Londoners love their outdoor spaces. You can swim, run or hike if you know where to go, but this year, we think most people are going to be happy going out and catching up with friends. To cater for this, a number of venues have created open-air options perfect for the summer. If you are having a holiday at home, or visiting London for a short stay, here are our picks of the open-air bars, restaurants and beer gardens to try in the coming months.
With Covid-19 restrictions slowly easing, al-fresco options in London are popping up everywhere. Rooftop bars and beer gardens have traditionally been our go-to outdoor haunts, but there has been a recent shift towards proper outdoor dining. You can go for a lavish meal, a cheeky drink or even watch a movie at the venues below. You can even catch a big-screen sporting event while topping up your vitamin D.
One of south London’s biggest outdoor brunch venues, Vauxhall Food and Beer Garden is putting on a spectacular show this summer. Sports fans will be able to enjoy a summer of football and more under the famous railway arches in Vauxhall, but the entertainment doesn’t end here. Drag bingo and comedy shows have been scheduled throughout the next few months in a location known for boozy fun.
Here’s a cracking find in London Bridge that spills out into Holyrood Street and turns it into a Mexican oasis. The original Tigre Tacos truck is parked up serving tacos and tostadas, and the Nine Lives cocktail bar on wheels will be serving drinks. Not many people know about this one yet, so you might be one of the first.
Another takeover is occurring in Mayfair, where the ever-elusive Mr Fogg is setting up operations just outside his permanent residence. The secret garden is a Victorian paradise, with plenty of calming features to help transport you away from the busy streets nearby. The venue can seat more than 100 guests at a time, and if you do visit, don’t miss the speciality cocktails on the menu.
One of the best things about London at the moment is seeing al-fresco dining really take off. Soho has turned many of its streets into a vast network of inviting outdoor food courts, and people are flocking from all over the city to eat here. Head chef Malin de Silva may only have a small terrace to play with, but his modern Sri Lankan menu and summer cocktails are some of the best you will find in the heart of London.
This casual spot has a mouth-watering seasonal menu with sustainability at the forefront. An inside-out take on a classic British gastropub, Publiq is situated directly opposite Hyde Park, perfect if you feel like spending the day lounging in the sun – you can order the cocktails and alcoholic slushies from Publiq to enjoy in the park.
British pub gardens are special places. They are cosy retreats in winter, when the hardy few huddle around underpowered outdoor heaters to stay warm, but they really come into their own in summer. This east London favourite is best known for its unmistakeable Alfred Hitchcock theme – the iconic director was born a stone’s throw away – but it’s the quaint garden that is the real star.
Fancy delicious small plates in affluent west London? Check out Dinings SW3, a modern Japanese restaurant in a quiet mews that many Londoners have heard of but not many have been able to visit. The courtyard space gives it a unique homely quality and the food is prepared by executive chef Masaki Sugisaki, who combines his Japanese upbringing and the considerable time he’s spent in the UK to create some incredible dishes.
Cocktail Bar, Deli, Market, Wine Bar, Food Court, Italian, Vegan, Vegetarian
There’s a lot to take in at the Elephant and Castle Mercato Metropolitano venue, but luckily, there’s also a lot of space to play with. One of the newest additions is an on-site microbrewery, which goes nicely with the Jim and Tonic gin distillery also located on the premises. Finding venues with enough seats to accommodate everyone who wanted to socialise outdoors has been a major problem since lockdown restrictions were lifted, but when you have 500 seats and 40 vendors, it seems there’s plenty going on here to keep everyone satisfied.
Sea Containers London x Laurent-Perrier
Boutique Hotel Restaurant, Restaurant, British, American, Seafood, $$$
Already a popular spot on the South Bank, this hotel-restaurant has a refreshing summer menu and a cool British concept. You feel as if you’re settling down for an extravagant feast in an English countryside cafe – until the sights and sounds of the Thames remind you where you are. Enjoy a glass of Laurent-Perrier safe in the knowledge that the plants around you have been sustainably sourced and will be looked after when the season is over.
Quite how the team here have managed to squeeze an outdoor dining space into what was one of London’s hardest-to-book restaurants is perplexing, but apparently they’ve done it just in time for summer. The covered terrace is a charming al-fresco spot, and increases the capacity and thus your chances of getting a seat. We don’t really need to tell you about the food – there’s a reason why Smoking Goat is regarded by many Londoners as the best restaurant in town.
These recommendations were updated on June 14, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.