London Bridge and Borough Market offer a triple threat when it comes to London neighbourhoods: they’re centrally located and easy to get to from both inside and outside the city; they boast a riverside location with views of The Shard; and they offer a glut of great eating and drinking at your fingertips.
The area is historic, too: Borough Market is London’s oldest market, where you can check out great produce from the best of the UK and beyond. You’re also not far from the iconic vista of Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and pubs and breweries of the Bermondsey Beer Mile. Forget the rest of the city – if you’re looking for a suits-all location, London Bridge and Borough are hard to beat.
It’s no surprise the food and drink industry has cottoned on, bringing brilliant restaurants and bars to the area, from inside Borough Market, to newer spaces at Borough Yards, to the street food markets at Flat Iron Square and Vinegar Yard.
What: Pillowy bao, gluggable cocktails and karaoke
Where: 13 Stoney Street, London, SE1 9AD
Even though BAO now has a handful of sites peppered across London, each restaurant offers something slightly different and feels unique. BAO Borough is one of the more recent additions to the family, with a downstairs karaoke room and a menu inspired by Taiwanese grill houses, which means grilled ox heart skewers, 40-day-aged beef with Taiwan butter rice, and a list of hi-ball cocktails and a Japanese whisky shelf. Bonus: the BAO team are passionate about sourcing better welfare ingredients.
What: Low-key Italian eating in a location that will impress
Where: 2 More London Riverside, London, SE1 2DB
Tavolino offers neighbourhood vibes right by Tower Bridge, with glorious views over the river and the Tower of London. The chef is formerly of Bancone, one of London’s best-loved pasta groups. The kitchen makes their own dough each day, and sources the finest produce from Italy and the UK to make their dishes. The outdoor terrace is an absolute must in summer, especially for an early evening aperitivo or a night spent grazing through plates of vitello tonnato and herbed lamb shoulder ragu pappardelle.
What: Tacos, mezcal cocktails and a party vibe
Where: 7A Stoney Street, London, SE1 9AA
El Pastor was one of the first new-school Mexico-inspired restaurants to open its doors during London’s extended Mexican wave, drawing on the learnings of its founders the Harts brothers (also of Quo Vadis and Barrafina) from when they spent 10 years running hit Mexico City club El Colmillo. You’d expect great things from such hospitality pedigree, and El Pastor (not to mention the other taquerias in the family dotted around London) more than delivers, using proper tacos made with heritage Mexican corn, and some of the only avocados to have reached the UK free from cartel meddling. The restaurant takes its name from the taco ‘al pastor’, a style of taco based on the lamb shawarma brought to Mexico City by Lebanese immigrants – a delicious combination – and has a cracking selection of mezcal to boot.
What: Gorgeously presented Eastern Mediterranean flavours
Where: 1 Dirty Lane, London, SE1 9PA
A meal at Brother Marcus is a feast for the senses: this Eastern Mediterranean-inspired restaurant sure knows a thing or two about making a dish look good, not to mention taste good. Although this burgeoning restaurant family has three sophisticated-feeling sites across London, it had humble beginnings: it started as a residency in Balham, run by three school friends – and the level of passion and attention to detail has remained the same. The ‘rips and dips’ list is a excellent way to whet the appetite, with a selection of breads and spreads to smother them in; fire-grilled sardines with whipped feta are just one of the excellent ways to follow up; and the brunch is, quite frankly outstanding.
What: A fresh new take on Neapolitan pizza
Where: 44-46 Southwark Street, London SE1 1UN
Pizza restaurants usually abound, no matter where you are, especially in London. In fact, pizza culture is so strong there that it takes something seriously special for the city to sit up and take notice, and that’s exactly what O’ver has managed to do. The restaurant offers delicious plates of Neapolitan-style food, but the star of the show here is the pizza, made with pure seawater. This sounds like a gimmick, but when things taste this good, who cares? Charred, blistered crusts that somehow remain pillowy; with the correct ratio of toppings to to dough. And speaking of toppings, they’re pretty classic here, but done to perfection, and the capricciosa, with fior di latte mozzarella, San Marzano DOP tomato sauce, basil, grilled artichokes, cooked ham and black olives is an absolute winner.
What: Superlative small plates and natural wine
Where: 12 Stoney Street, Borough Market, London, SE1 9AD
Elliot’s is a bit of a Borough Market stalwart, and has been purveying natural wines and small plates since before they even became a ‘thing’. And it’s always been excellent, too, with a kitchen team that knows exactly how to leverage a wood-fired grill to maximum effect. The result is a menu that reads like a list of everything we want to eat, ever: Vesuvius tomatoes, honey moon melon, caper and rocket salad; lamb heart, trombetta courgette and radicchio; and Chalk Stream trout, golden tomatoes and saffron, cooked on the grill. There is also a second site in East London’s Hackney.
What: A Portuguese dining experience in central London
Where: 35B, Arch, 85B Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 0NQ
Lisbon and Porto are some of the trendiest European city breaks right now, but you can get a pretty authentic taste of Portugal in the heart of London Bridge thanks to Max Graham’s restaurant in Flat Iron Square. Graham hails from the family behind Churchill’s Port – who have been making the fortified wine in the Douro Valley for more than 200 years – so it’s clear he and his team know their stuff. Portuguese blue and white tiles clad the restaurant walls, providing a backdrop for excellent small plates like bacalao, or salt cod, with scrambled egg and fried potato; spicy sausage alheira croquettes; native cheeses, and of course, pastel de nata. The wine list is no less impressive, flying the flag for Portugal’s brilliant value wines. The restaurant has just set up FESTA, an online bottle shop focusing on low-intervention wines. What more could you possibly ask for?
What: Top-quality meat and market-fresh produce
Where: 16 Winchester Walk, London, SE1 9AQ
Hawksmoor is widely regarded as one of London’s best steakhouses, with a brilliant bar to boot. The Borough branch is particularly good, with a menu that leans on produce bought from local market traders. Located in a former hops warehouse, the space has atmosphere in spades, and a private dining room for immersive chef’s table experiences for groups of up to 18 people, should that float your boat. If it doesn’t, book yourself in for the standard menu, which is special enough in itself: Devon crab on toast, native lobster, particularly good mac and cheese, and some of London’s best steak are what you can expect here. The Sunday roast is an absolute corker too, but waiting lists are long so make sure you plan in advance.
What: A cacao-themed restaurant
Where: 2-4 Bedale Street, Borough Market, London, SE1 9AL
A restaurant from a chocolatier that incorporates cacao into every single one of its dishes feels like a gimmick, but thankfully Rabot 1745 – from Hotel Chocolat, makers of superlative Saint Lucian chocolate products – is anything but. The cacao element is pleasingly subtle, adding a dash of interest rather than being overwhelming, with nods to its sister restaurant on the original cacao estate in Saint Lucia. Think plates of salmon cured in smooth-tasting cacao gin; scallops with an orange foam and celeriac-cacao purée; and Salt Marsh lamb marinated in cacao nibs for 24 hours, eaten on a terrace overlooking Borough Market below. And that’s before we’ve even got onto dessert – nor mentioned the Hotel Chocolat shop next door.
What: Some of London’s most authentic Spanish cooking
Where: 2 Dirty Lane, London, SE1 9PA
You know when you have to queue at a restaurant because they don’t let you make a reservation? You’ve got Barrafina to thank for that, because it was one of the first places to introduce this practice. But you can also thank Barrafina for leading the charge for properly good Spanish cuisine in London, and a whole heap of other things besides. The original Frith Street site and its offspring have become some of the most influential restaurants in London’s modern food scene. There are six locations in the city now, but the Borough Yards is the newest, and arguably the most beautiful (and psst: you can book this one).
What: A smart, sophisticated pasta bar with pocket-friendly prices
Where: 6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ
Speaking of queues, the ones at Padella are some of the craziest you’ll come across. But arguably it’s worth the wait (up until a point, of course), because Padella more than delivers, with very reasonably priced plates of pasta, nice wines, brilliant cocktails and lovely desserts. The interiors, too, are satisfyingly swish. The concept is simple, which is probably why it works, and the pasta is fresh and tasty. The beef shin ragu with pappardelle is a classic, as is the mouth-coatingly delicious cacio e pepe – but we like to throw in the fettuccine with Cobble Lane ‘nduja for a bit of brightness and kick.
What: Fire-cooked Spanish food and do-it-yourself grills
Where: 4 Dirty Lane, London, SE1 9PA
Another restaurant imbued with the golden touch of the Harts Brothers is Parrillan, a Barrafina spin-off with a focus on cooking over fire, which range from larger dishes prepared in the central kitchen to smaller plates that are cooked over individual parrilla grills at your table. You don’t need to have been on MasterChef if you want to have a go at the do-it-yourself option, either: the sheer quality of the produce you’ll be popping on the grill (like the assorted cuts of iberico pork, which come with some punchy aioli) means you’re guaranteed it’ll taste good with minimal fuss. Choices like wood-roast shank of veal are slightly more advanced and as such are cooked by the team in the kitchen, to delicious effect. There are plenty of veggie options too, and the outdoor dining space makes you feel like you’re basically on holiday – and that’s a vibe we’re always on board with.
What: Persian-inspired cooking with a family feel
Where: 1 Bedale Street, London, SE1 9AL
The menu at Berenjak (the restaurant’s second site after its Soho debut) is inspired by head chef Kian Samyani’s large family gatherings in Iran, with fire-cooked food served in generous sharing dishes that’ll fill both your belly and your soul. Charcoal-grilled kebabs are served alongside Persian headliner ta-dig – the fragrant rice dish with the moreish, crispy topping; clay-baked seeded flatbread is ideal for mopping up sabzi, a dish of creamy feta with fresh herbs, radishes and nuts; and all together it’s so good that even Dua Lipa is a fan.
What: A fishmonger turned fish restaurant
Where: 5 Stoney Street, London, SE1 9AA
Another London Bridge institution, Applebee’s is a long-standing fish monger that’s turned into a restaurant serving plates of simply yet beautifully executed food. Of course fish is the main catch here, but the same sourcing approach is applied to every morsel you might be lucky enough to get your chops around. The menu is super seasonal, but in mid-summer you’ll be taking your pick from dishes like sesame seared tuna (pictured to the right); day boat turbot filet, topped with kale; or pan-fried cod cheeks.
What: Authentic Mexican eating, with snacks including crispy grasshoppers
Where: 152 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2TU
A few years ago, when Santo Remedio was making the tentative leap from pop-up to permanent, the support to help the owners find their own bricks-and-mortar space was so strong that Edson and Natalie Diaz-Fuentes were able to open up a bright, beautiful space in London Bridge. Tacos abound, with more niche toppings like crispy grasshoppers; there’s a brilliant brunch with plenty of margaritas; and an all-round fiesta vibe, all inspired by the Diaz-Fuentes Mexican origins. The restaurant has been so successful that it’s now opened a second restaurant, Santo Remedio Café, in Shoreditch.
Casa Do Frango
What: Portuguese-style rotisserie chicken
Where: 32 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TU
A whole roast chicken with plenty of sides is one of life’s greatest pleasures, a Casa Do Frango has nailed its headline act down to a tee. Well-sourced chicken means the meat has extra flavour, and – true to the restaurant’s roots in Portugal’s Algarve region – it’s cooked on the grill over wood-charcoal. Alongside all that deliciousness, there’s charred baby gem lettuce with a grating of sharp manchego; the house slaw; and bright, fresh heritage tomato salad. We’re taking note for our next dinner party…
What: A hidden gem serving British seasonal small plates
Where: 66 Union Street, London, SE1 1TD
Lupins doesn’t carry the same level of lustre as some of the other names in this roundup, but it’s a restaurant that’s quietly, confidently garnered a stellar reputation as a truly exceptional place to dine. The Cornish oysters and Welsh Lamb are so good they remind you what’s so great about British eating – much-needed from time to time – and every plate on the succinct menu is tightly focused the restaurant’s seasonal, native focus. Ingredients are largely organic, an approach that carries over to much of the wine list, and the result is a meal that will leave you feeling nourished in both mind and body.