Whether it's a restaurant on the Thames, or a pitstop alongside the city’s canal network, enjoy scenic surroundings when dining in the capital and discover the best places to eat near water. Below our critics have rounded up their favourite riverside and canalside restaurants in London that include venues for the best outdoor dining, as well as restaurants with a view.
Riverside restaurants in east London
You always know what you’re getting at Gaucho: the chain’s high-quality Argentine cuts of meat, limelight-stealing cocktails, and headache-inducing levels of cowhide all point to a good time. But Gaucho Canary has another ace up its sleeve: its location on Westferry Circus offers languorous views of the river from the tree-shaded terrace or through the dining room’s bi-folding frontage. Couple this with a menu of sizzling speciality bangers, zingy tiraditos and juicy steaks, and you’ll feel anywhere but the City.
This riverside gastropub is located too far east even for most east Londoners, and therein lies at least some of its allure: it’s full of people who have decided to make the pilgrimage and are ready to fall for The Gun’s charms: the plentiful outside space, washed over by river breezes; the smart Modern British menu and seriously good bar bites; the huge, globe-trotting wine list packed with corkers; and the riverside views unspoilt by tourists.
"Set lunch Monday to Friday, noon-3pm. Restaurant: two courses for £28, three courses for £32."
This riverside brasserie in Butler’s Wharf is a looker inside as well as out, thanks to a luxe refurbishment that has the quality stamp of its owners, the D&D restaurant group, all over it. Choose to sit either in the expensively lit dining room or out on the sought-after terrace, with its spectacular views of Tower Bridge and the river – either way, you’ll enjoy top-flight service and fine-dining fun with a Gallic slant.
Gordon Ramsay’s Limehouse gastropub makes the most of its Thames-edge location with a bright conservatory complete with retractable roof, serving pitch-perfect Modern European dishes from the restaurant menu, plus a handful of alfresco tables overlooking the wharves of Rotherhithe, offering poshed-up sharing platters, pies and sandwiches. Drinkers can enjoy a glass of superior wine or a real ale right by the river. And did we mention the barbecue on the terrace at weekends? Good times.
Want a stylish riverside restaurant where the views are as stunning inside as out? Then try this Tom Dixon-designed restaurant whose shipping-themed decor nods to London’s docklands. Rain or shine you can watch the riverside joggers and strollers pass by and tick off the notable sights on the opposite riverbank. From the cosmopolitan menu, up the watery theme still further with something bracingly fresh from the shellfish section. Don’t miss a pre- or post-dinner cocktail in Dandelyan, either.
The Southbank Centre’s chic restaurant boasts sweeping views of both the Thames and the river’s north bank. Its Modern European menu is sufficiently fancy to underscore those views – there’s even a tasting menu for those wanting to, er, push the boat out. With dishes such as poached lobster with glazed pork belly, and deconstructed tiramisu, all with wine-pairing suggestions, this is several cuts above the festival-style fillers that pepper the South Bank and the gluts of ground-level chains.
Tom Aikens is not averse to a bit of luxury, and this waterfront brasserie certainly exudes it, from the marina views of private cruisers to the rich menu of pan-fried foie gras, hand-dived scallops, truffled mac and cheese, crisp-coated chicken schnitzel, fall-apart confit lamb and thick grilled Cumbrian steaks. The wood-heavy interiors, leather booths and open kitchen have all been expensively designed, but the waterside terrace easily trumps the dining room on sunny days.
If Wapping was a person, it would have a face for radio – and it’s because of the general ugliness of its surroundings that St Katherine’s Docks seems idyllic in comparison. The marina is set apart from the traffic of the nearby gyratory system, and access to this clutch of restaurants, with their views of bobbing yachts, is via a pedestrianised boardwalk. At this Basque-style tapas bar, you’ll find dishes that are adventurous and playful without being all-out loopy.
Riverside restaurants in west London
For a waterside dining experience straight out of ‘Downton Abbey’, head to this stately, country house-style hotel and restaurant bordering the Richmond towpath. The spacious, gold-accented dining area is well lit by impressive chandeliers and has huge windows overlooking the river, while a decked patio brings you closer to the water’s edge in fine weather. The Modern European menu is as highbrow as the surroundings; dishes such as black-truffle risotto are priced accordingly.
Situated just south of Wandsworth Bridge, Brady’s rocks an appropriately maritime theme that chimes with its waterfront location. Inside the bright, airy dining room, floor-to-ceiling windows look out over a smart patio – add a wheeling seagull or two and, as you tuck into your half pint of prawns or battered plaice and chips, you could imagine yourself at the seaside. If you can’t squeeze into the restaurant, the bar area serves shellfish snacks.
This Fulham favourite is pitched right at the water’s edge, and as such its extensive beer garden becomes jam-packed with drinkers on sunny weekends. Locals don’t just come here for the waterside views, though – regular comedy nights, beer-tasting events and pub quizzes try to tempt people inside once in a while. The menu pushes the envelope on pub grub, with the likes of pistachio-crumbed spring lamb featuring alongside fish and chips and brisket burgers.
This 150-year-old institution has moved with the times: its interior is bright and modern, with farmhouse-style tables, a spruced-up parquet and the large windows are duck-egg blue. It’s not on the water’s edge (it’s about ten steps from the river), but it very much gets into the riverside spirit, especially for the annual Boat Race. Seasonal dishes go the gastro route: try gin-soaked watermelon with feta and mint in summer, followed by the signature rib-eye steak with triple-cooked chips and bone marrow.
The many alfresco tables that take up two decks outside this relaxed Italian are a brilliant vantage point from which to watch the Thames flow by – on sunny days, expect to find a sea of people doing just that. Unfussy trattoria-style pizza and pasta are the staples here, with fairly manic service at peak times. Yes, it fills up with families who let their kids off the leash, but there’s plenty of outdoor space for all forms of riverside relaxation.
This dockside restaurant, with its commitment to seasonal eating, prettily planted terrace, and proximity to the river’s floating traffic, makes for a lovely waterside dining experience. The terrace is heated and open all year round, but of course it only gets properly mobbed on scorching hot days (try reserving a waterside table when you book). It’s no wonder: the ingredient-led menu deals in holiday nostalgia – from jet-black squid-ink spaghetti to char-grilled hake with asparagus and romanesco.
Canalside restaurants in London
Chef Stevie Parle’s innovative, experimental cooking style and Tom Dixon’s strikingly designed interiors hit the right balance of grown-up grooviness for this restaurant’s Ladbroke Grove location. Its views of the Grand Union Canal imbue the globally inspired menu with holiday vibes when the sun shines, so lunch is an appealing option. You’ll eat well, but unless you take a culinary dictionary with you, or know your tropias from your grelots, you won’t have much of a clue as to what you’ve ordered...
With its first-floor wraparound terrace taking in the waterways, and a canalside alfresco area, this gastropub is a twofer in terms of waterside dining, and convincing competition for the more established terraces on Granary Square. All its alfresco spaces are first-come, first-served, but happily the canal views from inside the beautifully decorated dining rooms are just as soul-restoring. Menu highlights include wood-grilled meats, superfood salads, and flatbreads topped with thoughtful, seasonal combinations.
This all-rounder bar and restaurant sits right on the canal – Hackney Wick hipsters crowd around rough-cut communal tables or lounge in old-school deckchairs, craft beer in hand, within a toe’s dip of the water (you wouldn’t though, would you?), while those playing pool on the terrace are in danger of losing their balls to the water. Popping here for the well-priced Sunday roast can herald the start of a lost afternoon, with cocktail coolers and events aplenty to keep punters entertained.
The restaurant of this super-fly gallery and events space flanks the De Beauvoir section of the canal, offering ample views of passing barges and resident wildlife (as well as lesser-spotted shopping trolleys). For sunny days, there’s a dinky faux-turfed patio where you can chill out with a Caravan coffee; inside the open-plan dining room, two floors of seating are spanned by immense glass windows. The approachable menu offers hearty brunches, and lunches such as shepherd’s pie, and macaroni cheese.
Rotunda was one of the first swanky restaurants to see the potential of its Regent’s Canal location – it’s a class act that focuses on quality meat from the restaurant’s own Northumbrian farm (think Josper-grilled sirloin steak, traditional rib of beef and slow-cooked shoulder of lamb), elaborate desserts, and excellent wines. The dining room gives wide-angled views of the canal life just outside, while the large, shaded terrace is a lovely spot on warm evenings, either for drinks or dinner.
This atmospheric waterside gem, from the owners of nearby Waterway, originally launched as a summer-only pop-up, but became so popular that it’s now a permanent, year-round fixture (during colder months, the canalside section of the restaurant is closed to the elements). It’s easy to explain its popularity: those dining in the open-sided part of the dining room find themselves effectively right on the canal – request these seats when you book.
Only a few steps but several worlds away from the Kingsland Road is this self-consciously low-key café on the Regent’s Canal towpath. It’s always been a favourite with passing dog walkers, runners and cyclists, who stop into the spartan but hip interiors for proper coffee, and homemade granola, but it’s also solid enough that many will go out of their way for one of its rustic but skilfully cooked hot lunches or light-as-air cakes. Winsome canal views are a given.
"This Jan/Feb experience our pop-up 'Winterlog Cabin'. Get cosy and enjoy a three-course culinary delight. Book tickets now via our website."
This modern, whitewashed gastropub in Maida Vale, just a stone’s throw from its sibling The Summerhouse, stands out on the canal’s towpath – head to the terrace for the best views of the water. From there, a dedicated menu offers grilled specialities, from chicken skewers to still-crisp asparagus spears, alongside burgers, salads and sharers. On sunny weekends, locals pile in for an upmarket brunch complete with virgin cocktails and fresh juices, while alfresco Sunday roasts are another big draw.
This canalside café-bar just off the Kingsland Basin brings a large dollop of Venezuelan funk to the Haggerston stretch of the waterways. Do brunch the Latin American way with corn pancakes layered with cheese, ham and a fried egg then drizzled with maple syrup, or perico; Venezuelan-style scrambled eggs laced with tomatoes. At other times, mix and match shareable dishes such as plantains heaped with shredded beef and guacamole, or fried cassava, with arepas – sandwiches made from cornbread.
Riverside restaurants in outer London
This 30-year-old waterside brasserie (a converted Edwardian stableyard) sits pretty on the Barnes riverfront. Inside, the modern, high-ceilinged dining room is all tasteful golds, serene creams and rich blues; outside, there’s a shrub-filled area for alfresco drinks. There’s constant demand for window tables that nudge up to the river – especially in the light-filled conservatory, which offers panoramic views; staff do their best to accommodate diners’ demands through a first-come, first-served policy upon booking.
This Bavarian beerhouse could rely on its excellent riverside location to draw in the punters, but it doesn’t – as an example of its type, flying the flag for Germany out in Richmond (there’s another branch in Kingston), it’s brilliant in its own right. There’s no indoor seating, but why would you want to sit inside when the sunshine is sparkling on the river? Don your lederhosen for this menu, which features doughy pretzels, gigantic wurst, and steins of Continental beer.
Find riverside pubs and bars
If you're looking for inner-city supping with a countryside feel, sometimes London's best rooftop bars or best beer gardens simply won't cut it. Get yourself a spot by the river with our guide to London's finest riverside pubs. As well as the very best Thames-side drinking spots, we also guide you through some first rate canalside pubs and bars fit for any sunny day of drinking in the capital.
The Yacht London
The clue's in the name here - it's on a yacht, moored on The Thames. The views on a good day are therefore certainly pretty pleasant, with the window seats offering an uninterrupted vista out across to the South Bank. The food here ranges from sharing platters (think mackerel pâté with toasted sourdough, potted crayfish tails with mini loaf, and ribs in a BBQ sauce) and starters of pan-fried squid with chilli and lemon, and game terrine with pickled veg and a beetroot and horseradish cream to mains of lamb rump, slow-roasted pork belly, roasted grouse and duck breast served with a juniper and madeira sauce. The grill serves steaks, burgers and spatchcock poussin, too. Sunday roasts prove popular, as do afternoon teas featuring freshly-baked scones and cakes alongside a selection of finger sandwiches. Keep an eye out for special offers and seasonal events, too.
"Valentine's Day three-course dinner and wine, £100 for two."