Let’s face it - nobody enjoys going to London Bridge. There are tons of sites of interest nearby, like the London Dungeon and Southwark Cathedral, as well as the looming presence of Borough Market that you will get dragged to at least once a year. There are also tons of offices and a massive railway station. Fun. Then again, it could be worse. You could be stuck in Victoria, in which case you might actually be properly shafted.
Given its location next to the country’s best-known food market, it won’t come as a huge surprise that there are lots of decent food options around London Bridge. Have a wander through the streets around the docks for the chains if you must, but there are tons of good independent places as well. Here are our favourites, and the ones you should put at the top of your list.
Padella is all about the pasta, and they do it very well and at very good prices too. The only catch? The queue at peak hours can get silly, but if you’re determined and don’t mind waiting, it’s an excellent option for a midweek dinner or catchup that’s wallet-friendly too. The pappardelle with meat ragu is the one to get, and everything from the starters to the tarts for dessert are brilliant.
Elliott’s has been one of the best restaurants in the area for ages, and it’s not hard to see why - it’s a class act, from the drinks and food to the service and cosiness of the room. Their legendary cheeseburger is served at lunchtime only, and in the evening the food is sharing style (charcuterie, saffron artichokes, mussels) with a nice choice of steaks to round it off. Wines are biodynamic and very good, and the staff will guide you through their selection to find you something you like. Sitting at Elliot's during a warm market day is one of London’s great pleasures.
There are plenty of places to eat oysters in town, but no one does it quite in the relaxed, unpretentious way Wright Brothers does. You could mistake it for a seaside pub if you stumbled in, with barrels for tables and pints of prawns all over the shop, except without the traumatic memories of being shoved in a caravan with five of your relatives in Morecambe Bay. They supply all their own fish and shellfish and the food is cooked very simply to let the natural flavours do their thing. It’s lovely on a cold winter night, but equally pleasant on a sunny day. Grab a seat and a pint of porter, and feel relieved you’re not one of the suckers inching their way through the crowds in the market.
There are plenty of decent breakfasts in the area, but The Breakfast Club is popular for a reason - serving the kind of breakfast and brunch dishes that you dream about while being tortured at spin class. It’s convenient to get to, and though you’re not going to get any points for originality (except from your cousin Jez from Wiltshire, who has two kids and thinks Busaba is exciting), it’ll always hit the spot. The food options are suitable for everything from morning hangovers (huevos rancheros, pancakes and waffles) to healthy weekday catchups (things with avocado and kale), and we like the coffee here too.
There are plenty of flashy new options for dinner around the Shard and Borough market, but Turkish restaurant Tas has been cooking some of the most reliably good food in this neighbourhood for ages. It’s a casual, homely spot that serves light mezzes and satisfying mains like moussaka and slow-cooked lamb shank. Despite the abundance of lamb on the menu, Tas is actually very good for vegetarians and anyone with dietary restrictions - and it’s also great for big group bookings and your sister’s screaming kids.
If you’re going have a ridiculous, ostentatious drink in a shimmering citadel of steel and glass, you might as well go to the top of the mountain and head to the tallest building in town. Aqua Shard is ridiculous - super high ceilings, super expensive drinks, and the bogs will have the more sensitive among us trembling with vertigo (upside - the best toilet selfies anywhere in London). You’ll also need to book ahead to be on the safe side - the views are worth it, though.
Hutong is the Shard’s ultra-swish Chinese restaurant, and if we were going to throw down on a pricey dinner with a view, this would be on our list. There’s no sesame chicken on the menu, but instead you’ll get polished version of Northern Chinese dishes like crispy shredded beef and chilli, Hunan-style lobster, and one of the best Peking ducks anywhere in town. Dim sum is also a highlight, and for extra-special occasions, they also have excellent private dining rooms so other diners can be spared your mate Chiara’s f-bomb-laden speech.
As far as Spanish restaurants are concerned, Brindisa is a classic. As well as covering the classics like patatas bravas and prawns with garlic, the restaurant makes plenty of specials to keep a meal here interesting. It’s perfect for leisurely after-work drinks and snacks, especially if you’re not feeling the pub, and it’s nice to sit on the street on a nice day with a glass of wine and some tapas like a fancy person.
Edwins is a brilliant, low-key gem of a restaurant, with great food and a cosy ambience that hits the right spots. The discrete entrance is hidden up a flight of stairs by Borough station, and inside, there’s a townhouse-meets-country manor vibe going on. As for food, you’ll find some very tasty and slightly fancy bistro-style dishes on the menu, and great drinks to match - get the braised lamb shank and fish stew. They make a good negroni, and it’s also great for groups and low-key meals for when you want something nice without trying too hard.
You’re at Borough with your other half, and you’re supposed to be getting excited at the idea of fresh wild mushrooms, or something. But actually, you just want to say sod the mushrooms, and to go eat a slab of meat, medium rare, with a stiff drink on the side. Go to Hawksmoor. They’re your people. This outpost of Hawksmoor literally has Borough’s traders on its doorstep and some great daily specials, so you can argue you’re technically doing the market thing. If you work in the area - even better. Their lunch time specials are the perfect excuse for a splurge you’re not going to regret. Until you fall asleep at your desk, that is.
When you blearily stumble out of London Bridge station, all delicate and fragile like the scrotum of a naked mole rat, it’s a common thing to seek a place to look for a coffee. It’s also completely possible that you’re meeting someone at the station for a coffee, but you want to be done as quickly as possible and thus walk the absolute minimum distance. Short of going to Nero (or shooting yourself), you could head across the road to the ’Bridge branch of Grind, which has good coffees and full meals of food to eat with your caffeinated beverage, and plenty of tables to linger in case you decide you like them after all.
There’s a pretty solid chance that your old school friend visiting from out of town will have heard of Monmouth and will want to join the heaving line for it at the weekend. Feel free to join them, if only for the fantastic coffee (the filter is especially good) and the weekend vibes (only in London could ‘vibes’ constitute lining up for something). The staff are super enthusiastic which is a plus if you’re rapidly becoming an arsehole since your last caffeine fix, and everything sweet on their menu is solid.
There are a few options for after work drinks - and honestly, picking the place with the most people stood outside with pints is never a bad option - but for our money, we like the Southwark Tavern. There’s loads of room to sit if you’re feeling arthritic, but the bit outside is a nice place to stand on a night after work. They have tasty burgers on Wednesdays and perfectly good gastropub-y type dishes in the dining room downstairs.
The bar downstairs at the Breakfast Club is good to keep on hand for things like dates and impromptu drinks when you want an alternative to the one of the pubs in the area. You do have to spit out a slightly cringey password to staff (‘I’m here to get lucky’), but it’s worth it to access the basement space via the kitchen. It’s a fun curveball to throw into the evening’s proceedings and to seem more interesting to your mates than your 9-5 at Deloitte suggests. The drinks are nice enough, but you’re here to enjoy the DIY atmosphere and close-quarters vibe. There are a few booths you can book in advance (max 6-7 people, even though it says 10 on the website), and things to eat like wings and fried pickles if you’re feeling snacky.
Let’s say you really, really like beer and want to spend as much time as possible around it, and people who love it just as much as you do. If so, the Rake should be one of your go-tos not just in the Borough area, but for London in general. The beers on tap change twice a day and the guys behind the bar probably know more about beer than you can remember about your degree. Fans of old school real ale as well as craft beer will both be well-looked after, but be warned that this is not a place for a big group session - the pub’s the size of a Deptford box room.