WANDLE WANDERER: Our intrepid rambler, KEN TOWL, doesn’t just take on walks around the countryside near Croydon. He’s happy to do a pub crawl in an area that ought to be within easy reach by train
Last week was saw first anniversary of the London Bridge attack in which eight people were murdered by terrorists who appeared to follow a belief system which does not tolerate the enjoyment of life.
It seemed to me, therefore, a good time to visit the area and see if it is as bustling and successful as it was before that infamous day.
Croydon is lucky, served as we are by a 15-minute train service to London Bridge. The Shard dominates the area around the bridge and Borough Market, just the other side of the Borough High Street from the spruced up railway station.
In the daytime, the market itself is the main attraction, the former wholesale vegetable market – south London’s answer to Covent Garden throughout the late 19th and most of the 20th Century – now converted to a fashionable mix of restaurants, bars, old-school pubs, and food stalls.
The traders compete to supply the best food you can imagine, from mushrooms to mutton, oysters and cider, venison, vegetables, pies and a lot more.
Surrounding the market, spreading out as far as the churchyard and gardens around Southwark Cathedral and along the river bank towards the reconstructed Globe Theatre, are the street food stalls which provide office workers and tourists from around the globe with food from, well, around the globe…
In the evening, the bars and restaurants pull in the crowds. Applebee’s have been the area’s go-to fish restaurant for years and Roast, sitting proudly above the market, specialises in the best organic meat sourced from just a staircase away. They do a good deal for Sunday lunch, by the way.
Over the road from the market, a few hundred yards further south on Borough High Street, is The George, the only pub in the country owned by the National Trust. It is next to the site of The Tabard, the inn from where Chaucer had his pilgrims embark for Canterbury. Oh, what tales this place, would have to tell.
The current building is a 17th century coaching inn which boasts Charles Dickens among its past clientele. The galleried side of the building is reason enough to visit. The beer’s another.
Back over by the market, on Stoney Street, the once spit-and-sawdust Wheatsheaf has been reborn after a temporary closure while a new railway bridge (part of the Thameslink 2020 improvements commuters have been enjoying so much this past month) was built over the top of it.
It is now a rather trendy (and very popular) after-work boozer, a worthy rival to the Market Porter just along the road.
The Market Porter has long been notable for having, and maintaining since the veg market closed, its special market licence, which allowed the eponymous market porters to get themselves a pint after work finished for the day – usually around 7am.
Cinema fans may also spot, if they look upwards at some of the old buildings along here, some that seem very familiar. The producers of the Harry Potter series made good use of the area as locations in a couple of their movies.
The other side of Stoney Street provides just a flavour of the food on offer in the area. The rather lovely Porteña is a street food stall selling Buenos Aires-inspired empanadas, little pies filled with beef, chicken, spinach and ricotta, or provolone with caramelised onions.
You can wash them down with wine and watch the crowds walk by. Many in the crowd will be on the way to Brindisa, another of the long-established bars on the side of the market. Brindisa began as a wholesale importer of Spanish delicacies in to the market and is now a small tactically/trendily/alliteratively situated chain of tapas bars in Southwark and in Soho, South Kensington and Shoreditch.
There is food for most tastes and several budgets (indeed the chips from the takeaway at Fish! are as cheap as, well… chips).
It is an attractive part of London all just a stone’s throw from riverside views (and pub terraces): City Hall, HMS Belfast (which served off Normandy on D-Day, another anniversary this week), Tower Bridge and the Tower of London are a half-hour walk. Head west along the riverside, and Tate Modern is less than 15 minutes away. The City of London, with the Monument, are just as close across London Bridge itself.
With the area’s elegant and attractive Victorian buildings, it all makes Croydon’s Boxpark look like a pile of containers dumped by the side of a railway station.
The only recommendation you really need is to have a look round for yourself.
Choose which pubs you go to; choose street food or a restaurant; choose provolone and caramelised onions. And, to defy the bad guys most of all, choose life.
- Check out previous walks by Ken Towl, including his guided tour of the LOOP, and his review of Croydon’s street art tour, by clicking here
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