Scrumption (n) 1. a small portion of a delicious foodstuff or beverage.

Today I took a walk to tick off several eateries and boozers I haven’t yet experienced in London.

Plans are afoot for me to move out of London for the first time since I spent a couple of years in the Midlands as a child. The walks around London will not end for the foreseeable future but the available time for fripperies will be limited. Thus this idea was born whereby I will try to take a day of shortish but pleasant walking, and stuffing my stupid face with as many delicious things as I can. Here’s the first official Scrumptions Stroll of, hopefully, many!

Starting point: London Bridge Tube Station, Zone 1

Finishing point: Shoreditch High Street overground station, Zone

Length: 7.7 kilometres (4.8 miles)

OS Maps app link here

Download the GPX file for this route here: Scrumptions stroll 1 – Borough to Shoreditch

There are several things about this walk which really excited, and still do excite me. Food is a great joy and a few pints and cocktails alongside that food is even more exciting. I thoroughly recommend setting aside a day to do this kind of thing. Think of the places you’ve always wanted to go to or revisit, and then just do them all at once in a corpulent rampage. Disclaimer: I am no good at food photography, because I’m wary of over-using filters, so there won’t be nearly as much as there should be.

I left London Bridge Tube Station by myself, everyone else was running late but I wanted to see Southwark Cathedral before groups of tourists turned up. Come out the Borough Market exit of the station and follow the road north towards the river. Just on the other side of the rail bridge is a path down to the south side of the Cathedral, along the north boundary of Borough Market.

It wasn’t even that early but at 9am people were buying full meals from the incredible range of street food stalls on offer. Writing this post up, a couple of weeks later, I am still salivating wildly as I remember the smells and the sights of those stalls. But on the day I had to restrain myself for a while because the Cathedral was my official start point.

Follow the Cathedral fence clockwise and you’ll find the unattractive modern side entrance to the complex. It looked closed but the door pulled open and in I went. Turn right just inside the door and you’ll head into the Cathedral itself. It’s very lovely and at 10am it is almost completely deserted. Two priests were reading at each other quietly but otherwise the whole place was deserted. I savoured the peace by taking a pew at the back and gazing slowly around me to take in some detail. I don’t usually like taking photos in religious buildings but I’m not averse to sketching so I got out my little book and spent some time putting down some lines to remember the place by.
Sketch of the interior of Southwark Cathedral
Very soon there were crying babies and a Japanese man striding purposefully down the middle of the Cathedral, shutter imitation on his phone loudly going off every few metres as he barely broke stride. At least I got a few minutes as I hoped.

Time for food.

Outside Southwark Cathedral my girlfriend had arrived so we gleefully set about starting the demolition of Borough Market. First of all she revealed that she had bought me a french salami stuffed with whole hazelnuts – one of the best recent discoveries I’ve made. Win! Then we bought some truffle infused stinky lovely cheese, some more sausages, and some brownies. All for the road. But those weren’t exactly why I was here. The scrumption I wanted most from this visit was oysters. The stall I went to last time was closed this morning but I found what might be an even better one and bought just three from the slightly confused-looking man who tried to accidentally overcharge me.

Borough Market oysters

Two smaller £1.50 Poole (I think) oysters, and one much larger Ohio (I think) oyster at £2.50. I like them with only the smallest squeeze of lemon, nothing else. Other people stood there slathering them in hot sauce and even mayonnaise as though the eating oysters was going to be an experience that they dearly wished to avoid. Maddening.

The smaller ones were so delicious and fresh. I don’t abide the swallow-them-whole thing either, I love the taste so I chew them well. And drink the briny water too. Oh man these things are good! The larger oyster was delicious too but way more gritty so it wasn’t quite as enjoyable. Job very happily done. Onwards!
My friend had overslept and still wasn’t on his way yet. He therefore had no choice but to miss our next stop, the venerable M. Manze pie and mash shop on Tower Bridge Road. We walked along from London Bridge and survived the diversions and confusion caused by the never-ending regeneration of said station. Spotted some weird and interesting things on the way too.

Red telephone box taken over by foliage

Manze is a legend, one of those places open from the turn of the start of the last century and still possessing an atmosphere dragging its heels from that era. Usually there’s something of a queue outside so getting here early was part of the plan. This morning there was just a bunch of chatty ladies in aprons and cockney accents, lone gents sitting with their pies and a cuppa, and us. The green and white tiled interior feels ‘authentic’ and reflects the mash and liquor generously accompanying the pie. Sorry, no toilet for customers “We’re a listed building” being the reason given to my girlfriend.

M Manze pie and mash shop

I do have to say that I’ve had better old fashioned pie and mash pies before but this was still more than passable and pretty cheap at about six quid, if I remember correctly, for two pies on one plate with mash and liquor. Oh and by the way liquor is parsley suspended in a glutinous flour sauce. A good hearty second breakfast.

Memorial outside manze

Happy-groggy from all that mash, we walked north towards Tower Bridge but turned right just after the rail bridge, then north again so that we came to Shad Thames and the small podium overlooking the River Neckinger and St. Saviours/Jacobs Island. One of my favourite bits of London full-stop. Grand Victorian warehouses and steeped in Dickensian mythology.

At the footbridge a few hundred metres on you can almost always get some atmospheric views back up the creek, but today it was supported by the entirely out of place glee club being whizzed along the Thames on a boat. Very weird indeed.

Forest Gump signWith Tower Bridge just ahead it was time to check in with my friend so we took the opportunity to have a break at the All Bar One overlooking the City, the Tower, and Tower Bridge from the south bank. I wouldn’t normally pause here but actually the view is well worth the mundanity of the bar, and it gave my friend the chance to catch us up.

It was only just past 11am but we had a beer each. One of those cheerfully illicit things that feels way more naughty than it really should, especially when you remember that plenty of Germans drink beer with their white sausages every single morning.

That said, the conversation because puerile quickly and the tone was decidedly lowered…

We had a date to make. The next planned stop was Culpepper on Commercial Road. It opened at noon and I was well aware that the roof garden would be in high demand so I wanted to be there as soon as possible. To get there we had to cross Tower Bridge, something I don’t remember ever doing on foot before! Which is quite frankly a bloody stupid oversight on my part.

Just before we climbed onto the bridge another smaller glee club walked towards us singing away and making me a little bit angry for some reason. I just wanted to shut them up. Urgently. And then retribution for my sudden ill humour came from a gust of wind blowing half a cup of cold sugary coffee off a wall and onto my arm. Hurray!

Crossing tower BridgeAcross that magnificent bridge the smell of waterfront food stalls definitely piqued us but we simply had to get to Culpepper in time. When we went into St Katehrine’s dock both of my companions were a little bit awed as neither had been there before. I didn’t even guess that would be the case so it made me beam to have shared that with them, as it’s great.

The Royal Barge looked shiny today, and as gaudy as the flowers drizzling down the Dickens Inn. We peered into a few of the gently bobbing yachts before speeding out and up towards Aldgate East station. Not far beyond there is Culpepper.

We stood at the bar ordering cocktails and beer but I felt fidgety knowing that every person that came through the front door might be taking my seat on the roof. With my delicious fennel cocktail I pretty much ran up the several flights of stairs and emerged on the roof full of smiles because there was still space! It’s a special roof terrace. Verdant and fairly tightly packed in, with menus chalked onto the chimney stacks and a strict no glass on the roof policy. We acquired a table and settled in for a couple of hours.

Culpepper verdant roof garden

More friends arrived and I devoured a super juicy whole mackerel supported by some grilled poblano peppers. Not cheap, at £13ish, and though it was tasty I wasn’t really here for the food, this was a stop for the cocktail and the roof. And I loved it.

Trainers hanging on Brick LaneAfter a couple more drinks we descended and headed the tiny distance onto Brick Lane. Despite its nightmarish aspect in the early evening, with hordes of pushy salesmen for substandard curry it’s much nicer in the middle of the day. Only a few of the anti-bouncers but more of the ‘normal’ working types of the area. The people who get on with whatever it is that they do without reference to tourists. Whichever form the tourist takes.

My mission here on Brick Lane was, in part, the hall full of food stalls about halfway up the street. On the east side. Actually to be honest my real mission was to visit The Rib Man as I’ve failed twice before for various reasons, but at this hour I knew there was simply no point bothering so I gave up. Again.

Men checking Durian fruit on Brick lane

At first we ducked into a likely alley thinking that was the one for food but then found clothes stalls. It was of course too late for me though, I had smelled the sausage in a roll stall out the front and as we started walking up Brick Lane again I cracked under the pressure and had to purchase one of these giant things. It was only £4 and tasted divine.

Pointing a massive sausage at a man

The problem with this is that although it was delicious I wasn’t very hungry for the actual food stalls place once we found it a few more metres along. Inside I did a few drooly circuits but in general the portions were just too large (fancy me decrying that fact!) and I opted for a can of Red Stripe on the astroturf out the back. We all sat in the sun and laughed at actual, genuine, ‘Om nom nom’ words being mumbled as a falafel wrap was gobbled.

Thunderc_nt artworkWe were starting to veer towards this becoming a pub crawl, and then we gave up the pretence of any more food. Further up the street we went into a cocktail bar with horrible wobbly tabletops and I had what can only be described as a cocktail Solero. It was delicious and refreshing.

Then I passed up the opportunity of one of those iconic bagels so the gig truly was up. It had also been on the list to get one today but in the end it just didn’t feel necessary.

Soon enough we were all squeezed into Shoreditch Box Park with a double apple shisha pipe being enjoyed by some of us, and Meantime beers being enjoyed by everyone. I can’t say I like the Box Park. It’s got more than an average number of caricature asshats bumping into people and leering, and everything is a little overpriced, I thought. Plus the toilets downstairs smell like Hell did in that fortnight Gillian McKeith told Lucifer to go on the sulphur and pathogen diet. But it did the trick in getting us drunk enough to move on into the night.

London from Bussey Building Peckham

As the sun set the actual walk ended here at Shoreditch High Street Overground station, but our shenanigans did not end here. Oh no. Instead we sped over to Peckham, to Bussey Building’s much higher rooftop bar, to enjoy the whole of the sky streaked in blues and pinks. The day leaked away from that terrific vantage point and I realised yet again that yes, I will definitely miss a lot about London but that yes, you can fit a lot in on a single day.

If you wanted to.

And oh do I want to!