Southbank, that narrow stretch of land between the London Eye and the Tate Modern on the southern bank of the River Thames, is a cultural hub of the city, home to the Royal Festival Hall and the National Theatre. Dining options abound here too, with options ranging from wholesome pub grub to fine dining establishments with a view. Here’s our pick of the top ten restaurants on London’s South Bank.
Afternoon Tea at The Library Lounge, London | Courtesy of the Terrace at the National Theatre
The Library Lounge, in the London Marriott Hotel County Hall, is South Bank’s best spot for an afternoon tea. Its refined, wood-panelled décor, antique furniture and tasteful textiles create an atmosphere of calm luxury. In addition to the finest brewed teas, soft scones with jam and naturally sweet clotted cream, there is also the option of the more indulgent Champagne Afternoon Tea. This is the perfect accompaniment to the view of London that stretches just beyond the windows of the Library Lounge. Sit back, try a selection of delicious treats, like a dome of Valrhona 70% chocolate and almonds, and coconut and mango friandes, and enjoy this immersive experience.
The Terrace at the National Theatre is a bar and restaurant with one of the best locations in town, right in the heart of the South Bank’s cultural epicentre, the National Theatre. The food here is simple, and perfect for sharing. The kitchen’s selection of tapas-style dishes includes French, British and Mediterranean influences with such tempting bites as grilled gambas with an onion, tomato and avocado salsa, the mini-portion of suckling pig with honey-roast cabbage, or the irresistible cured meat platter featuring chorizo iberico, coppa and salchicon iberico. In winter, enjoy your food in the heart of the contemporary interior with its raw, industrial flair. In summer, step over to the terrace area and enjoy the view of London in all its splendour.
South Bank’s Skylon occupies an elegant space on the third floor of the Royal Festival Hall. With floor-to-ceiling windows and a retro interior balanced by earthy tones, it’s a sophisticated affair best enjoyed before a theatre performance. The Grill, which forms one half of Skylon, is the more informal part, with lighter options such as the grilled Cornish mackerel served with a spiced aubergine relish and onion rings. The actual Restaurant offers fine-dining takes on British classics, from the slow-roasted Great Garnett Farm pork belly accompanied by lobster and a tarragon risotto, to the summer truffle mac’n’cheese with a baby spinach salad and Worcestershire sauce dressing.
With its breathtaking city and river views, the OXO Tower Restaurant, located on the eighth floor of the OXO Tower, is one of the most representative venues on the South Bank. Swanky cocktails, a luxurious menu and an extensive wine list of over 500 bottles make this a classy spot for special occasions. Chef Jeremy Bloor’s kitchen offers a contemporary take on European and Mediterranean classics, presenting carefully arranged, colourful dishes such as the cured and roasted duck served with figs and wild asparagus, or the luxurious hand-caught scallops accompanied by a delicate pea puree with a risotto ball, basil and tomatoes. In addition to the restaurant space, there is also an adjoining brasserie for more informal dining, as well as a cocktail bar for an after-dinner tipple.
Canteen is part of a small, locally owned chain of three restaurants in London. As the name suggests, this venue is all about simple, no-frills flavours composed with honest, fresh ingredients, served atop wooden tables in a communal setting. Go for a traditional pie, flavours change daily, or opt for a weekend brunch of eggs as you like them, served on toast or fried bread. Lighter options, such as grilled zesty grapefruit, or granola with stewed fruits or yoghurt, also feature on the menu, making for a wholesome dining experience.
The Mulberry Bush is close to Gabriel’s Wharf | Courtesy of Young’s / Cynthia Rezende
From the comfy sofas to the board games and eclectic yet homely décor, the Mulberry Bush is a cosy spot in the heart of bustling London. Its proximity to the ITV studios meaning that the place is always bustling, but not usually packed. The sticky honey Jack Daniels ribs constitute a signature dish, served with a portion of slaw and triple-cooked chips. Lighter options, such as the superfood salad with quinoa, goji berries, broccoli and avocado, are also available. Take advantage of the venue’s pub atmosphere and enjoy some of the best locally brewed lagers and ales on the extensive menu.
Serving up a cuisine of Polish, Russian and Hungarian dishes, updated for a more contemporary audience, Baltic is a fantastic spot to sample a completely new culinary culture. The menu changes on a weekly basis, but among the staples are the bigos, which is braised cabbage with chicken, guinea fowl and sausage, or the karkowka, a chargrilled pork neck with peppers, mushroom and aubergine. Finish off your meal with a desert of ptasie mleczko (rich cream encased by a layer of dark chocolate with vodka), and a shot from the extensive vodka menu (try the Zoladkowa for the ultimate digestif, or the U’Luvka for a more luxurious, little-known option). Baltic is located a short walk away from South Bank proper, right by Southwark tube station.