You’re just out of a film at the BFI; or you’re waiting on a show at the National Theatre; perhaps you’ve taken our advice and walked The Queen’s Walk. Whichever it it is, you’re hungry, and you want somewhere to eat. Somewhere good…
[Cue list of the best restaurants on the Southbank below]
Sea Containers | ££££
Housed on the bottom floor of what was once the ultra glitzy boutique hotel The Mondrian, and is now the ultra glitzy boutique hotel….Sea Containers (yes, the hotel changed hands and now shares its name with the resto) this Southbank restaurant (designed by Tom Dixon OBE) hints at a 1920s transatlantic cruise liner, with it’s sleek copper walls, mustard and burgundy leather seating, and huge central silver bar a’top of which is a yellow submarine. The menu offers a little of everything: Spanish, Italian, South American, plus a touch of the USA – which means you might start with seabass ceviche tacos, before tackling a plate of BBQ spare ribs. For drinks they have a pretty lengthy wine list, again, with grapes from all over the world. Otherwise there are cocktails, as well as 18 different tequilas. And that’s before we’ve addressed the award-winning Lyaness bar across the hall…
Details: 20 Upper Ground, Southbank, London SE1 9PD | Open daily | Book here
Following the successes of their first outpost in Kings Cross, inspired by Tokyo’s listening bar culture, the Spiritland crew have recorded another hit with this all-day Southbank restaurant and bar, housed in Royal Festival Hall. Combining a few of life’s finest things – jazzed-up diner food (burgers, tacos, hotdogs, sandwiches), cocktails, wine and good music – under one roof, the space dims after dark and guided by its world-class sound system, has had guest acts like Hot Chip, Jarvis Cocker and Laurient Garnier pass through its acoustically-designed doors to don the DJ decks.
Details: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX | Opening hours: midday-10.30 (Wednesday-Saturday), 11am-10.30pm (Saturday), 11am-7pm (Sunday) | Book here
The Garden Cafe | £££
Everything in the garden is lovely, and it’s no different in The Garden Cafe. Part of the newly refurbished Garden Museum, it’s a bright, light woods, clean lines kind of place, with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors over-looking leaves ‘n’ trees aplenty. The kitchen is headed up by chefs Harry Kaufman (Lyle’s, St. John) and George Ryle (Padella, Primeur) who have decided to focus on seasonal cooking – including lamb saddle with braised broad beans, pancetta and gem lettuce; and aubergines with tomatoes and fregola – which they serve alongside a short menu of natural and organically-steered wines.
Details: 5 Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7LB | Open daily till 5pm, plus dinner Tues-Sat, 6-10pm | Book here
Limin’ Beach Club
All right all right, Gabriel’s Wharf is not the Caribbean, but this cheery beach club will make you feel mightily close – especially once you’ve given the rum bar a full inspection. Heady punches make you stagger, daiquiris make you dance and the frozen pina coladas come in entire pineapples. For food, chef and owner Sham Mahabir dishes out treats from his native Trindad and Tobago, with plantain chips, jerk chicken, smoked haddock fritters and the traditional doubles (a pair of bara flatbreads with spiced chickpeas, grated cucumber, and sweet tamarind & hot pepper sauce) all worth a look in.
Details: Gabriel’s Wharf, 56 Upper Ground, Southbank, SE1 9PP | Opening hours: 1-10pm (Monday-Wednesday), midday-11pm (Thursday), midday-midnight (Friday-Saturday), midday-10pm (Sunday) | Book here
Skylon | ££££
Brought to you by D&D, the restaurant group behind Michelin-starred Angler, Chelsea’s Bluebird, and more, Skylon is a brunch-to-dinner Modern British affair, with floor-to-ceiling windows, and views overlooking the river. You’ll find it on the third floor of the Royal Festival Hall, where you can tuck into everything from 18-hour gin-cured salmon, to beef wellington with spinach, crispy pancetta, and madeira sauce; washed down with a martini perhaps (they have a selection of six on offer), or a large glass of wine.
Details: Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, Southbank, SE1 8XX | Open daily | Book here
Toklas | £££
The founders of the Frieze art fair & magazine are behind this retro eatery housed in the brutalist shell of 180 Strand. While not technically on the South Bank – it’s a short walk across Waterloo Bridge – once you get there you’ll be rewarded with fantastic Mediterranean-inspired dishes from ex-Petersham Nurseries chef Yohei Furuhashi, and sweet pastries from their in-house bakery. What’s more, they have a rather lovely terrace to enjoy it on, too.
Details: 1 Surrey Street, London WC2R 2ND | Open for lunch & dinner, Tues-Sat
And once you’ve working your way through all of these Southbank restaurants….you can start on the best restaurants in London Bridge