Barge East, London
Owner Tommo Stuart Thomson skippered his striking 118-year-old Dutch barge from Holland to Hackney Wick eighteen months ago. After a lengthy restoration project, Thomson and his dedicated team have created a welcoming oasis of candlelit calm amid the bleak carcasses of the Olympic Stadium and Anish Kapoor’s mangled helter-skelter.
The imaginative British-fusion menu by head chef and 2019 Young Chef of the year nominee Stefano Camplone includes dishes such as salt-baked celeriac, mushrooms, pickled shimeji and soy cured egg yolk as well as ox heart tartare, rocket pistou, mimolette and crispbread. A side of chunky chickpea fries is almost a meal in itself. Finish up with their signature coconut rice pudding. The lively kitchen boasts an indoor ceramic barbeque that adds a rich, smoked flavour to the food. There’s a wide selection of Hackney brewed draught beers and a small allotment next to the boat provides fresh seasonal produce for the kitchen.
Details: bargeeast.com, 020 3026 2807
Willow Room, Windsor
Down by the famous footbridge that connects Windsor to Eton, the Willow Room serves up hearty lunches, afternoon tea and dinner. For a fixed price you also get a two-and-a-half-hour cruise up the Thames taking in spectacular views of Maj’s castle (lit up and night) and the stately Cliveden a couple of miles upriver. The kitchen may be tiny but the innovative chef cooks up an impressive five course set menu that includes a tangy take on the famous Eton Mess with poached pears and blackberries (no such reinvention sadly for that other Berkshire classic, Brown Windsor soup).
Keep an eye out for the old Bray Studios, home to the original Dracula’s castle star of many a Hammer horror (now a swanky but still creepy-looking hotel). The Willow’s London based sister restaurant the Glass Room has stylish interiors by Tom Dixon with daily sailings from Embankment to the Tower of London via the London Eye and Houses of Parliament
Details: bateauxlondon.com/restaurants/willow-room, 020 7695 1800
Rescued from the muddy waters of the River Severn back in the early 80s, Swedish owner Arne Ringner’s meticulously restored vessel has been serving wholesome British grub for over thirty years. Ringner had originally intended for his leaky 1924 timber barge to become a floating botanical garden until Bristol planners vetoed the plans. The barge has recently transformed itself into a topnotch fish restaurant, which serves both a sit down menu and takeaway options. The handsome vessel moored at Welshback has a permanent mooring but there are some lovely views across the harbour to the city beyond.
Details: https://fishbristol.co.uk, 0117 332 3971
Permanently moored in the old Victoria Docks alongside disused cranes that used to dominate the skyline round here, this sleek super yacht doubles as a floating hotel and restaurant. The décor is more Paul Raymond than Paul Getty but the Sundown bar with its mirrored ceilings and string lights has spectacular views of Canary Wharf. Head up the cheesy crystal staircase to the Land’s End restaurant for some hearty British cuisine. The lobster bisque with seafood ravioli is intensely flavoursome as is the Surrey farm short rib with smoked marrow and beer pickled onions. Pudding includes a sparky apple and pear crumble with custard. If you’re struggling to move after all that, simply book a cabin and waddle off to bed.
Details: sunbornhotels.com, 020 3714 8111
London Shell Company
The LSC owns two stylish barges on the Regent’s canal at Paddington Basin. The Grand Duchess has a permanent mooring and serves excellent seafood – come for Sunday lunch and start with a brace of Hampshire oysters with tangy cucumber shallots and cider vinegar. Pair with a glass of lightly sparkling Hattingley Valley wine from a family owned winery near Basingstoke. Nip next door to the Prince Regent barge for a two-hour trip along the canal past London Zoo to Camden Lock via the spooky 249 ft Maida Hill tunnel built in 1814. The five-course taster menu includes chalk stream trout with potato gnocchi and a sharp Yorkshire rhubarb pudding with vanilla fromage frais and oat crumble – wine pairing is also available.
Details: londonshellco.com, 07553 033636
Holohans at the Barge, Belfast
This popular Belfast barge serves up good honest Irish food at reasonable prices. For mains try the Fermanagh Boxty, a rich combination of butternut squash, pearl onions, sage, parmesan and herb oil. Fish lovers should order the Pan Boxty with smoky cod, salmon, dill cream and buttered vegetables. End with the salted caramel pannacotta with peanut crumb and lime sorbet. Moored beside the Waterfront theatre right in the heart of the city, the boat has a light and airy interior with views across the River Lagan.
Details: holohansatthebarge.co.uk, 028 9023 5973
The Countess of Evesham, Stratford upon Avon
Cruise the gently flowing River Avon in this 70ft family run restaurant and enjoy views of Shakespeare’s birthplace along with some of Warwickshire’s prettiest landscapes. The boat passes through three locks before arriving at the quaint, half-timbered village of Luddington. Groups of fifteen or more can book a cream tea cruise that includes a selection of finger sandwiches, scones, jam, fresh cream, fresh strawberries and unlimited tea or coffee.
Details: countessofevesham.co.uk, 07836 769 499