10 reasons to visit Lower Marsh, SE1

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Bustling street market in the heart of Waterloo

You’d be forgiven for never having heard of Lower Marsh before. I had never heard of it myself until we moved to the area in 2004. Indeed, most people who do come to Waterloo might head towards the lively and culturally stimulating Southbank Centre or BFI or maybe just cross the road over to the Old Vic.

Blink and you’ll miss this pleasant street which still retains an atmosphere of ‘local community’ despite the more recent changes (out with non descript shops, in with pizza chains, out with historic model bookshop, in with fancy dentistry).

Even reading a Time Out piece from 2016 feels like something from the distant past, many of the outlets mentioned long gone.

So is there still any reason to visit Lower Marsh? Sure there is! Let a local (yours truly) guide you through the Marsh’s best places to check out and the more recent arrivals.

Little Pedlar Cafe

Replacing formerly Coleman’s coffee shop (which survived the long pandemic by doing take away window and coffee beans pick up point), Little Bread Pedlar sell excellent sweet and savoury bakes and bread. They still use Coleman coffee beans and are usually busy which is a good sign.

Rhythm & Ruse

London’s ultimate night of magic, music and revelry is opening up in what used to be the Vaults in late August and promises to be an incredible addition to the local area and generally, London’s scene. Blending theatre, magic, live jazz club and cocktail speakeasy, the team who’s behind Rhythm & Ruse has excellent credentials (Punchdrunk). We can’t wait!

  • Greensmith’s

On the corner with Frazier street right in the middle of the Marsh is greengrocer / deli Greensmith‘s. The pandemic caused the owner to shut it down for a few months over the summer to recharge his batteries, and then ended up handing the business over to a group of entrepreneurs who have reopened with a vengeance. Same staff, but longer opening hours a more selected, researched product offering with some great lunch selections and pastries. We mainly now visit to pick up good quality meats at onsite friendly butchers Turner & George.

Shopfront of Greensmith
  • Weekdays street food market

I am in two minds about this, as I very seldom buy take away lunch from the market sellers myself, however the street food market is extremely popular with residents and local workers and the queues during lunch rush are huge! The choice is fantastic too, from korean pancakes to argentinian arepas, from halal middle eastern kebabs to thai curries, there is something for everyone.

Occasionally there are non food vendors and one of the regulars is Johnny Skates Records, selling vinyls – you can’t miss him as he’s playing music all the time!

Market scene
  • Lower Wine Shop

Lower wine shop and bar opened a few months ago, and it’s now always busy. The team behind it have some strong credentials, which might justify its quick rise to fame and prices (quite high for this area). We visited recently and while we enjoyed it, we feel the jury’s still out..

  • Leake Street Arches

Not technically Lower Marsh but one entrance to this famous graffiti art tunnel is here (the other on the opposite side towards the London Eye). Always a very enjoyable walk (watch out for broken glass if you’re walking the dog!) with ever changing murals and street art and plenty of photo opportunites. The fringe theatre and event space the Vaults is here too.

Street art
  • Ruby Lucy bar

There are now three hotels on the Marsh, which is a little crazy! Ruby Lucy opened a couple of years ago and has a bar on the ground floor, open 24h, which does really nice cocktails and is a very pleasant, relatively quiet place for a drink (at least compared to the rowdy and packed local bars such as Cubana).

Ruby Hotel front
  • Scooter Cafe

This is pretty much a historic feature of the street, they have been here forever and have featured in many movies too (spot it in one of the Bourne movies). They are licensed and opened most days and evening. The interior is quirky and decorated with plenty of memorabilia and antique and mismatched furniture, and the downstairs is very cosy. The coffee is pretty good and roasted in house and they offer some delicious toasties as well as cakes and pastries.

Cafe front
  • Unwined Waterloo

Housed in one of the other hotels, Unwined is a wine bar with food (wed-friday). The  menu is seasonal and influenced by Mediterranean flavours and spices. It changes every month with some staples such as chickpea panisse, flat breads and chicken wings. The wine selection is fantastic and the service really friendly. They have a back covered terrace which is dog friendly and very relaxed dining.

What else?

More outlets will welcome you to Lower Marsh. Here’s a round up:

  • Marie’s Cafe – greasy spoon in the morning, thai cafe at lunch and dinner, this is an institution
  • Balance Cafe  – spacious and open early and at weekends, this cafe does cooked healthy breakfasts, cakes, smoothies and pastries.
  • Pizza Pilgrims and Roti King as decent food chains.
  • The Travel Cafe – on the Westminster Bridge Road end of the Marsh, this is a coffee & plant shop; not the cheapest but a cute place to visit.
  • Twice the siren – quirky independent selling greeting cards, objects and jewellery as well as clothes and accessories.
  • Honour – established fetish / S&M boutique with a large selection of clothes and accessories, from PVC to leather and rubber.
  • Ryman’s  – seriously. Because it’s great to have it nearby for any school or craft supplies and the staff in this branch are the loveliest.
  • Tooth – is a modern, clean and friendly dental lab. Because we all need a dentist, don’t we.

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