2 September 2019

Exploring Bermondsey & London Bridge

Vinegar Yard

When I lived in London, I had grand plans to visit all of its neighbourhoods and write blog posts about them. And indeed there were weekends when, provided I had my trusted camera and the British weather on my side, I would happily spend a day wandering idyllic streets, popping into pubs and shops, and taking photographs of the local architecture. But my idea never expanded beyond a few sporadic Instagram posts. So when Hotels.com challenged me last month to explore the London Bridge neighbourhood, it was the perfect excuse to kickstart my new Exploring series, where I seek out the most enjoyable spots to shop, eat, drink and visit in London, Surrey, and other beautiful destinations across the United Kingdom.

If you are visiting London for the day, or you find yourself staying at a London Bridge hotel, the heart and soul of the neighbourhood is without question Borough Market. Many sunny Saturdays have been spent strolling along South Bank, culminating in drinks and nibbles beneath the market's green girders and glass ceiling. Alas, the only day I was free for exploring was the Bank Holiday Sunday, when Borough Market would be closed, therefore it encouraged Maddy and I to amble in the direction of Bermondsey, of which we knew scarcely little.

Vinegar Yard Vinegar Yard Vinegar Yard Vinegar Yard Vinegar Yard

Vinegar Yard

Following the railway line east on St Thomas Street, our first stop is Vinegar Yard. Formerly a private car park, the site is under review by the local planning authority for a proposed twenty-storey building; in the meantime it has been temporarily transformed by Benji Scrimgeour, founder of Flat Iron Square street food market, into a new public social space, featuring outdoor bars, street food vendors, art installations and independent traders.

If you don't fancy straying too far from London Bridge Station, then this is an ideal spot for after-work drinks, or even a chilled weekend afternoon, when there is also a pop-up flea market selling a variety of vintage clothing, vinyl records, books and antiques. The bright yellow hoarding is impossible to miss, and very few high rises to the south and south-west turn the site into a sun trap - perfect for a tipple from the Tanqueray Terrace, or any of Vinegar Yard's resident bars.

Vinegar Yard, 72-82 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 3QU | 10am - 9pm daily

Hawkes Cidery & Taproom Hawkes Cidery & Taproom Hawkes Cidery & Taproom Hawkes Cidery & Taproom Hawkes Cidery & Taproom

Hawkes Cidery & Taproom

Continuing alongside the railway is the Bermondsey Beer Mile, where the arches are home to more than fifteen breweries and taprooms. If you love your pilsners, porters, stouts and ales, then this is the hoppiest bar crawl in all of London. Regrettably, Maddy and I don't enjoy beer unless served as lager shandies (which I suspect would be an affront to the artisinal quality of the local beer), therefore we opted instead for Hawkes Cidery & Taproom, whose preferred serve is - you guessed it - craft cider, produced on-site in London's first urban cidery.

After strolling in 30ºC afternoon sun, a glass of chilled cider in the shade of the railway arch was just the ticket to quench our thirst. Drinks are sold by bottle, can or draught, including several varieties of Hawkes' own ciders and ginger beer, plus a handful of favourites from other UK producers. Curiosity nudged us to order their newest Pineapple Punch, which combines ripe pineapple with pressed Braeburn apples for a very fruity still cider - think cloudy apple juice, but sexier. Afterwards I was kindly offered a behind-the-scenes look at the cidery itself, where stainless steel fermentation tanks gleam against the concrete wall and corrugated ceiling.

Hawkes Cidery & Taproom, 92 Druid Street, SE1 2HQ | Wednesday - Sunday

Maltby Street Market Maltby Street Market Maltby Street Market Maltby Street Market

Maltby Street Market

Tucked away in a narrow passage between the railway line and Maltby Street is a weekend street food market that is the definition of a hidden gem. A canopy of world flags flies above hungry customers (Maddy and myself included), as they browse the stalls and railway arches of Maltby Street Market for a spot of lunch. While the size of the market is limited, the variety of its fare is extensive, in which Spanish wines meet British steak, small batch gins meet grilled cheese sandwiches, and vegan Mediterranean dishes meets traditional sausage sarnies. In the end, my sun and cider-soaked body couldn't deny a well-seasoned scotch egg from Finest Fayre, served with red cabbage slaw and triple-cooked chips.

Maltby Street Market, Ropewalk, SE1 3PA | Friday lunchtime, Saturday & Sunday

Bermondsey Distillery Bermondsey Distillery Bermondsey Distillery

Bermondsey Distillery

At the easternmost end of Ropewalk, in yet another railway arch, is the home of Jensen's Gin. If you've had the pleasure of reading my previous interviews with local gin distillers, then you can imagine how excited I was to discover the Bermondsey Distillery and its tasty tipples, which currently include their traditional Bermondsey Dry Gin, an earthier Old Tom Gin, and a sweeter Honey Infused Gin.

At weekends the distillery opens its doors to the public for samples, sales and long drinks, otherwise you can source a bottle of Jensen's from London's favourite department stores, or online from The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt, where it retails less than £27 for 70cl. For the ginthusiasts, distillery tours may also be booked by dropping an e-mail to tours@jensensgin.com. Another bottle for my gin shelf? Maybe.

Bermondsey Distillery, 55 Stanworth Street, SE1 3NY | Saturday 10am-6pm & Sunday 11am-4pm

Flat Iron Square Flat Iron Square

Flat Iron Square

Returning westward with the sun on our faces, Maddy and I poked our heads into Flat Iron Square, another street food market and social hub within walking distance of London Bridge Station. As alluded to previously, it's the elder and more permament sibiling to Vinegar Yard, having been launched by the same Benji Scrimgeour in the autumn of 2016, and has been a popular hangout space for Londoners ever since.

Located between Union Street, Southwark Street and Southwark Bridge Road, Flat Iron Square comprises an outdoor courtyard with Après London chalet themed bar (originally a winter pop-up, but now a year-round feature), a restored Grade II listed townhouse home to the cosy Tap & Bottle wine bar, several railway arches with more bars and food vendors, and live music venue Omeara founded by Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons.

Flat Iron Square, 64 Southwark Street, SE1 1RU | Open daily

The Anchor Bankside

The Anchor

It being as beautiful a Sunday as it was, Maddy and I were compelled to search for one final outdoor space to soak up the afternoon's remaining sunshine, thus we ventured to more familiar territory on London's South Bank. Located on a busy pedestrian throughfare, The Anchor is hardly a hidden gem, but its riverside terrace with outdoor bar and deckchair seating were precisely what we needed to while away the rest of the day.

Historically, The Anchor served as a taproom for the now-demolished Anchor Brewery on Park Street, and it is the only surviving riverside inn from Shakespearean times, having been frequented by actors of the neighbouring Globe Theatre. Today it's owned by Greene King pubs, with a wide and varied selection of food and beverages, as well as fantastic views of the River Thames and St Paul's Cathedral. Finally, a space where Maddy and I could order a pint of lager shandy without risk of offending Bermondsey's craft brewers.

Anchor Bankside, 34 Park Street, SE1 9EF | Open until late daily  

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Disclaimer: This feature is a collaboration in which spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, however all views, photographs, and overall love for exploring are my own.  More from this series coming soon!

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