The best waterside dining in London
Where to go and what to order at London's finest waterfront restaurants
Meanwhile, at Battersea Reach, Megan's Brasserie (dog-friendly dining) joins restaurants including Francesco Mazzei at Fiume, Vivek Singh at Cinnamon Kitchen and oyster specialists The Wright Brothers in owning more of a buzz. The arrival of Real Food's River Walk Market, a new weekly independent market at the foot of the iconic Battersea Power Station, adds further allure to its foodie credentials. River Walk Market will be host to independent food and drink producers, artists, designers, street food and live musicians every Saturday. The restaurants at Coal Drops Yard on Regent's Canal at King's Cross: Hicce, Barrafina, The Drop Wine Bar, Casa Pastor should come into their own this summer, too.
THAMES TOP SPOTS
Bistro Vadouvan has the gentle laid-back charm, and, as they charmingly describe it, 'French and spice' mix of Pondicherry, the former French area from which chef-patron Durga Mistra takes much inspiration. The restaurant menu reflects his own journey from Chennai, taking on French classical cuisine working with Éric Chavot, to his present home: a spacious, airy restaurant on Putney Wharf with a prime riverside terrace and plenty of seating. It will be a blissful place to dine come high summer. Mistra's eclectic culinary travels come together as a thoughtfully nuanced, sometimes daring, menu that is highly accomplished. House flatbread with pistachio labneh makes a welcome snack, sea bream ceviche with the spicing turned up a notch has an exhilarating kick. Exemplary barbequed Iberico pork is accompanied by charred cabbage. Desserts are stunning: saffron and cardamom pear looks as elegant as it tastes.
Where: 30 Brewwhouse Lane, Putney SW15 25X
Head west to Richmond for one of the best and most discreet waterside spots in London at the idyllic Bingham Riverhouse. The restaurant/hotel has just been fashionably renovated in sophisticated boudoir colours. Expect a high-end food experience to match the view of serene gardens and the Thames at its majestic best. The cocktail bar is one of the capital's loveliest, especially when it is warm enough to enjoy the terrace. The listed Georgian building has an interesting literary past. Former tenants were an aunt and niece who were lovers, wrote under a male pseudonym and held exclusive literary salons with the likes of W.B. Yeats. It remains an exclusive yet accessible gem for romantic or family dinners with great service and a quirky wine list too.
Where: 61-63 Petersham Rd, Richmond TW10 6OT
Positioned inside the Royal Festival Hall, with views onto the Thames and the Southbank below, swish Skylon has had a culinary makeover courtesy of Helena Puolakka (who also looks after Aster restaurant in Victoria). The kitchen's forte remains uncomplicated, serving dishes cooked with real verve. The new menu includes slow-cooked Chichester wood pigeon with beetroot creme fraiche, chestnuts and kale, besides sharing dishes such as Highland venison wellington with braised red cabbage and Chateaubriand with slow cooked endive, Roscoff onions, sage with maderia sauce for two.
Simpler lunch options include Dorset crab roll with crispy celery apple salad and Marie Rose sauce. There's a great burnt lemon meringue tart, too. It's a great spot for pre-theatre or something a little more leisurely. The décor has been updated to bring a more laid-back feel to the space, whilst continuing to boast the spectacular views over the River Thames through floor-to-ceiling windows. Skylon remains a stylish performer.
Where: 30 Belvedere Rd, Royal Festival Hall, South Bank SE1 8XX
Rick Stein, Barnes
photo credit Kiian O'Sullivan
The River Café
Age has not withered the infinite attractions of the River Café which was spreading the gospel of seasonality and respect for considerately produced ingredients far and wide, long before many of today's chefs were even at school. The dizzying prices do reflect the unsurpassable quality of the ingredient-driven Italian food, even if it makes eating here a true once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us.
Really everything on the menu is superlative. On a balmy summer day, dine on poached langoustines with aïoli and fresh pea salad followed by clam risotto dressed with zucchini flowers, lobster risotto or char-grilled calamari with rocket. If Amalfi lemon tart is on the menu, there is no contest; though the chocolate nemesis is mesmerisingly good. Save up and go just once, if you can.
Friendly and engaging service, often by the cream of resting thespians, and stunning Italian wines served in beautiful glasses all add to the treat that makes The River Café still the ultimate waterside dining spot in London.
Where: Rainville Road, Thames Wharf, Hammersmith, W6 9HA
For more details and to book
‘Gotto’ translates from Veronese dialect to mean ‘grabbing a bite to eat and a glass of vino with friends’, which is exactly the laid-back vibe at this modern trattoria in up-and-coming Here East on the River Lea. It is the new development in the former Olympic press centre alongside a number of waterside eateries and bars. Locals can cycle here along the towpath, take a stroll through Elizabeth Park from Westfield Stratford, or cross the bridge from Hackney Wick.
Start out lounging on the sun-trap terrace with a house-made vermouth or craft beer and snacks – such as salty cubes of pork and pancetta with a creamy cacio e pepe sauce. There's also good homemade pasta and whole seabass with a zingy Sicilian caponata. Divine desserts include roast hazelnut bignè (choux buns filled with gloriously nutty cream) and proper cannoli.
Crate Bar & Pizzeria, Hackney Wick
Where: Unit 7, Queen's Yd, Hackney Wick, E9 5EN
For more details and to book
Dreamily located by the banks of Little Venice, don’t be fooled by the seasonal moniker: this Summerhouse is open right through the year. It offers canal-side dining 'with a Cape Cod influence' and sunny echoes of a Long Island beach retreat in the menu highlighting New England clam chowder and popcorn shrimps, besides Canadian lobster and fish and chips. There's also a good dessert list.
Plaquemine Lock, Islington
Cajun and Creole food in an English pub setting on the Regent's Canal in Islington is a rather different project to Jacob Kennedy's Soho Italian wine bistro. There's a family connection too; at the turn of the 20th century, Jacob Hortenstein came to Plaquemine to build a lock to enable heavy cargoes of Louisiana timber from the Bayou onto the Mississippi. Carrie B Stewing, a Hollywood actress opened Plaquemine Lock in 1909, swooshing a champagne bottle against the lockhouse as the family steamer (called Carrie B Schwing) passed through the lock gates. Jacob is the great grandson of Carrie B Schwing and Jacob Hortenstein, hence the name and the kitchen serving uncomplicated Cajun and Creole cooking – just like the food that his high society great grandma probably had someone make for her.
The walls are painted a hot, sultry yellow with murals of life on the Bayou, plantation houses and river boats. It’s all bare caff tables, cutlery in tins and orders taken at the bar. There are sections for oysters, both raw and grilled, and for Po’boys (overfilled sandwiches stuffed with the likes of 'beef debris'). Gumbo, by the cup and bowl, is as it should be: a deep, luscious stew of sausage and chicken, with crawfish added for dramatic impact as it is served.
At the weekends, there's also a lively jazz brunch.
Where: 139 Garden Street, Islington N1 8LR
May Green, Paddington
Designed to dazzle by pop artist Sir Peter Blake, two colour-popping, enormous floating restaurants – Darcie and May Green – are former passenger boats from the Olympics moored on Sheldon Square right outside Paddington Station on the Grand Union Canal.
Whilst May serves drinks from the open windows and has a barge rooftop terrace, it is the Darcie barge that offers simple, healthy, Antipodean-inspired food from brunch through afternoon tea to dinner. Yes, there's smashed avocado on charcoal sourdough toast with homemade labneh and shakshuka besides chicken parmigiana, Sichuan soft-shell crab and Asian-influenced salads.
Where: Grand Union Canal, Sheldon Square, Paddington Central, W2