Borough was once the home of the famous ‘stews’, or brothels, of medieval London. It is now rapidly becoming a pleasure garden of a very different kind – a sort of mecca for food-conscious urbanites. As an example of how the casual London dining out scene is evolving, there are few areas more striking than the South Bank, between Borough Market and the Tate.
One of the locality’s great advantages is its jumbled heritage of historic sites, post-industrial buildings and railway arches, which provides the sort of architectural interest you just don’t get in traditional dining-out areas like Chelsea and the West End. And space, especially vertical space. If there is one thing New York restaurants have always had – and gloried in – and which London restaurants traditionally lacked, it is sites which lend themselves to interesting architectural treatments. As London’s dining out scene is pushing out of its traditional areas, its dining rooms are at last finding the opportunity to ‘breathe’.
This new brewhall-cum-bistro is a classic example of the trend. In railway arches by Borough Market, it’s a development by the owners of the adjoining Vinopolis. ‘Cathedral-like’ may be something of a cliché, but it well describes the environment here. Not that there’s anything at all sombre about the dining experience – the place was full and buzzing even on our late lunchtime visit midweek, and staff (largely Eastern European), are friendly and efficient. The food plays rather a supporting rôle. Successes on our visit included onion soup, a fish cake and, especially, a lemon tart. A haddock rarebit was a sad little thing, but, with a pint of bitter apiece, the bill for a pleasant light lunch came in at under £20 a head, leaving little really to complain about.