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
OK, so it’s only just ‘east’ but no matter. Positioned next to Tower Bridge and opposite The Shard, Coppa Club boasts what must be one of the largest riverside terraces in London, but the big glass windows mean you can soak up the sights even when it’s too chilly to go alfresco. A relaxed menu combines small plates, dishes from the grill, pizzas and pasta, as well as nibbles if you’re just in it for the views.
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.
Venue says: “Le Pont de la Tour’s sommelier team oversees an impressive collection of old and new world wines, including legendary maisons.”
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). 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 summer weekends? Good times.
Venue says: “Come try our new a la carte menu! Available for both lunch and dinner Monday - Friday, and dinner on Saturday & Sunday.”
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 fresh from the ‘Sea’ section. Don’t miss a pre- or post-dinner cocktail at Dandelyan, either.
Venue says: “Enjoy seasonal modern-British cooking under the direction of our respected executive chef Kim Woodward.”
The Southbank Centre’s chic restaurant, part of the D&D Group, 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 smoked salmon cannelloni and roasted John Dory with brown shrimp and Romanesco, 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 foie gras parfait, rabbit rillettes, truffled mac and cheese, crisp-coated chicken schnitzel, 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.
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 turbot with prawn dumplings are priced accordingly.
Venue says: “Oysters are back at Brady's, the freshest oysters in town! Book now to avoid disappointment. Get 3 for £4.95, 6 for £8.95 or 12 for £14.95!”
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 blue monday cheese and duck egg hash featuring alongside fish and chips and rare breed 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 when the boat race is on. Seasonal dishes go the gastro route: think octopus and squid sesame popcorn with carrot caramel and rotating scotch eggs, through to rainbow trout with soused fennel, homemade pies and interesting-sounding salads.
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 roam free, but there’s plenty of outdoor space for all forms of riverside relaxation.
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. But you’ll eat well whatever time of day.
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 other big-hitting 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 – the 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?). 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 patio where you can chill out with a coffee; inside the open-plan dining room, two floors of seating are spanned by immense glass windows. For food, work your way through the broad global menu – there’s everything from ceviche, open crab sandwiches and pork belly buns to decent sounding burgers and Sunday roasts.
Venue says: “Annual steak tasting: dinner & showcase. Talks, arrival drink & canapes, meet the butcher, 5 steak cuts+ chips– 27th March– 49.50. Book now!”
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 modern, whitewashed gastropub in Maida Vale, just a stone’s throw from its sibling 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 deluxe burgers, salads and sharers. On sunny weekends, locals pile in for upmarket brunches complete with virgin cocktails and fresh juices, while alfresco Sunday roasts are another big draw.
Riverside restaurants in outer London
Is there a better view of the sunset over the Thames than the one at Rick Stein’s first London venture, in sleepy Barnes (and sitting on the site of what was the much-loved Depot)? Don’t bet on it, and do ask for a window seat when you book. The food is what you’d expect from the eponymous fish fanatic: fabulous and varied seafood with strong Indian and Asian notes. Go for the signature Singapore chilli crab, but be prepared to make a mess.
This Bavarian beerhouse (which has no connection to Rick’s place, above) 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.