Visitors to London have long stuck to the north side of the River Thames, where storied sights such as Buckingham Palace, Leicester Square and the shops of Mayfair have charmed millions of tourists.
The opening of numerous south-bank attractions, including the London Eye, the Tate Modern and western Europe’s tallest building, the Shard, has caused gazes to shift. Now, rather than being viewed as a slightly shabby afterthought, South London is enjoying its time as the place to be.
Cheap and cheerful
Subject of a new book (Shakespeare’s Pub) and open since the early 16th century, the George Inn is London’s last remaining coaching inn, where merchants awaited passage into the city and Londoners gathered on excursions out. Much of the original Inn is now gone, and the rest has been rebuilt once or twice, but passing through the modest entry into the stone-wall-flanked courtyard nonetheless delivers an acute sense of history. It’s a sense that may be heightened further if you take your pint of cask-drawn Abbot Ale to the 3 1/2-century-old second-floor balcony, and imagine the patrons below as wayfarers seeking refuge rather than office workers sharing laughs. 77 Borough High Street; traditionalpubslondon.co.uk/georgesouthwark
Not terribly far from the George, tucked in among coffee roasters, bakers and assorted purveyors of fine foods, is 40 Maltby Street, testament to the skill with which Londoners have reinvented the wine bar. Warehouse-like and rustic, 40 Maltby is a place without pretension, even to the point of having no set menu of wines by the glass. Instead, different pairs of reds and whites, plus a sparkler and perhaps a rosé, are chosen each night, usually to partner with dishes that appear on the evening’s equally unpredictable chalkboard menu. It all makes for a spontaneous experience, but one that’s rewarding and happily affordable, especially if you are partial to organic and biodynamic winemaking. Fancy a glass of Slovenian malvazija? You may after a visit here. 40 Maltby Street; 40maltbystreet.com
South London view seekers have two choices: pay $41 (£25) and ascend to the 72nd floor of the Shard, or settle for the 32nd floor and have a drink at Oblix, no entry fee required. Management have resisted the temptation to make their bar and restaurant mere tourist traps, instead creating a comfortable corner lounge that would be just as tempting at street level, even bringing in live – but conversation-friendly – music nightly. The drinks aren’t bad, either, although the mint julep-inspired house cocktail, the Betsy Theory, proved a bit on the sweet side. Better to sit back with something more contemplative, like the silken whisky, plum and lemon Kentucky Velvet, admire the view and soak in the scene that is the new South London. 31 St. Thomas Street; oblixrestaurant.com
The author travelled with the assistance of VisitBritian. The agency did not review or approve the story.