Written by Karen Martin Illustration by Marion Vitus
David Babani, Artistic Director of the edgy arts venue The Menier Chocolate Factory, grew up in London; he shares with Oryx readers his favourite spots around Bankside, London.
“A definite highlight is the Borough Market,” says David. Located in a unique position under a network of railway viaducts, ‘London’s Larder’ is the city’s oldest and most renowned food market, and is a must-do when it’s open from Thursday to Saturday. “Wander round all the amazing stalls and fresh produce, and sample the gorgeous food from all over the world,” he says.
David suggests stopping at the nearby Monmouth Coffee Co. to grab a drink, where you can also try any of their coffees before buying beans to take home. Then head down Southwark Street to wander round the Tate Modern.
“After a dose of culture it’s probably time for lunch, so I would come here to the restaurant at The Chocolate Factory,” he says. Built in 1870 to house – as its name suggests – a chocolate factory, this unique space now comprises a restaurant and bar, rehearsal room, and 150-seat theatre.
The restaurant, serving modern British food, incorporates all the charm and history of this renovated building, having maintained the original exposed wooden beams, unusual cast iron columns, and exposed brick interior. “It’s very warm and welcoming whether there are just ten people in the restaurant or it’s buzzing and packed with 80 people,” says David. “It’s a bit of a home away from home and sort of feels like your own living room.” And of course, the puddings are deliciously chocolatey.
“After a post-lunch stroll along the River Thames, between the Globe Theatre and The Golden Hinde, an afternoon pint is in order at the Anchor Bankside, which is a gorgeous bar and pub with outdoor seating that overlooks the river,” he says.
Originally built in 1615, this pub is famous for being the place where diarist Samuel Pepys saw the Great Fire of London in 1666. He wrote that he took refuge in ‘a little alehouse on bankside...and there watched the fire grow.’ The pub’s original structure has been added to over several centuries, creating a maze of small rooms featuring old brick fireplaces, oak beams, and creaking floorboards.
After taking in all the culture and character London’s Bankside has to offer, and enjoying views of the river and City of London, how else would a theatre addict end his day? “I’d head back to The Chocolate Factory and watch a show!”
Londoner David Babani ran the Jermyn Street Theatre for three years and produced various shows in the West End before starting The Chocolate Factory at the beginning of 2004. Perhaps his theatrical background is what drew him to his favourite watering hole, the Anchor Bankside. It is the sole survivor of the riverside inns that existed in Shakespeare’s time, when the district was the heart of theatreland and the pub was frequented by actors from neighbouring playhouses.