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March 26th, 2019 | by Ella Stern

South Bank in Focus: Leake Street Arches

Before the tunnel became the artistic hub it is today, it was originally used for nothing more than a waiting point for taxis picking up passengers from the Eurostar train.

Leake Street had a shakeup in 2008, when elusive street artist Banksy turned the tunnel into an exhibition space. Recruiting the likes of Blek le Rat, Logan Hicks, Pure Evil, Eelus – some of the biggest names in street art - along with members of the public. The cutting-edge exhibition humorously named ‘The Cans Festival’ was set to be a spray paint extravaganza. On the 24 April 2008, Leake Street was boarded up with signs ‘Leake Street CLOSED For essential maintenance’. Behind the hoardings the group of artists’ got to work transforming the space. On 3 May Leake Street was open for show. The exhibition was a roaring success and a media sensation slapping Leake Street right on the map and cementing it as THE destination for street art and creative expression.

"Graffiti doesn't always spoil buildings, in fact it's the only way to improve a lot of them.” – Banksy

Today, still an oasis of art, Leake Street actively encourages graffiti on the walls and ceilings. So, bring along your cans and spray away…

Now, Leake Street Arches offers a curated collection of independent restaurants, bars and entertainment spaces that capture the essence of urban culture.

Banh Bao Brothers provides a taste of Vietnam with urban flair. Bursting onto Leake Street bringing flavours from the old country with them, Banh Bao stir up dishes you’ve never heard of yet bring you back to the flavours you know and love.

‘Leake Street offers a great arrival experience for those visiting us at Banh Bao Brothers,’ says founder, Chris. ‘In the same way that artists in the tunnel are free to express themselves, we have used our own creativity to design our decor, drinks and dishes which are unlike anything you’d find in a typical Vietnamese restaurant in London. In fact, our home at Leake Street Arches inspired us to create our signature cocktail; the “Jade Dragon Kiss”

‘Being on Southbank gives us a great opportunity to share our offerings not only with Londoners but also to the millions of people that travel from around the world to visit its iconic attractions.’

And it’s Game on at Draughts, which provides the ultimate combo of local craft beers and an 800+ library of board games. With a hefty burger menu, draughts caters to hungry and thirsty gamers. 

Draughts founder, Nicki Curci says ‘Having brought a disused Railway Arch back to life in 2014 with our first venue in Hackney, we felt immediately at home at Leake Street Arches and are thrilled to be part of what we think is such a culturally important part of London.’

‘The exciting and eclectic mix of experiences that the South Bank offers is truly unlike most other areas of London. With our Leake Street location, we hope our unique and socially entertaining experience can be enjoyed by even more people.’

I’d recommend our delicious Veggie Burger on your next visit, with one of the rotating craft beers we have on draught. And of course, with over 800 games, there’s plenty to keep you entertained.’


26 Leake Street is the umbrella name for 4 railway arches that are being transformed into a bar, brewery, restaurant and event space. The bar at 26 Leake Street is currently known at Rat Bar. It opened with an original Banksy hanging from the walls and graffiti inspired artwork designed by Wu-Tang Clan’s official artist, Gary Alford. The theme will change in 2019 so get there quick! The space that later in the year will become Addington restaurant, a brewery and a private event space is currently home to Mandela: The Official Exhibition which runs until June.

Half way up the graffiti tunnel is a separate tunnel which connects you through to Westminster Bridge road and Leake Street Arches latest opening; Mamuska! This Polish Bar and Kitchen serves up the nation’s delicacy; Pierogi (alongside an impressive Vodka collection!)

Late nights at Leake Street Arches are well catered for by Aures London, which is largely a private events venue but which also hosts immersive sound experiences for the general public. And of course, at the Lower Marsh End of Leake Street Arches, you’ll find Vaults Theatre and House of Vans, established residents offering the best of fringe theatre and skateboarding culture.  

Keep up to date with what’s on here.