April 2019: We've given this list a bit of love and made sure it was up to scratch, just in time for this season's summer drinking and dining. Our pick of the lot? Brunch on Darcie & May Green's canal boat in Paddington, a British feast at long-time Bermondsey favourite Blueprint Café, and dinner on what must be London's largest riverside terrace at Coppa Club.
The waterways of London – be those mother Thames or the extensive canal network – provide some of the most scenic dining in the city, whether it’s a plush riverside restaurant or a more casual pit-stop you’re after. Cast your eyes south for a roundup of our favourite waterside restaurants in London (a few of which can also be found, inevitably, on our best outdoor dining and restaurants with a view lists).
Riverside restaurants in east London
For a waterside dining experience straight out of ‘Downton Abbey’, head to this stately, country house-style hotel bordering the Richmond towpath. The spacious, gold-accented restaurant is 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 halibut with jersey royals, confit fennel and fennel velouté are priced accordingly.
A long-time favourite by the river, the Blueprint Café would be a destination for its setting alone: massive windows look out over the Thames and Tower Bridge, while a retractable canopy lends a great inside/outside vibe to the dining room (it’s on the first floor of what was previously the Design Museum, after all). Expect a Brit-accented seasonal menu full of well-crafted dishes that are beautiful to behold, but never twee.
Situated just south of Wandsworth Bridge, seafood stalwart Brady’s rocks to an appropriately maritime theme that chimes with its waterfront location. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out over a smart patio – just add a wheeling seagull or two and imagine you’re at the seaside as you tuck into your half-pint of prawns or battered plaice and chips. If you can’t squeeze into the restaurant, the bar serves shellfish snacks – and has cracking views too.
Boasting one of the biggest riverside terraces in London, Coppa Club occupies a prime spot with Tower Bridge in near-sight and The Shard just opposite. Whether you’re in the restaurant, café or central bar, tall windows mean you can soak up the view even when it’s too chilly for alfresco. To eat? Sourdough pizzas, pastas and grills, plus a few nibbles – if you’re just here for the views.
Given its location right by the banks of the Thames, it’s no wonder that the Crabtree’s extensive beer garden gets jam-packed with drinkers on sunny weekends. However, locals don’t just come here for the river views: regular comedy nights, beer-tasting events and quizzes also tempt people inside once in a while. The menu pushes the envelope on pub grub, with the likes of teriyaki-glazed aubergine or stone bass with Israeli couscous alongside ale-battered haddock, burgers and steaks.
Things don’t get much more bucolic in London’s East End than at this totally hip warehouse-style pizzeria-cum-brewery on the banks of the Lea. In summer, arrive as early as decency allows, bag a reclaimed riverside bench, then proceed to order your first pint of Crate’s own craft beer, lager or cider (with perhaps a pizza on the side). After that, sun yourself, watch the birds and gaze at the boats bobbing past until last orders.
Moored on the Grand Union Canal outside Paddington Station, Darcie Green and May Green aren’t simply floating barges; they’re also floating pieces of art designed by the legendary Sir Peter Blake. With owners from Down Under, it’s no surprise that there are flat whites and slices of banana bread for breakfast, plus bottomless Aussie brunch and a menu of fair dinkum Antipodean-inspired dishes. The combined 50-metre upper deck is perfect in summer.
It may date back to Victorian times, but this 150-year-old Putney institution has moved with the times – note the spruced-up parquet floors, dangling metal lamps and gallery of modern artworks. It’s not quite on the water’s edge, but it certainly gets into the riverside spirit – especially when the Boat Race is on. Seasonal dishes go down the gastro route: think home-smoked duck breast with chicory, bobby bean and walnut salad or hanger steak with bone marrow and tarragon butter.
You guessed it: handcrafted pasta takes centre-stage at this charming little restaurant overlooking St Katharine Docks – and they take the whole business of rolling, shaping and cooking very seriously indeed. The menu is short and familiar, but the results are so unpretentiously delicious you’d think they’d come straight from nonna’s hob. Staff are sweet, the vibe is cosy, and prices are south of a tenner per plate.
Way out east, far away from the City’s maddening crowds, this 250-year-old gastropub (now owned by Fuller’s Brewery) nevertheless gets rammed with people who have made the pilgrimage and are ready to fall for its many charms: the vast outdoor terrace (nearly opposite the O2 complex in Greenwich), washed over by bracing breezes; the smart gastro menu and seriously good bar bites; the globe-trotting wine list, the beers and the riverside views unspoilt by tourists.
The folks at D&D London know a thing or two about dress-to-impress London dining, and this classy Thames-side beauty is a looker inside as well as out – thanks to a luxe refurbishment that bears all the hallmarks of its owners. As well as sweeping views of Tower Bridge and beyond, Le Pont de La Tour touts a sought-after terrace, a conventional brasserie-style Bar & Grill and a posh restaurant majoring in elaborately plated modern dishes with an international flavour.
Venue says Our Truffle Hut is back! It's cosy interiors and show-stopping truffle menu make it the perfect spot for a romantic meal à deux!
With its first-floor wraparound terrace and an alfresco area overlooking Regent’s Canal, this capacious bar-restaurant hybrid is a magnet for waterside drinkers and diners. The Lighterman’s alfresco spaces all operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so prepare for a bun fight on hot days. Happily, the canal views from inside the beautifully decorated dining rooms are just as soul-restoring, while menu highlights include wood-grilled meats, superfood salads and flatbreads topped with thoughtful, seasonal combinations.
Climb aboard The Prince Regent for a posh lunch and a cruise, accompanied by some sweet-voiced jazz and the odd sea-related poem. Moored up next to Paddington station, the barge chugs along the Regent’s Canal to Camden Lock and back again, taking in sights such as London Zoo and Regent’s Park while guests partake of the classiest seafood boozathon in town. Alternatively, they do a ‘static lunch’ in Paddington Central (Tuesday-Friday).
With around 150 tables spread across a pair of decks right on the riverfront, Marco Polo’s huge terrace is a great place to let the kids go free-range while you relax and watch the Thames flowing past. Unfussy trattoria-style pizzas and pastas are the staples here, with fairly manic service at peak times. Yes, it fills up with families and sun-seekers, but there’s plenty of outdoor space for all forms of riverside relaxation.
Gordon Ramsay’s Limehouse gastropub makes the most of its Thames-edge location with a bright conservatory complete with retractable roof, plus a handful of pleasant alfresco tables overlooking the wharves of Rotherhithe. Drinkers can enjoy a glass of superior wine or a real ale right by the river, plus some gussied-up Ramsay-style pub grub. And did we mention the weekend barbecues on the terrace in summer (weather-permitting)?
Billed as a ‘bar and kitchen’, this all-rounder sits right beside the Regent’s Canal – no wonder Hackney Wick hipsters crowd around rough-cut communal tables and lounge in old-school deckchairs within a toe’s dip of the water (you wouldn’t dare, would you?). Popping here for a well-priced Sunday roast can herald the start of a lost afternoon, with craft beers, cocktail coolers and a full programme of leftfield cultural events on offer to keep punters entertained.
Oxo Tower is a bona fide London landmark, so it’s no surprise that its eighth-floor restaurant, brasserie and bar emanate a sense of occasion. A glass frontage makes the most of the river views, and the plum vantage point allows you to fully appreciate the splendour of St Paul’s (note that it’s first come, first served for terrace tables). The food has an adventurous global slant, with accompaniment from a jazz trio in the evening.
Ok, it’s not a bracing Cornish seascape, but we doubt you’ll be disappointed by the views from this first London outpost of Rick Stein’s ever-burgeoning empire, right by the river in well-to-do Barnes. Ask for a window table to make the most of the Thames-side vistas while gorging on plates of messy, finger-lickin’ Singapore crab, Indonesian seafood curry, hake alla carlina and other fabulous seafood favourites from the TV chef’s worldwide travels.
Set back from the Thames Path, the River Café is a celeb in its own right, and something of an icon when it comes to riverside dining in the capital. Warm, buzzy and casually expensive, it’s dedicated to serving unfussy yet stunning Italian food based on artisan seasonal ingredients. Ok, the prices are excruciating, but portions are generous – so go for a summer lunch, sit on the terrace, order a plate of pasta and live like the A-listers do.
Rotunda was one of the first swanky restaurants to see the potential of its Regent’s Canal location: the dining room gives wide-angled views of the aquatic action outside, while the large shaded terrace is a lovely spot on warm evenings. In the kitchen, the focus is on quality meat from the owner’s Northumbrian farm (think Josper-grilled sirloin steak, rib of beef and slow-cooked shoulder of lamb) backed by elaborate desserts and excellent wines. [Please note, at the time of publication, Rotunda is closed for refurbishment. It is due to re-open in September 2018. Time Out Food Editors.]
Venue says Kick off the Christmas celebrations in full Nordic julefrokost style with four festive courses for £39.50 in our restaurant!
Looking for a stylish Thames-side riverside restaurant that promises equally stunning views inside and out? Then try this Tom Dixon-designed dining room, where the shipping-themed decor nods to London’s docklands and you can watch the joggers while ticking off the notable sights on the opposite riverbank. You can also roll with the watery theme by ordering some fresh from the ‘sea’ section of the cosmopolitan menu. Don’t miss a pre- or post-dinner cocktail in mixology maestro Ryan Chetiyawardana’s Dandelyan, either.
A fail-safe on the first floor of the Royal Festival Hall, Skylon’s wow-inducing views of the Thames and the South Bank make it a permanently spectacular venue, day or night. The restaurant’s menu is sufficiently fancy to underscore those vistas, offering dishes such as turbot with golden beetroot, seaweed butter and lovage that are several cuts above your average South Bank filler. If your finances won’t stretch to a three-course extravaganza, opt for a drink in the chic cocktail lounge.
If you’ve never been to a German beer garden – and don’t fancy a trip to Munich – you could do worse than Stein’s, a live-wire ‘outdoor’ restaurant promising ‘the Bavarian experience’ beside a stretch of the Thames towpath. Its huge riverside space can seat up to 300 alfresco diners at shared wooden tables, many of which offer some shelter from the elements. Don your lederhosen for the menu, which features doughy pretzels, gigantic wurst and steins of Continental beer.
From the owners of nearby Waterway, this atmospheric canal-side gem originally launched as a summer-only pop-up, but became so popular that it’s now a permanent, year-round fixture. It’s easy to see why this place is so popular: the menu majors in flappingly fresh fish, while punters in the open-sided part of the dining room find themselves effectively right on the canal – just remember that this section is closed to the elements during colder months.
What’s in a view? A great deal, judging by this restaurant attached to Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside. Bag a seat facing the window if you can – by night, the riverside aspect of St Paul’s in all its illuminated glory is stunning. As well as making the most of its watery backdrop, this venue also allows visitors to feel part of the bustling walkway. It’s a win-win situation.
Tom Aikens isn’t averse to a bit of luxury, and this waterfront brasserie by Canary Wharf certainly exudes it, from the marina views of private cruisers to the rich menu of foie gras parfait, rabbit rillettes, truffled mac ’n’ cheese, fall-apart confit lamb and thick, grilled Cumbrian steaks. The tile-heavy interiors, leather booths and open kitchen have all been expensively designed, but the waterside terrace easily trumps the dining room on sunny days.
Breakfast on the towpath overlooking the Regent’s Canal near Whitmore Bridge is a cracking way to start the day, and once you’ve bagged a table you may be tempted to linger for hours – especially if the sun is shining. This self-consciously low-key café has always been a favourite with passing dog-walkers, runners and cyclists, who stop off for coffee and snacks, rustic but skilfully cooked hot lunches and light-as-air cakes.
It may be surrounded by industrial units just off Kingsland Road, but this aptly named venture also benefits hugely from its location overlooking the Regent’s Canal. The outdoor tables are prime spots for people- (and duck-) watching, as Haggerston’s cyclists and dog-walkers parade along the waterway. The restaurant is part of a charitable scheme that trains underprivileged locals in the catering trade – so don’t be surprised to hear the chef putting apprentices through their paces in the open kitchen.
Just a stone’s throw from its sibling Summerhouse, this modern, whitewashed gastropub stands out on the canal’s towpath – head to the terrace for the best views of the water. On sunny weekends, locals pile in for upmarket brunches complete with virgin cocktails, while alfresco Sunday roasts are another big draw. Otherwise, dip into a menu that offers salads, sharing platters and pastas alongside various grilled specialities including ‘super deluxe’ burgers.
There may be a touch of the ‘bacaro’ about this easy-going bar/eatery in a one-time art gallery by the banks of the Regent’s Canal, but don’t expect to see any gondolas floating by – this is Bethnal Green, not Venice, after all. Edgy interior design, tall windows and tables painted in garish high-gloss colours set the scene for cicchetti nibbles, plates of pasta and a tip-top selection of traditional spritzes.
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