Where To Eat Near London's Best Swimming Spots
The best places for a bite after enjoying a pool of water that isn’t a puddle.
The one thing we love more than letting our inner Tom Daley splash free—toe point, toe point, spin—is eating out. Together, it’s an unbeatable combination. Here are our favourite swimming spots for building up an appetite and the restaurants we recommend hitting up after.
Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lido is one of the world’s few places where you’re likely to see a Z-list celebrity in Speedos and a mardy swan in the same breaststroke. The views of the park are great and if you deem the water to be, erm, fucking freezing, opt for a pedalo instead.
Em Sherif is located inside the capitalist obstacle course that is Harrods, but don’t let that put you off. This blue-tiled dining room is home to some of the best Lebanese food in London, from the thick, nutty hummus covered in sautéed lamb to the yoghurt-heavy chickpea fatteh. Post-swim you probably aren't looking for anything too heavy and Em Sherif’s mezze is just the ticket.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Cicchetti’s jazzy dining room makes you feel like you’ve escaped the mardy swans of Hyde Park and somehow landed in Venice. This Italian spot is a certified crowd-pleaser—chewy pizzas, saucy pastas, and lobster raviolo that will have you feeling like you’ve just exited the sea from the Amalfi Coast.
Parliament Hill Lido
Parly Hill’s art deco beauty is open all-year round and its proximity to Gospel Oak Overground means there are a few super-convenient eating options around the corner.
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After several laps you should always reward yourself with something saucy, and that’s where Rossella comes in. It’s a classic Italian trattoria tucked into the Highgate Road where locals have been tucking into hearty portions of ragu lasagne for years. It’s a homely, ‘have another spritz’ type of place, that’s all about pleasure rather than perfection.
The Southampton Arms
This old-school boozer, a 10-minute wander from the lido, is one of north London’s most celebrated haunts and The Southampton Arms' bar snacks aren’t too shabby either. Sit with a crisp pint and a roast pork bap smothered in apple sauce and topped with crunchy crackling for good measure.
Tooting Bec Lido
Oi oi, it’s only the UK’s biggest lido. We like to remind ourselves of this when we only manage three laps, then commit to a beautiful art form commonly known as ‘floating’. Bring a fiver so you can invest in a slushie from the on-site cafe.
N.B. Tooting Bec Lido is currently closed for refurbishment.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
Mixed Blessings Bakery
Mixed Blessings is a 20-minute or so wander through Tooting Common and is the perfect spot for a post-swim snack. The Caribbean bakery’s jerk chicken patties are a big fat yes and the ginger sponge cake is one of the best ways you can spend a couple of quid in London. If you get a slice of the coconut cake too, we really wouldn’t blame you.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
££££20 Bedford Hill,
Head to laid-back Balham cafe Milk for your essential post-swim coffee and banana bread. It's a 20-minute walk from the lido, there’s space out front for when it's warm, and all the food is a cut above your average brunch dishes. Stay for two courses so you can try savoury dishes like breakfast muffins and sweet dishes like pancakes.
If we wanted to pretend we were in a Richard Curtis film, we’d probably live in Herne Hill. It’s part of the reason that its huge local lido ranks so highly in our estimations. Great swim, great area.
Within five minutes of leaving Brockwell Lido, you can be sat out in the sunshine at one of London’s most charming neighbourhood restaurants. The contemporary British food at Llewelyn’s will never let you down and the inside situation is just as nice as the outdoor terrace. For something more snackish, Lulu's, its sibling wine bar, is next door.
Four Hundred Rabbits
The south London sourdough pizza favourite has a very convenient spot in The Lido Cafe. The pizzas are lovely, the location couldn't be better, and there's a hefty natural wine, cocktail, and craft beer list to check out. Though we'd recommend you do that after you attempt the butterfly, not before.
West Reservoir Centre
The West Reservoir Centre is an ideal escape from London while very much remaining in London. The Stoke Newington open-water spot can be taken seriously (wetsuit, goggles) or slowly (bobbing, gossip).
Fink's Salt And Sweet
An enormous appetite isn’t guaranteed after a swim, but Fink’s is perfect whether that’s the case or not. The neighbourhood cafe and deli is a respite for solo readers and friends looking to catch up over a BLT on Dusty Knuckle sourdough, or a slice of homemade carrot cake.
This tiny dedicated lahmacun and pide shop has Don Corleone on their walls and made-to-order lahmacuns you can’t refuse. The dough is kneaded fresh to a Rizla-like transparency, the mince mixture spread, and it's cooked in their wood-burning oven. Heavy on onion and isot pepper, this is a lahmacun worth seeking out. Bear in mind, it’s cash-only.
Hampstead Heath Ponds
Sure, your ‘mate’ keeps telling you that you bear an uncanny resemblance to a condom but we think you should wear that swim cap with pride. Even if there is a slight air of Durex about your current look, it’s hard to argue with the fact that a whimsical dip in the ponds is a go-to sunny day activity.
The Bull & Last
Swim and pint. Pint and swim. While probably not condoned by any lifeguards, it’s a glorious combination. For a cold one after an arguably colder swim in the ponds, head to proper part-pub part-restaurant The Bull & Last. Expect plenty of locals, a great selection of cask ales, and a Sunday roast that we’d maybe (definitely) sell our souls for.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
La Crêperie de Hampstead
Sidling across the Heath post-swim is a lovely thing to do, particularly when something oozing with cheese or Nutella is waiting on the other side. La Crêperie De Hampstead has been around on Hampstead High Street since the ‘80s and these crêpes are a totally pleasant summer's day snack.
London Fields Lido
London Fields can be a bit of a bun fight in the summer and the same goes for the lido. That said, with a bit of organisation, you’ll be able to use a pool in the middle of east London that doesn’t require a membership card.
After several laps at London’s sceniest lido, you might not be in the mood to queue. But given that Pockets makes the best falafel pitta in London, we’d consider saving some of your stamina and walking over to Netil Market sharpish. The pittas are light and doughy, the falafels hot and herby, and the selection of condiments superb.
The wait for a plate of chorizo and sweet potato hash is always worthwhile at Hash. The brunch specialist in Dalston makes the kind of restorative, American-inspired food that even the most playful of paddles deserves. It's a 10-minute walk from the lido and the atmosphere tends to lean pretty bloody mary-heavy.