridge – for al fresco drinking and street food
From the folks behind London Bridge’s popular foodie destination Flat Iron Square, this amalgamation of drinking terraces, bars and street-food trucks is a great al fresco hangout. Sip on a gin and tonic or a botanical spritz under the greenery-wrapped pergola of the Tanqueray terrace, choose an Atlantic IPA from the bar that shares a space with artist Joe Rush’s workshop (check out his installations made from scrap metal scattered around the space), or order a glass of fizz from the pastel-pink prosecco van.
Take your drink of choice to the grassy area of benches and tuck into street food from Baba G’s (chicken tikka burgers, loaded masala fries and poppadom nachos slathered in Indian salsa and fresh mint raita), Up in My Grill (perfectly pink flame-grilled bavette or picanha steak on beef dripping fries with chimichurri) or Nanny Bill’s (burgers and croquettes galore).
Bala Baya, The Old Union Yard Arches – for Middle Eastern food
Tucked down The Old Union Yard Arches, in a brick-exposed railway arch, Bala Baya is a new Tel Aviv-inspired restaurant in Southwark. It’s the first solo venture from Eran Tibi, who cut his teeth at Ottolenghi. Like Eran, who had us ‘sampling’ bitter orange vodka shots on a school night, it’s lively and energetic, and I have no doubt that over time the restaurant will become a staple on the London dining scene.
Arthur Hooper's, Borough Market – for market produce
Set up in a former Victorian fruit and veg wholesaler’s premises, known by the same name, restaurant and bar Arthur Hooper’s celebrates what once was with innovative fruit- and veg-centric European small plates, with ingredients sourced from and via the market on its doorstep.
Under arches, on the periphery of London’s Borough Market, Arthur Hooper’s small restaurant and bar spills outside to a seating area facing energetic street vendors and the general market area. Inside its tall ceilings, illuminated floor-to-ceiling glass cupboards, cool grey and black walls and dimly lit decor sets the scene. Black banquette seating with separate tables are surrounded by high tables and chairs, while at the corner bar you can grab a drink or dinner.
Having cut her teeth at London Italian minimalist restaurant Zucca, chef Lale Oztek's menu suits the venue to a tee with a selection of 15 or so small plates divided into meat, fish and vegetables with the latter holding the most options and variety, as well as permanent cheese and cured meats plates and ‘bites’; buttery Nocellara olives, Vinci olives, smoked almonds for £3-4, and a short specials board.
The cheese and cured meats plates serve two-three slices of each with a couple of pieces of crostini and a pickle or chutney made in house. There’s a choice of four cheeses and the same number of meats, and the selection is a cut above the norm: we had Welsh blue cheese Perl Las and a Welsh salami-like lamb merguez.
Changing around four times a season, the menu takes into account what’s available in Borough Market and includes a wine list detailing mostly European wines with some interesting choices from Slovenia and Portugal.
Shangri-La at The Shard – for a special occasion with city views
If The Shard had toes, they would tickle Borough Market, from where the splendidly high-rise hotel sources much of its produce. Initial impressions of main restaurant, TING (on level 35), are magnificent: the lift doors open onto a spectacular and uninterrupted panorama of London, dominated at first by St Paul’s Cathedral. Low tables and armchairs are sensibly arranged to soak up as much of the view as possible.
The food lives up to the view: Dorset crab, cucumber, mango, passion fruit and tomato to start; organic lamb loin with sake, soy, Erengi mushroom, apple and shiso to follow. Sommelier Anne Lomas is unstuffy and approachable despite the glam surroundings. The ground floor’s Lang sells yuzu cheesecake to eat in or take away.
Don’t leave without visiting Gong, the highest bar in London; and with a pool, too. Try The Big Smoke, a gin, sherry and vermouth cocktail served in a dramatic, smoked-at-table martini glass.
TING at Shangri-La also does a fabulously exotic twist on afternoon tea. If you’re open-minded, enjoy Asian food, and would prefer to gaze across a sparkling city rather than a Victorian dining room, then you can’t get much better.
Diners have the choice of a traditional afternoon tea or an ‘Asian-inspired’ afternoon tea… the latter reigns supreme, with fat, moreish steamed prawn dumplings and delicate crab soft rolls in place of finger sandwiches. Service is spot on – after loudly complimenting our dumplings, we were quickly presented with another piping hot batch to enjoy.
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