Maybe you spend a lot of time in London Bridge because the HMS Belfast is your happy place, and 20th century maritime battleship facts are your bitch. Or, maybe you’re simply visiting in search of some rare organic dragon fruits from Borough Market. Yes, between all the offices, Southwark Cathedral, London’s favourite market, and, er, the London Dungeon, there’s many reasons why you might find yourself in or around London Bridge.
Luckily, there’s also some great places to eat, you just need to dodge the tourist traps, and know where to find them. So, whether you work in the area or you’re checking it out for the first time, here’s where to eat and drink near London Bridge.
Just like at Bao’s other London restaurants, there are plenty of fluffy buns filled with soft pork, beef short rib, and more, at its Borough Market location. But as good as the must-try curry cheese bao is, they aren’t the reason to come here. What’s more interesting (and more delicious) are the other things on the menu. Things like a bowl of pink, aged beef in buttery rice with a perfect orange yolk in the middle, or a plate of crunchy fried chicken covered in hot sauce. And if those aren’t reason enough, there’s a downstairs karaoke room as well.
Small plate restaurants aren’t for everyone, but if you’re inclined to a nibble of this and a bite of that, then it’s more than likely you’ll love Flor. This restaurant, wine bar, and bakery opposite Borough Market is making some of the most delicious small plates in London. Standouts include some prawn heads that you’ll nonchalantly suck the innards from like a milkshake in a diner, and two teeny brown butter cakes that don’t need to be bigger, but deserve to be. The same goes for the clam flatbread. It isn’t cheap, and it isn’t great for any more than two, but there are some things here that really need eating.
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. It’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.
The first thing you need to know about Gunpowder is that you’re going to want to order the chicken lollipops madras style and the spicy venison and vermicelli doughnut. They’re excellent. This is a glossy Indian spot with booths that are perfect for anything from dinner with the parents, a fuss-free date night over their £25 pre-theatre feast menu, or even a casual dinner where you want to to get down with some seriously good rabbit pulao. Their weekend brunch menu of cardamom and caramelised banana pancakes and baked eggs should be on the top of your Sunday agenda.
Like Nando’s but not Nando’s is the best (and laziest way) to describe Casa Do Frango. This piri-piri chicken spot serves juicy, delicious chicken alongside some tasty sides. It’s a bit spicy, tasty, and excellent value.
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 to 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.
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.
Lupins is a cosy restaurant off Flat Iron Square that serves food that feels like it’s from a really, really, nice catered barbecue where everyone is happy. It works for lunch or dinner, because when do you not want to eat crab thermidor or cod with buttery crushed jersey royals? Lupins makes this nice homely food in a nice homely atmosphere, which means it suits pretty much everyone.
Pizarro in Bermondsey is a great spot for kicking back with some slightly dressed up tapas like grilled veal loin, monkfish a la plancha, and spicy prawn fritters. And of course, the old favourites like croquetas, padron peppers, and some excellent jamon. This place looks like a country home in rural Spain. It’s the kind of place you visit when it’s been raining solidly for two weeks. Grab a table or a seat at the open kitchen and escape London for a couple of hours. You’ll feel relaxed in no time.
Here’s a fun fact for you: in Thai, ‘kin’ means ‘to eat’ and ‘deum’ means ‘to drink’. And that’s exactly what you’ll want to do at this small neighbourhood restaurant that’s run by three Thai sisters. They’re open for lunch and dinner, and there’s a long menu of soups, salads, curries, noodles, fried rice, and classic Thai dishes, like claypot prawns with glass noodles, as well as cocktails.
Flour and Grape is all about pasta. But, not the kind that survives approximately three millennium in your kitchen cupboard. This is super fresh, high-quality, made-by-human-hands pasta. Their £9 tortellini is one of the best in London. Think butter dripping, fat parcels of pasta with roasted pork shoulder. It’ll warm your heart the same way watching baby otters holding hands does. This is the perfect spot for anything from date night, a low-key birthday dinner, to playing a classic game of ‘can I eat four plates of pasta in one sitting?’.
The Coal Shed is a spot in the One Tower Bridge complex is serving up tons of different steak and fish options inside a very sleek space with just enough touches of wood and metal to merit its name. They do a big sharing menu for £60 per person that includes things like short rib croquettes, confit duck hash, and a big smoked goat shoulder, so it’s a great spot for a big group dinner, or a romantic date involving a shared lime cheesecake and a post-dinner stroll along the river.
You had really sincere intentions of going to Maltby Street Market. Of course you did. Only, the weather’s gone a bit Day After Tomorrow, and that olive oil from those organic ‘sunkissed’ peppers you spent the ugly side of a tenner on have started to leak. Don’t worry, Bar Tozino is just around the corner in the railway arches, and their tapas dishes are very tasty. A quick bite of jamon at the bar here can quickly turn into a six plate and a bottle of rioja type of situation.
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, 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.
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.
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.
If you’re in the mood to go and eat a slab of meat, medium rare, with a stiff drink on the side, then go to Hawksmoor. This outpost of 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 specials are the perfect excuse for a splurge you’re not going to regret. Until you fall asleep at your desk, that is.
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. Don’t let your cynicism stop you from joining them. The coffee here is really good. The staff are super enthusiastic too, and everything sweet on their menu is solid.
When you blearily stumble out of London Bridge station 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, you could head across the road to the London Bridge branch of Grind, which has good coffees, and full meals of food to eat with your caffeinated beverage.
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 a good back pocket spot 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 cringy 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.