Borough Market is justifiably famous for its food stalls and restaurants. It's also a peerless place to organise a pub crawl. Five fine boozers are situated within the main market, with others just around the corner.
The Market Porter
A proper old favourite in Borough Market, how much you get out of this place depends on your visiting time. During Peak Market, you'll do well to get a glimpse of the bar. Out of hours, you'll find a pleasant and relaxing interior where time seems to stand still.
The pub follows an unusual S-shaped conformation, with the primary curl wrapping round the bar and the snaking tail heading off into some back rooms. This place takes its ales seriously, with up to nine options on draught (hint: don't be fooled by the limited range you see when you first walk in; most of the pumps are hidden round the corner of the bar). Cheap and cheerful bar food is available on this level, but head upstairs for the slightly classier dining room.
The Market Porter, 9 Stoney Street, SE1 9AA.
Shuffle a few metres along the pavement to...
The Wheatsheaf is a bright, breezy pub that pitches itself towards the twentier end of the market. Despite being part of the Young's empire, the Wheatsheaf has a strong independent character. 'Best pub in Borough', it boldly proclaims on its website and Instagram. That's debatable, but not far-fetched.
With a welcome range of local craft ales (as well as the usual Young's), a food menu that puts meat, cheese and messiness centre stage, and an outdoor bar based in a camper van, this place certainly stands out from the local crowd. Not to be confused with The Sheaf basement bar, round the corner on Southwark Street — although that did have links with a former incarnation of the Wheatsheaf.
The Wheatsheaf, 6 Stoney Street, SE1 9AA.
And just a few steps more to...
The Southwark Tavern
Nice and cosy by day, humming with custom during the evening, the Southwark's a good all-rounder. It's perched on the edge of Borough Market, in the same busy row as the Wheatsheaf and Market Porter, with further competition coming from the excellent Wine Pantry. Yet it manages to eke out its own niche. The main bar is curvy and modern, with Georgian touches to the decor. The beer range (six real ales when firing on all cylinders) gives some of the more famous pubs hereabouts a run for their money. Also, we love the music in this place — whoever puts the playlists together has a taste for chilled-out yet melancholy sounds. Perfect.
If you're after a quieter, more intimate space, head downstairs into the Debtor's bar, presumably a reference to the nearby Marshalsea Prison, made famous as a debtors' home in Little Dorrit.
The Southwark Tavern, 22 Southwark Street SE1 1TU.
Now, pass through the market, following the overhead rail line, until you find...
The Globe Tavern
Of all the Borough Market pubs, The Globe has the sleekest, smartest look. The interior is a temple of dark woods and superfluous glassware. It's very handsome. The bar puts keg ales and lagers front and foremost, but there's a small selection of draught stuff hidden to one side. This is also the best pub in the market for wine drinkers. Most of the seating is of the perch-on-a-stool variety, but there's a quiet little backroom with more comfortable reclines. Further space is available upstairs for diners.
The pub's biggest claim to fame is its location — not only is it right in the middle of the market, it's also surrounded on all sides by railway lines. This quirky situation was put to good use in the film version of Bridget Jones — the eponymous character lived in a flat above the pub.
The Globe Tavern, 8 Bedale Street SE1 9AL
Head to the north-western extreme of the market, where you can finish at...
It’s rare to find a drinking establishment whose indoor floorspace is more diminutive than that of its men’s toilets (which it borrows from the adjacent market), but The Rake is definitely one of those pubs. Don’t be put off by its modest proportions, though. As compressed as the interior gets on Friday evenings, on a Saturday morning it can be a quiet, relaxed sanctuary from the market’s masses and inexplicable vegetable photographers.
The Rake's big selling point is the huge variety of great beers from around the world, propped up by the Utobeer shop elsewhere in the market. Several ales on hand-pump, five keg offerings and two massive fridges stocked with myriad bottled delights. Despite its size, the pub’s interior is bright and welcoming – decorated with beer mats, tin signs, European beer ephemera and scrawled dedications from brewers, all illuminated by large windows at the front. There's more space outside if the bar is full (and it will be).
The Rake, 14a Winchester Walk SE1 9AG
And there's more...
We've covered the five pubs within the main market area, but you could easily add in The Sheaf and Katzenjammer, two bustling basement bars round the corner on Southwark Street. Check out our pub guide for over a dozen other fine drinking dens in the local area.