Hattie Lloyd 21/02/24

The Best Restaurants in Waterloo & The South Bank

Restaurants Near The Southbank | A Cultural Feast

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 followed The Queen’s Walk. Whichever it it is, you’re hungry, and you want somewhere to eat. Somewhere good…

The Southbank gives you plenty of food for thought, but historically, it’s not had the richest pickings when it comes to actual food. Between crowd-pleasing chains and tourist traps, it can be hard to find that Goldilocks restaurant: a great little place with good food that won’t break the bank.

We’ve done the legwork for you, and here are the results: a hand-picked bouquet of great restaurants in Waterloo that are all a stone’s throw from the South Bank.

The Anchor & Hope

Anchor & Hope Waterloo restaurants

Claiming the same noble lineage as fellow sites The Canton Arms and The Clarence Tavern, pioneering gastropub The Anchor & Hope has been bestowed with an equal measure of culinary genius. If you’re wondering whether it’s a pub first and restaurant second (or the other way around), then you’re going to find the answer as easily as the ‘chicken before the egg’ conundrum.

While it’s technically half-bar, half-dining room, you’ll often find patrons eating from the handwritten chalkboard menu at every table, while the clink of pint and wine glasses fills both the rooms with convivial chatter. The dishes change regularly, ranging from smoked herring to Spanish-style pig’s cheeks – and whether you manage to work your way through to the brandy list or not, the atmosphere alone is enough to leave you feeling high-spirited.

Unfortunately, The Anchor & Hope is also one of the most popular restaurants near the South Bank, so make sure you book ahead – and don’t forget to try the guest ale on tap if you’re waiting for a table.

Details: 36 The Cut, Lambeth, SE1 8LP | Book here

Forza Wine at the National Theatre

forza wine southbank

The National Theatre‘s been pulling in some major players to vamp up its food & drink offering recently. It started with KERB and Lasdun (more on which below), but the most recent addition to the brutalist landmark is Forza Wine. This offshoot of the beloved Peckham rooftop spot has a terrace directly overlooking the Southbank, with views of the river and double deckers pootling across Waterloo Bridge – but if the weather’s less than Italian, you can sit up at the stools inside in a space that really does the building’s midcentury concrete shell justice. The menu’s a line-up of small plates like burrata with olives & capers; pork cheek with pickled cucumbers and cauliflower fritti with aioli, perfect to pick and choose from if you’re dashing off to see a show after. But with a persuasive menu of spritzes and wines alongside the food, it’s easily the kind of restaurant you could spend all night in.

Details: National Theatre, Upper Ground, London SE1 9PX | Book here


lasdun restaurant

The lads behind The Marksman are now making their mark on the National Theatre. Their Hackney pub is known for serving one of the best Sunday roasts in London, which automatically made them legends out east. Now they’re applying that nous to a new restaurant on the Southbank – set within the brutalist theatre itself, fitted with black leather banquettes and crisply clothed tables setting off the theatre’s concrete walls. Here, they’ve stepped up into serious restaurant territory, plating beautifully-done modern British food such as grilled spring lamb with peas and mint, alongside old favourites brought over from the pub like the fabled brown butter & honey custard tart. In short: it’s forever changed the game for pre-theatre dining on the Southbank

Details: National Theatre, Upper Ground, SE1 9PX | Book here

Sea Containers

sea containers restaurant waterloo

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, this restaurant on the South Bank itself hints at a 1920s transatlantic cruise liner with its sleek copper walls; mustard and burgundy leather seating; and huge central silver bar, atop of which is a yellow submarine. It’s one of the loveliest riverside restaurants in London, with a terrace affording close-up views across the Thames.

The all-day menu here 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 and winding up with classic apple crumble with clotted cream ice cream. That bar’s not just a pretty pedestal for the submarine, either – it’s stocked with an international wine list, some interesting cocktails, and 18 different tequilas (why not). And that’s before we’ve addressed the award-winning Lyaness bar across the hall…

Details: 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London, SE1 9PD | Book here


okan southbank

Assuming you don’t have time for a flying visit to Japan before the show starts, Okan is the closest thing to a backstreet Osaka kitchen you’ll find in Waterloo. The atmosphere here is second to none – the air is lightly smoky from the open kitchen, while diners are packed in elbow-to-elbow clinking beers and hoovering up gyoza. Osaka is considered the kitchen of Japan, and it has a more than capable ambassador in Okan – try the region’s signature speciality of okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) or tuck into instantly warming plates of curry rice, yakisoba or spicy miso udon.

Details: County Hall, Belvedere Road, London SE1 7PB | Book here

Southbank Centre Food Market

southbank food market

The whole point of spending an afternoon on the South Bank is to actually see the South Bank. So if you’re not after a sit-down meal, the Southbank Centre Food Market will be right up your street. It pops up behind the iconic Royal Festival Hall from Friday – Sunday with about 20 different stalls hawking all kinds of delicious-smelling international specialities, plus craft pints and cocktails to go. Build your own feast, then take it for a walk along the riverside, or hole up in Jubilee Park under the gaze of  the London Eye.

Details: Behind the Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX | Friday (12-8pm), Saturday (11am-8pm), Sunday (12-6pm)


seabird rooftop

Perched at the very top of the Hoxton Hotel by Blackfriars Bridge, Seabird is the restaurant you want to pull out the back pocket for a really special occasion. Why? Well, there’s the elegant raw bar, with London’s longest oyster list. Then there’s the wonderfully decadent seafood menu (with the option to plump for a three-tier ‘afternoon sea’). And there’s this, the 14th floor terrace with views across the South Bank and beyond, just made for a frozen cocktail or two as the sun goes down.

Details: 40 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8PB | Book here

The Garden Cafe

the garden cafe waterloo

This one’s a little walk away from the Southbank, so resist the dessert menu if you’ve got a train or a play to catch. The Garden Café is more than worthy of inclusion here though: part of the newly refurbished Garden Museum (set in an ancient church), it’s a bright space overlooking a secluded leafy courtyard, the centrepiece of which is the weathered sarcophagus of the great 17th century gardener John Tradescant.

It’s a considerable step up from your usual museum café fare, with a grown-up feel and grown-up dishes to boot. The kitchen is headed up by Noble Rot’s ex Head Chef Myles Donaldson, whose Modern European menu – of dishes like ham hock terrine & toast and Cornish hake with fennel & olive tapenade – is served alongside a short list of natural and organically-steered wines.

Details: 5 Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7LB | Book here

KERB at The Understudy

understudy at the national

Keen to show it’s not playing second fiddle to the big restaurants upstairs, The Understudy bar at the National has an impressive food offering thanks to the reigning monarchs of London’s street food markets, KERB. By far the best seats in the house are actually outside the house, on a sprawling terrace bordering the Southbank (and where the National’s River Stage sets up every summer for live music & performance). Currently on offer is a range of burgers & fries from Meltdown Cheeseburgers, square Sicilian-style slices from the Bad Boy Pizza Society, and Middle Eastern food from Armenian joint Sireli – but if you head outside you’ll find a mini outdoor KERB market too, with Baba Dhaba, Chicken Bandits, Hackney Gelato and the Two Tribes brewery popping up all summer.

Details: National Theatre, Upper Ground, London SE1 9PX | No bookings

Bala Baya

bala baya southwark restaurant

Jean Cazals

Well-placed for a bite before a show at the Young Vic, Southwark’s Bala Baya is a love story between chef Eran Tibi and his hometown, Tel Aviv. Set against a backdrop inspired by Bauhaus architecture, the space has been brought to life by multi-award-winning designer, Afroditi Krassa, conjuring the feel of Tel Aviv in the heart of London. Open all day, weekend brunches of aubergine shakshuka and brisket donuts gradually melt into dinners of kebab dumplings and prawn baklava, which you can also enjoy as a decadent tasting menu to share.

Details: Arch 25, Old Union Yard Arches, 229 Union Street, SE1 0LR | Book here

Flat Iron Waterloo

Flat Iron

Sam Harris

It feels like fate that Flat Iron finally has a branch on The Cut. Their Waterloo restaurant has hints of an old butchers shop with its traditional green and white-tiled dining room, but the big draw is obviously the ‘flat iron’ steak, their famed feather blade cut that rules over the menu, served at the perfect shade of pink, and priced at a meagre at £14 (though you’ll want to bolster your order with sides like the creamed spinach and homemade beef dripping chips). You’ll be hard pressed to find better value steak in London…

Details: 41-45 The Cut, London SE1 8LF | Book here

Between The Bridges

between the bridges

A colourful, 4,000sq ft adult al fresco playground which has precisely the right ratio of al fresco to sheltered seating for a typical British summer. Between The Bridges sits right on the Southbank itself and is ideal for a quick bite – street food stalls sling crowd-pleasers like burgers and pizzas, while bars dole out spritzes by the pint. And you might just find yourself staying longer than planned once the live music, drag performers and karaoke nights get going…

Details: Queen’s Walk, South Bank, SE1 | Reopens 26th April 2024

Meson Don Felipe

Meson don Felipe

It’s almost impossible to put your finger on what makes Meson Don Felipe so special. It could be the bright red walls and ceiling, or the convivial setting, with cosy tables surrounding a well-worn central bar. Or better still, it might even be the live flamenco music from a man perched on a ledge above a doorframe in the far left-hand corner, that makes this haven of chicken livers in sherry sauce, whitebait and broad beans with smoked ham and mint the ultimate, authentic no-frills affair.

Details: 53 The Cut, South Bank, SE1 8LF | Book here

As for where to head post-show… check out one of these great pubs near the Southbank