Al fresco dining in London

picture of Rotunda

What better way to while away the long summer nights, or the (hopefully) scorching summer days, than by enjoying a meal outside? Now that the fine weather is here and holidays are imminent, there’s plenty of opportunity for dining al fresco in London. We’ve rounded up the best gastropub gardens, riverside patios and rooftop terraces so you can find the best places to enjoy quality cuisine with your cocktails, or pint of beer, and watch the sun go down…

 

 

Sitting on the riverbank…

Blueprint Café’s Secret Garden SE1

£47

You’ll be “bowled over by the views” of Tower Bridge (“they put binoculars on every table”), at this South Bank D&D group restaurant; it’s striking how little survey feedback it has inspired since its longtime former chef departed – this averages out somewhere round “OK”. Now complete with a new Secret Garden terrace serving cocktails and food.

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The Riverfront Bar & Kitchen SE1

£45

“Always busy” … but “not quite as full or tourists as everywhere else nearby” – this attractive operation is one of the better budget options on the South Bank; arguably, though, “it’s not very exciting, and not that cheap”. There’s plenty of outdoor seating at this spot under Waterloo Bridge, perfect on a sunny day in the city. 

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The City Barge W4

This refurbished 14th century riverside pub has Pat Lynch, formerly of Bentley’s and Scott’s, in the kitchen. The Thames’ side boozer features an enormous outdoor seating area overlooking the river with sofas, heaters and pop-up food stalls. 

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The Courtauld Gallery Café WC2

£30

“Convenient”, if too often crowded, this café on Somerset House‘s main courtyard is of note for a lower-level al fresco dining area all of its own – a surprise ‘find’ just a few metres from the Strand.

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Fabulous hotel courtyards…

Ham Yard Hotel W1

£49

Remarkable in location and setting – just two mins from Piccadilly Circus, and with a large terrace – the latest Firmdale Hotel offers the group’s usual dining formula; the establishment’s all-round charms, though, may well make it a real destination. According to Evening Standard critic Grace Dent the courtyard is delightful for drinking on a summer’s night. 

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The Ritz W1

This year The Ritz London has launched The Garden Bar, Champagne Terrace, serving champagne, cigars and canapés. Enjoy a glass of bubbly while watching the sun set across Green Park.

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Head to Marylebone (but forget Chiltern Firehouse)…

Orrery W1

£74

“Beautiful and light” decor creates “a lovely space” (with “good views” over a churchyard) at this “peaceful”, first-floor venture, in Marylebone; it’s sometimes seen as the culinary flagship of the D&D group, and its “serious” Gallic cuisine rarely disappoints. Orrey has transformed its secret roof terrace into a quaint Provençal garden with a light and summery al fresco menu, created by head chef Igor Tymchyshyn. Orrery’s à la carte menus is also be available on the terrace for lunch and dinner.

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Opso W1

A new Greek restaurant in Marylebone from first-time restaurateur Andreas Labridis, on the former site of a Ping Pong. During these summer months Opso has opened its outdoor seating, a series of street-side tables with 40 covers.

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The great British gastropub garden

Princess Victoria W12

£46

An “oasis” at the far end of Shepherd’s Bush, this “welcoming” gin palace, which has been beautifully restored, has a big name locally for its “refined” gastropub cuisine, and it offers a “surprisingly good” wine selection too. The Herb Garden is the perfect spot for al fresco summer lunches, BBQ’s, and evening, candle-lit drinks parties. 

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Paradise by way of Kensal Green W10

£47

A hugely atmospheric and perennially hip Kensal Green fixture – this rambling, shabby-chic tavern numbers amongst its many attractions a “quirky” rear dining room, offering very “acceptable” cooking. The venue boasts a downstairs patio adjacent to the dining room and supperclubs and live music can be found there most nights. 

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Sunny spots in the City…

Sushisamba EC2

£76

“Peerless” views and “the best terrace in town” have certainly made this “showy” bar/restaurant complex, on the 38th/39th floors of the City’s Heron Tower, an “exceptional” destination; although it’s “wildly expensive”, the “sumptuous” Latino/Asian cuisine is “surprisingly good” too. Diners can enjoy the full restaurant menu on the main terrace, which seats 72. Tables cannot be reserved in advance. However bookings are taken for the tree terrace, which serves sushi, cocktails and champagne. 

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Wright Brothers E1

£52

“Fabulous fresh oysters” and “perfect fish” have made a smash hit of this “casual”, if “cramped”, Borough Market bistro, which “oozes atmosphere”; “stick with SE1”, however – the grander Soho offshoot is not nearly as well rated. The new Spitalfields locations has al fresco tables with a canopy and outdoor heating.

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Coq d’Argent EC2

£60

The “fantastic” top-floor location, complete with a “great summer terrace”, makes this “slick” D&D group restaurant a perennial favourite for City dining (and for breakfast too); critics dismiss the cooking as “by numbers”, though, and the wine list can seem “insanely overpriced”.

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picture of Rotunda

Spend the summer in Granary Square…

Rotunda Secret Garden N1

£50

“Unbeatable when the weather is good”; this King’s Cross office/arts centre café boasts fine views of the canal, and a large terrace, plus a menu well suited to “pre-concert dining”. Rotunda Bar & Restaurant has transformed its waterside terrace into a secret garden. Dine on party menus ranging from platters to BBQs, play giant chess on the summer lawn, and drink infused gin or vodka cocktails at the water’s edge. 

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Grain Store N1

£50

“An exciting new venture for Bruno Loubet and his team”; this King’s Cross newcomer – “a fantastic warehouse space with open-plan kitchen” – promotes an “innovative” brand of vegetable-centric cuisine, which early-days reports rate as approaching the “sublime”. Sample food from Grain Store and while away a summer’s eve in Granary Square itself, the space has seating for 80, looking out over Regent’s Canal. 

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Caravan N1

£45

“Amazing” brunches – with “hard-to-beat” coffee (roasted in-house) – is the highlight at these funky eateries, which at other times serve “a modern British/global take on tapas”; while still ultra “hip”, the Exmouth original is nowadays eclipsed by the “exciting” King’s Cross spin-off (housed in an “incredible” former grain store). Enjoy breakfast or a few evening cocktails in Granary Square, surrounded by Caravan’s herb garden.

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