After a lengthy stroll along the riverside, you're going to need a feed. Sadly, the South Bank is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to dining out. If you don't fancy footing it round the corner to Borough for better fare, you can still find relief with our list of South Bank restaurants. From budget and mid-priced chains to more interesting options at institutions like the Tate Modern and the National Theatre, enjoy dinner with a view in among the action.
Restaurants on the South Bank
Footfall keeps this SE1 branch of the popular chain busy, even if, tucked away around the back of the building, it's away from the main Royal Festival Hall drag. It's one of two Canteens in London, with its sister site in Spitalfields. The group was one of the first to reappraise British cuisine, and the ethos remains the same today. Expect dishes such as Lancashire cheese tart and sausage mash and onion gravy.
As you’d expect, the food at this third branch of coffee-roasters-turned-fusion-fare hawkers Caravan is sound – with a broad, globally peripatetic menu branching ever wider from the Antipodean fare it first made its name with. Plus, the cavernous room – all lofty height, stripped wood and metal girders – looks marvellous.
Serving sustainably sourced fish and regular seasonal menus, Feng Sushi takes its ethical/eco responsibilities seriously. During spawning season they particularly promote vegetarian options, for instance. This branch, at the Royal Festival Hall, is great for everything from a quick bite to a full meal, and a good example of the chain's take on Japanese classics with a modern twist.
Venue says: “Offer - steak and chips for £15, available everyday between noon-3pm.”
Gillray’s occupies a large site inside the London Marriott Hotel County Hall, facing the London Eye and Houses of Parliament. Get the right seat and you'll be treated to some spectacular views of both, and down the Thames. It takes its name from the eighteenth-century satirist James Gillray, and features some of his works on the walls (though wisely they've omitted 'The Gout', his grotesque take on good-living).
A serious interior sets the tone for cooking of considerable ambition and adventurousness at the National Theatre's restaurant. 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.
Venue says: “For a limited time only, enjoy three courses and a glass of bubbly for £36. Call us for details.”
The Oxo Tower is a London landmark, and its two restaurants and bar emanate a sense of occasion. A glass frontage makes the most of river views, with St Paul's and City buildings easily visible. Dishes here range from a root veg and pearl barley risotto, lobster tempura with a seashore vegetable broth, and venison terrine with pumpkin chutney and toasted brioche.
Ping Pong makes dim sum for the not-always-initiated – ‘little steamed parcels of deliciousness’ (in their own words). That means dumplings, and lots of ’em. Expect the full range of beef, chicken, seafood and vegetable options – not just steamed, mind, but fried too – plus soups, buns, rice dishes and desserts.
Find more restaurant options in the area
Eating out in London Bridge is all about knowing where to look. Magdalen, which is easy to miss on the busy Tooley Street, serves outstanding British food that shows a real attention to detail. Champor-Champor provides Asian fusion cuisine that resists most labels, aside from ‘great’. At café and gallery Caphe House, you can pick up a Vietnamese baguette, called bánh mì, along with a painting, if you want.
Since this review was published, Rumpus Room has undergone refurbishment. Time Out Eating & Drinking editors, March 2017. Hotel bars used to be the straight-laced kind of place you’d take your ’rents. Not so at the Mondrian, where Dandelyan has been winning awards on the ground floor while level 12’s Rumpus Room has stayed a bit of an inside secret. Now this chic bar is ready to welcome the world, with a terrace overlooking St Paul’s and DJs to lure sophisticated after-workers and Friday night socialites. I say socialites, since the venue claims to take its cue from the Bright Young Things, a group of hedonists followed by the tabloids in the 1920s. Think England’s non-fiction ‘Great Gatsby’ (or the ’20s version of the sidebar of shame). In truth, the theme’s not obvious, but the setting is pure style. Waitresses work the room in floaty, floral numbers you’d expect to see on Kate Moss in the French Riviera. And she’d probably approve of their way (a million miles from ‘basic bitch’ service). There are mauve banquettes, glittering chandeliers, and a shiny gold bar, but it’s the view that really wins the crowd. Stick around for sunset, when the room gets more blingy. Don’t expect such an atmosphere without paying a pretty penny; solid classic cocktails cost £14. My paloma was faultless, but my bank card withered when I promptly reached the bottom of the glass. Stick with champagne cocktails to feel more at peace; after all, Rumpus Room is an occasion bar. We can’t vouch for
Venue says: “Come and enjoy the re-imagined Rumpus Room, sipping on cocktails alongside the dramatic views of the River Thames and St Paul''s Cathedral.”