The Serpentine gives plenty to gander at, but is the food at Hyde Park's revamped café strictly for the birds?

Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, Serpentine Road, Hyde Park, London W2, tel: 020 7706 8114

I could lie and say I was jogging round Hyde Park when I stopped off for a bite to eat. After all, as I sit in the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, plenty of sporty types are peeling off the nearby path, where they have been running, shadow-boxing, Rollerblading or practising rugby moves to come into the distinctive low-slung building for juice, a muffin or something more substantial.

The truth is, I drive to one of London's biggest green spaces, park my car and walk the very short distance to the newish eatery on the edge of the Serpentine. I'm not big on exercise, but I love the idea of having supper in the middle of the park with a couple of junior Ms. They want to watch blokes on skates perform stunts, and then menace a few geese, but I'm more in favour of watching the sun go down over the lake with a glass of wine and a plate of food. The 8pm closing time is looming, the sun is edging down and children have a low ordering/delivery threshold when it comes to grub.

The restaurant opened at the beginning of the summer with some fanfare, when café chain Benugo took over the elegant pavilion site from the unloved Dell. It got a stinky review right at the start, but has had a few months to polish up its act.

With zero calories burned on the way in, who was I to order anything other than a salad? There are four punchy-sounding offerings, from warm goat's cheese to rare roast beef, but – of course – I'm feeling piggy. The menu has nothing over £11.50, and apart from three typical "main-course" numbers (stuffed lamb breast, roast chicken, baked sea bass), everything's the kind of substantial snacky stuff which is just right for a bustling, drop-in joint. There's a proper wood-fired oven, too, so pizzas look tempting. On the piggy front, today's roast-meat sandwich is pork belly. What to choose?

The solution is to make everyone order from a different section. The littlest M gets a "plain pizza" – tomato, mozzarella and oregano to you and me (£7.50). Her main reason for her choice is that she can go and watch the chefs make it, while her big brother would rather sit back and have food brought to him. To my surprise, he chooses fish of the day (salt and pepper squid, £9.50) over that meaty sarnie – and that's after he's toyed with the idea of mackerel fillet with gooseberries and home-made sourdough bread... A food critic of the future, perhaps.

My greed is my undoing. The lamb breast stuffed with apricots with new potatoes and garden peas is the least inspired of the three mains and I should have realised that ordering something that requires slow cooking half-an-hour before the chef clocks off means it's likely to have been knocking about a bit. I don't mind room-temperature roast, and the skin is crisp and the meat tender, but it's dull and dry. Nice peas, though.

The squid's a bit of a triumph: generous rolls of griddled flesh, lip-smackingly seasoned and not in the least rubbery. Master M even eats the salad beneath it, because the salty coating has rubbed off on the green stuff. Miss M's pizza, prepared under her watchful eye, is pleasingly bubbled and crisp and only a desire to save some for the geese stops her gobbling the lot.

I get the chance to sit back and survey the room with a glass of serviceable Montepulciano d'Abruzzo at £4.75 – from a no-surprises, plenty-of-classics wine list – while they go out to throw pizza crusts at unsuspecting fowl. It's suitably low-key, but the details are telling. The rustic wooden tables have quirky touches such as condiments in old cake tins, and potted herbs on mismatched floral crockery. The central area with comfy chairs has a battered Scrabble set and books to browse. Teaspoons reside in an old Tate & Lyle syrup tin, while behind the bar, a waitress carefully hand-fills muslin bags with tisanes.

When I order coffee at the bar, the waiter gives a little sigh. He thinks it's a bit slow tonight, but I'm glad. Others have reported that when the kitchen is at full stretch (and it feeds 300), quality slips significantly. So I'd say it's a charming place to go now that summer's ending and the fair-weather joggers and skaters will stop cluttering up the place. The building's chic, the view is wonderful and if all else fails, the chocolate cakes are scrumptious. The geese got none of them.


Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok, 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets

Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, Serpentine Road, Hyde Park, London W2, tel: 020 7706 8114. Open daily, 8am-8pm. £40 for two, including wine and service

Second helpings: More waterside treats


West Bay, Bridport, tel: 01308 422 011

This café, on a little island in the river, has long been one of the best-known restaurants on the south coast, and fish doesn't come any better than the huge range on offer here

El Faro

3 Turnberry Quay, London E14, tel: 020 7987 5511

A hidden gem near Crossharbour DLR; El Faro serves some wonderful and authentic Spanish dishes and has nice waterside tables, too

Frère Jacques

10-12 Riverside Walk, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT1, tel: 020 8546 1332

A beautiful location, by Kingston Bridge, and an owner who treats you like his best friend are the hallmarks of this no-nonsense outfit, good for steak frites and classic bistro fare

newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

    £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - major leisure brand

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Partner

    £25000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Partner is required to ...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn