Whether you’re drawn to Tracy Emin at White Cube or Terence Conran and Mary Quant at the Fashion and Textile Museum, it’s time to make a beeline for Bermondsey. Once known as ‘London’s larder’ because of its proximity to the docks, it’s still the place to source fresh produce at markets or to prop up the bar at micro-breweries beneath the railway arches. Here’s A Little Bird’s guide to the best of Bermondsey:
Cultural Things To Do
Tooley Street might be dominated by vast shiny office buildings, but it’s also home to one of our favourite London theatres, The Unicorn. This summer English National Opera and the Unicorn will be joining forces for the first time to create a new production of Purcell’s, Dido and Aeneas, for teenagers and adults. Showing 11 May – 2 June 2019 early booking is advised. For independent film the recently re-furbed Kino Cinema is the place to go. Our top three art shows in the area are as follows:
It’s twenty years since Tracy Emin’s Bed was nominated for the Turner prize, yet we return to the theme again and again in these new works that form White Cube’s exhibition, A Fortnight of Tears. The first room features a whole series of blown up selfies, close up’s of Emin’s face on the pillow during a period of tormenting insomnia. There’s the characteristically uncompromising rawness – we see her eyes swollen with stitches from a medical eyelid surgery for example, and her scarred breast beneath a pulled-up T-shirt. Then there are paintings – mostly graphic nudes – monumental bronze sculptures, drawings, neon, and video footage of her 1990 botched abortion. The works speak of the loss and pain of losing her mother and her own childlessness, but there’s passion too, anger, love and much beauty. A must see. Open until 7 April 2019, free.
Wind back the clock to the 1960’s when the Chelsea Set were shaking up the London scene. In this show of fashion, textiles, furniture, lighting and homewares discover how the trailblazers like Terence Conran and Mary Quant were pushing the boundaries in lifestyle design. Also part of the avant garde were designers Bernard and Laura Ashley, sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi and photographer Nigel Henderson – whose work is all on display. Until 2 June 2019, tickets £9.90, book ahead.
The joy of this beautiful contemporary glass studio is that you get a sneak peek at the makers at work in the back of the shop. Founded by Peter Layton, a pioneer of the glass movement in 1976 the studio now includes 10 resident artists as well as Peter himself. Wander into the exhibition space at the front and then pull up a chair and watch the glassblowers at work. They also run hugely popular workshops, booked up months in advance. londonglassblowing.co.uk
Eating and Drinking
Think independent little cafes rather than Pret. Walk along Bermondsey Street and stop in at Chapter 72 for the perfect Flat White – they also serve the ultimate espresso martinis. For lunch there’s the charming Casse Croute where the classic menu is written in the chalkboard in French each day. In summer try their sister restaurant, Pique-Nique where they serve a delicious rotisserie chicken that you can take away and in Tanner Street Park. New kid on the block Kin + Deum has made waves in the area with a contemporary take on Thai street food. Make sure to order the Tamarind Crispy Eggs.
For a treat, book a table at Londrino, the first solo venture from top chef Leandro Carreira (formerly at Lyle’s and Koya) where you can order Portuguese small plates like raw scallops with radish leaves and almonds, and razor clams with baby onions and meringue. It’s also nice to sit on a stool at the more casual wine bar which accepts walk-ins. At the other end of the scale, try the Bermondsey Beer Mile – bar hop along the craft breweries that have popped up beneath the arches of Maltby and Druid Street.
Veer away from the crowds of Borough Market to one of these gems:
Go here on a Saturday for breakfast or a lazy lunch and eat your way along the Ropewalk. There’s a dazzling array of delicious street food stands and a buzzy vibe to go with it. Indulge with a freshly-pressed waffle at Waffle On, or sip a cocktail made with London-distilled Little Bird Gin. If you want to settle in, nab a spot at the bar at 40 Maltby Street.
If you were to fill your larder with the fantasy weekly shop you’d do it at Spa Terminus, where top producers come to sell their goodies. In the week it’s strictly wholesale but every Saturday they’re open to the public. As well as favourites like Monmouth Coffee Company and Neal’s Yard Dairy, find mushrooms and truffles at The Wild Room, fresh sourdough from Little Bread Pedlar (note they sell out by about 1pm) and in the summer look out for La Grotta ice cream from Kitty Travers.
Bermondsey Square antiques market has a wide range of antiques from cutlery to furniture, china to jewellery. Open Friday from 6am-2pm for trawling. There’s also a large LASSCO beneath a railway arch on Maltby Street where you can browse salvage show rooms and buy vintage homewares. Pedal back to the twenty-first century at electric bicycle shop, Fully Charged where you can test a vast range of electric bikes. And if you’re looking to pick up a present, the Giddy Grocer on Bermondsey Street stocks delicious deli treats – from Pump Street chocolate to hot cross buns.