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Elephant and Castle area guide

Keep busy in Elephant & Castle with Time Out's guide to restaurants, bars, pubs and things to do SE1

Greg Smith
Exterior view of the front of IWM Main building

Elephant & Castle is currently a work in progress. The plots around the multi-lane double roundabout form one giant building site as estates come down and shiny new towers go up – part of a massive £1.5 billion regeneration of south London’s traffic gateway. By 2025, more than 3,000 new homes should have been built, a proportion of them affordable housing. As one community is unceremoniously broken up and shipped out, others are taking hold. Transient sites and condemned spaces spawn community gardens, makeshift galleries and temporary container parks. With two major universities at its heart – London College of Communication and Southbank University – Elephant & Castle is a very studenty area, with nightclubs like Corsica Studios and the world famous Ministry Of Sound and a fair few bars. South London’s Colombian community also converges on the area, filling numerous South American cafés that populate the unloved shopping centre. 

Love London Awards: this year's winners

Marcel & Sons
Restaurants

Marcel & Sons

Mauritian comfort food served in one of the units that make up Artworks House, south London's version of Boxpark.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants

Sugar Pot

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Petershams Millinery Supplies
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Petershams Millinery Supplies

Venue says: “Spring is here! Pop in store for pretty pastels and florals for your hat making needs.”

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum

The IWM London has had on a major refit - by Foster & Partners architects - which opened in 2014 to coincide with the centenary of the start of World War I. The Central Hall is still the attention- grabbing repository of major artefacts: guns, tanks and aircraft hung from the ceiling (not least a Harrier GR9 that saw action in Afghanistan). Terraced galleries allow this section of the museum to also show a Snatch Land Rover from Iraq and an Argentine operating table from the Falklands. The already extensive World War I gallery has been expanded, and leads into the original displays for World War II. The museum’s tone darkens as you ascend. On the third floor, the Holocaust Exhibition (not recommended from under-14s) traces the history of European anti-Semitism and its nadir in the concentration camps. Upstairs, Crimes Against Humanity (unsuitable for under-16s) is a minimalist space in which a film exploring contemporary genocide and ethnic violence rolls relentlessly. Read about our favourite exhibits from the Imperial War Museum or see more of London's best museums

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Old Red Lion
Bars and pubs

Old Red Lion

First impressions are, it must be said, a little concerning. The Old Red Lion is a Grade II-listed mock Tudor pub that was apparently rebuilt in 1929. Try and look beyond the black and white half-timber frames, the leaded windows and the sheer sloping roofs because, inside, it’s actually quite a cosy pub. This former locals’ hangout and Charrington pub has been recently taken under the wing of the same people who own the Dogstar, Balham Bowls Club and the Tooting Tram and Social, among others. The acutely traditional interior – complete with two separate bars – has been given a spring clean with a rather kitsch and eclectic feather duster. Retro furniture from the 1960s and 1970s has been scattered throughout and, in the garden room, sneaked into numerous nooks and cosy alcoves. It feels a bit like a car boot sale waiting to happen but is just about keeps the right side of contrived. It remains to be seen whether the young folk of Kennington can bolster business in the same way they’ve done at the Balham Bowls Club, but it deserves a visit if you’re local. A number of the wines, of which there are more than a dozen, come in a carafe as well as a bottle and begin at £3.25 a glass. There’s the usual range of yellow lager fizz with cask lovers restricted to two choices – Doom Bar & Purity Ubu. The latter tasted as if it had been sitting there for a while and was a bit ropey (it’s normally a delicious drop), so try before you buy. Much pleasure and no small amount of stats

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
See the full results of this year's Love London Awards

Restaurants in Elephant and Castle

Mamuska!
Restaurants

Mamuska!

A Polish ‘milk’ bar (‘bar mleczny’) seems ideally suited to the Elephant & Castle shopping centre. More transport caff than a haven of Polish home cooking, Mamuska! offers filling fare, fast and at bargain prices. Spacious, clean and family-friendly, it’s unsurprisingly popular with an eclectic clientele. Sadly, the food isn’t exactly homely. We weren’t looking for frills, and happily accepted the dense dough of the pierogi, and the simple garnish of long-cooked bacon lardons, as ‘filling a gap’. If the pork filling of the meat dumplings was super-minced, and tasted recooked – well, that’s the way you economise and fill an empty stomach. Decent bottled beer (Zywiec, Zubr and the like) accompanied the starters nicely. Mains might have been more welcome were we still ravenous; as it was, kielbasa and goulash continued to fill without exciting. Potato dishes (mash, salad and pancakes) seemed stolid, and the ‘dish of the day’, a ‘tenderised pork’ escalope, proved so dry and chewy it defeated our best efforts. A mushroom sauce had little fungi flavour, and we wondered if a packet mix had come into play; chocolate cheesecake caused similar musings. Still, there’s no arguing with the friendliness, humour, cleanliness and wallet-friendly pricing.  

Time Out says
  • 2 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Machine
Restaurants

Machine

Happy-go-lucky cycle café in Borough serving Monmouth coffee, cakes and other calorific snacks to help you shop for bikes and accessories.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Ivory Arch
Restaurants

Ivory Arch

The recipient of several awards since its opening way back in 1986, Ivory Arch is famed not only in Elephant and Castle but throughout London. Indeed, Ivory Arch was the very first Indian restaurant to offer home delivery in the UK, making it a true trailblazer. Cosily set in the railway arches, fairy lights strung throughout, casting an atmospheric glow over proceedings, Ivory Arch is vibrant and cheerful, always bustling with repeat customers who know they’ll experience fantastic service and excellent food every time. Full of favourite curry dishes as well as house specialties created by the experienced kitchen, Ivory Arch’s menu is typically Indian and boasts an unrivalled range of veggie options too.

Users say
  • 1 out of 5 stars
La Dolce Vita Restaurant
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La Dolce Vita Restaurant

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Things to do in Elephant and Castle

Things to do

London Palace Superbowl

Okay, so it's not the most modern bowling alley in the city, and a visit necessitates a trip through what's surely one of the ugliest shopping centres on Earth. Still, by now this 26-lane establishment must surely be tatty enough to qualify as 'vintage', and if nothing else the prices are certainly right. Students who pitch up on a Monday or Tuesday can bowl for just £2.35 a game (or £5.95 for unlimited, all-day bowling), and there's generous mid-week deals for everyone else, too. Tackle the £3 quarter pounder at your peril.

Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
The Paperworks
Things to do

The Paperworks

Pop-up happening The Paperworks is bulging with DJs playing disco, house and funk sets, bespoke bars serving cocktails, street food and special one-off events. Located a few minutes away from top south London club Corsica Studios (who helped develop the project), the largely covered venue was recently transformed for winter, with more bars and (warm) areas added in, all of which means there are yet more reasons to visit this top pop-up party. The Paperworks is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Bars and pubs in Elephant and Castle

Bars and pubs

The Uxbridge Arms

Bars and pubs

Six Yard Box

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Communion Bar
Bars and pubs

Communion Bar

Churchgoing in England has declined to indecent levels: less than 5 per cent of the population pass into holy sanctuary weekly for a word with the Big Man. But could the likes of Communion be what’s needed to herd the unbelievers back into the flock? Underneath the revered Angels & Gypsies tapas restaurant in Camberwell’s Church Street Hotel, this new cocktail bar looks the part, with enough backlit stained glass to get Richard Dawkins on his knees. Each table comes with a sample of the blood and body of Christ: a glass of communion wine, sickly sweet as a priest’s whispered inducement, and a wafer authentically dry as his old cassocks.   Leave these to the pious (or the pi-curious) and skip straight to the sacrament – the tapas shipped down from the restaurant are great, and as well as the usual sort (cured meats, croquetas, tortilla) the small Spanish platefuls include things like Kentish steak with horseradish aioli and fennel salad with feta and pomegranate. The superb drinks show real invention too, with the menu claiming that they take inspiration from local south London. This means lots of rum (there’s a long list of sipping bottles), plus some little-seen ingredients like the Jamaican sorrel in a Likkel Rascal (as well as pineapple, nutmeg syrup and sugar cane, £7.50), or the Nigerian Guinness foam with Araku rum coffee liqueur in the Tannery (£8.50). But what about the Grass Arena, served in a brown-paper-bag-wrapped bottle, park-bench style, and made with Carlsbe

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Boot & Flogger
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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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