After a lengthy stroll along the riverside, the many budget and mid-priced chain restaurants on the South Bank can come as great relief. But for something a bit more special, Skylon is modern and chic (with amazing views), and Benugo has solved BFI Southbank's long-running problem of feeding its cinemagoers properly. House at the National Theatre is also a treat.
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After years of struggle, BFI Southbank has finally figured out its catering. Or, rather, they got Benugo to figure it out for them. The low ceiling, square dimensions and lack of natural light have long hampered the riverfront space, and Benugo haven’t succeeded in making it into an appealing venue. But it’s a different story in the newer bar further back, busy with a mix of cinephiles and other revellers who’ve realised this is the place to drink on the South Bank.Book now Read more
The National Theatre revamped its flagship restaurant in summer 2014, hiring three new chefs in a publicity-grabbing, MasterChef-style cook off. A serious interior sets the tone for cooking of considerable ambition and adventurousness, though there are more conventional dishes. Desserts make it clear that chefs here possess creativity that's bursting to get out. The perfect location if you’re seeing a performance at the Olivier or Lyttleton Theatres.Read more
The style and softly coloured decor haven’t changed fin many years, but this is probably how regulars (who rely on the restaurant for relaxed lunches and pre- or post-theatre dinners) like it. Food consistently displays high levels of skill and refinement. The staff are very good at making sure you get out in time to make that show.Read more
The Mondrian’s flagship restaurant has an open kitchen on one side and riverside views on another. The menu name-checks many trends and diverse dish styles, but renders the dishes well. The cooking makes it worth the stroll from the South Bank, with meals served all day. Securing a table may not be easy though, especially if you want a view of St Paul’s across the river.Book now Read more
Skylon can’t really fail: its setting on the first floor of the Royal Festival Hall, with lofty ceilings and superb Thames views from soaring windows, is always spectacular, by day or night, and adds wow factor to any meal. The chic cocktail bar, amid sofas in the centre of the space, also offers a dose of metropolitan pzazz. Dining areas are split between the brasserie-style Grill on one side of the bar and the Restaurant, with a more fine-dining menu, on the other.Book now Read more
Tucked behind the Royal Festival Hall, this pedestrian area often hosts food markets, such as the Real Food Market which has over 40 food producers and traders (typically Fri-Sun only). The market often offers some palatable street food – Egyptian, South Indian Polish, or Korean fusion – which is perfect for the South Bank’s many tourists, workers and locals.Read more
Sea Containers at Mondrian London
London’s docklands were bustling with ‘On the Waterfront’ activity right up until the 1960s. Containerisation – the adoption of uniformly sized cargo that could be lifted easily from vessel to vessel – made London’s docks obsolete, as the bigger ships moved to the deeper waters of Essex and beyond. As the working docks moved out of the city, the new offices and corporations moved in. In 1977 a major new hotel project was built on the South Bank, but failed to come to fruition. The near-complete concrete edifice, perched right on the river’s bank, was acquired by a shipping company and became Sea Containers House. After the bankruptcy of Sea Containers Ltd in 2006, the edifice was in the doldrums for a while before eventual conversion back into a hotel. Sea Containers is now the name of the hotel’s flagship restaurant. The shipping theme is carried through the Mondrian London hotel’s lobby, bars and dining area. Model freighters from its former use are still on display in cases. There’s even the illusion of a vast copper hull along one wall, a trompe l’oeil created by designer Tom Dixon’s team which has given the hotel its makeover. A model yellow submarine is suspended over the restaurant’s bar. The hotel dining room could easily be soulless were it not for an open kitchen on one side, and views of riverside joggers and strollers on the other. The menu name-checks slightly too many trends and diverse dish styles, yet manages to render them well. A South American-style cevic