Friday, August 29, 2008

More fun by the river...

One of the great joys in living on the edge of London is the easy access to Thames-side pleasures. Especially when the weather is decent (ok, when it isn't too horrid...) I love spending time walking, wandering, spectating, participating and making new discoveries.

If you fancy a walk by the river, it doesn’t have to involve an exhausting stint when you opt for the stretch from just past Charter Quay in Kingston heading towards Surbiton.  Created for Queen Victoria's pleasure, the pretty Queens Promenade is a delight to wander down, whether you're in the mood for a power walk or just a leisurely amble.

Along the way, you’ll see all kinds of boating activity from yachting to cruisers; dogs and their companions, roller-bladers, shoppers seeking respite in nature, cyclists and runners (although the distance isn’t really far enough to keep a dedicated runner stretched). Plenty of benches are available, if you want a seat to better take-in the scene. There’s also a little cafĂ©, pretty floral displays and public loos. Bustling on weekends; more like your own private space during the week.

Post-walk, it makes sense to extend the pleasure and relish a waterside drink nearby.  I was thrilled at the transformation I discovered here. It’s been some time since I was last at Hart’s Boatyard on the Portsmouth Road; I’ve pretty much avoided it because my previous experience was so lacklustre and unappealing. Then, it was a rather 'blah’ local that was far from making the best of its great location.

Now, it’s a different story entirely, so much so, that I feel sorry I’ve been missing out! Enter and the pale slate floors and sludgy leather sofas - in shades of beige, pale brown and smokey grey - give a clean, modern, inviting welcome. The bar is attractive; the staff efficient, smiling, attentive, helpful and patient. Outside seating is plentiful (and popular) providing a great view, right on the water’s edge.

The drinks menu is impressive and might cause you to pause before deciding, such is the choice. Summer-time (what’s that?, I hear you ask…) offers a selection of four Pimms cocktails, including an elderflower variant and a pomegranate version. Eclectic beers are available from The Meantime Brewery (chocolate, raspberry, pale ale and union). Along with the more usual suspects and additional creative options. The dining menu is modern and appealing: from 'sharing plates’ through to a full three courses, by way of 'fired pizzas’, grills, risotto and organic salmon with wasabi mash. I didn’t eat-in, on my visit, a few days ago but as Arnie would say “I’ll be back”...

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