Ten London restaurants with gorgeous gardens
There is something truly life-enhancing about dining surrounded by lush plants in a gorgeous garden. Note: restaurants prefer not to offer reservations in their first come, first seated Edens.
With its vine-laced pergola and hanging lanterns, this secluded garden feels as if it could be Santorini on a balmy evening. The diners mostly have model good looks and a cosmopolitan demeanour. The sophisticated food is superb, far from the usual predictable Greek dishes. Share the melt-in-the-mouth aubergine with soy and honey, squid with whisper-light batter, wild cod with a sweet paprika sauce and wild greens. The mini doughnuts are a must, artfully presented and cleverly partnered with an intense, bitter chocolate sorbet.
A huge asset to Westbourne Grove is the beautifully spacious Pomona's. In a clever move, they've recently hired Ruth Hansom, the winner of Young Chef of the Year as well as the first My Million Pound Menu TV series, to head up this glamorous restaurant/all-day cafe with a huge, verdant terrace.
Ruth's menu is quite complex and, occasionally, overambitious. We found simpler dishes with fewer ingredients competing on the plate work best: Isle of Wight tomato salad with smoked eel, asparagus and roast hazelnut is a beautifully balanced, original starter. Wild halibut with fennel velouté is similarly a sophisticated treat.
Showing off her Ritz classical training, Ruth makes superb seasonal soufflés – we tried rhubarb – served with buttermilk ice cream. Creative cocktails include a delectable yuzu and basil martini.
The good-sized terraced garden is all white and green and feels very luxe Mediterranean. It is especially pretty in the evenings.
Housed in a Grade II-listed building, The Ivy Chelsea Garden on King’s Road has an exceptionally large garden full of roses and cottage garden blooms. There’s an orangery too with beautiful wooden seating covered in gorgeous, bright textiles. Perhaps most appealing of all is the bar at the back of the garden with ultra-comfy bar stools (with all essential backs) and ivy linen-covered cushions. It’s a must for 'window shopping' gardeners who are bound to find fresh inspiration, and heaven for sun-worshippers too.
Classics are best on the fairly conventional menu: an enormous lobster and prawn cocktail, steak tartare and the new vegan options such as chicory with hazelnut and coconut cheese. Service can be rather harried yet the locals don’t care, it is full every day and it's usually necessary to book a couple of weeks ahead.
This summer The Ritz has opened the Secret Garden Bar, an elegant oasis for drinking and dining alfresco overlooking Green Park (11am-11pm daily, weather permitting).
Clearly no expense has been spared in designing the secluded space with trimmed topiary, olive trees, fragrant lavender and plenty of geranium colour. In the evening, the garden is lit with twinkling lights and candles. There’s a full menu of Michelin-starred chef John Williams' superb, classic dishes given a modern flourish: The Ritz caesar salad, extravagant seafood platters, and a caviar menu for serious splurging.
For cigar aficionados, a collection of premium and limited-edition cigars, including 12 different Ritz London cigars, is also available for guests to enjoy in the garden.
Petersham Nurseries now has a beautiful outpost in Covent Garden, yet it's still impossible to beat the original site in Richmond when it comes to alfresco dining, with its brimming bougainvillea, scented jasmine and brilliant choice of recherche plants, covetable garden and interior desirables. The earth floors and geranium-filled urns complement the seasonal, ultra-appealing Italian dishes perfectly, even if the prices of menu may be steep with mains in the high twenties.
To celebrate 15 years, head chef Ambra Papa is serving the most popular among their signature dishes, which express the essence of Petersham and its ‘slow food’, Italian and sustainable sensibilities. Dishes including broad beans, pecorino and Zisola oil, garden fritti with sage and Amalfi lemon, Portland crab salad with shaved fennel, watermelon radish, agretti and risotto with peas and parmesan. Among desserts, the irresistible panna cotta with Prosecco and strawberries or original bean chocolate with sea salt and Zisola olive oil ice cream feature. While at the Teahouse, salads, whole-leaf tea, and an array of cakes top the favourites.
This is probably the most civilised, bucolic garden in London with more than a touch of Downton Abbey about its botanical-obsessed visitors. The walled apothecary gardens date back to the 16th century. Sit outside at The Physic Garden Café for brunch with calming views of impeccable lawns and tuck into an asparagus frittata or a full English/vegetarian breakfast accompanied by fulsome birdsong. Come lunch, new caterers Rocket & Radish provide rather simpler dishes than their much-missed predecessors Tangerine Dream: salmon niçoise or grilled lamb cutlets, Greek salad and tzatziki. Unusual cakes include cherry pistachio and polenta.
On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings throughout summer, there’s a set £50 three-course dinner accompanied by live jazz.
It’s been a favourite of a certain kind of Chelsea family for more than 50 years, and the old-school Tuscan menu has barely changed. Thankfully, it continues to deliver excellent classics: chicken liver crostini, white bean and sage salad, fresh porcini risotto, classic hearty pasta including a fine lobster spaghetti. Tagliata and bistecca alla fiorentina are only served raw, the menu warns. There’s a brilliantly retro pudding trolley: tiramisu, profiteroles, lemon tart, the works, it is irresistible.
Wait until the awnings above the garden are opened up to the sky and arrive early to bag a table outside among the olive trees and pots of rosemary, though don’t be surprised if regulars somehow manage to take precedence.
The newest and most spectacular arrival at Coal Drops Yard is Parrillan, sister restaurant to Barrafina. It occupies a vast, stunning terrace, thoughtfully planted to provide colour and sunscreen. It has to be one of the best places to dine on a sunny day with its DIY parilla table-top grills. What makes it super special is the quality of the produce: huge langoustines, Iberico presa, superlative steak and delectable milk-fed kidneys, best grilled to crispness and accompanied by grilled fresh peas in the pod.
For aperitifs, the amontillado cocktail is so refreshing, and there's a brilliant selection of cold dishes including escalivida and Iberico chorizo.
It's a rather well-kept secret ... the Barbican's spectacular conservatory full of tropical plants and trees is open for afternoon tea most Sundays (booking in advance essential). It's a lush, relaxing place to be and the unusually well-considered menu highlights produce from the conservatory and plants grown around the Barbican and Guildhall, such as almonds, passionfruit and bananas. The £35 menu includes a glass of Prosecco, smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill sandwiches, ham-hock terrine with pear and ginger chutney, goat's cheese panna cotta with fresh lemon curd, buttermilk scones with strawberry jam and Bakewell tart with house-toasted almonds. A real treasure.
With modern, architectural planting, designer lighting and rattan hanging chairs, the Sanderson's garden is so very now. It is a welcome refuge on the edge of Oxford Street/Fitzrovia and has a summer dining menu with burrata, white asparagus, soft-shell crab, teriyaki beef salads, and the kind of holiday-style food that may temporarily transport you. Great when in need of an injection of glamour and pampering.
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