Despite atrocious weather, with high winds and driving rain, entering the Prince Regent, a floating restaurant on the Regents Canal (where else?) was a welcome, and warmer, relief.
Moored just yards from Paddington Station the two-and-a-half-hour cruise in the converted barge takes you from Little Venice, through the Maida Hill Tunnel, past a large community of barges moored behind the Lisson Grove power station. At this point we were apparently gongoozlers, meaning bystanders who enjoy watching the activities of boats as they pass them.
We were gongoozlers
The trip skirts around the London Zoo, where you can see the wild dog enclosure, and finally ending at Camden Town, where the Prince Regent turned around and retraced the route back to Paddington.
I have spent nearly 30 years discovering London, whilst studying for The Knowledge and later driving a cab, thinking I knew most secret places, but this trip was a revelation. The very large number of people living on well-maintained colourful and not so ship-shape vessels on the water, palm and banana trees at the water’s edge, and barges with deck chairs and plants upon their roofs, one even had a play area with an arbour of wisteria, none of which I’ve ever seen in central London.
Light at the end of the tunnel
As for lunch, just how can you produce an exceptional 5-course meal for 10 diners (more apparently in high season) in a galley measuring 6ft by 15ft?
Not the cheapest meal (it was a gift), with four fish-based courses: oyster in batter; smoked salmon and horseradish; mackerel and tomatoes; and Cornish cod with a stunning raisin and chicken jus. This was followed by pear and caramelised mousse. Highly recommended.