Who would have thought that a cluster of railway arches in Bermondsey a backwater close to London Bridge would become the weekend destination of choice for the British capital's most discerning foodies?
Monmouth Coffee Company and cheese specialists Neal's Yard Dairy started out by opening their Maltby Street warehouses to committed shoppers on Saturday mornings. Now they've been joined by several other gourmet retailers and purveyors of food-to-go like St. John Bread & Wine (whose custard doughnuts always sell out early) and Kitty Traver's Piaggio ice cream van (don't miss her apple-basil flavor).
When shopping is done, folks head for proper refueling at nearby Bermondsey Street a mix of Georgian bow-fronted shops, Huguenot timbered buildings and Victorian warehouses. The Garrison, thegarrison.co.uk, is an affable old gastropub, offering the likes of potted stilton and bouillabaisse. Equally good, and with the same owners, is Village East, villageeast.co.uk, where twice-baked cheddar-and-Gruyère soufflé is a stalwart alongside daily specials like wild mallard and pollack with Shetland mussels. But Bermondsey's buzziest venue has to be José tapas bar, josepizarro.com. Don't expect to be seated stand and sip on exceptional sherries and tuck into delectable bites like mackerel a la plancha or Cornish razor clams. Sister establishment Pizarro serves smart takes on rustic Spanish fare, from partridge escabeche to sea bass with chorizo.
The biggest indicator of Bermondsey's newfound cachet isn't a restaurant opening, however, but a gallery's. Famed art dealer Jay Jopling recently unveiled the third and largest of his White Cube spaces in the area. Looks like this under-the-radar neighborhood is about to get a whole lot more conspicuous.