Like most areas bordering busy stations, the food and drink options in London Bridge are a mixed bag — less village-like than Bermondsey to the west, more aimed at the City crowd than nearby Borough Market. But jostling up to all the steel-and-glass offices there are some great independents, reliable chains and neighbourhood pubs. So much so that we've left untouched for this piece Borough, to the west of London Bridge, as having so much going on that it merits a separate article.
Note: we’re talking about London Bridge as the area surrounding the station, with the river to the north, down to Borough station in the south, and running from Borough High Street to the west to Bermondsey Street in the east.
My Tea Shop is open from 6.30am, doing fried breakfasts in their tiny, unassuming space under one of the railway arches along Duke Street.
Café Rossi (57, Borough High Street, SE1 1NE) does fry-ups from 6am on weekdays — maybe thanks to their Italian owners, with better coffee than most of the early-opening caffs in the area.
B Street Deli does soup, freshly-made sandwiches and – the main attraction for a lot of their customers – artisan flat whites made with Volcano Coffee. A few doors away there’s lunchtime competition from Eatalia, offering rigatoni bolognese and lasagna, among other pasta and vegetable dishes. Though both have space to eat in, get your food to takeaway when the weather's decent and head to Leathermarket Gardens across the road for a park lunch.
London Grind has the artisan coffee and cocktails of its more established Shoreditch branch, as well as a full restaurant menu for the crowds taking full advantage of the sunrise through to midnight opening times.
The delicately-named Fuckoffee also does organic and single source coffee, along with enough sandwiches and cakes to make it worth getting your espresso to stay.
Pubs, gastropubs and bars
London Bridge isn't short of wine bars and cocktail joints for the after-work crowd. Jamie’s Bar and Heeltap are popular on weekday evenings, as is Roxy Bar and Screen, with low lighting, a dive bar feel and regular screenings.
On the pub side of things The King’s Arms and the Leather Exchange both have a good range of cask ale, or visit the George Inn or The Bunch of Grapes for craft beer by the can. But if burgers are just as urgent as beers, Bunsmiths — in charge of the food at the Miller — do the best in the area.
For outside space The Woolpack's head and shoulders above the rest in the area — less for size than for how secluded the small beer garden feels despite being in the middle of busy Bermondsey Street. Just down the street there's the Garrison, extremely on the restaurant side of the gastropub spectrum - all sleek and glossy, with banquette seating and a menu featuring quinoa, guinea fowl and a lot of flourishes.
Or choose between cheeseboards and full-on steak dinners at The Mug House, in their Dickensian surroundings under one of London Bridge's archways.
Vivat Bacchus in London Bridge — younger sister of the busy Farringdon restaurant — has regular wine tastings and South African specialities. Biltong and ostrich steaks are on the menu, as well as more standard gastropub burgers and steaks.
If you like a more American hit to your smoked meat, the brisket, shortrib and chicken thighs at Texas Joe's should have you sorted, everything coming with a side of pickles and bread. Bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeno: optional extra.
The area's strong on Spanish and Latin American influences — try Lobos Meat and Tapas for exactly what it says on the tin, and José tapas bar, where the tiny bar’s crammed with punters having a full dinner or cold beers and bar snacks. Foods of other nations are well-represented, with good-value Indian curries at Silka's Southwark basement, great Italian pasta and fish dishes at Giuseppe's Place and the Turkish mezze at the Borough High Street branch of the Tas Restaurant chain. For some of the best pasta in London, try Padella, although be prepared to queue (see our full review here).
The slickest, shiniest restaurants in the London Bridge area are housed in The Shard. Towering over London and with prices to match, Aqua Shard offers modern British food on level 31, and Hutong does dim sum lunches and a sprawling cross-China a la carte menu (level 33). Head to Oblix bar (sandwiched between the two restaurants at level 32) for pre-dinner aperitivi or post-dinner nightcaps.
There aren’t a huge number of post-midnight places in the area, but Cecil's underground speakeasy is open till an indeterminate 'late', with cocktails, regular live music and cabaret nights – check out the Rat Pack, big band vibe at the Last Dance Saloon nights.