The 11 Best Riverside Restaurants To Hit Up This SummerHere’s where to hang out, eat, and drink near the Thames and London's canals.
Despite a great big river running through the centre of the city, London is surprisingly lacking in good places to eat with a view of water. Unless you’re counting that Pret sandwich next to a puddle last week. But there’s something about summer and water, isn’t there? Something about the sun shining, glistening off that deeply polluted sewage water, that just makes you feel, well happy. Whether you’re looking for a meal on an actual boat, a pasta-filled view of the Thames, or a pizza by the canal, here are the best places to eat riverside in London.
Nabbing a spot at one of Café Cecilia’s window-side tables early morning is one of the savviest restaurant moves you can make in London Fields. The hip British spot hugs the Regent’s Canal and, like the Hackney waterside walkway, is a bustling scene come lunchtime. But this fashionable canteen is at its best first thing. A plate with a crisp, still glowing fried egg alongside black pudding and brown sauce always goes down a treat, as does porridge with apple butter, or a few slices of Guinness bread with generous spreads of butter and jam.
Lasdun looks over the Southbank and the Thames from its spot inside the National Theatre. The slick British restaurant is from the same people behind the Marksman and, just like much-loved Hackney pub-cum-restaurant, there are pies and buns to get stuck into. Request a table by the window if you’re after that view to accompany your martini followed by devilled eggs and caviar. Or, hunker down in this slick Brutalist space for dinner and plan for an evening stroll along the Thames post-custard tart.
As quaint and romantic as a riverside picnic sponsored by a Tesco meal deal sounds, lunch at Scott’s is undeniably better. Always ask for a window table when booking at this high-end seafood spot in Richmond. The heavy curtains are drawn back to show what everyone’s taken the afternoon off for: the view of the river. The food is consistently impressive, whether that’s the monkfish and tiger prawn masala, or their take on fish and chips that will ensure you’re way too full for dessert. On a sunny day, a table overlooking the water is the best way to spend an afternoon in this city, and why you’ll keep the alfresco terrace front of mind come spring.
Caravel is our favourite floating restaurant in London. It also gets the high accolade of being London’s most alluring floating fire hazard. On board this charming maroon barge near Islington, you’ll find lots of candles, natural wine, and a silken chicken liver pâté—yes we just used the word silken, deal with it. The menu, like the space, is compact but the medley of British and European classics is just as delightful as the houseboat heaven look. As you can probably guess, it’s perfect for a romantic date night followed by a casual stroll along Regent’s Canal.
The fact that Tavolino’s terrace overlooks one of London’s quintessential landmarks—Tower Bridge—means this very well might be one of the best terraces in the whole of London. Serving handmade pasta and proper negronis on a huge, rattan-chaired terrace has something very dolce vita about it. There are big views of the river. There are little kids frolicking in the nearby fountains. And there’s a whole lot of ricotta on the menu. If you come here without getting involved in the ‘nduja tagliatelle or the cacio e pepe, then you’re doing it wrong.
Kingston prides itself on being ‘upon’ the Thames. And we can see why when we head to the Riverside Walk on a sunny day. Think couples strolling down the river, watching people row by, and a strip of restaurants and proper pubs. At the start of this strip is Chakra, an excellent Indian spot serving everything from Desi classics like kake da lamb rogan josh and fish moilee, to lamb chops and mixed grill platters. You pretty much can’t go wrong with anything, but our go-to order is butter chicken and goan prawn curry, with saffron pulao and garlic naan. If the weather’s nice, try to sit outside.
Sure, you could eat next to water. Or, you could eat on it. Not off a plate on a lilo, but on a canal boat. The Prince Regent is a floating restaurant from the London Shell Co and is like meals on wheels, but with no wheels and a lot more oysters. This canal boat serves a set seafood cruising menu and although it reads slightly novelty, this is a genuinely lovely experience. Particularly so in the evening when it feels like a romantic and very British mixture of Titanic and The Talented Mr Ripley. Only with far fewer fatalities. Touch wood. The Grand Duchess is another Paddington canal boat restaurant from the same people—but it’s permanently moored.
It would be impossible not to include London’s most famous riverside restaurant in this list because, really, this is where you want to be eating if you want a view of water in London. The River Café is London’s most renowned Italian restaurant with good reason and it comes into its own on a summer’s day. Of course the Hammersmith restaurant is expensive but split every dish with a friend and it won’t break the bank completely.
If a meal with a view at The River Café feels (understandably) out of budget, then wander down the Thames Path for a pint and a scotch egg at The Crabtree instead. The Fulham pub is one of west London’s places to be during peak summer. Its Thames-side terrace looks out onto lapping water and, though this isn’t a Scampi Fries kind of pub, you can snack on beef dripping chips which very much do the job of soaking up. If fish and chips with a view is what you’re after, then head to the upstairs terrace. There are a load of suntrap tables to happily drink the day away in.
Crate is still one of the few restaurants doing a solid job around Hackney Wick. This brewery is ideal for you to pitch up alongside the canal, have a few too many with a group of friends, think you’ve contracted heat stroke, before eating one of its very decent pizzas and realising you were just hungry all along.
Towpath is a seasonal cafe for seasoned table grabbers, but if you come here on a sunny day and nab a seat—alongside a plate of tomatoes on toast—you’ll soon see why it’s so busy. This small spot along the Regent’s Canal near Haggerston station is pretty much entirely outside seating and it has a strong case for being one of London’s most dopamine-inducing restaurants. Tomatoes, fried eggs with mojo verde, and Spanish sausage sandwiches are all favourites. If possible, come for a midweek, day-off meal, because things can get a little hectic during weekend brunch hours. That said, it’s worth it.