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.
"Valentine's at Gillray's – indulge in a four course menu including Champagne and oysters on arrival for £95 per person. Bookings essential."
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.
"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.
Sea Containers at Mondrian London
London’s docklands were bustling with ‘On the Waterfront’ activity right up until the 1960s. Containerisation – the adoption of uniformly sized cargo that could be lifted easily from vessel to vessel – made London’s docks obsolete, as the bigger ships moved to the deeper waters of Essex and beyond. As the working docks moved out of the city, the new offices and corporations moved in. In 1977 a major new hotel project was built on the South Bank, but failed to come to fruition. The near-complete concrete edifice, perched right on the river’s bank, was acquired by a shipping company and became Sea Containers House. After the bankruptcy of Sea Containers Ltd in 2006, the edifice was in the doldrums for a while before eventual conversion back into a hotel. Sea Containers is now the name of the hotel’s flagship restaurant. The shipping theme is carried through the Mondrian London hotel’s lobby, bars and dining area. Model freighters from its former use are still on display in cases. There’s even the illusion of a vast copper hull along one wall, a trompe l’oeil created by designer Tom Dixon’s team which has given the hotel its makeover. A model yellow submarine is suspended over the restaurant’s bar. The hotel dining room could easily be soulless were it not for an open kitchen on one side, and views of riverside joggers and strollers on the other. The menu name-checks slightly too many trends and diverse dish styles, yet manages to render them well. A South American-style cevic