The Best Restaurants On A Boat In London (For When You’ve Exhausted Your Options On Land)
At its worst, being on a boat in London involves bobbing about khaki-coloured canals on a barge named after a questionable sea shanty. At it’s best, it’s a Wind in the Willows daydream and you’re Ratty, sighing, “there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”, as you wave at passing cyclists and work your way through a bottle of rosé.
These spots are the latter. They are charming, aquatic restaurants where you can pick, sip, and graze on cheese boards, crab croquettes, or salty snacks paired with a glass of wine.
Caravel is by far London’s most alluring floating fire hazard. It’s a maroon barge-cum-restaurant on Regent’s Canal where smooth pâté and even smoother third date chat is served. Install yourself at one of the cosy tables, complete with white tablecloths and dinky vases, and settle in for the evening. Drinking fizz by candlelight and eating duck-shaped croquettes and other British dishes here is as magical as it sounds.
Caravel’s sister spot is moored next door on the Islington side of the Regent’s Canal. Bruno’s is a moody cocktail bar, with plush, pink velvet armchairs made for hushed tête-à-têtes over sweet rum and pineapple drinks. Grab one of the high stools for a pre-dinner grapefruit-spiked negroni or squirrel yourself away on the sofa for an unhurried beer. The soft lighting, steamy windows, and chilled-out playlist set the mood to cosy-luxe.
There are many reasons why Londoners go categorically ape-shit for a boat. We’re a landlocked city with a great appreciation for Below Deck and who lovingly chant The Lonely Island’s I’m On a Boat every single time we so much as step a toe on a pedalo. Bless our hearts. Enter Barge East, an old Dutch barge that’s docked in Hackney Wick. On the deck you can sit alfresco and make your way through their menu of things like courgette flowers stuffed with beef tartare, or just sit back with a glass of wine in the sun.
Permanently moored by Paddington Station, The Cheese Barge took the already popular idea of eating on a boat and added melted cheese to the mix. Skip some of the bigger dishes that tend to be disappointing and stick to the cheese boards. For a post-work catch-up or low-key date night on a boat, the move is most definitely to share a bottle over some Baron Bigod and Gorwydd caerphilly. Especially when the charming roof terrace is open in warmer months. After all, what’s not to like about cheese on a barge?
The London Shell Co is like meals on wheels, but with no wheels and a lot more oysters. Their Prince Regent canal boat serves a set seafood cruising menu (if you want to be on the move), while The Grand Duchess boat is à la carte (if you prefer to be stationary). Though it reads slightly novelty, this is a genuinely lovely experience. Particularly in the evening, where it feels like a romantic and very British mixture of Titanic and The Talented Mr Ripley. Only with far fewer fatalities. Touch wood.