The good thing about having a job in London and periodically moving to work in another part of the city is that you end up with a focused and unnecessarily deep knowledge of small, sometimes good, usually mediocre places to eat near your office.
And mediocre isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a universal truth that your food standards have to drop between the hours of 12pm-2pm Monday to Friday, when consuming five pieces of lukewarm falafel from a corrugated paper box becomes not just acceptable but a daily routine you actively look forward to by 11am every day.
You know that paying £6-£8 for a halloumi wrap isn’t really acceptable but you become oddly attached to these cafes anyway; living only for loyalty card stamps and becoming gradually recognisable to the people behind the counters. Then one day, you’ll move office, and never go back ever again.
Today our office is moving from the top of Bermondsey Street across the river to Monument, shaving 10 minutes off my commute but leaving my fave places to get lunch behind.
And I’m not talking about José, or Hutong at the Shard, or Flour and Grape, and please note, there is no Pa-bloody-della on this list – not because they’re not lunch-worthy options, but because they’re not Work Lunch-worthy options. And that means you’ve got half an hour, £7.50 left on your Monzo, and want your meal served within 5 minutes of ordering to takeaway, please, in a box.
So here’s my knowledge that I give to you: where to get your lunch when you work near Bermondsey Street, SE1.
1. Caphe House, Bermondsey Street
Also known simply as “Vietnam” to, well, the people in our office, who at one point had a spreadsheet to log and competitively track who ordered the most Vietnamese food throughout the year. In winter, you’ll want the prawn Pho, and in summer, you’ll be gunning for the roast chicken or coconut chicken and rice, and those are the only things I can recommend because another universal truth of Work Lunch is that you will order exactly the same thing every time, and never diverge from your choice, and also feel a point of pride when in the last week the staff take your order and don’t have to ask for your name.
114 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TX
2. Petit Bleu, Snowfields
Don’t be fooled by the a) French name or b) the lengthy queue outside, this is not some sort of high end Bistro and there’s anything remotely French about these peri peri chicken wraps. What you need to know is that this place serves £3 meal deals and the biggest slab of lasagne I’ve ever laid eyes on for about £4.50, and a jacket potato for about £3.50, and it’s basically The Cheapest Place in SE1 to Get Lunch. You’ll just need to get there pretty early and prepare to get slightly nervous about standing that close to other people inside.
42 Snowfields, SE1 3SU
3. Omoide, Bermondsey Street
This place arrived on Bermondsey Street last year and I’ve been a semi-regular consumer of their extremely tasty dashi (noodles, chicken, broth) ever since. And although I haven’t tried the chirashi (a big bowl of rice and sushi and veg and stuff) I have it on good authority that it is also, Very Good. Take it over the road to the park and eat it there, and say hi to the dogs.
126 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TX
4. B-Street Deli, Bermondsey Street
Salad in a box. Chicken with salad in a box! Salmon with salad in a box! QUICHE WITH SALAD IN A BOX. Soup! Jacket potatoes! ALL OF IT, DELICIOUS, AND SERVED IN A BOX.
88 Bermondsey Street, SE1
5. Eatalia, Bermondsey Street
First up, a warning because I’m pretty sure this place subtly changes the position of their counters and tills every week just to fuck with us. Secondly, if you want soup and a decent portion of pasta and also ciabatta… filled… stuff? – look, I’m not a sandwich girl – and also arancini or maybe chilli con carne and rice, anyway it’s all about £6.50. And if you go there often enough and look particularly knackered after a long haul flight, they might offer you a free espresso. Man that counter moves every week, I swear it.
94 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3UB
6. Absolutely Starving, Tooley Street
It’s Thursday, you’re hanging, and you’ve spent the last hour yelling ‘I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT TO EAT’ across an office full of people wearing headphones, and the best solution for that is always to just have every single option under the sun laid out in front of you and let instinct do the rest. Enter AbStarv, which is a bit hidden away next to Hays Galleria. You want delicious cheesy pasta? Some sort of sandwich (again, not a cold bread person, so dunno why you would)? Soup, you massive weirdo? Pulled pork in a bap? No, you only think you do. What you actually want is the Egyptian koshari box, which is every carbohydrate known to man placed into a pot and laced with spicy tomato sauce, tahini and chilli beef, which is £6-something and will send you into a delicious food coma for the rest of the day.
51 Tooley Street, SE1
7. Velo, Tooley Street
I’m adding this one because it’s the alternative Vietnamese to Caphe House and you get spring rolls free with your rice dish here, which isn’t something to be sniffed at, because what’s free in this world? Nothing, nothing is free. Lunch here isn’t free either, in fact they probably factor the free spring rolls into the price, but then you also order your food on a screen without talking to anyone so bonus points for that. And look, it’s good, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice, but it’s not Caphe House. All I’m saying is you’ll be weirdly stubborn about going to one or the other, and I think I’ve made it clear where my loyalties, spring rolls or not, lie.
104 Tooley Street, London Bridge, London SE1 2TH
8. Flat Iron Square
Yeah, I know, not really near Bermondsey Street but a good one for when your mate on maternity leave comes to meet you for lunch and you’re not sure if the box of re-heated Bolognese you usually consume at this time of day is actually good or not, because who knows if Work Lunch food is actually good, or if we’re all just hungry and need to taste something apart from our own salty tears by 12pm; anything, anything at all, as long as it comes in a wrap? Anyway, Flat Iron Square has loads of quick food places, it’s a 10 minute fast trot away, and the pasta probably costs a quid more but is made fresh in front of you and FYI, it’s now called beef shin ragu.
64 Southwark St, London SE1 1RU
9. Borough Market
Another token mention, this time for the world’s most famous mass tourist feeding ground and your Special Occasion Work Lunch. Borough Market is inevitable and more on this list to make up the numbers, because if you work in London Bridge you won’t be able to avoid it. Someone will suggest it, someone will laud it as the best place to go when a colleague visits from another office, you will go there to meet your mate who works nearby too. But the rest of the time, Borough Market is a strictly Friday, three times a year affair. Go early. Get the pad thai. Then get the hell back to the office.
10. Chilango, Tooley Street
Burritos are important to London and the office workers of this city take them very seriously. That’s my disclaimer, because I don’t want this recommendation to be an indication that Chilango is The Best Burrito Place, because it’s not. Remember, this is Work Lunch, we’re dealing with a tiny radius of choices: and for Bermondsey Street your choice is Chilango, where I once laughed at the miniscule size of the small burrito they were making me with such gusto that they gave it to me for free. (Chipotle / Daddy Donkey 4 lyf)
90 Tooley Street, SE1 2TH
11. More London
Pret. Leon. Itsu. EAT, they’re all… no, don’t. Oh god, eurgh, ignore this entry. I feel so dirty. Let’s move on.
BONUS! where to sit and eat it:
- Your desk, obviously
- Tanner Street park
- More London Place
- Grassy bit by Tower Bridge
- There’s a nice concrete sitting area in front of the university opposite the Shard
It goes without saying there are places – many places – I haven’t listed, probably because I haven’t eaten there. And I now need to know where to eat near Monument. Stay tuned for that post in a few year’s time.
Any tips? Leave ’em below.