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The Borough, SE1

I spent four days in the smoke the week before last.

I rarely get to spend that much time in the City these days, but I have in recent times taken to staying just sarf of the river and this time I decided on a small hotel near Borough Market and I was shocked by how much that area had changed.

Borough Market of course has been there for ever, 1014 apparently, but in recent years it has been polished like a diamond. There was a real aura to it, and the market is bordered by a whole range of cool cafes and restaurants.

I remember for something different, way before all day opening, colleagues and I would meet in the Southwark Tavern to join the market traders for breakfast at 7am. Breakfast being a couple of pints and a bacon sandwich. Used to make for a long work day those breakfast ‘meetings.’

The Southwark Tavern is still there, but the Market now has gentlemen’s hours selling all sorts of lovely goodies to tourists and imported yuppies. Back in the 1990’s it was a pre-eminent wholesale market for London’s greengrocers that was a buzz of activity overnight.

What staggered me was how that whole area had changed. The Shard effect was in full throttle alongside London Bridge’s train station redevelopment. I had dinner with friends one night on Bermondsey Street. What the hell has happened to that? It used to be a ghetto, and now it’s a corridor of cool with its art house cinema, Fashion and Textile Museum and the White Cube gallery.
We had drinks at the fantastic Garrison (photo) and then dinner afterwards at Village East, which was packed and the food was excellent.

I loved the Borough area, there were lots of boutique looking hotels and there were people everywhere and The Shard was like a towering beacon looking over it. Nearby is the Globe Theatre and the charming reminder of old London at Shad Thames.

The Borough felt like an undiscovered out of the way place, yet it was right on the river and just across from the City. When did this happen and why didn’t I recognize the potential of this little pocket of London?

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. confidential rick #

    Hi CA , am with you on the staggering changes at SE1. In an earlier life I used to fix the phones in the various market wholesaler’s cabins, then finish the morning with the best bacon roll ever bought for pennies to the sound of the old Southern Region rumbling overhead. Now it costs £5.50 for a coffee in Roast. Nostalgia’s not what it used to be….

    March 14, 2014
  2. I’ve often wondered where London will be once every corner has been regentrified? Will areas such as Blackheath or Greenwich fall on hard times as Bermondsey and Borough take off in popularity? Will Hackney become the new Notting Hill? Will Catford ever get a makeover?

    March 14, 2014
  3. SLC Addick #

    I first went to work at Guy’s Hospital in 1984 and left in 2002. That era saw a transformation of the area which has obviously continued to this day. In 84 it still felt positively Dickensian but Butlers Wharf, Hays Galleria, Tate Modern, New Borough Market and The Shard happened and not so suddenly this area has turned into London’s most happening district. I even have a friend in Salt Lake who just bought a second (or fifth) home in Borough. Give some thought to the amount of building dust we have choked on through that era. I love the Monmouth coffee shop, Roast, and that tapas bar whose name I’ve forgotten but which guarantees a great (if expensive) plate of jamon amid the stand up crush. I had a great experience in Oblix in The Shard back in January. I have drunk in the Market Porter at 6am. The George, Skinkers, Southwark Tavern, Whitesmiths – many a drink taken there. You mean you can’t do that anymore? Borough and Bankside will be embedded in me for ever and I love to get back there. You are almost making me nostalgic.

    March 17, 2014

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