The Summerhouse: Canal-side dining – all year round (July 2017)

The Summerhouse has become a much-loved Little Venice/Maida Vale institution, busy all year despite its name, and an undoubted improvement on its predecessor, The Boat House. The main attraction here is the bucolic view of the Grand Union, its passing barges and waterfowl. On a sunny summer’s evening, it was a perfect place to wind down and relax, although visits here in winter also bring that comforting feeling of being snug and sheltered from the elements outside. The angle at the Summerhouse is – perhaps unsurprisingly – fish, with the restaurant seeking in some ways to model itself on a Long Island venue (clam chowder is available). Starters range from £6-12 and mains from £17-30, so not obviously cheap, but with better-value options available for the more price conscious. Beyond the piscine, there are meat and vegetarian selections too. I began with Cornish crab and asparagus presented in a tomato shell and decorated with pea shoots. Both aesthetically and taste-wise the dish pleased. My dining comrade was somewhat more disappointed with his ‘popcorn shrimp’, which basically comprised deep-fried battered fish substance and a little pot of sweet chilli sauce, perhaps more reminiscent of an Aldi frozen offering than what one might in a nice restaurant. There were no complaints from either of us, however about the mains: a whole lemon sole for me and fishcakes for my comrade. The former was tender and flavoursome and paired well with hazelnut and tarragon mash as well as samphire; the latter showed a great balance between fish and potato in the cakes. We paired the meal with a lovely bottle of rose from the Provence, chosen from a reasonably innovative list. While generally a very enjoyable experience, the Summerhouse could do with working on its service: our server ignored my question about whether they had a dry sherry on the list; our dishes were brought and cleared with almost no ceremony, and my still-full wine glass whisked away at the meal’s end before it was finished. These niggles won’t stop the crowds coming, so best to book and enjoy, whatever the time of the year.