Whether your swim style is more Olympian in the backstroke finals or stoned Labrador with a penchant for splashing, there’s no denying that hitting up one of London’s outdoor swimming options is always a lot of fun. And 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 lidos for building up an appetite and then the restaurants we recommend hitting up after.
Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lido is basically London’s answer to a trip to the beach. And sure, it’s one of the world’s few swimming experiences where you’re likely to see a Z-list celebrity in Speedos and a mardy swan in the same breaststroke, but we’re into it. The views of the park are great and if you deem the water temperature to be, erm, fucking freezing, you can always opt for a pedalo instead.
A serious looker, Lurra is a Basque inspired tapas spot in Marylebone that’s a casual 20-minute stroll from the Serpentine Lido. If you’ve spent the past few hours pretending you’re in Northern Spain rather than just slightly north of the Central line, this place is a great shout to keep that new tan, hot weather mood going. Their 14-year ‘galician blond’ steak for two is one of our favourite meat-heavy dishes in London and is honestly worth its £65 price tag, but if you’re looking to keep things cheaper, you can go for a couple of tapas staples and a big glass of wine.
PARLIAMENT HILL LIDO
If you’re swimming on the Heath, then you’re likely heading to the ponds. You and several hundred dedicated bougie London literary loyalists, all driven wild by the romanticism of cold water swimming and the occasional natant rat. For Parly Hill aficionados, that suits just fine. The art deco beauty is around the corner from Gospel Oak overground and one of north London’s best old-school Italian spots.
After several laps you should always reward yourself with something saucy, and that’s where Rossella comes in. It’s an old-school Italian trattoria on the Highgate Road where locals have been tucking into hearty portions of ragu lasagne for years. It’s a homely, ‘have another spritz’ type place, that’s all about pleasure rather than perfection.
Herne Hill is lovely. If we knew how to sleep without the lullaby of nearby police sirens or had the capacity to not spend our entire salary on takeaway coffee, we’d probably live there. That’s part of the reason that their huge local lido ranks so highly in our estimations. Great swim, great area. You can book your slot online or on their app.
Llewelyn’s is a three-minute walk from Brockwell Lido. Do you know what that means? That means that within five minutes of leaving one of London’s best swimming destinations you can be sat out in the sunshine at one of London’s best restaurants. This neighbourhood restaurant is charming with a capital C and the food will never let you down. If the weather decides to go all monsoon season then you should know that the inside situation is just as nice as their extended outdoor terrace, and their desserts will cheer up any rainy day.
THE WEST RESERVOIR CENTRE
The West Reservoir Centre is an ideal escape from London whilst very much remaining in London. The Stoke Newington open water swimming, canoeing, and breaststroke-and-catch-up spot has a 400m course that can either be taken seriously (wetsuit, goggles) or slowly (bobbing, gossip). Either way, there are a few different directions you can go for some sustenance afterwards.
An enormous appetite isn’t guaranteed after a swim, but Fink’s is perfect whether that’s the case or not. The neighbourhood café and deli is respite for solo readers and friends looking to catch-up over a BLT on Dusty Knuckle sourdough, or a slice of homemade carrot cake and a coffee. It’s a ten-minute walk from the reservoir or you can always get something to takeaway instead.
HAMPSTEAD HEATH PONDS
You’re ready for your very whimsical dip in the 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 the ponds are an absolute go-to sunny day activity. Ignore the inevitable queues and moss floating nearby, the ponds have our hearts.
Swim and pint. Pint and swim. It’s a glorious combination that probably isn’t condoned by lifeguards, but is 100% backed by us. But rather than just going to any old boozer for a cold one after an arguably colder swim in the ponds, head to proper part-pub-part-restaurant The Bull and Last. The menu changes regularly but you can expect things like homemade soda bread, sirloin of beef and aioli sandwiches, and chargrilled onglet. Expect plenty of locals, a great selection of cask ales, and a Sunday Roast that we’d maybe (definitely) sell our souls for.
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, all you need is a bit of organisation and you’ll be able to use a pool bang in the middle of east London that doesn’t need a membership card or a job in media that requires you to take poor quality Class As. Options-wise there’s plenty to choose from down Broadway Market, but there are better things elsewhere.
On a regular weekend the queue for Hash spills out of the door, with countless pairs of Converse, Vejas, and Doc Martens waiting patiently down Dalston Lane. That’s because the wait for their chorizo and sweet potato hash or pork belly benedict is always worthwhile. Being a brunch specialist, there are piles of pancakes and plenty of Bloody Mary too.