The Crazy Kitchen: Cultural Marathon - Foodie Finds around Tower Bridge, London

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Monday, 6 April 2015

Cultural Marathon - Foodie Finds around Tower Bridge, London

I spent the weekend before last in London as a guest of the Tower Hotel, Tower Bridge. The Tower Hotel is the partner hotel of the Virgin Money London Marathon, and as the average finishing time for running a marathon currently stands at around 4.5 hours, I've put together a Cultural Marathon itinerary of my foodie finds and interesting things to do around the Tower Hotel that can be visited within this 4.5 hour time period, although you may want to spend more time at individual places, particularly Borough Market, where I could easily spend a whole day.

The Tower Hotel

The Tower Hotel
I couldn't put together this itinerary without first mentioning the Tower hotel itself. It boasts one of the most spectacular views of London, overlooking Tower Bridge. 

Cultural Marathon - Foodie Finds around Tower Bridge, London view from 5th floor room, by day and night

There is an on-site gym, where you can start your day off, before enjoying a full breakfast in either the Brasserie or Gallery. If you have an executive room you can take advantage of the executive lounge and enjoy drinks and snacks throughout the day, including a continental breakfast and early evening canap├ęs.

Cultural Marathon - Foodie Finds around Tower Bridge, London View of Tower Bridge and The Shard from the Brasserie

City Cruises Thames Circular Cruise
This departs the Tower Pier (just a few minutes walk from the hotel) on the hour throughout the day and takes in 45 sights in 45 minutes. We went on the 11am cruise with 49 other passengers, which was less than half the capacity, and therefore had plenty of room. We sat on the top deck and braved the cold, where our very knowledgeable guide talked us through the sights as we passed them. We headed west on the Thames up to the London Eye and Houses of Parliament before turning around and heading back to the Tower Pier.

Cost £13.00 per adult (pier price, or just £9 at the moment if booked in advance online)

City Cruisees Circular Thames CruiseViews from the Cruise

Borough Market
The first time I visited Borough Market I knew immediately that I wanted to return again soon. The first thing that struck me, as I entered via the steps by Southwark Cathedral, are the amazing smells. Smells of burgers being smoked on a bbq, freshly brewed coffee, enormous pots of curry bubbling away, and piles and piles of cookies being eagerly snapped up. If you love food and you've never been here before then I definitely recommend a visit, and you will want to come back time and time again. Situated on the south side of London Bridge it's just under a mile from the Tower Hotel, and can be reached by walking across Tower Bridge and then heading west, or heading west and then crossing London Bridge.

borough market

borough market
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Whatever food or drink you want, you can find it at Borough Market. This time my first drink of the day was a Kir Royale from a small stand next to Borough Wine before heading to the Vinopolis Piazza to see the canopy of brightly coloured umbrellas suspended above the courtyard.

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Brew Wharf
Situated in Vinopolis Piazza, Brew Wharf is a bustling bar/restaurant positioned underneath railway arches. There is an outdoor terrace with parasols and much needed patio heaters, or ample space indoors to enjoy a beer from the large selection on offer, and perhaps a bar meal or sharing platter.

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I took a gamble on the seafood platter, which unfortunately wasn't really my cup of tea, but the Lindemans Cassis beer was delicious and fruity.

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The last time I visited Borough Market we spotted an intriguing looking place in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral, with old iron beds in the courtyard, covered in an abundance of blankets and cushions. We enjoyed a cocktail at Boro Bisto however the service was extremely slow, and not particularly welcoming. We decided to give it a second chance this time and thought maybe we had judged the place too quickly previously when we were greeted with a warm welcome and shown to a small table indoors. Our joy was disappointingly short-lived though, when we were informed that actually that table was reserved and there was no room for us after all - with barely an apology and no offer of a drink at the bar until a table became available. At this point we knew exactly where we would head next, and would be guaranteed a warm welcome and the offer of great food and drinks:

Whiskey Ginger
The first thing that you notice about this place is the smell of burgers cooking in full view of market goers. Wafts of smoke entice hungry patrons to stop and chat to the friendly flat cap wearing staff, whilst ordering a burger and fries or pint of lager on draft amid the hustle and bustle of the market. There are a handful of tables and bar stools inside, as well as additional seating upstairs. The small size of this establishment is not reflected in the huge atmosphere, with great music played at the perfect volume, staff enjoying a laugh and a joke with customers, cocktails shaken by in house mixologists with ingredients sourced from the market, and burgers made using the finest meats.  If you're looking for somewhere to rest your feet and fill your belly whilst at the market then Whiskey Ginger is definitely the place to go. Beware though, as once you sample the chicken burger and Whiskey Ginger cocktail you won't want to leave.

Burgers from £6 and cocktails £9

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Hays Galleria & Cote Brasserie 
Heading east a short distance along the south of the river will bring you to the Shard, one of the tallest buildings in western Europe, beneath which stands Hays Galleria, a former warehouse and wharf, now housing shops, bars and restaurants . It's an impressive looking building, visible from the Thames and north bank and recognised by it's arched roof. Upon recommendation of a friend we stopped at Cote Brasserie and took in the stunning views up and down the Thames, and nearby HMS Belfast, whilst enjoying a cheese board and praline crepe.

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Tower Bridge Piazza, Dean Swift and Butlers Wharf
A short stroll along the riverbank takes you past the HMS Belfast ticket office, shop and The Upper Deck Bar, jutting out from the walkway, and towards Tower Bridge. 

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Just behind the bridge you'll find the cobblestone street of Shad Thames and Tower Bridge Piazza, littered with trendy cafes, estate agents and apartment blocks converted from warehouses. 

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A couple of streets away, nestled in a residential area of apartments is The Dean Swift local beer house. Early on Saturday evening this seems to be the place to be, and it was bustling with twenty and thirty somethings sampling the craft beers on offer. I enjoyed one of the cask ales and a glass of roasted nuts.

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Heading back towards Tower Bridge, along the cobbled street we spotted a small alleyway and investigated to find out what was beyond. This is where we stumbled upon the riverfront bars and restaurants forming part of Butlers Wharf. Although it was reasonably quiet when we visited I can imagine it heaving with patrons on a warm Saturday evening in the summer, taking in the breathtaking view of Tower Bridge by night.

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The Xi Bar, Tower Hotel
After our full-on few hours around the London Bridge and Tower Bridge areas we ended our day in the Xi Bar back at the Tower Hotel. This is the place to relax and unwind day or evening and enjoy cocktails, wine, beers and classic bar meals, whilst taking in the view. We enjoyed drinks and burger with a spectacular view overlooking Tower Bridge by night.

Food prices : £4.50 - £15.50

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I could not fault the Tower Hotel one bit. All the members of staff that we came into contact with were friendly and helpful - from housekeeping and reception staff to the staff in the Guoman Lounge and the concierge. The rooms are comfortable, with everything you need, and the food and drink excellent. I would never normally consider staying within such a small area (approx one square mile) on a trip to London, and would normally head towards more well-known areas such as Oxford Street and Covent Garden. It just goes to show that there is so much more to London than I can even begin to imagine.
Cultural Marathon - Foodie Finds around Tower Bridge, London

I have been working with the The Tower Hotel on this Cultural Marathon, and have been compensated for my time, as well as receiving a complimentary stay.


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