During the summer of 2010, a quiet bubble of gastronomic intent was swelling under the railway arches in Bermondsey. This unlikely south-east London backwater quickly became a popular destination for a Saturday morning to early afternoon (9am-2pm-ish) wander with a bit of grocery shopping along the way. Two years on, many new traders have got involved, the recently developed Ropewalk has become a full-on street market, and some of the original bunch have moved down the road to Spa Terminus. Find out about the gastronomic delights that await beneath the arches.
Running between Maltby Street and Millstream Road, the newest addition to the area is the Ropewalk – a lively street market with a combination of stalls, under-arch shops, pop-up bars and eateries.
Food offerings include seafood and grilled meat from Cornish Grill, Greek oils, honeys, preserves and cured meats from Maltby and Greek, Reubens sandwiches and Jewish chicken soup from Monty’s Deli (@Montysdeli), oysters and sous vide cooked-meats to reheat at hoome from Market Gourmet, preserves ans pickles from Pink's Organics, and pastries, cakes and other baked goods from Comptoir Gourmand. Another recent development at Ropewalk is the underarch Tozino tapas bar, Spanish grocers and ham carvery.
No market would be complete without a coffee stall, and the Ropeway’s coffee cart is Coffee, Mate?, who brew with Has Bean coffees. Also on offer in the beverage department are wines by the glass from Life’s a Bottle and gin cocktails at the pop-up Sparrow Bar put on by small-batch London gin distillers Little Bird Gin.
Gergovie Wines is a small company selling artisan vino from more than a a score of small-scale producers in Italy, France and Slovenia, all of whom produce chemical- and fertiliser-free wines. After trading for a time at Maltby Street, Gergovie then set up their own wine bar under the arches, had a kitchen fitted and hired a few chefs. 40 Maltby Street now opens to the public three evenings and two daytimes a week, serving small plates of food alongside their wines, which are available at a £10 mark-up on wholesale prices, or by the glass.
40 Maltby Street, SE1 2DU (www.40maltbystreet.com).
Tayshaw Ltd and St John Bakery
The venerable Tayshaw greengrocer is housed in arch 60 on Druid Street, and impresses with its abundant range of fresh fruit and vegetables, fungi, herbs and pantry goods (including Asian and Oriental cupboard essentials).
In arch 72, the St John Bakery is where all the loaves are baked for St John and St John Bread & Wine. It is also a significant street trader, bringing oven-hot loaves to the trestle table at the front of its cavernous space. Their light, creamy custard-filled doughnuts and buttery eccles cakes are the items to make a bee-line for – get there early to have your fill.
Tayshaw Ltd, 60 Druid St, SE1 2DU. St John's Bakery, 72 Druid St, SE1 2DU.
Bea’s Diner and My Cup of Tea
Bemoaning the lack of decent US-style breakfast spots in London, the team at Bea’s of Bloomsbury decided to set up this diner at arch 76 Druid Street. Seated on long benches, diners tuck into plates of thick American pancakes, french toast and poached eggs. As well as the Saturday morning café (9am-around 1.30pm), the team use the space for Thursday film screenings and other events.
A few doors up at arch 96, modern tea specialist My Cup of Tea sell a range of black, green and herbal teas in loose or bagged form including jasmine, Japanese matcha and Egyptian camomile.
Bea's Diner, 76 Druid St, SE1 2HQ. My Cup of Tea, 96 Druid St, SE1 2HQ.
Käse Swiss, Topolski, Boerenkaas and Jacob's Ladder Farms
Also on Druid Street, arch 104 houses a warehouse collective, where you can find the only warming snack in the area – hot Staffordshire oatcakes with finely chopped red onion and Leicestershire cheese from Käse Swiss, who peddle Swiss cheeses. You can also pick up some fine organic duck eggs and bio-dynamic meats from Jacob's Ladder Farms.
Topolski specialises in Polish produce, from kielbasa (smoked pork sausages) to proper pickled cucumbers, horseradish and cowberry sauce. Don't forget to taste the offerings at Boerenkaas, who do a great range of Dutch cheese; their cumin gouda is well-spiced and sensational.
104 Druid Street, SE1 2DU.
Ham & Cheese Company, Kernel Brewery, The Butchery Ltd
Originally on Ropewalk, the Ham & Cheese Company import French and Italian produce to the UK. Once sourced, they mature their cheeses under the cool, dark railway arches.
One arch down, Kernel Brewery started up in 2009. Since then it has scooped up awards for two of his brews from SIBA the Society of Independent Brewers. The list is big on Indian pale ales, plus several old-school London porters and stouts; keep an eye on the brewery website, which lists what beers are currently available.
Set up in 2011, and run by Nathan Mills and Ruth Siwinski, The Butchery Ltd. specialise in free-range meats from small farmers. Though the emphasis is on British produce you may occasionally find something from further afield on their counter if they think it’s the best that’s available.
Arch 10-11 Dockley Road, SE16 3SF.
Fern Verrow, The London Honey Company, The Little Bread Pedlar, Coleman Coffee Roasters
Over the road from The Kernel Brewery, biodynamic (and very expensive) Fern Verrow vegetables can be found in the same row as the London Honey Company. Sharing a spot a couple of units down The Little Bread Pedlar sells bread, croissants and brownies, while Coleman’s Coffee Roasters serve coffees made from locally roasted beans.
Unit 5-6 & 10 Dockley Road, SE16 3SF.
England Preserves, Monmouth Coffee
Prepared on site, the smell of simmering fruit wafts alluringly out of Unit 2. England Preserves source their fruit as locally as possible – like soft fruits from Essex or apples and pears from Chegworth Valley in Kent – then don’t let them reach boiling point so that they have a fuller fruity flavour.
The well-respected coffee shop and roastery Monmouth Coffee have moved their retail operation from 34-36 Maltby Street (now used for production) to Spa Arches where they’re selling their single estate and co-operative grown beans, as well as serving take-away coffees from 8am-noon on Saturdays. The original site will be used for production purposes.
Unit 1-3 Spa Arches/Road, SE16 4EJ.
Neal’s Yard Dairy, Kappacasein, Mons Fromager, Aubert & Mascoli, South East Fruits
Originally with a location round the corner on Stanworth Street, the cheese company specialising in British produce Neal’s Yard Dairy has moved to Unit 1 Voyager Bus Park. Sharing the lot are Kappacasein who sell their toasted cheese sandwiches and raclette both here and at Borough Market. Next door at Unit 2, the dairy theme continues with French cheesemongers Mons, plus artisan wine sellers Aubert & Mascoli.
In Unit 3, South East Fruits sell fresh fruit and veg. In Unit 4, The Ice Cream Union churn frozen treats including vanilla, chocolate or rum and raisin ice cream plus fruity sorbets. They also offer a few more unusual flavours like matcha green tea, cinnamon or sweet, Argentinian caramel - dulce de leche.
Unit 1-4 Voyager Bus Park, SE16 4RP.