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Forza Wine
Caitlin Isola

The best restaurants near South Bank and Waterloo

Looking for places to eat along the South Bank? Here's a guide to the best restaurants by the river

Leonie Cooper
Edited by
Leonie Cooper
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After a lengthy stroll along the riverside, you’re going to need a feed. Luckily, the South Bank is loaded with options. From excellent Indian fare to banging brunches and interesting options at institutions like the National Theatre as well as spread of local high end hotels, you'll enjoy dinner with a view of the action at lots of these spots. Here’s our guide to the best restaurants in South Bank and Waterloo.

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The best restaurants near South Bank and Waterloo

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • South Bank
  • price 3 of 4
  • Recommended

Forza Wine describes its food as ‘Italian-ish’ and they’re spot on. Taking over the top floor of this iconic South Bank buillding, the Peckham-based restaurant's second spot offers a bounty of fresh, and field-grown flavours spanning bitter leaves, lightly dashed with a muscular anchovy dressing, to lamb shoulder with salsa verde, pumpkin with pearl barley and burrata with beetroot. We ordered buttery broccoli dotted with salty pops of brown shrimp; a hearty pork ragu on a still-crunchy wedge of fried bread, dressed up with some gargantuan slices of chilli and pickled fennel; and a sublime, straightforward dish of clams, with rounds of courgettes, chickpeas and sherry. Nothing is overly fancy, nothing is overly cheffy, but it’s all spotless. 

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Leonie Cooper
Food and Drink Editor, Time Out London
  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Tower Bridge
  • price 2 of 4

A flashy Tower Bridge sequel to the small-plates Indian joint behind Spitalfields Market, this branch of Gunpowder is an equally explosive proposition for fans of Madras-style chicken lollipops, chutney cheese sarnies, Kerala beef pepper fry and Old Monk rum pudding. It may look slicker than its pokey home-style sibling, but this place is affordable, fun, delicious and mouth-wateringly addictive. 

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Gastropubs
  • Southwark
  • price 2 of 4

Handy for both the Young and Old Vic Theatres, it consists of a straightforward pub divided by a heavy central curtain from a dining room. Unlike some gussied-up gastros, the dining area retains the atmosphere of a pub, in a low-lit, art-festooned room, and the food is terrific. textured venison kofte served on perkily dressed little gem lettuce, for example, or rabbit served savagely red with salty jus, fat chips and a big pot of béarnaise sauce. 

 

  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Southwark
  • price 3 of 4

For those who don’t speak Latin, and like me, rely on Google Translate when it comes to interpreting dead classical languages, ‘In Horto’ means ‘In The Garden’. Which makes total sense when you arrive at this determinedly al fresco Southwark spot and walk inside to realise that, wait, hey; you’re still outside! But it’s not just the breezy, external nature of the place that makes In Horto proudly align itself with the great outdoors, it’s the food too. Earthy and bountiful, it offers the kind of hearty spread you would expect Monty Don to tuck into after a hard day tending to his dahlias.

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Southbank Centre Food Market
  • Restaurants
  • Street food
  • South Bank

Tucked behind the Royal Festival Hall, this pedestrian area is now home to the Southbank Centre Food Market – a galaxy of street-food vendors, guest traders and stalls selling fresh produce to take home. Expect a rolling cavalcade of diverse, vibrant flavours from around the globe – a perfect tempter for the South Bank’s many tourists, workers and locals. And if you fancy a beer, a cocktail, wine, coffee or something sweet, they’ve got that covered too. Open Friday-Sunday and bank holidays.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • South Bank
  • price 4 of 4

Lasdun is named after Denys Ladsun, the man responsible for designing The National Theatre, which is where you'll find this revamped restaurant, which used to be known as House. The kitchen is now in the capable hands of the team from Hackney's Marksman gastropub, and food here is pricey and posh. Wisely, Lasdun’s menu doesn’t stray too far from The Marksman’s tried and tested British feasting menus. Expect things like guinea fowl and tamworth terrine, Tamworth pork collar and a oyster bar in a brutalist landmark building.

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Bala Baya
  • Restaurants
  • Middle Eastern
  • Southwark
  • price 3 of 4

Many of Yotam Ottolenghi’s one-time cooks are doing it for themselves these days – witness this clubby Tel Aviv-style rendezvous from chef Eran Tibi. Set in a Southwark railway arch, Bala Baya is a bakery, a fast-paced pitta kiosk at lunchtime and a buzzy restaurant in the evenings. Come here for astonishing little Middle Eastern-inspired dishes such as tea-smoked, yoghurt-injected ‘aubergine tea’.

Butlers Wharf Chop House
  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Tower Bridge

Cracking riverside views are just one of the assets at this outlet from D&D London: Tower Bridge is just a stroll away and the alfresco terrace is even furnished with rubber rings. Food-wise, it’s all about doughty British meat – from charcuterie, chops and cutlets to aberdeen angus steaks, which are flashed and sizzled on the charcoal grill. Comforting puds too.

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Skylon
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • South Bank
  • price 3 of 4

A fail-safe destination on the first floor of the Royal Festival Hall, Skylon’s 1950s nostalgia and wow-inducing views of the Thames make it a permanently spectacular venue, day or night. The menu is stacked with classics; seared cod loin, crab and prawn linguine and lemon and thyme glazed chicken. 

Le Pont de la Tour
  • Restaurants
  • Grills
  • Tower Bridge

As well as sweeping views of Tower Bridge and beyond, this smartly refurbished riverside beauty touts a sought-after terrace, a conventional brasserie-style Bar & Grill and a posh restaurant majoring in elaborately plated modern dishes with an Anglo-French flavour – fruits de mer, tournedos rossini, mustard-glazed pork collar, tarte tatin.

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  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • London Bridge

Batik textiles, colourful masks, incense and acres of carved teak spell exotic romance at this self-styled ‘Thai-Malay’ favourite – book the private table à deux on the mezzanine if you’re feeling flirty. To eat, inventive vegan and veggie dishes sit alongside hawker (street food market) classics, curries and east-west mash-ups such as red snapper with Malaysian sambal and squid-ink linguine (the restaurant’s name means ‘mix and match’).

The Coal Shed
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Tower Bridge
  • price 3 of 4

Sizzling steaks and sustainably sourced fish cooked over coals are the headliners at this London offshoot of Brighton’s Coal Shed – a handsome space of smoky mirrors, metal and dark wood, with a jazzy laidback soundtrack as accompaniment. Although the big plates hold centre stage, don’t ignore their memorable smaller cousins (short-rib croquettes with punchy gochujang mayo, for example). Brilliant service seals the deal.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • South Bank
  • price 1 of 4

You’ve heard of living in a box. How about eating in a shipping container? Mexican chain Wahaca has one of its more interesting outposts perched on the terrace of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, with plenty of alfresco seats overlooking the Thames. Street-food staples form the backbone of the menu (burritos, tacos, tostadas etc.) 

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • South Bank
  • price 2 of 4

A Spanish-ish tapas joint on the South Bank from the brothers who run Applebee’s, a family fishmongers turned seafood resto that’s become part-and-parcel of nearby Borough Market’s foodie fabric. Order lots of sangria, and huevos rotos con chorizo, fried potatoes with Iberico chorizo and jammy fried egg, and chipirones, light as anything deep fried baby squid in fluffy batter with a pungent pot of lemon alioli.

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Gillray's Steakhouse & Bar
  • Restaurants
  • South Bank

Named after the eighteenth-century satirist James Gillray (whose work appears on the dining room walls), this good-looking venue sports some spectacular river views from its pitch within the London Marriott Hotel County Hall. As you’d expect, it’s mostly about steak here – T-bones, fillets, sirloins and a daunting ‘bull’s head’ (1kg of butterflied prime-rib) – although barnsley chops, burgers and barbecue ribs also get whacked on the grill.

Caravan Bankside
  • Restaurants
  • Global
  • Southwark

As you’d expect, the food at this branch of Caravan is sound – with a globally peripatetic menu reaching well beyond the chain’s beloved Antipodes. Breakfast, brunch, snacks and full-on blowouts are all accommodated in a lofty, cavernous space that looks marvellous with its stripped wood and metal girders. It’s also worth remembering that Caravan’s founders were renowned coffee roasters before they became fusion-fare hawkers.

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Sea Containers at Mondrian London
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • South Bank

Looking for a stylish Thames-side riverside restaurant that promises equally stunning views inside and out? Then try this swish dining room, where the shipping-themed decor nods to the docklands and you can watch joggers while ticking off the notable sights on the opposite riverbank. 

  • Restaurants
  • British
  • South Bank
  • price 3 of 4

Eight floors up above the South Bank, Oxo Tower’s in-house restaurant, brasserie and bar certainly emanate a sense of occasion. A glass frontage makes the most of the river views, while tables on the terrace (first come, first served) allow you to fully appreciate the panoramic cityscapes. The brasserie is our top pick, with its casual vibe, live jazz in the evening and well-crafted menu of contemporary European food.

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Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe
  • Restaurants
  • British
  • South Bank
  • price 3 of 4

Brush up your Shakespeare while diving into the menu at this full-on dinner and show experience aimed at visitors to the Globe theatre. Don’t expect touristy clichés; do expect Instagram-perfect contemporary and seasonal British dishes with a tub-thumping Laurence Olivier accent – as in pot-roast rump of romney marsh lamb with curly kale and caramelised shallots. The restaurant’s stunning river views also deserve a rousing cheer.

Florentine Restaurant & Bar
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Lambeth
  • price 2 of 4

You wouldn’t guess it, but this shiny diner is actually the main restaurant for the Park Plaza Waterloo next door – and it’s a real treat. Our advice is to plunder their dizzying line-up of pasta and pizza. Otherwise, cherry-pick from the salads, pasta and burgers, with British wines and beers on hand for refreshment.

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The Ivy Tower Bridge
  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Tower Bridge
  • price 2 of 4

Part of the Ivy’s ongoing roll-out, this casual brasserie is a perfect fit for the gleaming One Tower Bridge development. Terrific views of the river are a given and there’s a Parisian-style terrace for those who want to do things alfresco. Inside, trademark Ivy interiors provide the backdrop for an all-day menu that mixes old faves (shepherd’s pie, crispy duck salad) with more inventive ideas.

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