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Borough area guide

Time Out's guide to Borough's best restaurants, pubs and more – check out Borough Market, or ditch the masses and discover an out-of-the-way place and find plenty of things to do in the area

© Britta Jaschinski
Borough Market

Borough has been a lively area since prehistoric times, but it became a bustling trade centre when the Romans founded Londinium around 43 AD. Its position on the Thames and proximity to London Bridge has ensured it's remained a trading hub ever since. Borough is now dominated by Borough Market, which gives the area its reputation as a foodie's paradise. Generally, the best restaurants are in or very near the market but, if you know where you're looking, you can find some gems hidden away. The bars and pubs are more spread out but are worth a little walk. Which is just as well, given how much you're guaranteed to eat in Borough.

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José
Restaurants

José

José Pizarro (formerly co-founder and head chef of Brindisa) has done a fine job here of creating a very genuine, slightly rustic local Spanish bar. The decor is plain brick, timbers and tiles; seating is mostly on stools, with barrels to stand glasses on; and there’s a no-bookings, doors-wide-open attitude, albeit while being firmly planted in trendified Bermondsey. This, his TV appearances and books have cemented his position as the most prominent Spanish chef in Britain, but what stands out here is his expert attention to sourcing and getting the basics right, ahead of culinary adventurism. You won’t find any great innovations, but you will be treated to perfect, fantastically fresh renderings of the kind of classic traditional tapas that are too often let down by routine reheated preparation, such as crisp-outside, creamy-within croquetas, deep-flavoured tortilla and saltily bittersweet padrón peppers. Prawns came perfectly flash-fried in powerful but never overpowering garlic and chilli, and the renowned Ibérico ham and other meats are from Maldonado, one of Spain’s most esteemed artisan producers. Wines cover a desirable fine-quality range, all available by the (well-priced) glass. The admirably unflustered staff are experts in space management, but we wonder how long a place so regularly packed can stay in such a small setting.  

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Woolpack
Bars and pubs Book online

Woolpack

The Woolpack is a down-to-earth alternative to the Garrison opposite, even if its website witters on about ‘unwinding in the heart of bohemian Bermondsey’. The location is prosaic – a side street branching off from the London Bridge rail estuary – but that shouldn’t detract from what’s a quality two-floor pub-restaurant. Beer-wise, you’ll find the likes of Kirin Ichiban, Leffe and Thwaites Nutty Black, while the dozen-strong wine list (by the glass and bottle) includes a few unusual offerings. Mains are of the beer-battered haddock and chips or Cumberland sausage and mash variety, and cost around a tenner. The smaller, tiled downstairs space feels lived-in and traditional, while upstairs is even more relaxed.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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The Watch House
Restaurants

The Watch House

A coffee house and café serving artisan roasts, sandwiches and salads. 

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Maltby Street Market
Shopping

Maltby Street Market

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 wander with a bit of grocery shopping along the way. A few years on, many new traders have got involved, the recently Ropewalk has become a full-on street market, and some of the original bunch have moved down the road to Spa Terminus. Ropewalk is now open 9am-4pm Sat and 11am-4pm Sun but Spa Terminus is still strictly Saturdays only (around 9am-2pm for most producers), so that’s the day to take it all in.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Shortwave Cinema
Cinemas

Shortwave Cinema

An indie cinema that seats 52 and has a café/bar.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs in Borough

Boot & Flogger
Bars and pubs Buy tickets

Boot & Flogger

‘JHn. Davy Free Vintner’ reads the sign on the wall of an empty Borough side street, above an 071 number. It may as well read ‘Southwark 1184’ for all the modernity present within.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Royal Oak
Bars and pubs

Royal Oak

The only London pub of the estimable Lewes brewer Harveys, this traditional Victorian corner tavern draws beer fanatics, and with good reason.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Gladstone Arms
Bars and pubs

Gladstone Arms

Now independently owned, the Glad is no longer a staid, empty corner pub; the interior is now funky, freaky and candlelit.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Lord Clyde
Bars and pubs

Lord Clyde

A haven of tranquillity in a Borough sidestreet bookended by Peabody Trust residences, the Lord Clyde is a lived-in home from home for middle-aged regulars and penny-conscious students.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Things to do in Borough

Borough Market
Things to do

Borough Market

London’s oldest market – dating back to the thirteenth century – is also the busiest, and the most popular for gourmet goodies. Traders satisfy the city’s insatiable appetite for artisan cheeses and ham from acorn-fed pigs. 

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Clink Prison Museum
Museums

Clink Prison Museum

The Clink Prison Museum houses an exhibition tracing the history of one of England’s oldest prisons, located on the site of the original ‘Clink’ prison at Bankside, a red-light district in earlier times.

Users say
  • 1 out of 5 stars
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Golden Hinde
Attractions

Golden Hinde

The authentic atmosphere aboard the Golden Hinde, a full-size reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake’s sixteenth-century flagship, is fleshed out by a ‘crew’ in Elizabethan costume who regale visitors with tales of uncomfortable nights on bare decks awash with salt water and worse.

Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Southwark Cathedral
Music

Southwark Cathedral

Oft overlooked by Borough Market shoppers (though its toilets are a handy stop, and its pretty churchyard an alfresco lunchtime destination), the nearby Southwark Cathedral is actually a fascinating historic site. 

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Where to eat in Borough

Tapas Brindisa
Restaurants

Tapas Brindisa

The upsurge in Spanish food quality in London since the 1990s can in part be dated from the arrival in Borough Market of food importers Brindisa.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House
Restaurants Book online

Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House

Wright Brothers is very much an eat-and-run sort of place, with all seating at high-backed stools, and efficient waitresses operating at speed despite the cramped conditions.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Roast
Restaurants Book online

Roast

Venue says: Our afternoon tea menu just launched! Available Monday-Friday 3-5pm, at £20 per person.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Applebee's Café
Restaurants Book online

Applebee's Café

This Borough Market stalwart, with a wet-fish counter at the front and a long narrow dining space behind, is a lively and convivial spot for some reliable fishy fare.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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