London SE1 community website

Bermondsey gets the Lonely Planet treatment

London SE1 website team

The new edition of Lonely Planet's often controversial London guide gives Bermondsey and Borough top billing as up-and-coming neighbourhoods.

Past editions have criticised the capital as "the home of dirty pigeons and liquored-up lager louts" with hotels so awful "they made Fawlty Towers look like a documentary" but Sarah Johnstone, author of the fifth edition of the London guide, proclaims that the city richly deserves its surprise Olympic win.

Johnstone lavishes praise on Bermondsey in the guide: "Trendsetters might like to note that this area has been billed as 'the new Hoxton'. Okay, it might be in some five to 10 years. Admittedly, all the prerequisites are in place: a nearby trendy market (Borough Market), a community of creatives living in loft buildings like the former Hartley jam factory, and a growing cluster of gastropubs, restaurants and hip shops in and around popular Bermondsey St. With the area's proximity to the City and a mainline rail station, its already inflated property prices and its pretentious nickname SoBo (South Borough), local real-estate agents like to boast that it's attracted celebrities like Zandra Rhodes, the Chemical Brothers and Marc Almond. One famous rumour (it was just that) even had Robert de Niro buying a penthouse here."

The changing cityscape south of the river also gets a thumbs-up from Lonely Planet: "Millennium structures like Tate Modern and the London Eye now represent the city as much, if not more than, St Paul's Cathedral or the Houses of Parliament in the minds of international visitors," says Johnstone. "The "Gherkin" has won a rather unexpected place in the public's heart and while some Londoners aren't keen about the handful of record-breaking skyscrapers planned for the centre, like the 'Shard of Glass' at London Bridge, these really underline the image of a dynamic, forward-looking city."

Lonely Planet on...


    • Old Operating Theatre: a "gory gem" that is "small, quirky but highly recommended".
    • At the Design Museum the guide records the "bloody battles" of the museum's internal politics, noting that the shop is "an attraction in itself".
    • The London Dungeon is damned as a "camped-up gothic gorefest is rather more underwhelming than even sceptics might suspect".
    HMS Belfast is "a big toy that boys of all ages generally love."
    • The Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee is "a pleasant, nostalgic place to while away half an hour – provided your visit does not coincide with the arrival of a tour group."
    • Britain at War Experience: "rather musty displays make it feel like you're on a low-budget TV stage-set."


    • The Bermondsey Kitchen's food is described as "homy and unpretentious", adding that "it's hardly surprising that many locals seem to have made this their second living room".
    • The guide says that Blueprint Cafe's river views make up for the "uneven service".
    Weston Street's Champor-Champor is described as a "mixed bag", with the music and service charge coming in for criticism.
    • "It's a crying shame that this upmarket artists' canteen [Delfina] only serves meals at weekday lunchtimes.
    • "There's always a sign outside the Garrison advising 'Advance Booking Here', which tells you all you need to know about its popularity. With good reason, too."
    The Hartley: "The staff are charm itself, making you feel a valued regular even on the first occasion you show your face."
    • Despite "unlikely and pretty sterile setting" "passers-by who wander in will be pleasantly taken with the food" at Kwan Thai.
    • The Woolpack: "The menu screams 'pub grub' with all its burgers, chips and steaks, but the tortillas are a cut above."
    • "Cheerful" De Gustibus is listed under "cheat eats".
    Lant Street's El Vergel is praised for its "breakfasts of fried Chilean bread and bacon".
    • Masters Superfish: "No lie, we've once been eating Masters' delicious-looking and -smelling fish and chips at the nearest bus stop when a passing car pulled over and the passenger asked to try a bite!"


    • The Anchor Bankside: "Come rain or shine, this 18th-century pub is the business."
    Stoney Street's Market Porter is "well worth making a detour for".
    • At the Royal Oak in Tabard Street, "regulars look mildly surprised to see new faces, but after a pint of the tasty Harveys you'll be feeling more comfy".
    Wine Wharf "will delight oenophiles and people just coming along for a drink alike".

The SE1 website is supported by people like you
We are part of
Independent Community News Network
Email newsletter

For the latest local news and events direct to your inbox every Monday, you need our weekly email newsletter SE1 Direct.

7,000+ locals read it every week. Can you afford to miss out?

Read the latest issue before signing up

News archive from February 1999 to January 2001
Got a story for us?
Contact us with your tip-offs and story ideas.