There’s nothing quite like dining on a boat. Whether you’re docked in the harbour or cruising down the river, floating eateries give your meal that extra pizzazz, that special something. Luckily the UK has a flurry of restaurants on water, from grand superyachts to cosy barges, which offer great food as well as the fun factor. Here’s our pick of the UK’s best boat restaurants.
London Shell Co.
The brainchild of siblings Harry and Leah Lobek, London Shell Co began – like many modern culinary successes – as a series of pop ups. However after gaining huge popularity, the owners decided to open a permanent restaurant on The Prince Regent, a bright blue barge docked in Paddington, with a second branch recently opened, The Grand Duchess. While The Prince Regent cruises down the Thames, The Grand Duchess stays docked on the Grand Union Canal. Like its older sibling, seafood is the focus, which can be enjoyed alongside sparkling wines, cocktails and Sangria in the sunshine. Sophisticated without being pretentious, fun without being gimmicky, these floating restaurants get boat dining just right. londonshellco.com
Darcie & May Green
Part of the ever-growing Aussie-inspired Daisy Green collection, Darcie & May Green is housed across two brightly coloured sister vessels outside London’s Paddington. You’re in no danger of missing them – the barges are bold and eye-catching in design, courtesy of pop artist Peter Blake, known for designing album covers for The Beatles. Brunch takes centre stage here, with standout dishes including their legendary sweetcorn fritters, a healthy Full English called The Bondi, and an award-winning banana bread dish, served with fresh berries and mascarpone. The boat stays docked, but you can ride your own wave by opting for the bottomless brunch party. daisygreenfood.com
The Cheese Barge
Mathew Carver – the man behind Pick & Cheese and Camden’s The Cheese Bar – is launching The Cheese Barge, a double decker floating restaurant, permanently moored on the Grand Union Canal in Paddington. Designed by Adam Richards Architects, the custom-built boat is said to be inspired by the nautically themed Electa Bookshop in Venice. The vessel is currently under construction in Somerset, but you don’t have to wait too long to experience its joys, as the launch date is scheduled for April. Chef Reagan Ellenbroek will head up the kitchen, which we’re told will serve ‘a refined menu of honest British dishes using small producer cheese’. Think Windrush Goats’ Curd with lamb scrumpets and pickled walnuts; Cropwell Bishop Stilton ‘Devils on Horseback’ (medjool dates stuffed with Stilton and wrapped in bacon); and Maida Vale, a washed rind cheese from Village Maid, served on treacle soda bread with smoked mackerel and green sauce. thecheesebar.com
Can’t afford your own superyacht just yet? Fear not, at Sunborn London you can have a taste of the good life without the million pound price tag. Located on the revitalised Royal Victoria Dock right by the ExCel London exhibition centre, hotel and restaurant Sunborn London is perfectly placed for spectacular views of the city. While the Finnish-built yacht has never actually graced the ocean waves, it sure looks the part: a gleaming white, five-decked creation, with shiny brass fittings and grand interiors. The Lands End restaurant offers a Mediterranean-inspired menu, with elegant dishes to match the surroundings. Mains include pan fried cod with white beans and smoked mussels; roast squash with whipped goats curd and spiced yoghurt; and wild mushroom risotto with black truffle and pecorino, with a fish of the day available too, caught fresh from Brixham Devon. sunbornhotels.com
Once a working barge, Bristol’s Glassboat has operated as a floating restaurant since the mid-80s. With its polished wooden boards, French waiting staff and refined menu, it has the feel of a classy brasserie, made all the more exciting by its unusual location on the River Avon. The menu is seafood heavy, though there are meat dishes on offer too such as steak and chicken, as well as a special Sunday roast menu courtesy of head chef Jake Platt. Windows across all sides allow beautiful views of the Bristol docks, particularly when lit up against the night sky. glassboat.co.uk
Edinburgh’s new floating hotel made its grand debut in January last year. Located in the working docks of Leith, Fingal is a former Northern Lighthouse Board ship, which has been transformed into a stylish hotel and restaurant by The Royal Yacht Britannia. Interiors are glamorous yet respectful of the ship’s working history: an art deco dining room features leather seats, wood panelling and floor-to-ceiling windows, which look out onto the port. Here, you can pick from a short but sweet selection of Scottish-inspired dishes, such as hot smoked salmon, halibut with squid ink tagliatelle and Highland roe deer with bulgar wheat. During the warmer months, the covered outdoor deck is sure to make a glorious al fresco dining spot. fingal.co.uk
Glass Room is a stylish affair, with nautical-inspired interiors designed by Tom Dixon. As the name suggests, 360-windows offer unrivalled views of London landmarks as you sail down the river, including Big Ben, The London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. A number of dining options are available, including a sumptuous five-course British feast, featuring the likes of smoked salmon with celeriac remoulade, and chicken breast with butternut mousse and braised leek, which can be enjoyed alongside wine pairing and live entertainment. bateauxlondon.com
Feng Shang Princess Restaurant
Upgrade your Chinese takeaway by heading to Feng Shang Princess Restaurant, a three-tiered pagoda-style boat floating on Regent’s Canal. A little gimmicky, but fun nonetheless, with an extensive menu of not just Chinese cuisine, but also Japanese, Thai, Malaysian and more. Claim to fame – it’s apparently Paul McCartney’s favourite restaurant. fengshang.co.uk