Rotherhithe area guide

Keep busy in SE16 with Time Out's guide to restaurants, bars, pubs and things to do in Rotherhithe

To many, Surrey Quays is essentially an uninspiring shopping centre and retail park (Decathlon, Hollywood Bowl, Tesco), transport hub (bus station, Overground, Canada Water tube) and thoroughfare (the busy Lower Road and nearby Rotherhithe Tunnel), but step further into Southwark’s watery peninsula and Surrey Quays is a peaceful place. Eerily so. Most of the docks were filled in during the 1980s and replaced with housing; remaining Greenland Dock has become a large boat-dwelling community with more than 200 moorings and a popular watersports centre. 

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The Yellow House
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The Yellow House

It might look like a traditional old boozer, but it's as much about the food as it is the beer at this popular Surrey Quays spot. And just to make sure they're covering as many bases as possible, they offer live music and even art competitions, too. The wood-fired pizzas are particularly popular here, with traditional margheritas and Fiorentinas alongside those with tiger prawns and chorizo, or prosciutto, mozzarella, rocket, parmesan and pear. The main restaurant menu is influenced by the Med - think crab and samphire tagliatelle, or pan-fried salmon with chorizo. A grill menu, as well as a Sunday roast, does brisk business, too. The bar here features a solid range of beers on draught, with Peroni, Hoegaarden, Meantime Pilsner and Meantime Pale Ale complementing the bottles in the chiller. There's an accessible wine list too, as well as a selection of classic cocktails.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Plough Way Cafe

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Decathlon
Shopping

Decathlon

The warehouse-sized London branch of this French chain offers London’s biggest single collection of sports equipment. You’ll find a vast array of reasonably priced equipment and clothing for all mainstream racket and ball sports as well as for swimming, running, surfing, fishing, horse riding, mountaineering, ice-skating, skiing, even archery and petanque. The company boasts a ‘try before you buy’ testing service on its golfing woods and irons. Separate premises host bicycle sales and repairs along with all sorts of cycling paraphernalia. There’s an extensive range of hiking and camping equipment (tents, clothing and accessories). Deliveries can be made all over the country.

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Surrey Docks Farm
Attractions

Surrey Docks Farm

Across the Thames from the toil of Canary Wharf, the charming little Surrey Docks Farm spreads over 2.2 acres. One of London’s first city farms, it was established in the late ’70s when locals began to grow and harvest their own produce. Resident animals range from tiny buzzing bees, big clattering cattle and everything in between. Kiera is a sassy miniature Shetland pony who sounds as though she has a touch of small-person syndrome. The farm boasts a manner of seasonal root and climbing veggies. Plenty of scrummy fresh produce is on sale in the farm shop. What’s not to like about walking a donkey along the Thames path across the river from the financial district? There are also ceramic lessons, beekeeping classes and an onsite forge where Kevin the blacksmith runs metalworking taster sessions. Miriam Bouteba Find more urban farms in the capital with our guide to London city farms  

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
The Mayflower
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The Mayflower

Of all the Thamesside pubs, this one is the most special, the most atmospheric, the most tucked-away – and its wooden deck at the back has probably the best view of the river too. If there’s a better accompaniment to an evening pint than the sound of the river slapping away through the slats under your feet, and the lights of the City twinkling away in the distance, we’ve yet to find it. Inside is brilliant too – it dates back to 1620, with ecclesiastical wooden pews, real ales, an open fire and a friendly hubbub of chatter. A real find of a pub.

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online
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Restaurants in Rotherhithe

Constancia Argentine Grill
Restaurants

Constancia Argentine Grill

It’s all set up so nicely for a steak joint, in theory. There’s the Tanner Street location, with its bovine connotations, while the ‘olde London’ Southwark atmosphere seems just right for meats grilled on an ancient-looking parrilla grill. Yet Constancia’s bland exterior, wedged beneath a modern residential block, accurately set the tone for the evening. Decor is as you’d expect from a homely Argentine restaurant: wood, raw brick, a few gaucho allusions (mounted horse head, lasso) and that hefty grill. With its chains, encrusted bars and blackened brick surround in plain view, it promises big flavours. Yet while a couple of chorizo criollos were fine (it’s hard to go wrong with sausage), an ojo de bife (ribeye) was stringy and light on flavour. Coming after appetisers of dry, shreddable serrano ham, and a basket of poor-quality sliced baguette, it was a deal breaker. Constancia charges less than many of its competitors, but that hardly makes it cheap – it would be worth raising prices by a few quid if the result was meat with that true Argentinian magic.  

Time Out says
2 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Casse-Croûte
Restaurants

Casse-Croûte

With José, Pizarro and now Casse-Croûte, nifty eateries are blooming along Bermondsey Street like edible flowers. They’re a tight-knit family, as the just-opened Casse-Croûte’s owner Hervé Durochat is also a partner in José and Pizarro. But while José and Pizarro both offer canny takes on Spanish food, Casse-Croûte is a shot of France – a warm, villagey France. There’s space for just 20 covers on the site of a former sandwich shop, with the room done out in dark wood and embossed wallpaper suggesting a patina of age. Casse-Croûte feels genuinely familial – in the opening week, Hervé was greeting customers with the Parisian double kiss. In these early days it was already a joyful scrum of elbows, knees and waiters’ bums brushing your back as they went past. Best of all, the menu of boldly chosen, smartly executed French classics really delivers. Delicate shavings of calf’s head were given zip with a tangy sauce ravigote, while creamy mackerel rillettes were pepped up with a scoop of mustard ice cream. A main course of pollock on a bed of artichokes was heady with parsley and dill, while the guinea fowl two ways – slices of roast breast and a mound of slow-cooked dark meat – was an earthy hit of good-quality game. Desserts were a little more workmanlike: a punchy peach melba and an intense chocolate gâteau with powerfully minty ice cream, but admirable. With the sensible pricing, and a cheese and charcuterie selection in the works, nous reviendrons.

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Zucca
Restaurants

Zucca

A couple of pumpkins on the open kitchen counter reference the restaurant’s name and provide a touch of warmth to Zucca’s super-sleek interior. Gentle refurbishment has seen hard surfaces softened and, with light streaming in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, the room has a sophisticated Sydney vibe. Eat at the bar and you’ll look awkwardly conspicuous to the roomful of people behind; it’s best to book a table in advance. Our meal was mostly good. Own-made breads were followed by burrata with broad beans in a garlicky dressing, and clean-tasting spider crab served prettily in its shell. The own-made pasta is superb and a sweetly earthy sauce of lentils, walnuts and basil was entirely successful; cod with chickpeas was dull by comparison. Service was initially brisk but ran out of steam through dessert; we were there a good 30 minutes longer than we needed to be. The wine list has many admirable bottles but, despite a proliferation of maps, is generally unhelpful and starts at an elitist £26 a bottle – that’s how much Bermondsey has changed in the past decade. Zucca’s owners plan an offshoot for the site next door: Farina will focus on pizza and ice-cream.  

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Pizarro
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Pizarro

José Pizarro’s restaurant continues in the style set in his tapas bar, José, up the street, but in a much more roomy and therefore less hectic space, though it also fills up on weekend evenings. Menus are more extensive than at the tapas-only José, though you won’t find the sort of intricate cooking that has made some Spanish chefs world-famous, but rather a selection of mostly traditional dishes prepared with immense care and skill, and the finest ingredients available; in this way, Pizarro is a master in bringing the familiar alive. A flawless gazpacho from a good-value lunch menu, for example, was delectably smooth and without a hint of excess acidity. Catalan-style cannelloni with spinach and pine nuts was ideal Mediterranean comfort food; it’s hard to rave about spinach, but this was an exceptional dish, with darts of sweetness from supreme-quality raisins. An expertly slow-braised beef stew was an exemplar of multi-layered flavour. New for 2013 is the Sunday breakfast menu, served until early afternoon. The space artfully combines old-Spanish touches – tiles, warm wood, exposed brick – with a stripped-down New Bermondsey look, with snug booths for relaxed eating and bar-style seating facing the street. Abundant friendly staff work hard to keep the buzzy atmosphere going. Wines are as well-chosen as the produce, and very decently priced.  

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Things to do in Rotherhithe

Brunel Museum

Brunel Museum

The Brunel Museum commemorates Isambard Kingdom Brunel's first and last projects. An exhibition celebrates the Thames Tunnel as the birthplace of the tube system, and the Great Eastern steamship as the first modern ocean liner. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and International Landmark Site above the oldest tunnel in the Underground. Watercolours, engravings, and models explain this epic feat of engineering and tell the story of the men who worked in the dark, dodging flames and raw sewage every day.

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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The Old Mortuary
Things to do

The Old Mortuary

The building, which now houses a community centre and local history group, was erected in 1895 and still retains many of its original features. The architecture includes a vaulted ceiling in Russell Hall, original doors, a lantern skylight and wood panelling in the chapel. During Open House London 2014, the building will be open on Saturday September 20 and Sunday September 21 with regular tours through out the day. Last entry will be at 4pm.

Bars and pubs in Rotherhithe

The Mayflower
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The Mayflower

Of all the Thamesside pubs, this one is the most special, the most atmospheric, the most tucked-away – and its wooden deck at the back has probably the best view of the river too. If there’s a better accompaniment to an evening pint than the sound of the river slapping away through the slats under your feet, and the lights of the City twinkling away in the distance, we’ve yet to find it. Inside is brilliant too – it dates back to 1620, with ecclesiastical wooden pews, real ales, an open fire and a friendly hubbub of chatter. A real find of a pub.

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online
Woolpack
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Woolpack

The Woolpack is a down-to-earth alternative to the Garrison opposite, even if its website witters on about ‘unwinding in the heart of bohemian Bermondsey’. The location is prosaic – a side street branching off from the London Bridge rail estuary – but that shouldn’t detract from what’s a quality two-floor pub-restaurant. Beer-wise, you’ll find the likes of Kirin Ichiban, Leffe and Thwaites Nutty Black, while the dozen-strong wine list (by the glass and bottle) includes a few unusual offerings. Mains are of the beer-battered haddock and chips or Cumberland sausage and mash variety, and cost around a tenner. The smaller, tiled downstairs space feels lived-in and traditional, while upstairs is even more relaxed.

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs

Adam & Eve

A traditional pub located on Swan Road, just up from Rotherhithe station.

214 Bermondsey
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214 Bermondsey

Venue says: “Gin o'clock Tue to Sat, 5-6pm. Selected double G&T's £5, cocktails £6.50 and Sunday Social – a weekly changing menu at special prices.”

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Book online
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