Food taken with water is good for digestion.
Food taken by water is good for the soul.
So it’s good news that London has a bounty of restaurants by the river where you can soak up all the joys of waterside dining. But it’s not just the Thames taking all the credit – a whole host of restaurants have popped up along the city’s historic canal network in recent years too. And if sitting by the water doesn’t quite cut it, the growing number of places where you can eat on the water are sure to float your boat, from a barge specialising in cheese to seafood cruises.
Just add ducks.
Once you’ve been introduced, you’re unlikely to forget Poppy for a while. The brick-red barge is home to the Spiteri brothers’ first restaurant, Caravel. Once on board, you’ll be immediately charmed by the sweet little dining room, with its wood flooring and lamp-lit tables. If you’ve not already been completely won over, the food will see to that. There’s a short, well-considered menu that delivers flavour combos you’ve likely not tried before – mackerel with pickled greengages, perhaps, or pork shoulder with anchovy. The good news is that it changes regularly, so you’ve a good excuse to come back.
PS: Next door you’ll find their accompanying floating bar, Bruno’s.
Details: 172 Shepherdess Walk, Islington, N1 7JL | Book here
Barge East | Hackney Wick
Old Dutch barge De Hoop is home to one of London’s loveliest canalside restaurants. With the festoon lights on and the tables full of happy punters in the on-shore kitchen garden, there aren’t many nicer places to be on a summer evening. Moored in Hackney Wick, Barge East serves a set lunch and evening menu, as well as an exceptional Sunday roast, eaten on or below deck. Expect wholesome, inventive dishes like market fish with pumpkin and seaweed dumplings, or duck breast with blackberry and sage. There’s a street food cooked up in a canal-side Airstream too.
Details: Sweetwater Mooring, River Lee, White Post Lane, Hackney Wick, E9 5EN | Book here
The sly old dog of an architect who added windows to the OXO Tower in the shape of two circles and an X did so to sidestep a ban on riverside advertising. Thanks to him, the building now stands as a permanent tribute to stock cubes. Up on the eighth floor, this fine dining riverside restaurant showcases seasonal British produce in dishes such as monkfish and carrot miso purée, and venison with truffle polenta. You’ll appreciate them even more if you bag a table on the terrace, with views of St Paul’s and the City.
Details: Barge House Street, South Bank, SE1 9PH | Book here
This place, with a prime position overlooking Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and HMS Belfast used to be a Strada. Somehow, the views are even better now that it’s Tavolino. The two-storey Italian restaurant has an outdoor terrace right by the river, and inside, floor-to-ceiling windows providing maximum opportunity to ogle those sights. The only thing likely to pull your gaze away is the pasta, handmade on the premises daily and starring in dishes such as bucatini cacio e pepe. If you want to see two Tower Bridges, finish the meal with the ‘Negroni Tricolore’, a flight of three strong gin cocktails.
Details: 2 More London Riverside, London Bridge, SE1 2DB | Book here
‘Oh no, a new Robin Gill restaurant’… said absolutely no one ever. The man behind Bottle + Rye, Sorella and a string of other excellent restaurants in London has opened a Fulham sequel to Kensington’s Maria G’s (yes, another great restaurant of his). This place makes dining by the Thames feel a little bit like dining by the Amalfi Coast; mostly through dishes like squid ink linguini and hand-dived scallop crudo, inspired by Gill’s time working in a seaside Italian town. Having a separate bar (with a premium Italian wine list and special Negroni-dedicated section) and an outdoor terrace right by the river helps in that regard, too.
Details: Unit 4, 20 Central Avenue, SW6 2QE | Book here
The Sea Containers building once had the hum-drum job of housing offices for a cargo container company. There’s nothing hum-drum about it now. Its restaurant pays homage to the golden age of ocean cruising, with deco-esque curves and nods to maritime derring-do. The body of water it sits on offers less scope for adventure, but you’ll want a terrace table to peer at the Thames nonetheless. As you might expect, the menu draws on international influences, with dishes such as star anise-cured salmon and Boston rib of beef. Order a Seven Seas Old Fashioned to keep things shipshape.
Details: 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PD | Book here
Le Pont De La Tour | Tower Bridge
Old stalwart Le Pont De La Tour was one of the first establishments to realise that London has rather a large river running through it, and it might be quite nice to put a restaurant next to that river. You’ve also got one of the more unique views of the actual Pont de la Tour (that’s Tower Bridge) from its terrace. As you’d expect, the cuisine is French and fine-dining; come if you’ve a hankering for oysters, caviar and Dover sole meunière. There’s a new, more informal ‘bistrot’ if you’re more in the mood for steak frites or Morel omelette.
Details: 36D Shad Thames, Tower Bridge, SE1 2YE | Book here
The Cheese Barge | Paddington
It’s a barge and it serves cheese so why wouldn’t you call it the Cheese Barge? The waterside restaurant devoted to the magic that happens when milk curdles is moored on the Grand Union Canal in Paddington, and has two floors on which to enjoy cheesy goodness. The summer-only roof terrace is the more casual affair, with grilled sandwiches, cheeseboards, and the like. The dining room has more ambitious dishes, perhaps Stichelton and beef bourguignon pie or beef shin risotto with goat’s curd, alongside wine-paired cheese plates. Come winter, don’t miss Fondue Thursdays. You can probably guess what’s involved in those.
Details: Sheldon Square, Paddington, W2 6HY | Book here
London Shell Co. | Paddington
It’s pretty difficult to avoid saying ‘ahoy there’ at least once when you’re aboard the London Shell Co. – this isn’t just a restaurant by the river, but one that actually moves along it. The Prince Regent barge, which houses London Shell Co., is unmoored from its spot near Little Venice and chugs up and down the Regent’s Canal during its lunch and dinner services. On board, the five-course ‘cruising menu’ is all about seafood, with a heavy focus on British produce. It changes daily, according to the catch, but might include such things as Cornish crab with salsa and sour cream, or hake with heritage courgette, ricotta and basil.
PS: Getting seasick? Book into their stationary sister boat, The Grand Duchess.
Details: Moored by Sheldon Square, Paddington, Central London, W2 6PY | Book here
Towpath Café | Haggerston
You know good days are coming when the Towpath Café winds up its shutters and puts out the tables. Open from spring to autumn in a lovely sunny spot on the Regent’s Canal, this place just feels like summer. The menu is chalked up on the blackboard and features good, broadly European food featuring the likes of aubergine parmigiana and smoked mackerel with crème fraîche. Breakfast is a winner too. Just be prepared to spend some time lurking about on the canal before you sit down – the Towpath is insanely popular.
Details: 42 De Beauvoir Crescent, Haggerston, N1 5SB | Closed until Spring
Riverside dining…check. How about some rooftop drinking? Check out the best rooftop bars in London