The novelty of floating restaurants well and truly comes alive in the summer, and with the Thames carving its way through the capital, there are plenty of riverboat restaurants on London's rivers, canals and waterways to get your fix.
Dating back around a thousand years to ancient China, the ever-popular floating restaurant is not a new phenomenon. It's something that really caught wind in London post-17th century, after the Great Fire of London rebuild that caused the Thames to become the capital's main street.
From riverboat bars, restaurants and even nightclubs, the magic of these aquatic establishments is that they use London's landmark-filled skyline, iconic bridges and tranquil waters to create the most scenic backdrop to your evening.
So which riverboat restaurants float to the top? From a fromage barge to a floating steakhouse and everything in between, these are London's nine best boat restaurants, raising the bar(ge).
The best 9 boat restaurants in London
The Cheese Barge
Sheldon Square, W2 6DL
Floating fromage will always be a good idea, and that's the venture of the Cheese Barge, a double-decker boat permanently moored on the Grand Union Canal at Paddington Central. It's the sister restaurant to the ever-popular Cheese Bar and serves up an entire menu (from starters to puddings) that revolves around British cheese. It's the venture of Mathew Carver, founder of Funk Cheese Shop, Pick & Cheese and The Cheese Truck; calling him an expert in British cheese, almost feels like an understatement. The menu covers many bases from cheese boards laden with veiny blues, creamy Caerphilly and crunchy clothbound cheddars, melty grilled cheese sandwiches dunked in chilli honey, smaller plates like fried curried cheese curds and stilton devils on horseback and bigger eats like a huge baked Baron Bigod Brie.
River Lee, Sweetwater Mooring, E9 5EN
If award-winning, seasonal, sustainably sourced food on a 120-year-old Dutch barge tickles your fancy, then you best be heading to Barge East in Hackney Wick. Stefano Camplone, whose resume includes impressive stints at Clipstone and Roganic, is at the helm of the kitchen, and he's cooking a menu of totally devourable dishes like ham hock and pistachio terrine with ajo blanco, whey brined roast chicken with wild garlic pesto and unctuous hazelnut cake with sorrel and tonka bean cream. For those who can't decide, there's a six-course tasting menu, and if you can't get a spot on the barge, there's a beer garden adjacent, which is one of the biggest in London, housing up to 300 people with the added bonus of scenic riverside views.
Hawksmoor Wood Warf
1 Water St, E14 5GX
As a restaurant that was indeed instrumental in the new wave of great steakhouses in the country and serves up some of the best beef in the UK, you would have thought Hawksmoor didn't need to make any more noise. However, they've only gone and opened a huge floating pavilion-come-steakhouse on the riverside in Canary Warf. The building is architecturally impressive (and unmissable), with sleek interiors on brand for its swish financial district location, including a wood-panelled ceiling, marbled floors and a large mirrored bar. The menu stays true to the Hawksmoor philosophy – nailing the classics with excellent quality produce, including grass-fed, dry-aged, ethically reared beef, sustainable seafood, unmissable sides and seriously tasty cocktails. It might not be revolutionary, but you'd struggle to find someone who's not infatuated with Hawksmoor.
Sweetwater Mooring, E9 5EN
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The name is perhaps a misnomer because Milk Float serves everything from cocktails to Latin-themed burgers and, of course, killer ice cream. Located on the river in Hackney Wick, it's the perfect hideout on a summer's evening with its charming fairy-light-clad roof terrace. On the menu are local Five Points craft beer, mocktails, cocktails, and milkshakes alongside burgers, hot dogs, cold cuts and ice cream for when you get peckish. Want to spend the whole day on the water? Not a problem – you can rent out a Moo Canoe from Milk Floats' sister company and paddle through the five nearby waterways.
London Shell Co
Union Canal, W2 6EP
Sliding into a seat, almost level with the waterline in one of London Shell Co's two canal boats, is a potent tonic for city life. Never mind that you wouldn't want to put anything caught out of the canal in your mouth or that you may be accosted by all matter of metropolitan debris floating past your window; for the duration fo your joyous meal, simple eating by the water is escapism enough. The menu is, unsurprisingly, seafood-heavy and is one you could confidently call Modern British, full of seasonal ingredients and fusion flavours. Fancy taking your dinner on the move? Hop aboard their second boat, the Prince Regent, and dine on a set menu while cruising along the canal. Those who like their dinner on terra firma can head to London Shell Co's new fishmonger/wine shop/restaurant on Swain's Lane.
172 Shepherdess Walk, N1 7JL
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Caravel may be on a boat, but it's the kind of restaurant that, rather than leaning into its unique location, seems to almost make you forget you're floating on the water at all. Owners Fin and Lorcan Spiteri have London restaurants in their blood – their mum, Melanie Arnold, is a co-founder of Rochelle Canteen and their dad, Jon Spiteri, opened, among others, The French House, St John and Sessions Arts Club. Hints of all of these restaurants can be found on the menu at Caravel, where simple, quality ingredients are given just the most delicate of coaxing with an expert hand.
Embankment Pier, WC2N 6NU
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For those wanting a suitably boujee waterside experience, book a table at Bateaux – a luxury Thames restaurant cruiser that makes for an unforgettable evening. Cosplay as a character from Succession as you sip champagne on the boat deck or tuck into a plate of salmon mousseline while gazing at the stars through the glass roof. There's a host of different experiences to book at Bateaux, including afternoon tea, Sunday roasts, floating jazz nights, candlelit concerts, five-course luxury dinners and even a Father's Day cruise. Whatever experience you book, rest assured you'll be tucking into plates of classic, refined food and delicious bubbles amid one of London's most scenic backdrops.
Feng Shang Princess Restaurant
Southern Star Cumberland Basin, NW1 7SS
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Rumour has it Feng Shang is Paul McCartney's favourite Chinese restaurant, and whether or not those whispers are true, it's soon to become yours too. Located in Cumberland Basin in Regent's Park, Feng Shang (which looks like something out of a Bond film) sits proudly in a three-tiered pagoda boat complete with hanging lanterns and neon strip lights, which reflect on the water. On the menu are all the classics like crispy sesame prawn toasts, salt and pepper squid, and tender beef ho fun, alongside great sharing plates like a whole grilled seabass spiked with ginger and spring onion and the legendary Cantonese roasted duck with a crispy, fragrant skin.
Albert Embankment, SE1 7TY
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Permanently moored between Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridge, Tamesis Dock is a 1930s Dutch barge-turned-pub serving up beer, cocktails and pizza with scenic views of London landmarks like the Houses of Parliament, Battersea Power Station and the London Eye. There's also a regular schedule of live bands and jazz acts playing throughout the week – making Tamesis Dock a novelty music venue as well as a pub and restaurant. With its prime central London location, sunny deck, cocktails and DJs, Tamesis Dock always promises an evening of Thames-side debauchery.