A perfect day in London’s South Bank – Monmouth, Elliot’s Borough, Tate Modern, Jose, Pizarro

This follows on from an earlier train of thought. That being; there’s nothing worse when you arrive in a city than spending half of your time stumbling around only to realise later that you missed out on a gem. Similarly, there’s no point constantly traipsing from one side of a city to the other in search of a good feed, or something fun to do. That aspect is going to become particularly pertinent when the hordes descend this year on London. Transport is going to be….hectic.

So if you’ve found your way over the the South Bank of the Thames (my local stomping ground), here’s a great day all mapped out for you. There’s coffee and breakfast, culture and lunch, drinks and dinner. There’s even an actual Google Map to let you see how close everything is. Sorted. All you have to do is get here.

(To see the earlier perfect day in London’s West End, click here)

It starts

Catch the tube, train or bus to London Bridge Station. Walk down to Borough Markets.

Coffee at Monmouth

Start the day with a good cup of coffee. Monmouth is one of the standard bearers of decent espresso in London. It overlooks the historic Borough Markets. On a Saturday morning, it will be bedlam. You’ll wait around 25 minutes for a coffee. If you’re really keen on seeing the markets in full swing but not being pushed from pillar to post, come on a Friday (the markets run Thursday, Friday and Saturday). Monmouth is open Monday-Saturday. Sundays around here can be a little sad.

You need to line up to order your coffee. Nb, there is no tea here. There is no hot chocolate. There is no skim or soy milk. There’s just milk from happy Jersey cows and coffee that should be made with great care. If it’s not, ask them to make you another one. If you fancy a carbohydrate based breakfast get stuck into the all you can eat baguettes, butter and jam on the communal table, or grab a pastry.

Read more about the experience of Monmouth here

Monmouth Coffee Company Borough
2 Park Street
The Borough
London SE1 9AB
Open Monday to Saturday 7.30am to 6pm

Breakfast at Brindisa (Friday and Saturday)

If you’re visiting on a Friday or Saturday and need something a little sturdier than bread to start your day, you might want to walk down the street to Brindisa. One of London’s most bustly tapas restaurants does a good side line in breakfasts. Ham, eggs and potatoes comes in a gloriously Spanish accented plate. Ham reveals itself as wafts of jamon. The potatoes are cheeky chips (surely this is holiday food at its best). And the eggs are lightly fried and the centres run like scared rabbits. I highly recommend wrapping a chip in a piece of ham and then plundering the yolk. There’s freshly squeezed orange juices and indulgently thick Spanish style hot chocolate. There’s room to spread out a   newspaper (or a map). And if you’re lucky, there should be plenty of sunshine slanting through the large windows fronting the market.

Tapas Brindisa
18-20 Southwark St
Camberwell, London SE1 1TJ
020 7357 8880

Morning activity

If the markets are on, then spend some time exploring. Try and restrain yourself from buying a truly dangerous toasted cheese sandwich.

If everything around you is ghostly shut, walk out towards the river and turn east. Walk along the Thames towards Tower Bridge and the Design Museum. Besides being lovely, the Design Museum also has a terrific gift shop.

Lunch option 1 – local and restrained at Elliot’s

The mandate of the smartly casual  Elliot’s is to showcase the best products of the Borough Markets.  The interior is filled with light, blonde wood and exposed brick. There’s the smell of the bread baked downstairs wafting around. The wine list is drawn from small vineyards with an emphasis on the natural and organic. The menu is short and changes each day depending on what is best and in season.  If it’s on there, the burger with kindling-crisp fries is a sound option. Or else go for some sharing plates and pass around buttermilk fried chicken pieces, sweet potato gnocchi with almonds and hedgehog mushrooms(£10), mussels with fennel and nduja, or get busy with a bowl of fried maris piper potatoes with aioli (£3.5).

Elliot’s is just down the street from Monmouth. On Sunday’s there’s a set lunch. On Saturday’s it’s also open for brunch.

Elliot’s Borough Market
12 Stoney Street
London, SE19AD
Tel: 0207 407 7436

Lunch option 2 – seafood at Wright Brothers

What Wright Brothers specialises in is oysters. The oysters of the day are written up on blackboards . It’s a geography lesson writ in chalk. The ones that sing out are Maldon rocks, Dorset rocks and Speciale de Claire from across the pond.  The best way to approach it is to talk to the informed floorstaff, quiz them on what is shining and order a mixed dozen to share.  You’ll  then get four of three different varieties so you can plot a path through their briney depths. These are quality bivalves and you’ll pay appropriately  for them, at  around  £30 for a dozen.  Add a slice or two of their malted soda bread, spread thickly with butter and it’s heaven.

A pint of prawns (£17.50) (or a half pint) is a beer glass stuffed full of cold cooked crustaceans, heads, tails and all. They’re jammed in like a bloated Christmas stocking. There’s a tub of egg heavy mayonnaise for dipping and a finger bowl to bathe your nails in when all your hard work is done. There’s a good wine list, the ales are interesting and if the weather is poor it’s hard to go past either their fish, or beef and oyster pie. This is a fun, boisterous place. You’ll sit up on high stools and get your hands dirty. If this is your kind of thing, you’ll have a great time (but watch out, the bill can easily add up).

Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
11 Stoney St Map
Camberwell, UK SE1 9AD
(020) 7403 9554
Tube: London Bridge

Afternoon activity

Walk west up the Thames, past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to the Tate Modern. Lose yourself for a couple of hours in one of the world’s great art galleries. Nb, if you plan on seeing the Damien Hirst exhibition this summer, be sure to book ahead. The crowds interested in seeing a shark in a five per cent formaldehyde solution and wandering through a room bustling with butterflies should not to be underestimated.

Drinks at José

Walk east and away from the water towards the neighbouring suburb of Bermondsey. Bermondsey High Street has had something of a resurgence in the last year -and a lot of it has to do with Spanish chef José Pizarro. If you can fit in through the door of this postage stamp sized place,  José is the perfect place to pull up a perch, hang your handbag on one of the thoughtfully placed hooks and spend some time sipping sherry, pink wine or Cava and picking at platters of jamon. You could easily stay for dinner, making your way through platters of tomato bread, seafood from the la plancha grill and croquetas like these (£6).

The tricky thing about Jose, is getting a seat. It doesn’t take bookings and is popular (for a reason). If you’re after a more traditional dining experience to follow your drink- head on up the street to Pizarro.

104 Bermondsey Street, London
London, SE1 3UB

Dinner at Pizarro

The big brother of  Jose, Pizarro is a proper sized restaurant, within sprinting distance of the original tapas and sherry bar. The room is flanked by the long marble bar and large windows, flooding in light. The rest is brick and wood and an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work.  It’s both rustic and refined.

The menu is tight and changes daily- sometimes multiple times within a meal. Its offerings dwelling in two price brackets. The first is around £6 for tapas plates. The larger plates are around $11 -13. You could easily share a few dishes to start and then have one main course each.  If you love pork, then there’s lots to covet in this place. Iberico pig cheek, slow braised with sweet potato and almonds has a lip stick sheen to the sauce and the meat threads apart when hassled by a fork.

Yet there’s also solid options for vegetarians, with one of the stellar dishes on our last visit being a salad of roasted vegetables with goat’s curd and walnuts.

Desserts are also worth a look in. When it’s full, the noise can ricochet, but it’s great Spanish, cooked by a man who knows what he’s doing. At the end of it all order a glass of Pedro Ximenex sherry and a dark chocolate pudding. It’s a solid way to close what should have been a pretty perfect day in London’s South Bank.

194 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3TQ
Tel : 020 7378 9455
Open everyday.



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  1. That’s the best looking toasted cheese sandwich I’ve ever seen! Way too long since I went to Borough.

  2. I want to go on this day out! All sounds absolutely wonderful 🙂

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