The Best Restaurants Around Bankside & SouthwarkHanging around the Tate Modern and looking for a meal? Here are the best restaurants, bars, and pubs around London’s Bankside and Southwark.
Sure, we all love to slag off London (CC: eye-watering rents, £8 pints, buskers that sound like they’re permanently haunted by the ghost of Ed Sheeran’s childhood) but there is no denying that The Kinks were speaking on behalf of all Londoners when they sang ‘as long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise’. That’s right, a brilliant amber sunset over the river and even the most downtrodden, miserable Londoner will pause and smile.
This small stretch is not only home to cityscape views, it’s also got world-renowned theatres and galleries. Of course, there’s also a whole lot of naff chain restaurants in this area, but with our guide you can enjoy all that Southwark and Bankside has to offer alongside spicy Thames-side pizzas, Carlingford oysters, and cocktails at these great spots.
It’s midday, you’ve run out of water cooler chat, and have a spreadsheet session at 5pm. Roll up to Carnival Pot—a takeaway Caribbean spot next to Southwark station—for a pick-me-up portion of curry goat. Orders are taken through the corrugated steel hatch of this old shipping container, and will need to be shouted over the thumping music. The soft, flavoursome goat is our go-to. It’s got the kind of creeping heat and soft, fall-apart meat that’ll make you feel alive after listening to your co-workers' weekend plans.
Bala Baya has pita so pillowy it seems a shame to eat it instead of nap on it, but a crispy shawarma-spiced Jerusalem artichoke, with shavings of truffle, is there to wake you back up again. When it’s sunny, sipping refreshing sodas outside this Israeli spot is the move. But for a special dinner or date night, the upstairs dining room is best. The seats on this elevated, airy mezzanine level are all set beneath the exposed brick archway which makes it a dramatic setting for eating moreish beef brisket doughnuts.
Union Viet Cafe is a family-run restaurant where there’s gentle ribbing about who makes the best coffee and you might find yourself joining in with a conversation about the optimum frothiness of a latte. If not, you’ll at least have a pleasant meal in a dining room that has the right amount of knick-knacks—garlands of cardboard baubles, Hanoi beer signs, and cheery art—to make you feel at home. The roasted pork bánh mì at this Vietnamese spot is a solid option, and a big bag of chilli-flavoured prawn crackers is a good move too.
You’re never quite sure what you’re getting with theatre-adjacent restaurants, but Lasdun, from the team behind the Marksman, delivers. This stylish restaurant inside the National Theatre has Brutalist lines and textures, but comforting British food—buns, pies to share, and a lush brown butter and custard tart. Plus, it doesn’t get much more convenient than rolling straight from the swish dining room to seeing Mark Rylance in something moody in under 60 seconds.
Being in the Bankside and Southwark area goes hand in hand with being late. Rushing for a show that starts in half an hour, a meet-up at a gallery you forgot about, or deliberately getting your family lost on the way to the London Eye. When you need food fast, Nigerian takeaway stall Naija High Street has got you. The simple menu is full of satisfying dishes—grilled chicken, and fish or beef stew with a choice of spinach, beans, plantain, and jollof rice—that you can eat while hot-footing it out of Lower Marsh Market.
Casa Do Frango is a Portuguese restaurant that makes crowd-pleasing chicken with either a piri piri, oregano, or lemon and garlic glaze. The spread of sides suits a big gathering where the meaningful, complex film you just saw at BFI Southbank can be discussed over fresh salads, grilled prawns, and African chorizo rice. And by ‘discussed’ we mean—“I didn’t get it, did you?”— to which the correct answer is to order cocktails and transform your casual night into something a bit more boozy.
You could pass through Waterloo a hundred times and you still might not know that some of London’s best fried chicken is just a short walk away. Inside the National Theatre you’ll find Lucky’s Hot Chicken at The Understudy, a casual street food spot serving beer, tacos, and an excellent Nashville hot chicken sando. You can choose your heat level, from ‘country’ to an extra spicy ‘good luck'. Don’t bother paying extra for buffalo or blue cheese sauce on the side—this sando has more than enough flavour.
This is one of the best oyster experiences you can have in London. A hyper-glam spot on the 14th floor of The Hoxton hotel, Seabird is a seafood restaurant that is equal parts luxurious and delicious. There are elaborate cocktail vessels, boujie cushions, and well-heeled guests reclining in rattan chairs—plus dishes that make us go doe-eyed. The whole lobster and octopus roll are good, but it’s the Carlingford oysters you’re here for. Those, and the panoramic views from the foliage-covered terrace.
The Anchor & Hope works well for giving out-of-towners the full British pub experience, but also just if you just want to kill time before catching a show at the Old or Young Vic theatres. Cosy, with dim lighting and a great beer selection, it’s the kind of place you can happily while away a few hours over a couple of pints and some good pub food. It’s also thankfully far enough away from the tourist traps, but close enough to the river so you can stroll along the Southbank afterwards.
We respect restaurants that have simple, straightforward names. If it works for Heinz baked beans, it’ll work for a great little pizza spot on the Thames. At this old-school pizzeria you can expect classics like lasagne and calamari, but really you’re here for their long list of top pizzas. We’re talking a hot honey and gran milano meat fest, a mushroom and pine nut number with excellent crunch factor, and the fiery chilli Manzo that comes with perfectly roasted peppers. If it’s sunny, a bottle of wine should also be on your order for peak Capri feels.
The OXO Tower is probably one of those places that you’ve always said you will one day go to but never have. This British restaurant is a skyline landmark with a boujie reputation for good reason. Yes, it is predictably expensive but the food is great in that fine dining, truffle-packed menu kind of way. The real highlight is the seafood—shoutout to their monster scallops and native lobster—the views, and the white tablecloths that make it perfect for a big-deal anniversary or celebratory dinner.
Macellaio RC does incredibly tender, Italian-style steaks cooked simply on a hot grill and served with just a bit of rock salt and olive oil. It’s unlikely that you’ll be popping in for a casual lunch that often, but it’s good for a payday throw-down or low-key celebration (like getting a tiny raise you wish to spend on steak). The menu also features excellent cicchetti as well as good pastas, all of which you should order.
Like that person you’d happily swipe right for in the midst of the Sunday scaries but not necessarily take home to mum and dad, ’O ver’s location on a dead stretch of Southwark Street pretty much means that it’s never going to be a long-term commitment kind of place. But for a casual quickie, it’s pretty much perfect. The Naples-style pizzas here are very good and they also happen to make an excellent spritz—in case you need to take the edge off before you head back to the museum/your desk.
Tas is the neighbourhood’s go-to Turkish restaurant. This proper family-feel spot is permanently packed with Anatolian wine-fuelled birthday parties, couples grabbing some cold mezze before a show, or several generations catching up over a feast of musakka and kofte. Its popularity is partially down to how good everything from their dolma to tender karides are, but it’s also because they’ve got several affordable set menus to choose from. Oh, and the hummus is fantastic.
Sometimes a restaurant weaves its way into your heart for eternity. For full disclosure, you should know that this tiny Chinese restaurant is one of those places for us due to its close proximity to our former student halls. Tears were shed here, kisses we thoroughly regret happened outside, and biblical hangovers were nursed at the back table over a quarter crispy duck with pancakes. It’s very much a casual affair and permanently packed with local students, but when it comes to a quickfire meal in the area involving seaweed, crispy duck, and their winning beef with black bean sauce, it’s perfect.
Whenever the weather is semi-nice, everyone has the completely original idea to get a pint after work on the river. If you too are being pulled by the undeniable craving for riverside sunshine, then a good option is the Swan At The Globe. As well as getting a cold pint without having to wait ages to be served, the Swan is also totally devoid of the Wetherspoons-y vibe that pervades so many chain pubs. So you can feel slightly smug while you sip your Guinness. There’s also a decent outdoor seating area in case the pub-meets-nice-bar decor is too plush for you.
Like seeing a Kardashian sipping Guinness, it’s a bit strange to see one of the city’s better ramen restaurants next to a Pret on the ground floor of a very grey office block. But thankfully it hasn’t made any difference to the quality of the food. Tonkotsu Bankside is pretty solid for ramen and they have a good-quality lunch special if you’re not particularly hungry or pushed for time. Get an order of the chicken kara-age along with your soup or forever regret it.
At The Table Café, a breakfast and lunch spot beloved by locals and office workers, hugs are exchanged over huge stacks of toasted bagels with cascading waterfalls of baked beans flowing down them. Business meetings are all but abandoned as a pancake tower with apricot compote hits the table and demands your undivided attention. It’s a busy, happy place with a menu divided into ‘the benedicts’, waffles and pancakes, fry-ups, and burgers. It’s hearty, quality stuff—much like the playlist which features a lot (a.k.a. the right amount) of Bryan Adams.