Even in the chill of a British winter, nothing beats a cosy cuppa or more indulgent dining in a cafe or restaurant along London’s waterways. Those brave enough to grab a waterside table get the thumbs up for pluck but there are always stunning views from inside.
West India Quay
Trade ships from the West Indies used to dock here to offload their cargo during and after Britain’s slave trade period. The Victorian warehouses still exist today. The postmodern nature of the architecture is such that the futuristic-looking office blocks and bridge structures exist alongside these historic buildings. There is a well-known food focus, with a street market here lunchtimes Weds – Fri and KERB street food sellers working out of parked wagons.
Amongst the conventional restaurants and cafes, Brown’s West India Quay comes well recommended and has decently-priced two and three-course meals. The sirloin steak sandwich with horse radish mayonnaise and truffle oil will not disappoint with a decent side dish. Also, there are amazing views of the quay and the Canary Wharf skyline.
Amazing quayside views along West India Quay
There’s some debate as to which of the great poets gave the area its name – Robert Browning or Lord Byron. However, the Romantic bards picked up on the tranquil, picturesque surroundings and compared it with the gondola city of Venice. And you can see why they made a beeline for this canalside oasis in West London which makes everyone’s top ten must-visit list.
Watch the world go by in one of the waterside cafes such a the Waterside Cafe, which is an adapted moored barge locally known as ‘the floating cafe’. Where better to chill out and absorb nature and de-stress. Ducks, swans, wellness practitioners, canoeists, joggers – it all happens here but in a zen-like mode where you’re barely aware of them. A serving of the cafe’s Famous Waterside Cream Tea will help with the synthesis of this vibe, if you’re up for scones, strawberry jam and English clotted cream with your tea selection.
Venezuelan restaurant Arepa‘s name gives you an indication of what’s on the menu. Obviously, it’s not just a one item menu of the South American nation’s savoury dough wrap. Instead, you can watch the barges sail along Regent’s Canal while dipping into their Yuca cassava chips or perhaps a more filling staple such as the Pabellon Criollo, which is a delicious rice, shredded beef and black bean dish.
Arepa & Co
North bank of the Thames
If dining on a 1927 luxury steamship yacht moored along the Thames sounds appealing then Yacht London is custom-made for dining with a difference. Elegant, art deco charm and stunning views of the river, London Eye, and the South Bank, it’s easily found on its regular spot on the north bank in an area known as the Mayfair of the Thames. The gangplank walk to the yacht is winding and anticipatory. Ramping up the tastebuds in more ways than one.
A riverside table at Cafe Rouge at this time of year would test the mettle of everyone but eskimo tourists. However, an indoor quayside table is just what you want when the restaurant is as elegant and chic as this. Their Prix Fixe Menu is priced right for those who find the exotic menu a little too upmarket for their budget. But you wouldn’t want to miss out on gastronomic delights such as their Champignon A L’ Ail starter –which preludes the greater Gallic delights to come. I hope you can read French, because there’s nothing on the menu in English!
Head Bankside and you’ll be spoilt for choice, regardless of whether you’re looking for a lunch time option during your tourist jaunt or an evening hang out after work. The likes of the Tate Modern often go on after dark and the visitors spilling out at closing time might want to savour splendid views of St Paul’s Cathedral across the river from the warmth of the Founders Arms. It’s a landmark watering hole in this arts and culture-focused corner of Southwark and perfectly placed to catch the eye of art lovers heading for the Bankside Gallery or the Tate Modern.
Photo credit – Nick Fewings