There are certain tube stops that as a Londoner, you do your best to avoid, especially at the weekends. Piccadilly Circus is as mad as it’s name suggests, Green Park demands a fast pace and headphones on at full blast, and Covent Garden, well…it has too many stairs and no lift so take it from me, just risk Leicester Square and come out of exit 4 instead.
Droves of tourists will pitch up at a London Bridge hotel* for their stay in the city because of the standard guide book recommendations like The Shard and Borough Market being in the area, and I’m not here to tell you they aren’t worth visiting, just that there’s more just slightly further along from the obvious.
From Vinegar Yard you can literally hear the platform announcements from London Bridge station, showing just how close you can be to the regular tourist action, but heading there for lunch is a much calmer affair than neighbouring Borough. The latest addition to London’s perpetually growing ‘street food‘ scene, a lazy Saturday morning there serves up coffee, food, a cheeky it’s-basically-midday beer and an excellent little flea market.
On a day where the humidity made pleather trousers a catastrophic fashion faux pas, I was glad for the food options which included cold brew and frozen custard. The former was from The Gentlemen Baristas and was just an amuse bouche for the cornflake french toast with cinnamon whipped cream I also ordered. The latter was from Secret Nicky’s and was my first (but 100% not my last) try of frozen custard, topped with chunks of spiced apple pie, salted caramel and almonds.
The area of Bermondsey is becoming a mecca of craft beer and independent eateries and Bermondsey Street itself is a total gem. Some corners feel like you could have stumbled upon a Parisian enclave with wooden shutters on the windows, parts are all local Yorkshire high street with greengrocers and pubs. It’s a place free of mass chain stores and is home to the bricks-and-mortar outposts of independent retailers and charity shops. I wanted to try the cocktails at nearby Nine Lives but was a little too early so it’s an excuse to head back to the area soon.
Maltby Street Market
One of my favourite places to while away a weekend afternoon is Maltby Street Market. The stalls spill out from the main Rope Walk which used to be big enough to contain all the options available when it first started. Before you start trying to figure out where you should eat first, head into Lassco for home decor porn; their curation is basically my dream aesthetic, from the plants by Forest to the kitchenware of Labour and Wait.
Outside are bars tucked into the railway arches, stools propped up in the street for sunny afternoon aperitifs, but I was there for the food. It’s hard to pick from stalls of everything that smells delicious and not get food envy as you walk through the crowds, but I mixed-and-matched and went for a chorizo scotch egg from Finest Fayre and duck fat chips covered in raclette from Duck Frites. Nothing quite like a balanced meal.
The view from Bridge Theatre is actually that of Tower Bridge, but the area of London Bridge remains on the south side of the river and if you’re new to the city you may not realise how close the two places are. Bridge Theatre opened almost two years ago and is built to be an immersive performance space. By purchasing a pit ticket, you get to stand amongst the stage and actors and really feel part of the show you’re watching.
I went to see Julius Caesar there last year starring Ben Whishaw which was excellent but the current performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream managed to top that. It was hysterical with a modern twist, joy-filled and unique takes on characters and a gentle removal of the fourth wall to really feel included as an audience member.
Tick off the Golden Hinde, Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market. Walk along the south bank from London Bridge to Tower Bridge, but also go a few streets further back. Look around Bermondsey, Southwark and Shad Thames, and really get to know London instead of only ticking off the top rated places on Tripadvisor.