Riverside pubs are among London’s finest features, from the windswept old pirates’ haunts of the East End to the handsome havens that dot the more placid Thames upstream of Chelsea. So it’s always pleasing when someone puts a bit of effort into doing one up properly – and here’s a refurbished boozer (in 2014) that takes its place among the city’s best.
To call it a ‘new’ pub would be misleading, by quite a few centuries. There’s history dating back to the 1300s, although the current building is mainly postwar (The Beatles ordered lager and limes here in ‘Help’). But a lot of cash has clearly been splashed on the beautifully panelled dining room, complete with heritage paintjob, well-stuffed leather banquettes and well-stuffed birds. It’s curious how the shooting-lodge look feels less ironic the further west up the Thames you go, as if it’s flowed down from the Cotswolds.
Out the front on the almost bucolic Strand-on-the Green is a turfed area with deckchairs and a few tables, but the City Barge’s best feature is its backside. A row of tables overlooks the iron Kew Rail Bridge and Oliver’s Island, the ducks and rowers, and the trees of Kew.
Spring tides mean the Thames floods the path, so keep an eye on the lunar cycle if you don’t want to get Stranded-on-the-Green. The fish and chips or burgers will please the casual Thames stroller stopping off for a bite of superior gastropub food, but the likes of ‘mille-feuille of white and green asparagus with morel beurre blanc’ and the 50-strong wine list leave no doubt that this is also now a serious dining operation.
The Barge has room on board for both Chiswick gastro-lunchers and those who simply want to sit with a real ale (such as Dark Star’s Hophead) and watch the water go by. Come and get your feet wet.