Eat outdoors in London this summer: best restaurants with outside space
As warmer weather sets in, we've run down the best al fresco dining London has to offer
Tangerine Dream Café, Chelsea Physic Garden
If you want to walk off lunch, there’s plenty to do at the gardens. For 2016, the theme is ‘Captivating Scents: fresh, floral, foetid’ and they’re offering the chance to create your own floral scent. If perfumery’s not your thing, you can also practice your watercolour technique or brush up on your nature photography skills.
Serpentine Bar & Kitchen
A 15-minute walk from the Serpentine Gallery, the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen offers a relaxing post-exhibition treat. The food is just Benugo’s so expect classic café fare, though they have their own wood-fire oven for pizza. The view is anything but high-street; looking out over the lake will elevate even the most ordinary coffees (and make you stay for a couple more). The summer’s especially popular, with pop-up BBQs, plenty of Pimm’s and ice cream for the kids.
Rochelle Canteen, Shoreditch
Converted from an old Victorian school's bike shed, Rochelle Canteen boasts a light and modern space with a view onto a grassy playground, where tables are laid out in sunny weather. Tucked away in its own quiet enclave, but right in the heart of Shoreditch, you could happily while away hours in this charming setting, enjoying delicious al fresco delights including Cucumber and Lovage Soup, Lemon Sole with Parsley and Capers, Grilled Leg of Lamb and Riseley and Onion Tart. Even better; it’s BYOB (corkage is £6.50 per bottle).
Barrafina, Drury Lane
Any foodie worth their sal will be familiar with Sam & Eddie Hart's Barrafina: the Spanish tapas and wine bar wowed critics when it originally opened on Soho's Frith Street. Now the pair have branched out in two more locations – Barrafina's Drury Lane venue is probably one of the quieter (they notoriously don't take bookings, and queues start forming soon after 5pm) and boasts a brand new outdoor terrace tucked off the main street. For those wanting to avoid the noise from the bar (shouts of 'chicos' reverberate from a muy Español collective of chefs) and enjoy their exceptional food in a more relaxed environment. Stuffed courgette flowers linger on the palate long after you leave, as do the piping hot crab croquettes, but the triumph: pork belly on a bed of zingy mojo verde, succulent and tender. And Torrijas with vanilla ice cream – a delicious, summery, Spanish version of French toast.
Compagnie des vins surnaturels, Covent Garden
This chic little foodie haven in Neal's Yard is ideal for a sophisticated brunch in the sun (try the sourdough, Prosciutto and truffle Croque Madame) or an al fresco dinner on a warm summer's evening. With regular wine tasting events held in the private atelier above the delicatessen, this place prides itself on its vast and impressive array of vino (as the name would suggest), alongside a constantly changing and sharp food menu.
Caravan, King’s Cross
The much larger but younger brother of the original Exmouth Market Caravan, this King's Cross branch still maintains a laid-back and cosy vibe and the food is just as delectable. In fact, the extensive menu is almost impossible to choose from, with recipes ranging from Bulgar wheat, spinach & manouri pastille with green olive yoghurt, to coconut bread, lemon curd cream cheese and rhubarb - but the classic avocado, chilli, lemon and olive oil toast will always be a favourite.
Bonnie Gull Seafood Cafe, Oxford Circus
If you want to combine the London sunshine with delicious seafood and pretend that you're on holiday then head to Bonnie Gull's Seafood Café in Oxford Circus. With plenty of pavement tables, it's perfect for a post-work dinner, drink or sunbathe. And if you turn up between 4.30 and 6.30pm, you'll be privy to a special offer of a range of cocktails for a fiver, and oysters for £1 each.
Selfridge’s Roof Garden
The Selfridges Roof Garden pop-up ‘Forest on the roof’ returns for more al fresco food with a view. Perfect for a spot of post-shopping relief, the rooftop restaurant (inspired by a forest in bloom and complete with a living wall of plants) is open from March 24th to October 8th. The menu uses locally sourced, British seasonal produce and each month celebrates a seasonal fruit or vegetable.
The Summerhouse, Little Venice
One of the best London riverside restaurants, The Summerhouse serves sophisticated seafood and also a weekend brunch menu. The food is good, but this is all location location location – it’s a stone’s throw from Regent’s Canal. This Little Venice favourite is now so popular that it’s open all year round (it used be summer only) though it’s hard to transport yourself to the Mediterranean during the British winter.
Ognisko, South Kensington
One of the best Knightsbridge restaurants has a secret: a tucked away terrace round the back that overlooks Prince’s Gardens. Enjoy the traditional (and sophisticated) Polish food with an exclusive look into a classic London backwater. Here's our recent review.
Boulestin, Green Park
For one of the smarter London outdoor restaurants, try Boulestin, which boasts the smallest private private courtyard in London. Lit by original Victorian gaslights, it makes for a special (and historical) dining experience. A fun fact for your date: the courtyard is the site of the last duel fought in England. It’s classic French cuisine in an old-school English setting.