There are so many reasons you need to go to Boro Bistro, not least of them, the loos… yes, the loos. I don’t normally make a habit of recommending somewhere for its facilities, but when a place gets the wine right, the food right, the ambience right, and tops it all off with an eccentric experience when you need a piddle, well, that’s the pinnacle of dining, right?
Boro Bistro is tricky to come by unless you know it’s there. Under the shadow of Southwark Cathedral and London Bridge, you can access it from the steps on the bridge itself or via Borough Market – though try not to get side-tracked if you choose the market route because, trust me, Boro Bistro is worth the bypass, not least because a lot of its produce is sourced from there anyway.
The entrance is a terrace bedecked with chairs, benches and banquets, many of which are under huge rain-defending parasols and next to electric heaters. It’s perfect for summer drinks or dining, and for chilly evenings there are plenty of blankets to go round.
(Yeah yeah, I’ll get to the loos in a minute.)
Most of the waiting staff are French, and our attendant, Vincent from Brittany, knew the menus inside out. We chose an Italian red wine but he quickly put us on the path to an award-winning Bordeaux that was, to his credit, very tasty and no more expensive. For nibbles we had garlicky Borough market olives and subtly spicy merguez sausages, which Vincent decided would taste better dipped in French mustard so off he went to bring us a little dish of it – he explains this is a barbecue tradition from his hometown, and he’s right, it’s a good combo.
Dinner was small plates, of which we had many many many. Mussels in a light tomato sauce with samphire. Succulent frogs’ legs accompanied by slaw with golden sultanas. An oozingly cheesy croque monsieur. Fresh tasting zander teriyaki. Sweet and salty goats cheese with aubergines. Yum. Just yum. Nothing was fussy yet everything was bursting with flavour.
After much wine, it was time for that tinkle. Take the stairs down, and you enter what feels like a 70s French disco. Lights dance all over the place while trinkets take up every available space on the walls. Deciphering between the ladies and gents is somewhat confusing given there are communal wash basins and the framed photos of women and men, all smiles in their birthday suits, don’t seem to indicate where you ought to go either. Although you’ll notice you’ve entered the gents when you see the enormous pair of lips that frame the urinal (yes, curiosity just might have gotten the better of me to get you that fact but no one was in there at the time, I promise!) And best of all, the taps light up when you turn them on. Groovy.
With a combination of interesting and traditional dishes, and a great wine list, Boro Bistro is excellent if you want to experience a little slice of French cuisine in what it describes as ‘a French corner of London’. But moreover, it’s relaxed, charming, completely unpretentious and fits in snuggly with the down-to-earth side of the London Bridge area. And of course, the party toilets alone are worth a trip.
The restaurant inside needs booking in advance while the terrace doesn’t take bookings and gets busy in sunnier weather.