The great outdoors: London’s best al fresco restaurants

rotundajpgYou know summer has arrived when your inbox is full of press releases announcing the launch of new al fresco dining spots. (Look out for Sea Container’s seafood and champagne terrace at the Mondrian – opening 6 June). And what better way is there to while away the long summer nights, or the (hopefully) scorching summer days, than by enjoying a meal outside? We’ve rounded up 15 gastropub gardens, riverside patios and rooftop terraces so you can find the best places to enjoy quality cuisine with your glass of vino, cocktail, or pint of beer, and watch the sun go down…


5 summer terraces

gordons wine barGordon’s Wine Bar WC2

Tip – Try to get there before the post-work crowd!

Just about everyone in London has supped a glass of vino at one time or another at this “one-of-a-kind” ancient wine bar, by Embankment tube; the food – cheese, cold cuts, hot dishes, salads – is “nothing special”, but the cave-like interior is “amazing”, and it has one of the West End’s nicest (and biggest) outdoor terraces.


Chiltern FirehouseChiltern Firehouse W1

Tip – Our survey feedback on this Marylebone hotel was less than flattering last year, but the terrace is delightful on a sunny day. Go for brunch/lunch outside where the no bookings policy means you might actually be able to get a table!

“Full of Z-listers, models and wannabe movers-and-shakers”, this achingly hip Marylebone yearling is “so overhyped” it’s hilarious. It’s undoubtedly a “gorgeous-looking” place and “fun” too (especially if you like people-watching), but you pay “silly money” for service that’s “confused” (going on “obnoxious”), and food for which “mediocre would be a flattering description”.


ogniskoOgnisko Restaurant SW7

Tip – Go for one of their seasonal summer cocktails using Ognisko’s own house-infused vodkas.

“The old-fashioned dining room is a delight”, at this émigrés club near the Science Museum, which also boasts “a wonderful rear terrace, on a garden square”; Jan Woroniecki’s year-old regime doesn’t please all its old regulars, but the “hearty” Polish fare and “exotic house cocktails” were well-rated this year.


rotundajpgRotunda Bar & Restaurant N1

Tip – The Waterside Garden is open until September and available for private events.

With its beautiful canal-side terrace, this “buzzy” arts centre brasserie is ideal in summer, especially on business; realisation of the dishes – meat in particular – can be “wonderful”, but can also be “way off-the-mark”.


The Ivy Chelsea Garden - Garden by Paul Winch-Furness (2)The Ivy Chelsea Garden SW3

Tip – Book for lunch or an early dinner if you want to bag a table. They say they accept walk-ins, but it’s a rarity.

You need to be “Prince William or Lady Gaga to get a table before 2050”, at the Ivy’s new, all-day west London cousin (on the site that in the late ’80s was famous as Henry J Beans). “Like the original Ivy, the food’s not the point” – in fact, it’s really “dreary” here – “it’s the beautiful design and glorious, not-so-secret garden that make it a sublime addition to the King’s Road”.


5 tip top rooftops

Sushisamba-terrace_2012@featureSushisamba EC2

“You can’t argue with the view from the 39th floor!”; this dazzling City eyrie combines “amazing vistas and outside spaces” with “heavenly” Japanese/South American fusion fare – “incredibly fresh, zingy flavours, blended with panache”. And yet… for some reporters “everything is slick, it looks brilliant, but it lacks heart and soul”, not helped by the merciless prices.


Angler-Terrace-1400x1050Angler, South Place Hotel EC2

“A surprise find in the City, especially on top of a hotel” – the D&D London’s rooftop venture is a superb all-rounder, complete with “great views” and an outside terrace; the fish-heavy menu is “elegantly realised”, and the set-up is “super for business – calm, smart and efficient”.


bird of smithfieldBird of Smithfield EC1

Fans of this five-story old Georgian townhouse in Smithfield (with summer roof terrace) love its “classy, tranquil and smooth” style, and “funky” cooking; its ratings are dragged down though by refuseniks who say “it’s not as good as expected, and too expensive”


rooftop boundaryThe Boundary E2

The “stunning rooftop terrace”, and “impressive basement dining room” both win praise for Sir Terence Conran’s “chilled” Shoreditch operation; its “professional” cuisine is well-rated too, although “tiny” portions are a bugbear.


Coq_dArgentCoq d’Argent EC2

With its “stunning rooftop garden”, this well-known D&D London venue is “perfect for business entertaining” and – especially in summer – something of “a City boy power-lunch extravaganza”; the food is “acceptable but dull” – “if they really sorted it out, it would be one of London’s top spots”.


 5 beer gardens of note

Spritz-Shack-The-GunThe Gun E14

This “quaint riverside tavern has so much charm and history” – not to mention a big terrace, and fab river views over to the O2 – and makes “a refreshing escape from Canary Wharf” (a short walk away); “the food’s fancy for a pub, if not quite in the upper echelons for a gastropub”.


city bargeThe City Barge W4

“It’s high time Strand-on-the-Green had a decent pub!” – this refurbished boozer enjoys “a great setting by the Thames” and cooking that’s “very promising”.


hampshire hogThe Hampshire Hog W6

With its “fashionable looks”, “eclectic mix of seating” and “delightful garden”, this “friendly” large pub has brightened up the grungy environs of Hammersmith Town Hall; quibbles? – service is “charming but can be wayward”.


04-The-Victorias-beautiful-walled-gardenThe Victoria SW14

“A boon if you’ve got a young family, but adults are well-catered-for too!” – Paul Merrett’s “lovely”, large gastropub is “hidden away in residential Sheen, near Richmond Park”; “kids get to run around in the enclosed garden” (with playground), while others enjoy the “high quality” cooking.


the swanThe Swan W4

“Strangely rustic in feel for somewhere in deepest Chiswick” – this tucked-away hostelry is “one of the best in West London”; the cooking is “surprisingly interesting and sophisticated”, the service is a veritable “charm offensive”, and the set-up works well both in winter (wood panels, fire, sofas) and summer (“luscious beer garden”).

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