The best restaurants near the London Eye, from Kerridge’s Bar and Grill to Okan

·5-min read
Local treasure: Okan  (Press handout)
Local treasure: Okan (Press handout)

The stretch of river that is home to the London Eye has a venerable history as a playground for Londoners. Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens was notorious for licentiousness in the early 19th century while, rather more wholesomely, the Festival of Britain was held on the South Bank in 1951 to usher in the brave new world of a post-war, post-imperial future for the UK.

This is not, however, one of London’s gourmet centres, though lovers of chains are in luck: there are branches of Wagamama, Giraffe, Strada and Côte in the undercroft of the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre arts complex.

Still, the north bank of the Thames and Covent Garden is a 10-minute walk away while there are a few local gems scattered around the South Bank. From fish and chips to teppanyaki, traditional Italian and modern reinventions of British cooking, here are the five best restaurants near the London Eye. See how many you can spot on the 30-minute revolution.

Masters Superfish

Fish and chips is on the must-try list of many visitors to London but alas not a delicacy that is done especially well in the centre of the capital, except in smart seafood restaurants. Masters Superfish, beloved of black-cab drivers and brickies, is an honourable exception. It’s a bit of a hike from the Eye but given the huge portions, a 15-minute walk before and after a fish supper here may be no bad thing. The fish arrives fresh each day fresh Billingsgate Market: cod and haddock plunged into the deep-fat fryer to be served up battered with thick-cut chips and pickles, but also scampi, skate and squid and, for non-fish eaters, a rag-tag of dishes that Brits have adopted as their own such as chicken Kiev and beef curry. Check the opening hours before visiting: at the time of writing, doors open at 4.30pm.

How far? A 15-minute walk

How much? Around £12 for fish n’ chips

191 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UX, 020 7928 692

Skylon

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

The Skylon was the centrepiece of the Festival of Britain but, while the rocket-like structure is long gone, the Royal Festival Hall remains. Skylon 2.0 is its smart in-house restaurant, with views over the river to the much more attractive north bank of the Thames. Cooking sticks to the modern European formula of British ingredients perked up with global additions unheard of in the 1950s: Cornish crab with wasabi mayonnaise, grilled baby chicken with smoky pepper pesto, salt-baked beetroot with vegan mousse. Light bites, including a burger and fries, are served in the bar.

How far? A four-minute walk

How much? Set menu, three courses and a glass of wine for £35 (Monday-Friday lunch, Wednesday-Friday supper); a la carter starters around £15, main around £25, puddings around £6.50

Royal Festival Hall, SE1 8XX, skylon-restaurant.co.uk

Kerridge’s Bar & Grill

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Well worth the walk over the Golden Jubilee Bridge to the other side of the river, the London outpost of Tom Kerridge showcases the chef’s playful updates of traditional British cooking (and is easier to get into than his two-Michelin-starred gastropub in Marlow, The Hand and Flowers). A prawn Scotch egg comes with pickled mooli and satay sauce, pork fillet with devilled sauce and clotted cream mash, and a baked chocolate and brown butter torte with puffed rice, honeycomb and malted milk ice cream. There are vegetarian and vegan menus, too. Prices, however, are on a par with the location in a five-star hotel.

How far? A nine-minute walk

How much? Starters around £18, mains between £26.50 and £56, puddings mostly upwards of £15

Corinthia London, 10 Northumberland Avenue, WC2N 5AE, kerridgesbarandgrill.co.uk

La Barca

A favourite with Waterloo commuters and theatregoers from the Old Vic, La Barca has been serving classic Italian cooking since 1976. Whatever the Italian is for “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might well be the restaurant’s motto, and there would be an outcry from regulars if the likes of calamari fritti, penne arrabbiata, risotto ai funghi and cotolatta di vitello Milanese were removed from the menu, though for the true taste of the mid 70s, order the steak Diane flambéed at the table. To drink, there are some good-value bottles on the mainly Italian list, but also very dear Super Tuscans from the early years of this century.

How far? A 13-minute walk

How much? Prices vary but most starters in the high teens, most mains around the £30 mark, most puddings £9 (though crepe Suzette is £30)

80-81 Lower Marsh, SE1 7AB, labarca-ristorante.com

Okan

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

At the rear of County Hall — the former home of the Greater London Council (abolished by Mrs Thatcher and now a hotel and aquarium) — Okan is the brainchild of Moto Priestman, a chef who arrived in the UK from Osaka in 1998 determined to prove to Brits that there’s more to Japanese cuisine than sushi. Here instead diners will find a zero-waste menu of beef and kimchi teppanyaki, yakisoba noodle plates and udon noodle soups, donburi or curry rice bowls and okonomiyaki, the omelette and pancake hybrid filled with various combos of cheese, meat and seafood. To drink, there’s saké, shochu, plum wine and Japanese beer as well as hot and cold green teas. It’s all excellent value and far more interesting than the touristy location suggests.

How far? A three-minute walk

How much? Japanese tapas bites around £7, okonomiyaki and noodles mostly £11.95, curries mostly £12.95

County Hall, Belvedere Road, SE1 7PB, okanlondon.com