As London’s picturesque canals become increasingly popular with walkers and cyclists, more and more canalside cafes are popping up along London’s towpaths. We pick 10 canalside eateries where you can sit and watch boats bobbing, the sun shining on the water and the world go by. Bliss.
The Counter Café
At independent café and coffee roastery The Counter Café (pictured top), you get a view not just of the canal but the Olympic stadium – which is just 100 metres away across the water. Grab a seat on the outdoor terrace to enjoy their popular pies, excellent coffee and amazing brunches. Save time to explore the latest exhibition in the Stour Space, the social enterprise which the café is part of.
From Islington, the Regent’s Canal stretches further east to Hoxton – and the Towpath Café (near Whitmore Bridge). Opened by food photographer Jason Lowe and his food-writer wife Lori de Mori, the café serves up a small but delicious selection of Italian specialities. They have no phone number, website and only accept cash, so why not take their lead, switch off your mobile and indulge in some people watching!
Neighbouring Towpath Café is another canalside favourite: Ribeira London. This time food comes with a Latin twist, served in beautifully designed surroundings. The chilled-out sister restaurant to Old Street’s Floripa, Ribeira is the place to go for anything from coffee to cocktails, and dinner to all-day (well, ‘til 4pm) brunch at the weekend.
The Proud Archivist
Close to Kingsland Basin on Regent’s Canal (nearest station: Haggerston Overground), The Proud Archivist – like InSpiral Lounge – wears many hats. Gallery, bar, restaurant, café, events space… Seasonal, locally-inspired dishes are top of the menu and change all the time, while current/upcoming events on the social calendar include Secret Theatre’s Diary of a Sociopathic Freakozoid and the exhibition Miniature Salon.
King’s Cross Filling Station
Its name may suggest a petrol forecourt, but King’s Cross Filling Station is anything but. Behind its contemporary, glass architecture and neon signage, you’ll find Shrimpy’s Deluxe Dinette & Terrace – and during the warmer month, the Outside Grill & Bar. On the dinette menu: everything from snackettes like ‘frickles’ (deep fried picked chillies), to crab burgers, to chocolate & pistachio sundae. Fill us up!
Ragged School Museum café
The Ragged School Museum is a little-known, free London attraction that offers a fascinating insight into Victorian England – and specifically what it was like to be a pupil in the charity school that once stood on this site. As well as a reconstructed domestic Victorian kitchen, there’s the real-life café – serving hot and cold drinks and snacks. Not a destination in its own right, but good for a quick refreshment after exploring the museum.
A wonderful haven in the heart of Camden, InSpiral Lounge is part eco-café, part music venue, part shop. Take a pew in the seats overlooking the canal and tuck into a plate of vegan food, some raw cake, a scoop of vegan ice cream or one of the feel-good smoothies. Stop by in the evening for live music, poetry and weekend DJ nights.
Lock 7 Café
London’s canal towpaths are popular with cyclists, so Lock 7 was opened to cater for those on two wheels (and two feet). In fact it claims to be London’s first cycle café. So alongside the café serving the usual coffees, teas and snacks, there’s a bike workshop and shop.
The Pumphouse Café
Sitting alongside Regent’s Canal in Islington, The Pumphouse Café is located (as the name suggests) in a converted brick pump house – with great views over the City Road Basin. As well as fresh coffees and homemade cakes there are vegetarian and meat lunches if you need something more substantial.
Café Laville is an Italian café bridging the canal at picturesque Little Venice. Pop in for a continental breakfast (there’s everything from yogurt with honey and almonds to omelette with goats cheese and spinach), a freshly made sandwich or salad at lunch or a tasty dinner of pasta, risotto or grilled fish/meat.