Ten years ago, there was not much going on in the South Bank area of London. The London Eye had just gone up. Street performers were trying to make a few quid peddling their craft. Other than that, the food scene had not yet arrived. While the majority of South Bank eateries are chains, you can still find a few tasty bites at South Bank restaurants with kids.
After a weekend visit back to South Bank, we certainly ate our fill every day, but discovered the Southbank Centre Food Market to be the real gem of the neighborhood.
Wagamama locations can be found throughout the city, and even Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. The kids menu is decent, but the adult menu is extensive and offers seasonal specialty drinks, like their Jinzu Gin and Tonic for Cherry Blossom season. Fresh juices, the crispy duck ramen, edamame, chicken katzu and steamed dumplings are always a hit with the kids.
This takeout or sit and eat spot is great when you are in a rush or just can’t wait for table service with antsy kids. They serve oatmeal in the morning and fresh sandwiches throughout the day that can satisfy most appetites.
Read our guide to London’s South Bank with Kids
Just off the Thames, behind Southbank Centre, you will find the ever popular Pizza Express. This is one of the easiest spots to satisfy kids in the city. The staff is very family friendly, and we even saw a massive stroller group come in after we had been seated. No one bat an eye.
Pizza comes out fast and hot. The children’s three course menu is a bargain by London price standards, and parents can find tasty drinks and nibbles. Oh, and the cappuccinos are great and the perfect drink to have before you get in line for the London Eye.
Just down from the London Eye, near one of the ever present (and growing number of) Starbucks in the city, you will find Locale. While the pastas aren’t anything to rave about, the pizza will make the kids happy. The staff is friendly. Plus, the Gin and Tonic cocktails are delicious (try the Gin Slice) and there are several ice cream flavors for dessert.
If it is a nice day, ask to be seated outside so the kids can run around the square while they wait for dinner. The restaurant is right across from two large hotels, so you will meet many families throughout your meal.
Le Pain Quotidien
Le Pain Quotidien has long been a staple in America. If you need something familiar the kids will enjoy, bring them here, especially for breakfast. Sadly, South Bank was short on good breakfast options, especially where good service was concerned (we sat at Giraffe for 10 minutes and finally left because no one ever came to take our order). Le Pain Quotidien serves oatmeal, croissants, hot chocolate and egg dishes – there is something for everyone.
This is not a restaurant. It is a small grocery store about a five-minute walk from the South Bank side of Westminster bridge, right near the Waterloo train station. Don’t be put off by the dodgy walk under the tracks. You will be perfectly safe. There is a pub under the tracks if you need to grab a pint. CO-OP is a European brand where you can grab cereal, yogurt, milk and snacks to stash in your hotel room. This is perfect when the kids wake up much too early for mom and dad, but need their first breakfast so you can sleep. CO-OP also carries beer, cider and wine if you want a little something for your hotel room to sip after the kids go to bed.
Southbank Centre Food Market
The best place to eat Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Southbank is at the Southbank Centre Food Market just a block off the Thames River. You will mingle with tourists and locales, families, couples and singles. Nowhere else in this neighborhood can you find so many different kinds of food in one spot. It reminded us of Ballard Market in Seattle, but better. Enjoy Duck Fat Chips (French fries), BBQ Ribs, Curries, Bruschetta, hot chocolate, scones and tea, fresh juices, cupcakes, gluten-free brownies, pizza, paella, and so much more. Bring cash (although many vendors do accept credit card) and just follow your nose.