Where To Eat When You Want To Go On A Walk
If you’re the sort to wander, pre or post meal, check out these excellent restaurants near some of London’s most scenic walking routes.
Going for a walk is as much a British pastime as putting the kettle on. Park walks, Thames-side walks, inner-city weekend walks when everyone in The City is at Soho Farmhouse—these are when you can lap up how great a city London is, and also how much your feet hurt and how hungry you are. So if you’re the sort to wander, pre or post meal, check out these excellent restaurants near some of London’s most scenic routes.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
The Parkland Walk/Finsbury Park
During the peak of various lockdowns, the Parkland Walk—which goes from Finsbury Park, through Highgate Woods, up to Alexandra Palace (or vice versa)—was busier than the railroad that cuts through Glastonbury. But for roaming teenagers and energetic four-legged friends, it’s been a constant for forever. For a meal before or after, Finsbury Park and Dotori is your best bet. The Korean and Japanese spot is always buzzing and there’s guaranteed to be a little crowd outside, baying to get in and dig into its haemul pajeon and sizzling bulgogi. It’s only open for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays, so it’s worth calling ahead if you don’t want tired legs to be disappointed.
The Garden Café
The Thames (Westminster)
Big Ben is gleaming from across the water. The lastminute.com London Eye towers above you in all of its ferris wheel-like majesty. You think you feel someone pickpocketing you but realise it’s a small French child poking you with a stuffed donkey toy from the inimitably London experience, Shrek’s Adventure. If this is why you avoid central London parts of the Thames, then let us direct you towards the Garden Café. The peaceful canteen—inside the Garden Museum and St Mary-at-Lambeth church—is a very tranquil restaurant. The food is modern British in the best possible way (not fancy, but full of thought), and lunch of poussin, pancetta, and peas followed by rhubarb fool in this quiet courtyard is the stuff of dreams. In which direction you want to walk along the Thames, before or after, is up to you.
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The Southampton Arms
Whether it’s blisteringly hot, bitingly frosty, or greyer than the sopping Irish wolfhound that’s just dried itself on your cords after a dip in the dog pond, Hampstead Heath is one of the great London spots for a stroll. Everyone has their own preferred entrances, exits, and route but, one thing is for sure, you should always ensure that The Southampton Arms is involved somewhere. The Gospel Oak pub was once a CAMRA stronghold but these days there are just as many walking boots as there are Blundstones. On colder days the fire crackles, but ale is flowing all year-round. Their famous pork bap—oozing with apple sauce and topped with crackling—is a classic, but the vegetarian scotch egg might be the best pub snack of the bunch.
photo credit: Johnny Stephens
There are a few things to know when planning a day out in Richmond. The first is that no one cares if your 12-year-old self felt an emotional connection to Bambi, you should never touch the deer in the park. Secondly, it can feel more like a forest than a park so it’s quite easy to get lost. And thirdly, as quaint and romantic a picnic in the grass sounds, lunch at Scott’s is undeniably better. Take a stroll through the greenery, and end it with a table on Scott’s terrace. The food at this high-end seafood spot 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. They’re not too snooty about trainers, but it is on the fancy side so save it for a day when you’re not embarking on a full-on hike.
Riverside Walk, Kingston
We don’t know the exact science behind it, but being around water when the weather’s nice makes life feel 85% more like a rom-com. Which is why one of our favourite places to walk in London is Kingston’s riverside. But the real reason why it’s our favourite walk is because of New Orleans-inspired spot, Poor Boys. The subs here can be filled with your choice of things like buttermilk fried shrimp or BBQ beef brisket, and they’re the kind of hefty sandwiches that will keep you full until the next day. If you’re in a group, the seafood sharing platter is the only way to go.
Never-ending greenery, cobblestone streets that make you feel like you’re in a faraway town, creamy mushroom truffle gnocchi in one hand, and chocolate-covered mini pancakes in the other. These are the things you’ll find when you spend a day exploring Greenwich. Whether you start off in the park or you head to the weekend market for some pre-walk sustenance, there are plenty of stalls to pick from. Our favourites are Mamma Mia where you’ll get fresh pastas, Da Fish Ting for a fried fish burger, and Thai Chicken for some carby pad thai noodles.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Ealing’s a leafy, chilled-out place, and there are places to go post-walk that don’t involve choosing between four levels of peri peri spice on a chicken. Stroll around Walpole Park’s little streams, dodging pushchairs and pro-PDA teenagers at the duck pond, then grab a window seat downstairs at casual Korean spot, Park’s Kitchen. Alternate between staring at passersby mid mouthful of stir-fried kimchi and pork rice, and staring at the K-pop videos that stream endlessly on the TVs. A bowl of kanpoongi (deep-fried chicken in a sweet chilli sauce) for the table is always a good idea, even if the table is just you. On cold days you can’t beat cradling a hot stone bowl of sundubu-jjigae—soft tofu in a spicy seafood soup.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
We go for a stroll along the Southbank because it’s bad form to wear a t-shirt emblazoned with the words: I’M CULTURED. Whether you’re watching a Shakespeare production at the National Theatre with that guy off that thing that’s on the BBC, getting an eyeful of modern art at the Tate Modern, or wistfully taking in the river views, save some soul searching fun for your tastebuds too. Tatale is a cosy, pan-African spot that grabs hold of your mind with luminous orange nkatekwnan and the scotch bonnet slap of the ackee croquettes.
On a Regent’s Canal walk, you’ve got options. There’s Towpath Cafe, a seasonal cafe for seasoned table grabbers. Or The Baring, a slick Islington pub and restaurant serving feather-light gnudi. But for those times when you don’t just want to be by the river, you want to be on the river, there’s Caravel. As you stroll down the Regent’s Canal towards Islington and approach Caravel’s maroon barge-cum-restaurant, you might feel like it’s unlike other noteworthy boats in London’s history. But Caravel is a different kind of boat. It’s a bistro-ish restaurant that’s just as likely to serve jelly as it is a generous bowl of crab tagliatelle. Pop over to the adjacent barge bar, Bruno’s, and snag a high stool for a pre-dinner grapefruit-spiked negroni.
photo credit: Daisy Meager
Oyster Shack & Seafood Bar
If you go down to the woods today… you’ll find one of London’s best spots for seafood. OK, technically Oyster Shack & Seafood Bar is in Essex, deep in Epping Forest, but it’s within the M25. It’s also under an hour’s walk away from Loughton tube station, through beautiful woodland. The setup is basic and caff-like in atmosphere. Groups of bikers drop in, families crowd round tables outside, and those who’ve travelled from central London fuel up on seafood feasts after a walk in their too-clean wellies. There are platters of fat Carlingford oysters, sweet and meaty curried prawns, and polystyrene cups of whelks. If you order one thing, make it the scallop and bacon butty. A pint of Guinness, which you can bring in from the pub next door, is the perfect accompaniment before you trudge back to the Central line.