Do you ever take where you live for granted? I’m always banging on about how much I love London, so much so people must get bored hearing it. Even then I take it for granted. So many places I still haven’t seen after 16 years living here. Like creatures of habit we often head to our favourite parts don’t we, forgetting that somewhere undiscovered may be that special place we’ll never know about.
The South Bank is an area that people generally know quite well. Famous for the eponymous 1970’s architecture and beautiful Thames views as well as Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern. Walk along the river on any given day and you’ll be jostling for space with tourists and runners. But head off down one of the narrow streets which run behind and you’ll find the most peaceful tranquility.
Spending a Saturday there recently, our first stop was the Tate Modern itself. In all my time in London, I’ve probably only ever visited twice – shame on me! I still find the building awe-inspiring, a former power station now housing some of the world’s most cutting-edge art and design installations.
From the playful swings which take over the Turbine Hall by SUPERFLEX to the incredible ‘The Inflammatory Essays’ by Jenny Holzer, bedecking the otherwise harsh concrete stairwell with vibrant, colourful stripes, there is so much to see. After a swing and an explore, we made our way up to the 10th floor of the Blavatnik Building. If you want stunning views without the cost or queues for the Shard, this is your place. Granted, it’s not 60-odd floors up. But it is 10. And if you can navigate the lift system, the viewing platform provides stunning views across London.
Heading out of the Tate Modern, we wended our way west along the South Bank, behind Oxo Tower Wharf along Upper Ground to The Green Room for lunch and festive fun. Again, a guilty Londoner who has walked past The Green Room a few times since it opened but never popped in. Described as a ‘casual neighbourhood diner, bar and garden’, it was created by local social enterprise Coin Street Community Builders and the National Theatre.
A testament to theatrical connections, inside is creatively decorated. Theatre props from previous productions hang on the walls and act as glass-topped table inlays. It’s a great venue for groups of friends and family like, currently offering a twist on the festive menu traditions. We started our experience at ‘Frost Fair’, the pop-up garden bar which is open daily from 5.30pm to 8.30pm (weather permitting). We toasted giant marshmallows and sipped Mulled Sloe Gin which you have to try, it’s addictive. The bar has collaborated with Sipsmith to celebrate London’s gin history and I now need to go back to sample the rest of the options including Hot Negroni and the Gin Hot Toddy.
Our festive lunch was delicious, although defeating – my Upside Down Pumpkin Pie, winter cabbage and raclette fondue looked like I hadn’t made much effort to eat it. But after a hearty starter of beetroot and goat’s cheese and with pudding to come, I knew the important of pacing myself. The Green Room do also offer a vegan festive menu to those who may be need it but it’s my little concession that when I’m out I do sometimes pick the vegetarian option rather than a strictly vegan one.
Full of food we made our way back along the South Bank to the Oxo Tower Wharf, home to independent shops, restaurants and exhibitions. We also learned that the middle floors between the shops and the restaurant at the top are co-operative homes having been redeveloped in the 90’s, again by Coin Street Community Builders. What a stunning place to live.
Last year I did a lot of Christmas shopping at Oxo Tower Wharf but this time we headed straight for mechanical clock makers Bramwell Brown. Our task for the afternoon? To create our very own Christmas bauble, complete with bespoke miniature festive figurines. Letting loose our creative juices, Santas got pimped. Everything from a sparkly silver sack to in my case, Miami Dayglo Santa, who I decided needed a yellow suit instead of the traditional red one.
And so all too quickly came the end of our South Bank day. There is so much to appreciate about this little pocket of London, from arts and culture to eating and shopping. It’s the perfect place to while away a day or two, supporting social enterprises and independent small businesses as you do. I don’t know about you, but I’d take that over Oxford Street any day, wouldn’t you?
I was invited to attend the South Bank blogger trip where food and refreshments were provided for us. All words, opinions and images are my own.