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London Bridge area guide

Find the best restaurants, pubs and things to do in SE1

© Britta Jaschinski
Borough Market

The area of London Bridge is a stretch of the Thames's southern bank between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. More than just a commuter hub, it encompasses City Hall, the HMS Belfast and Potter's Field, and the many nearby theatres and museums ensure there are always plenty of things to do. The best restaurants are often tucked away from the busiest streets, but it's worth having a look for them. And as is expected of any London business district worth its salt, there are plenty of bars and pubs for thirsty workers and tourists.

What are your favourite London Bridge haunts? Let us know in the comments.

Love London Awards: this year's winners

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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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
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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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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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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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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See the full results of this year's Love London Awards

Bars and pubs in London Bridge

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
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Read more
Bars and pubs

Hide Bar

The Hide Bar has ridden out the credit crunch with aplomb, filling to the gills from Thursdays onward with nine-to-fivers happy to be sinking quality mixed drinks near a transport hub. Most cocktails are priced in the £6.50 to £7 range, including house specials such as the Passionate Englishman (Hendrick’s gin stirred with passion fruit purée), the Bermondsey Martini (Jensen’s gin and Noilly Prat) and the American in London (Knob Creek bourbon infused with Earl Grey tea, peach liqueur, Peychaud’s bitters and sweet vermouth). Seventy-odd other options are available, drawn from a selection of spirits that would put most bars in London to shame (and all sold by the glass to boot). Wines are equally well sourced: you won’t find Mezcala tinto (a Bordeaux-style Mexican blend) in too many places. There are a few mains but the platters are more intriguing – the Southbank pairs soft-shell crabs, stuffed baby squid and gravadlax with mango, mint and tomato salsa.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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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: the ales here, from year-round fixtures such as Sussex Mild to seasonals including Old Ale, are always in perfect condition. But the Royal Oak would be worthy of a visit even without the cask brews: this is a a lovely place to spend an evening. Civilised groups of local residents, after-work drinkers and beer tourists fill the two rooms nightly, perched at sturdy bar furniture beneath an unflashy but handsomely restored interior. The absence of canned music aids the flow of conversation; excellent, unpretentious pub cooking (roasts, hot pots) helps dissipate the effects of the beer. One of the city’s best.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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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. ‘Hello, Sir,’ calls out Peter Common from behind a hatch as you enter, admiring the beautiful wood-panelled interior and occasional finely upholstered chair amid the wooden ones. A bowl of water biscuits awaits on the counter, where the promise of rare sirloin and cured ox tongue cold cuts is chalked up alongside game pie and fresh Newlyn crab meat, white only. The wine selection is concise: affordable house French red or white among a dozen by the glass; another dozen half-bottles; and a premium list of limited-availability reds and magnums of claret. A sign says that the Boot & Flogger offers ‘port, sherry and Madeira direct from the wood’; but alas, the glasses (around £4.50) are no longer filled from the cask. Among the decorative pictures is a notice calling for men to join the Light Brigade; indeed, this is the kind of place officers would have gathered before the fateful journey to the Crimea.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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See our full guide to bars and pubs in London Bridge

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