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.

14/20

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

Riverside

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

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones