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Al fresco eating: The best restaurants with outdoor seating in London

·14 min read
 (Justin De Souza)
(Justin De Souza)

This year, we’re all due more than a bit of fresh air.

Since restaurants across the capital were given the green light to reopen, many have been thinking outside the box (and their walls).

With social distancing still in play, countless spots are having to reduce the number of tables indoors and with the government recommending venues use all the outdoor space they can (and allowing certain streets to be pedestrianised), many are boosting their terrace game this year.

Whether you’re looking to make the most of the mini-heatwave or are just feeling a bit safety-first in these uncertain times, outdoor dining is the order of the summer: here's where to get your al fresco fix.

The Garden at The Berkeley

Not only has the Knightsbridge hotel boosted its post-lockdown al fresco seating, it's dedicated an entire new restaurant to it. The Garden at The Berkeley is a brand new addition to the west London destination, a Mediterranean-style terrace tucked away between The Berkeley Bar and neighbouring St Paul’s church. Sat at socially distanced tables, diners can enjoy the likes charred octopus with saffron aioli and steaks with smoked shallot butter, all cooked outdoors on barbecues.

Wilton Place, SW1X 7RL, the-berkeley.co.uk

Hicce

Throughout lockdown, chef Pip Lacey has been running a market beneath her first-floor King’s Cross restaurant, selling products from Hicce’s kitchen – including beer bread and honey soy mooli pickles – as well as from favourite suppliers. The restaurant now serves sandwiches and antipasti at the market too, as well as its full menu on its alfresco terrace upstairs.

Unit 102, Stable Street, N1C 4DQ, hicce.co.uk

Tavolino

The 70-strong terrace at this newly opened Italian looks out over Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, the Gherkin and the Walkie-Talkie, and HMS Belfast as well; it really is a stunning backdrop for a long evening of plates of pasta and chilled glasses of wine. Former Bancone head chef Louis Korovilas looks after the kitchen, which turns out relaxed Italian fare put together from carefully-sourced British ingredients. Try the "silk handkerchiefs" – fresh sheets of pasta served with walnut butter and a orange globe of an egg yolk.

2 More London Riverside, SE1 2JP, tavolino.co.uk

Sam’s Riverside

This Hammersmith restaurant has been blessed with riverside views since it opened at the end of last year. Now it's making the most of them by opening up a brand new seafood terrace, allowing diners to sit outdoors for the first time. The 32-seat space serves a fish-focused menu, featuring grilled native lobster, a shrimp cocktail salad and an oyster-filled “Shuckers Platter”.

1 Crisp Road, W6 9DN, samsriverside.co.uk

The Oystermen

 (Greg Funnell)
(Greg Funnell)

A new terrace out on Henrietta Street has given this place another 16 seats outdoors; it's a glorious spot in the sunshine to tuck into a menu that is unsurprisingly a run down of fresh seafood favourites. Oysters are obviously the star, with a menu that lists what varieties they've on that day, but there's usually fresh crab, haddock and chips, a catch of the day and plenty of clams and mussels to go around too. A gem.

32 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8NA, oystermen.co.uk

Folie

This upmarket French spot on the border of Soho and Mayfair is embracing the al fresco culture of the nation’s Riviera this summer. It now has outdoor seating for the first time – vibrant blue seats lined up in a Parisian fashion along the street outside – where guests can enjoy a menu designed especially for summer, featuring Courgettes farçies and heirloom tomatoes with burrata.

37 Golden Square, W1F 9LB, folie.london

Padella

Given up on getting into Padella? Time to rethink. The acclaimed London Bridge pasta restaurant welcomed a sibling spot in Shoreditch last year to ease its famous queues and, while it still won’t be taking reservations, it is welcoming more diners than ever before. Both restaurants have opened with additional al fresco tables, including an extra 40 seats added to the Borough Market spot.

SE1, EC2, padella.co

Paladar

This Elephant and Castle hideaway is going “al fresco first”, offering outdoor seating in its heated courtyard and terrace – weather and capacity permitting. Those who head to the restaurant’s tucked away courtyard will be greeted with Latin American-influenced, gluten-free dishes and a selection of cocktails.

4-5 London Road, SE1 6JZ, paladarlondon.com

Parrillan

Tapas restaurant Barrafina gives a superlative taste of Spain, but its Coal Drops Yard spin-off Parrillan is your best bet for enjoying Iberian food in the sun. The outdoor restaurant is named for its small Spanish tabletop charcoal barbecues, on which diners can grill their own meat, seafood and vegetables, served alongside a selection of classic Barrafina dishes. You can book for a table underneath the canopy, while walk-ins are available for the uncovered spots.

Coal Drops Yard, Stable Street, N1C 4PW, parrillan.co.uk

Plaza Pastor

 (Sam Ashton)
(Sam Ashton)

The team behind Barrafina have really got into the al fresco mood in the last year or so. Just below Parrillan, you’ll find Plaza Pastor, the outdoor follow-up to Borough Market’s El Pastor (another one of their success stories). Neighbouring another sibling spot Casa Pastor, the terrace-only restaurant is entirely outdoors, but covered by a roof. Here you can tuck into the Mexican spots namesake tacos, ceviches and sharing plates of roast meat, as well as enjoy margaritas from the outdoor bar.

Coal Drops Yard, N1C 4DQ, tacoselpastor.co.uk

Le Pont de la Tour

Le Pont de la Tour offers one of the most famous vistas in London. On its terrace, delicate French cuisine and a bountiful selection of seafood can be enjoyed looking out onto Tower Bridge – it really is a dazzling view of the world famous landmark, particularly with a bit of sun on your side.

36D Shad Thames, SE1 2YE, lepontdelatour.co.uk

The Ivy Chelsea Garden

 (Paul Winch-Furness)
(Paul Winch-Furness)

The Ivy in Covent Garden may be the original and best, but this west London offshoot is a unique gem amid the Ivy Collection’s growing portfolio. Inside, the King’s Road spot is festooned with blooms both real and doodled onto the walls, before the restaurant opens up onto an almost absurdly leafy garden – and not all of it is ivy (sorry). The garden has recently been refurbished, so expect it to look better than ever.

195 -197 King's Road, SW3 5EQ, theivychelseagarden.com

Rochelle Canteen

Margot Henderson’s long-standing Shoreditch favourite gets even better on a sunny day: the outdoor seating surrounding the converted bike sheds of a Victorian school is an enviable spot, the sunshine dappled for some tables by overhead grapevines. You’ll need to press a buzzer to be allowed inside the grounds – ideal for a little seclusion.

16 Playground Gardens, E2 7FA, rochelleschool.org

Darby’s

 (Nic Crilly-Hargrave)
(Nic Crilly-Hargrave)

Nine Elms may not be high up on your list of summer destinations in the city, but Darby’s – the restaurant from Robin Gill of The Dairy fame – should be. The restaurant’s glass front opens entirely, looking out onto a large, sun-trapping courtyard with a trickling pool at its centre. The restaurant is also eventually expected to service London’s first “sky pool” – a glass bottomed pool suspended 115ft above ground – when it opens after a long delay. If you're indoors, things will seem much the same as normal, which the restaurant having lost just eight covers.

3 Viaduct Gardens, SW11 7AY, darbys-london.com

Pop Brixton

If snacking on street food is your idea of a summer well spent, Pop Brixton is a sure-fire hit. The south London shipping container complex is made up of stalls from local independent businesses, with a host of food concepts including Halo Burger, Koi Ramen, Mama’s Jerk and Other Side Fried. The venue reopened with table service on July 4. Don't forget you’ll need to bring a facemask with you to get in (you’ll need to wear it when you’re not sat at your table).

49 Brixton Station Road, SW9 8PQ, popbrixton.org

Sushisamba Covent Garden

Sushisamba has already dropped around 30 floors on its travels from the City to the West End, and has also expanded from its perch on top of Covent Garden Market to the square itself. Diners can enjoy Sushisamba’s Japanese-Peruvian-Brazilian food in the famous promenade, all under weather-proof orange canopies.

35 The Market Building, WC2E 8RF, sushisamba.com

Vinegar Yard

While it’s tempting to say Vinegar Yard is in the shadow of the Shard, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This new street food and vintage flea market near the base of London’s tallest building is bathed in sunlight in the afternoons. You can still enjoy food and drink from the likes of Baba G’s, Nanny Bill’s and Up In My Grill, and you’re now able to book spots on the communal tables for up to six people, with drinks packages available. Whether you’ve booked or not, you will need to sign up to their Track & Trace system online before you’ll be allowed entry.

74 St Thomas Street, SE1 3QU, vinegaryard.london

Dalloway Terrace

The decor of this Bloomsbury spot may change with the seasons, but it is perennially pleasant. Dalloway Terrace is best known for its spectacular floral installations – changing from icy white and pink in the winter, to a rose-draped English garden in the summer – making for a highly Instagrammable brunch spot. A retractable canopy means the terrace can be used all year round – blankets are handed out in colder months, panama hats in warmer ones. Diners can now also book the “private garden” for a little seclusion.

16-22 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3NN, dallowayterrace.com

Scott’s

The terrace at Scott’s has to be one of the most glamorous and best-known street-side dining spots in the city. The Mayfair restaurant is no stranger to famous faces lured by its sumptuous seafood offerings, and while you can book a spot outdoors, a private dining room inside boasts one of the world’s most expensive restaurant interiors.

20 Mount Street, W1K 2HE, scotts-restaurant.com

Kricket White City

White City has changed more than a bit in the last couple of years, and the rejigging of the old BBC Television Centre is at the centre of the shake up. The development is now home to a host of restaurants, including Brixton-born Indian sensation Kricket, whose latest venture looks out across the square to the iconic cylindrical building, with outdoor seating for maximum viewing. Keralan fried chicken in the sun? Don’t mind if we do.

101 Wood Lane, W12 7FR, kricket.co.uk

Chicama

Inside, Chelsea restaurant Chicama is a pastel paradise, its soft pink and blue decor given a kick with zingy Peruvian dishes spilling out of the open kitchen. Outside, the neighbourhood feel of the restaurant extends onto the small terrace. Tucked just off the King’s Road, guests cuddle up under similarly pastel blankets on vintage furniture, surrounded by cascading plants.

383 King's Road, SW10 0LP, chicamalondon.com

Boundary Rooftop

The Shoreditch skyline isn’t known for being the most spectacular, but rising above the hustle and bustle of below to kick back on Boundary London’s rooftop is still a rewarding experience. Mediterranean dining can be enjoyed whatever the weather in the restaurant’s glass-encased Orangery, or outside on the heated terrace, which is peppered with both proper tables and cosy armchair set ups.

2-4 Boundary Street, E2 7DD, boundary.london

The Prince

There’s a party going on in West Brompton. Formerly the Prince of Wales pub, the Prince boasts a host of partially covered pergolas draped with the flowers and foliage of an English summer garden. Food comes courtesy of burger favourite Patty & Bun, pasta purveyor Nonna Tonda, and homegrown comfort food spot Wildcard.

14 Lillie Road, SW6 1TT, theprincelondon.com

Orrery

Dining inside Marylebone French restaurant is a delight, but the rooftop on a sunny day is where you’ll really find a slice of Provence. The semi-covered terrace is surrounded by potted lavender plants and tumbling ivy – an intimate hideaway for al fresco bites of Jerusalem artichoke risotto and poached salmon with oscietra caviar.

55 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5RB, orrery-restaurant.co.uk

Hoppers

The much-loved Sri Lankan restaurants are back, with all three sites in Soho, Marylebone and King's Cross now open to the public. The latter two sites now boast permanent outdoor terraces with enough seating for 35 diners each, while the diminutive Frith Street original can now accommodate 30 outdoor diners thanks to pedestrianisation of roads across Soho, which is currently set to last until the end of September.

N1, two locations in W1, hopperslondon.com

Petersham Nurseries

The acclaimed cafe-style spot serves up its seasonally focused food inside a glasshouse but when the sunny weather is guaranteed to hold out, it also serves tables under its wisteria and rose-covered outdoor pergola. It’s an open air affair at the multi-restaurant Covent Garden location too, where the Floral Court is home to outdoor seating for Italian kitchen La Goccia.

W1, TW10, petershamnurseries.com

Gunpowder Tower Bridge

The second iteration of Gunpowder is not just home to critically acclaimed Indian fare, but also a pretty picturesque view. Sit facing the river on its outdoor terrace and the pedestrianised street perfectly frames the world-famous profile of Tower Bridge. Since lockdown has lifted, the restaurant has extended its terrace to accommodate another 30 diners for both lunch and dinner.

4 Duchess Walk, SE1 2SD, gunpowderlondon.com

Allegra

Patrick Powell’s critically lauded restaurant on the seventh floor of The Stratford hotel is now even more special. For the first time since the restaurant opened last year, diners will be able to enjoy the terraces that surround the restaurant and the views of the Olympic Park that come with it. This includes the Sky Garden which has been planted with wildflowers to echo the flora of nearby Hackney Marshes.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 20 International Way, E20 1FD, allegra-restaurant.com

Dishoom Shoreditch

Dishoom boasts aesthetically pleasing places across the capital, but sun-seekers should head to its Shoreditch branch. At the East End location, diners can take their bacon naan and black daal on the “verandah”: an area open to the heavens (with a retractable roof just in case) which is decorated with eclectic wooden furnishings and a quirky selection of books and vintage prints.

7 Boundary Street, E2 7JE, dishoom.com

Brat x Climpson’s Arch

The Michelin-starred home of Tomos Parry’s fire-led cooking – and THAT turbot dish – has been enjoying a little summer holiday. As well as opening at its Shoreditch restaurant, Brat has headed out further east for an al fresco residency at Climpson’s Arch in London Fields, where it's serving Basque-inspired dishes cooked in outdoor wood ovens. Originally planned to run until September, the hugely popular residency has been extended until January.

374 Helmsley Place, E8 3SB, bratrestaurant.com

Paradise

Paradise first opened its doors last year, serving a taste of Sri Lankan cooking to Soho. This summer, it's bringing chef Charith Priyadarshana’s dishes out into the street for the first time. The restaurant has introduced al fresco dining outside its premises on Rupert Street, with guests able to snack on mutton shoulder rolls and green mango curry in the sun (hopefully).

61 Rupert Street, W1D 7PW, paradisesoho.com

Brigadiers

This Indian barbecue restaurant and upmarket sports bar sprawls out into the City thanks to its terrace on Bloomberg Arcade. Decked with ruby red banquets, the terrace accommodates 25 diners, has its own bar Camden Town Brewery "Bottoms Up Beer Dispenser" bar where you can pour your own pints, a frosé slushie machine and a new cocktail vending machine. All these drinks can be enjoyed alongside a special terrace menu featuring the restaurant's BBQ butter chicken wings, dum beef shin and bone marrow biryani, and goat belly vindaloo samosas.

1-5 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR, brigadierslondon.com

Sea Containers

The outdoor area at this Bankside restaurant is not so much all at sea, but rather riverside. At Sea Containers, a dining spot at the hotel of the same name, the Tom Dixon-designed interior is flanked by a brightly coloured Laurent Perrier-themed terrace, serving up a seafood-focused menu and Champagne cocktails, to be enjoyed alongside views of St Paul’s and the City across the Thames.

20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD, seacontainerslondon.com

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