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

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
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
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea