A little known fact about London is that, sometimes, you can find a little village nestled in a very big city. Bermondsey Street is London's next village high street.
There’s a lot to love about Bermondsey Street: it's where old industrial London meets shiny, new, warehouse-conversion London. It’s really got everything: from an arthouse cinema to a weekly farmers’ market and the London Fashion and Textile Museum.
With such an array of entertainment on offer, the following selection has indeed done very well to make the cut…
There’s one clear winner here: Bermondsey Square Hotel, with prices starting from £169. The hotel is ideally placed on a picturesque square at one end of Bermondsey Street, overlooking the weekly farmers’ market and within walking distance of the attractions of Borough such as Borough Market and the Shakespeare Globe. It’s also close enough to the public (and free) tennis courts situated at the middle of Bermondsey Street if you happen to be partial to a game.
With modern, stylish décor, this Hotel echoes perfectly the feel of its surrounding area and on a warm summer’s day, the Hotel’s ground floor restaurant (Alfie’s – if you are not staying at the hotel, tables can be booked via www.opentable.co.uk) provides the perfect people-watching spot on its outdoor Mediterranean-feel white sofas. A more detailed review, written by Simonseeks’ London Expert Simon Coppock can be viewed here.
To Eat, Drink and be Merry
There must be very few streets in London that offer the kind of selection of bars and restaurants boasted by Bermondsey Street. You want morning coffee and a place to show off your mac? You got it – Bermondsey Street Coffee (free wifi, located at 163-167 Bermondsey Street). You want a ‘real’ English pub? Easy – The Woolpack (www.woolpackbar.com, 02073579269), at the centre of Bermondsey Street serves up decent pub grub and has a great pub garden for those balmy summer evenings. If you fancy a more upmarket, less pubby pub, The Garrison (www.thegarrison.co.uk, 02070899355), opposite, quenches the thirst and amuses the bouches of many a London hipster every night of the week.
Special mention, however must go to two of my favourite restaurants on the street. As a Manhattanite at heart (despite growing up by the seaside in sleepy Cornwall), Village East (www.villageeast.co.uk, 02073576082) with its parallels to the nightspots of New York's East Village (the clue's in the name) is one of my favourite restaurants in London. To start with, it’s not a chain like so many of London’s restaurant offerings. More importantly, it combines a great bar, serving very tasty cocktails, with a smashing menu to match. I had the Village Summer Salad, which contained an inventive mix of ingredients from asparagus to pomegranate, incredibly tasty and refreshingly different. The grilled polenta and asparagus which my boyfriend ate was also a big hit to his discerning palate. It’s not the cheapest restaurant (around £30 pp for 2 courses plus a glass of wine), but if you eat out in London at least a few times a year I would consider becoming a Taste London member (www.tastelondon.co.uk), which will get you 50% off your food order in this and hundreds of other restaurants across London (Bermondsey Street Kitchen (www.bermondseystreetkitchen.co.uk and 02074075719), another long-time fixture of the Bermondsey Street village scene, is also part of the Taste London scheme).
The other of my favourite offerings on Bermondsey Street is the relatively new Zucca (www.zuccalondon.com, 02073786809). After receiving superb reviews from well-respected food critics, this modern Italian restaurant is full every single night of the week – so booking ahead is a must. A two-course meal with a glass of wine each cost £25, which was well worth the money given the lively atmosphere and the exceptional food (you can usually judge a restaurant by the bread they serve you before your food arrives – this bread, and its Italian olive oil accompaniment, was bread perfection).
If you haven't overeaten at Zucca or got stuck talking about your new ipad in The Garrison, hop on a tube at London Bridge up to Old Street where the bars and clubs of Hoxton and Shoreditch stay open well into the wee hours.
Some day very soon, you’ll be able to come to Bermondsey Street and stand in the awe at The Shard, what will be Europe’s highest skyscraper when it’s finished. In the meantime, head to a handful of the local attractions and you will not be disappointed. My particular favourites in the area are:
Shad Thames: as pristine ‘old’ London as you will find, this area used to be London’s industrial heartland and has now been transformed into a mélange of dark alleyways, locks and a lively riverfront with plenty of café’s and restaurants to choose from. Cross Tower Bridge and St Katherine’s Docks offers similar architecture – the industrial London feel – but with the contrast of modern millionaires’ yachts filling the docks.
Borough: Borough Market is an unmissable part of any London itinerary. Pick up some over-priced cheese here or simply absorb the atmosphere over a cup of finest Monmouth coffee. If you're visiting in the summer, head to the Shakespeare Globe for an evening performance for a fiver.
Museums: the London Design Museum, (www.designmuseum.org) (at 28 Shad Thames, open daily 10am-5:45pm, last admission 5:15pm; £8.50 adults, £6.50 concessions, £5.00 students free for under-12s), in my opinion one of London’s most interesting museums, is located just a short walk from Bermondsey Street near Tower Bridge. Its size makes for a perfect 2-3 hour chunk of museum time and its subject-matter is appealing to most tastes, displaying as it does a revolving selection ranging from industrial design, to fashion shows (Alexander McQueen’s last catwalk show was on display the last time I went), to political photography (a display on African development provided a thoughtful contrast). Closer to home, on Bermondsey Street itself, lies the garish building (see picture) which houses the Fashion and Textile Museum (www.ftmlondon.org) (open Wednesday – Sunday, 11am-6pm, admission £6.50 for adults, £3.50 students and concessions, free for under-12s). Taken directly from its website, the Museum “aims not just to display and collect items relating to fashion, jewellery and textile design, but to offer inspiration to a new generation of creatives” – how very Bermondsey Street.