The first London Bridge may have been built by the Romans — the current structure dates from 1973 — but it is the Gothic grandeur of the Victorian Tower Bridge downstream which is the more recognisable London icon. The bridge also gives a splendid view of the Tower of London, founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror.
Tower Hill on the north bank of the Thames is the closest tube to the attractions but better to arrive via London Bridge station on the south bank. Not only does the walk along the river give a better view of both the Tower and bridge but Borough Market is right outside the station. The foodie mecca is open in the daytime seven days a week and there’s hot food to takeaway among the butchers and fishmongers, greengrocers and cheesemongers. A cheese toastie from Kappacasein Dairy, empanadas from Porteña and a jam doughnut from Bread Ahead would make a fine portable lunch.
Presently, the area is heaving with crowds queuing to pay their respects to Her Majesty the Queen, who is lying in state in the Palace of Westminster. Queues are reportedly anywere from eight to 14 hours; if you’re planning to join them, a hearty meal first would be wise.
As such, here’s our pick of the best restaurants around Tower Bridge and the Tower of London (we’ve measured distances from the Tower).
This Spanish restaurant in St Katharine Docks might look rustic — wooden tables, exposed brick, plus a few waterside seats — but the creative cooking goes way beyond the standard chorizo and calamares. There are black pudding sliders made from morcilla de Burgos and a crema catalana of foie gras and cherry, while even the familiar items on the menu come with a creative flourish such as the toasted garlic with the grilled octopus or the salted Pedro Ximénez caramel with the crispy prawns. To drink, the Spanish wine list has 20 by the glass and some good-value bottles.
How far? An 11-minute walk
How much? Tapas plates around £9
St Katharine Docks, East Smithfield, E1W 1AT, bravasrestaurant.com
Le Pont de la Tour
London’s best view of Tower Bridge is from the riverside terrace of French-accented Pont de la Tour. Time it right and a dozen oysters and a glass of Champagne while the bascules of the bridge are raised in the background is the ultimate London Insta moment. (The bridge lift times are advertised online and, providentially, often coincide with dinner.) Still, even if the bridge isn’t playing ball, there’s much to divert attention here, whether something fancy in the restaurant proper (Dover sole meunière, lemon and thyme roast chicken) or more casual meals in the informal Bistrot (morel omelette, steak-frites), though the views aren’t quite as nice in here. Kids, meanwhile, get two/three courses for £16/£20: poached prawns, vegetable rigatoni, brownie sundae.
How far? An 11-minute walk
How much? Three courses approx £70 in the restaurant, £40 in the Bistrot
36d Shad Thames, SE1 2YE, lepontdelatour.co.uk
Emilia’s Crafted Pasta
Part of a mini-chain of London pasta specialists, Emilia’s makes up for in a maritime scene of yachts bobbing in the millionaires’ playground of St Katharine Docks what it lacks in immediate views of Tower Bridge (there are waterside views from either the terrace or glass-fronted dining room). The namesake pasta is made fresh each morning with each shape deliberately paired to the correct sauce: stubby casarecce with truffled cacio e pepe, or spaghetti-like bucatini with pancetta or smoked salmon carbonara. There are a couple of salads for carb dodgers, side orders of tomato bruschetta or burrata while reasonable prices extend to the short Italian drinks list of wine, beer and organic soft drinks.
How far? An 11-minute walk
How much? Pasta dishes around £13
C3 Ivory House, St Katharine Docks, E1W 1AT, emiliaspasta.com
The Four Seasons hotel, housed in one of the grandest buildings in the City of London, is home to a two-Michelin starred outpost of French chef Anne-Sophie Pic, but this smart Chinese and Japanese restaurant is a more flexible alternative even if you’re not one of the suited business travellers who are the target market. Raw fish from the sushi bar includes seabass sashimi, mackerel nigiri, soft-shell crab futomaki and salmon hosomaki. Daytime dim sum, meanwhile, covers all the har gau, siu mai and xiao long bao classics, veggie, vegan and gluten-free options are plentiful, while a three-course lunch for £38 is a more economical option than whole Peking duck for £105. A bar serving shochu, saké and Japanese whiskies is worth lingering at afterwards.
How far? A six-minute walk
How much? Three pieces of dim sum £12, one piece of sushi around £7, main courses around £30
Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, 10 Trinity Square, EC3N 4AJ, meiume.com
This steak chain’s USP was offering a flat iron (aka featherblade) steak and chips for £10 when it launched back in 2012; it costs £12 now, which is still terrific value, though sides of beef-dripping chips, creamed spinach and roast cauliflower cost another £4 or so, while sauces (béarnaise, peppercorn, wild mushroom) are another £1. Soft-serve ice cream, at least, is free, meaning it’s possible to get out of here with change from a £20 note if you drink tap water, though it would be a shame not to have a glass of new world wine, a bottle of London beer or a twist on a classic cocktail. The all-day opening hours from midday to 11pm are useful to know.
How far? A 16-minute walk
How much? Steak and chips, £16
112-116 Tooley Street, SE1 2TH, flatironsteak.co.uk