By Derek Robertson
In a city – and country – famed for it’s pubs and bars, it’s no surprise that London has a plethora of options for drinking next to, or on, the Thames. But aside from the usual riverside watering holes, there’s also a huge range of boats and barges that have been pressed into service as quirky and unusual places to quench your thirst. Some are permanently moored, others sail up and down the grand old river, and some offer delights beyond mere food and drink. Here are the best five for those who want to literally push the boat out.
A converted 1930’s Dutch grain barge, this much-loved boat, with stunning views of the Battersea Power Station, caters to many tastes day and night. Open daily, it serves food as well as drinks, and hosts a variety of activities in the evening, including cabaret, comedy shows, and flamenco. While the lower deck hosts events, the upper deck remains open to the public, and is the best place to while away a few hours watching the sun set over the capital.
Tom’s Kitchen at HMS Belfast
OK, so this isn’t technically on a boat at all, but how many award-winning bar & kitchen venues overlook a decommissioned Navy warship? Part of the visitor centre, there’s a stand-alone deli for those on the hunt for delicious salads, sandwiches, and cakes, but the real star is the upstairs bar and terrace, offering unparalleled views – and the drinks to match – over the ship itself and the surrounding area.
Permanently moored across from the Houses of Parliament, this is the place for laid-back vibes and chilled-out cocktails. Kitsch art and disco balls give the somewhat small interior a retro feel – check out their egg chairs – but the best seats are up on deck with amazing views north over Vauxhall Bridge. It’s a great place for some late night dancing and rowdiness, but it also does a mean brunch at weekends and some kick ass coffee during the day.
Bar & Co
Temple Pier offers one of the best views of Big Ben from the Thames, and Bar & Co takes full advantage. The two decks of this graceful old boat host a bar, restaurant, and a nightclub with a dancefloor and resident DJs (they have a 3am licence, and capacity for 130 people). They also have five large screens dotted inside and out for those who wish to watch the latest sporting occasions, the perfect excuse for a little al fresco daytime drinking
The Tattershall Castle
The Grand Dame of the Thames, this spacious, easy-going boat has been moored in the same spot near Embankment since 1975. The reason for its longevity is simple; a jam-packed schedule of events and a willingness to cater to all tastes. Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are comedy nights, the first Wednesday of every month is dedicated to jazz, while the Popworld Nightclub is open till 2am at the weekends. Add in cocktail classes, delicious food, weekend brunches, and a variety of special runs and gins, and it’s easy to see why punters continue to flock to thie riverside institution.