There’s a quiet culinary revolution underway in Bermondsey. The face of this formerly industrial suburb near London Bridge, once only really visited for its antiques market, is rapidly changing: garden bathrooms are swiftly being converted into bars and charming neighbourhood cafés, some of London’s best restaurants are popping up beside betting shops, and disused railway arches are increasingly playing host to buzzing street-food markets, some that now rival nearby Borough Market. For the best Thai fusion, Spanish tapas or upscaled pub grub, here’s where to find the best Bermondsey restaurants and markets. For the latest restaurant openings in London, subscribe to our foodie newsletter.
Best for: Aperitivo and perfect pasta
On a street packed with foodie options, it’s hard for newcomers to make a splash. Luckily Angela Hartnett’s cooking needs no introduction and, once again, she’s created a casual yet cool neighbourhood dining spot that shows off regional Italian fare. Grab a seat at the bar for cicchetti (the mushroom and truffle arancini are a must), a Negroni and a ringside view of the large, busy open kitchen. Or settle into a four-person booth to gorge on Hartnett’s legendary pasta (fresh spaghettini with cuttlefish, cockles and brown shrimp and rich gnocchi smothered in pumpkin and chanterelles) and impressive mains including pork chops with some of the sweetest grapes you’ll ever try. Save room for tiramisu. By Sonya Barber
Address: Cafe Murano Bermondsey, 184 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ
Telephone: +44 20 3985 1545
Best for: morning-after brunch
The steely interior of this low-key breakfast spot wouldn’t be out of place in a Manhattan diner. The chrome bar, dark wood floors and low-slung lights form an attractive backdrop for the post-club crowds who squeeze into its leather booths. It’s heaving on the weekends when you can barely hear the 90s r’n’b soundtrack over the chatter. Dishes are generous, no-nonsense and served on beautifully chintzy china. The confit turkey hash with poached eggs and lashings of spinach is the highlight of a menu that also includes buttermilk pancakes with tart berries, eggs Benedict with seared tuna and a Full English served with heaps of rustic bread. Punchy Bloody Marys with gin and beetroot juice add to the feeling of being at a long-extended after-party.
Address: Village East, 171-173 Bermondsey Street, London SE1
Telephone: 020 7357 6082
Best for: coffee
On the southern end of Bermondsey Street, Hej is a favourite of freelance writers and the start-up crowd who are drawn by its excellent coffee, cinnamon buns and sleek shared workspaces. Scandi cool permeates the barn-like interior with comfy couches and a wooden moose head mounted on a stripped-back wall. The details mischievously toe the line between charming and cutesy: mini jars of Jelly Babies on the tables, copies of Kinfolk on the window ledge and a collaboration with florist Dante Carmassi that leaves the doorstep lined with buckets of hydrangeas and peonies (you’ll even get a free drink when you buy a bouquet). On Fridays grab a table outside by the flowers to enjoy your blueberry polenta cake and Swedish coffee with a view of Bermondsey Square’s eclectic weekly antiques market.
Address: Hej, 1 Bermondsey Square, London SE1
Telephone: 020 3441 4544
Best for: a romantic rendezvous
When Paris isn’t in reach, head to Casse-Croûte. This small but perfectly formed restaurant takes its Gallic roots very seriously: red-checked tablecloths, vintage posters and Francophone waiters – but the food is anything but clichéd. The menu du jour could include a succulent beef Wellington with buttery string beans, crispy roast duck with dauphinoise potatoes or flaky cod on a bed of tomberry tomatoes and tapenade. Don’t expect to be asked how you like your steak cooked – they do things their own way here – but under the meticulous eye of owner Hervé Durochat everything is reliably wonderful. The staff bring out elegant plates that are artful without skimping on quality, and the desserts, from the crème brûlée to the delicate pastries, are as photogenic as they are scrumptious. It’s the sort of place that makes you dream of being a regular, on the receiving end of Hervé’s air kisses as you enter and lingering on the outside tables with a glass of rosé till sunset.
Address: Casse-Croûte, 109 Bermondsey Street, London SE1
Telephone: 020 7407 2140
The Watch House
Best for: soups and sandwiches
This tiny café was originally a 19th century posting for guards entrusted to protect the graves of St Mary Magdalen churchyard from body-snatchers. It languished for years as a garden loo before being restored to its former glory in 2014. The café retains the watch house’s original octagonal structure and bare brick walls, serving up fresh artisanal baguettes and crumbly tarts. In winter you can sip the creamy butternut squash and lentil soups by an open fire.
Address: The Watch House, 199 Bermondsey Street, London SE1
Telephone: 020 7407 6431
Best for: tapas
This much-loved tapas bar created by José Pizarro, co-founder and ex-head chef of Brindisa, is unashamedly itself. It’s not the place for a quiet conversation, or probably any conversation at all – you’ll struggle to hear your dinner companions over the clamour of the open kitchen – but it’s consistently the buzziest spot on Bermondsey Street. Plates are simple, rolled out fast and unbelievably high quality. The day’s specials are scrawled on the blackboard and diners shout out orders, giving the tiny room all the bustle of a trading floor. Act fast as the best dishes go quickly and are then scratched off the list. The Jamón Ibérico, Andalucían gazpacho and light-as-air croquetas are the clear standouts, perfectly accented by the fruity Spanish wines at £4 a glass. Just around the corner, the restaurant’s big sister Pizarro is a more laidback alternative with a similarly thoughtful take on contemporary Andalucían cuisine.
Best for: a Sunday roast
Not long ago pub grub was the extent of Bermondsey’s culinary offerings, but that isn’t quite what you’ll find at this emerald-tiled gastropub launched by Village London, the group that runs Village East down the street. Reclaimed furniture, tasseled lampshades, antique clocks and a warm golden colour palette signal a homely atmosphere matched by the seasonal and locally sourced food: hearty portions of cod and chips, pork pies and Welsh rarebit. Small touches from chef Tom Langdon (formerly of The Savoy) make all the difference. The place is ideal for a slow Sunday lunch with friends and there’s a secret underground cinema for those who want to stay even later.
Address: The Garrison, 99-101 Bermondsey Street, London SE1
Telephone: 020 7089 9355
Best for: a blow-out dinner
On a leafy street behind the Shard, it’s a wonder Champor Champor has stayed (largely) under the radar for so long. A gaudy dining room with hand-painted murals and a bizarrely beautiful mask wall is the unlikely setting for some of the best Asian fusion in South London. Staff in day-glo Hawaiian shirts bring out banana bread while you peruse the diverse menu which reveals influences stretching from Thailand to India, West Africa and Europe. A pan-fried red snapper with sambal and squid ink linguine could follow tandoori prawns with a tangy mango salad and Thai salsa. It’s worth being adventurous with your order – even the most unusual flavour combinations are surprisingly harmonious. Call ahead to book the elevated booth for two which has the best view of the restaurant.
Address: Champor Champor, 62 Weston Street, London SE1
Telephone: 020 7403 4600
The Other Room Bar
Best for: a late-night snack
The most recent openings in Bermondsey show a move south, away from trendy Bermondsey Street and towards the defiantly un-gentrified end of Tower Bridge Road. Other Room is the newest creation of the team behind slick cocktail bar Bermondsey Arts Club. Here they swap dainty Negronis and jazz for local craft beer and casual Californian cooking. The quesadillas, stews and meaty tacos come with suggested beer pairings and the shared snack plates are more considered than you’d expect – caramelised cauliflower, onion bonne-femme and beer-braised beef with potatoes and spring onions. It only opened in November 2015 and it’s already a sure-fire hit and a precursor to the types of joints likely to dominate this street in the near future.
Address: The Other Room Bar, 60 Tower Bridge Road, London SE1
Telephone: 020 3302 0610
Maltby Street Market
Best for: street snacking
Walking down deserted Maltby Street past tyre shops and car washes, you might hear a faint hum of activity. Turn the corner onto Ropewalk and you’ll see why. Home to one of London’s best markets, this little alley is a joy on weekends, all lined with bunting, resounding with laughter and overflowing with the smell of delicious food from over a dozen stalls. Here you’ll find moreish Dirty Streaker burgers at African Volcano, great Southern fried chicken at Waffle On, fat oysters and champagne at Bagley & Shakespeare and sushi buns at Sticky Bundits – try their summer Caribbean special with jerk tuna, beef steak and marmalade on a rice-and-peas bun. Shoreditch-based Greek restaurant Hungry Donkey is the latest pop-up to join their ranks, swapping its bricks and mortar store for a hollowed-out archway still piled with planks of wood and smoky from the sizzle of the barbecue. You shouldn’t leave without trying a gooey-centred scotch egg from Finest Fayre, but be warned the queue sometimes stretches out of the market itself.
Address: Maltby Street Market, Ropewalk, London SE1
Druid Street Market
Best for: new discoveries
Duck under the arches behind Maltby Street and you’ll arrive at Druid Street, a much more rough-and-ready street-food market. On this stretch, signs are few and far between so it helps to follow your nose. Pojang serves up authentic Korean street-food, Decatur has the best oyster po boys and Rock My Bowl‘s smoothie bowls manage to make breakfast genuinely exciting. The revolving weekly stalls mean you’ll find new vendors every time. On our last visit we discovered Jake’s Soul Spread selling incredible jams on their Druid Street debut. The treacle-thick salted butter with honey even comes with a soul and funk breakfast soundtrack. There are a few enduring market favourites, namely the Blu Top Ice Cream van parked under the central archway. Their flavours include carrot cake (trust us, it’s better than the real thing) and brown toast and jam, which has raspberry and crispy cinnamon rye breadcrumbs for extra zing. The owners are due to open their first stand-alone shop this month in Camden but will continue selling at Druid Street every Saturday – such is the draw of this exciting space.
Address: Druid Street Market, 126 Druid Street, London SE1
Best for: local produce
On weekends when Druid and Maltby Street are overrun with hungover hipsters, in-the-know locals follow the railway tracks south to sleepy Spa Terminus, the latest extension from the team behind Maltby Street Market. This might be the area’s best-kept secret. A chalkboard mounted on the ivy-strewn walls under the arches is the only sign of life, announcing the presence of Kernel Brewery, Neal’s Yard Dairy and a few smaller local stockists. Behind the unassuming blue door is a courtyard filled with smiley butchers, bakers and cheese-makers. Fresh loaves from Little Bread Pedlar sit alongside handmade sausages from Crown & Queue and charcuterie from the Ham & Cheese Company. Return on a weekday to find a locked door and the chalkboard scrubbed clean and you might feel as if you imagined the whole thing.
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