Forget the tunnel: there’s plenty else going on in Rotherhithe
Why go there?
Because it’s one of the few parts of south-east London that wears its maritime roots with pride. Due to its size, you’ll need to put some time aside to have a good wander – but you’ll discover an array of parks, pubs and places of interest, none more so than the huge old dock.
What’s the score with shopping then?
In Surrey Quays, you can find a decent shopping centre (Redriff Road) filled with high-street names, and a mammoth Decathlon (Surrey Quays Road) for all your outdoorsy needs. La Cigale on Lower Road is a wonderful little convenience store that deals in fine foods. Further afield is The Blue (Southwark Park Road), a market which is open Monday to Saturday and offers a range of goods: fruit, veg, fish and clothes.
And when I’m feeling a bit peckish?
There are restaurants aplenty in Rotherhithe. On Tunnel Road is a fantastic little gem called Simplicity which, as the name suggests, serves up a range of unfussy British and European dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Ma Po (Lower Road) is a step above your average Chinese and offers a killer hot pot. Also in the East Asian vein is the Vietnamese Café East (Redriff Road), which similarly keeps the focus on simplicity and high-quality ingredients. It’s always busy, and deservedly so.
What about a nice relaxing pint?
Make The Mayflower (Rotherhithe Street) top of your list. Touted by locals as ‘the best pub in London’, it offers a variety of beers and guest ales, and a great view across the Thames. Several pubs along the riverside are steeped in history and brimming with charm, including The Angel (Bermondsey Wall East), The Salt Quay and The Blacksmiths Arms (both Rotherhithe Street).
Is there anything for the culture vulture?
There’s The Brunel Museum and the Thames Tunnel (Railway Avenue). St Mary’s Church (St Marychurch Street) is the burial site of the eighteenth-century Prince Lee Boo, one of the first people to visit here from the Pacific Islands. Greenland Dock is a site that has changed much over the years but is no less spectacular. With eveything from donkeys to ferrets, Surrey Docks Farm (Rotherhithe Street) is great for a family day out.
And if I do just one thing?
Have a stroll along the riverside at sunset and take in the views of Canary Wharf and the Thames. The river is still the real heart of London: breathtaking.
By Marcus Barnes, who thought Surrey Docks might be a bit like leafy Esher or wealthy Weybridge. It isn’t.
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