The pictures, printed on the front page of the national newspaper Sunday People, show Lawson apparently terrified as her billionaire husband Charles Saatchi reaches over and seems to grab her throat a number of times.
Witnesses to the argument at Scott’s restaurant said Lawson, 53, appeared fearful and distraught throughout the ordeal.
“It was utterly shocking to watch,” one diner told Sunday People.
“I have no doubt she was scared. It was horrific, really. She was very tearful and was constantly dabbing her eyes.”
Nigella was very, very upset. She had a real look of fear on her face. No man should do that to a woman. She raised her voice and got angry but at the same time was trying to calm him down, almost like you would try to calm down a child.”
None of the other diners intervened in the dispute and Lawson reportedly left the restaurant in tears.
The disturbing pictures have prompted a firestorm of criticism on Twitter towards Sunday People, with many questioning why the newspaper chose to run them.
“That Sunday People front page with Nigella is horrific. It highlights sickening domestic violence, yet feels intrusive and wrong to publish,” one tweet read.
“Not cool at all with the Sunday People front page. Nigella looks terrified. Right to report, but that image is humiliating & indecent,” another Twitter user wrote.
Lawson and Saatchi have been married for ten years. It is Lawson’s second marriage and Saatchi’s third.