Alfresco London. Ahh yes, the British summer, it’s always a hot topic of conversation across London and despite the weather’s unpredictable behaviour, and the weatherman’s knack for erroneous forecasts, London still loves nothing more than the chance to embrace the spring and summer months as best we can. Alfresco restaurants, BBQs, pubs with beer gardens, kids play areas, riverside terraces, roof gardens, hidden courtyards, romantic views and plenty of picnic bench action; London has the lot. The hardest part is deciding exactly what kind of alfresco fun you need and where to get it.
With the help of this Top 10 guide to the best pubs and restaurants for outside dining and drinking, you can don your sun hat safe in the knowledge you’ve booked ahead of time to avoid being caught out by the rest of sun-worshipping London.
Babylon at The Roof Gardens
Kensington / Restaurant / Cuisine: British
Alfresco Kensington - At this restaurant, 100ft above Kensington, you can dine alfresco on the stunning terracewhilst enjoying the spectacular views of London's skyline. Choose from a delicious assortment of seasonal seafood dishes - such as Scottish smoked salmon and sourdough bread and a cold seafood stand with half lobster and king prawns - accompanied by British wines and beers. Until the end of October, a British seafood menu is available (Tuesday-Saturday) for lunch and dinner. The seafood menu will be the only dinner menu offered outside on the terrace for those balmy summer nights. The experienced chefs source an assortment of seasonal seafood from local suppliers.
West End / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: European
On the Thames - this modern restaurant has an all-day Sun Deck menu and a comprehensive wine list for sun worshippers. Be it business lunch, family lunch on a Sunday, or romantic meal for two, the combo of fine food and an outstanding vista on the River Thames makes the Hispaniola boat restaurant an alfresco setting that is hard to ignore. Contact 020 7839 3011 or email email@example.com
Canary Wharf / Restaurant / Cuisine: International
Rotherhithe - Yes, Rotherhithe. Why are you in Rotherhithe of all places? Because where else are you going to enjoy a quiet, relaxed atmosphere with amazing views across the river Thames towards the perpetual flickering skyline of Canary Wharf? This restaurant, in the Hilton London Docklands Riverside Hotel (pictured above), boasts an amazingly tranquil riverside alfresco terrace, devoid of the foot traffic as seen on London's South bank. The menu blends classic international cuisine with some contemporary favourites, and there's also a fun kids' menu for those who have families.
The Waterway Bar & Restaurant
Maida Vale & St Johns Wood / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: European
Maida Vale - This alfresco bar and restaurant on the banks of the Grand Union Canal has plenty on offer to accompany the clement British sunshine. Aside from a family-friendly kids menu, there's also a separate alfresco terrace menu that includes weekend brunch, six different summer sharing jugs, smoothies, and burgers. This area of London is known as Little Venice, and it is no wonder with the canal situated so close. Although the outdoor terrace can seat up to 120 on its wooden benches, it is still worth booking your spot ahead of your visit as it does get busy when the sun pokes through the clouds.
City of London / Restaurant / Cuisine: Italian
City of London - The pocket of real estate between St Paul's Cathedral and Bank tube station is synonymous with banking and finance and general fiscal high brow stuff. Yet, if the summer sun is shining brightly and the skies above are painted blue, the pretty courtyard at this secret Italian restaurant will be filled with romance and love and faces of glee (business lunches are also welcome though). Book a table for a midday lunch and you'll hit the sweet spot for alfresco sun-worshipping. A timeless slice of Tuscany in an otherwise fast-paced environment. Best place in the City of London for afternoon bliss. Make sure you order the fresh crab and avocado salad to start.
City of London / Restaurant / Cuisine: Seafood
Alfresco terrace in the City of London - a taste of the British seaside can be found on this restaurant's outdoor terrace tucked away near Liverpool Street Station. The sun-drenched summer terrace - which seats about 40 sun worshippers - is the complete antithesis to the confines of the offices in the Square Mile. The head chef's special seaside-inspired menu will be served outdoors from the crustacea bar and includes nostalgic savoury snacks like smoked haddock Scotch egg and fish finger sandwiches, as well as desserts such as jelly and ice cream or Knickerbocker glories. How very retro. If you're a bit rushed, just grab a portion of takeaway fish goujons and chips and eat on the move.
City of London / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Indian
City of London - A peculiarly paradoxical affair, this Indian restaurant boasts an outdoor alfresco dining section that is technically indoors. The large, glass covered Devonshire Square courtyard upon which this restaurant sits has, high above, several storeys up, a covering that protects all diners and drinkers below from the harsher, more unpredictable elements of British weather, whilst still allowing plenty of summer sunshine to come blasting through onto the happy faces of the City workers below. Cinnamon Kitchen's outdoor terrace is open all day so can work for business breakfasts, casual lunch meetings, full-on evening banquets, or garden cocktails with the gals. Hello summer!
Chelsea / Bar / Restaurant / Club / Cuisine: British
Chelsea - Alfresco diners and drinkers with a penchant for sports, this is the restaurant choice for you. The sun-soaked courtyard that is laid out during the sunny months of the year at this west London restaurant comes complete with large screen sporting action from the Olympic Games, Wimbledon tennis, and the Euro 2012 football championships. Plus, during the month of July, the restaurant will also host outdoor movie screenings. Best to book now to avoid disappointment.
Covent Garden Kitchen
West End / Restaurant / Cuisine: European
Covent Garden is all about the atmosphere, from the fun street performers to the hustle and bustle of the market. When eating in the West End, choosing a restaurant slap bang in the middle of the fun therefore makes the most sense to me. That's why I choose Covent Garden Kitchen, located right in the throng of the excitement. I get great food, front row seats for the piazza performances, a fantastic view of the market and, most importantly in London, umbrellas and heaters if it's wet and cold.
One Twenty One Two
West End / Restaurant / Hotel / Cuisine: European
Westminster - The hidden terrace at the restaurant at The Royal Horseguards hotel is a local's secret. The terrace provides the idyllic spot for afternoon tea or traditional al fresco lunching this summer. Head Chef Ben Purton has created a mouthwatering summer menu offering a fresh selection of salads, main courses and desserts. One Twenty One Two restaurant has been awarded two AA Rosettes for the quality of its food, as well as The Award of Excellence from the Tea Guild's Top London Afternoon Tea Awards.
Chelsea / Restaurant / Cuisine: Thai
Chelsea - This Thai restaurant near Imperial Wharf tube station launched its riverside alfresco terrace in the summer of 2012, offering great views across the Thames (from the north side). With terrace patio heaters ensuring that guests can dine al fresco throughout the summer months and beyond, this gorgeous area provides the perfect backdrop, perhaps for a little romance. It also offers the perfect location from which to imbibe one of Blue Elephant's famous cocktails which include their wonderful Mai Tai or a spicy Thai Bloody Mary.
The Bingham Restaurant
Richmond & Kew / Restaurant / Hotel / Cuisine: British
Richmond - You've been meaning to take a day trip to Richmond for some time, right? Here is your chance. Panoramic views in a beautiful alfresco setting don't come much more regal than this in London. The 3 AA Rosette restaurant serves up Afternoon Tea, breakfast, vegetarian tasting menus, a children's menu, as well as normal a la carte options so everyone from little Timothy to Grandma Doris will be covered. The alfresco summer terrace balcony looks across the River Thames towards the setting sun and puts you in the right mind for a cocktail, which, conveniently, you can order from the Bingham bar. Wow, they really have thought of everything.
Mayfair / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Moroccan
Mayfair - Hidden gem alert! You've probably walked passed this restaurant several times on your way to Hamley's Toy Store but never realised what Moroccan magic lay just one street back. A bizarre bazaar, Momo serves North African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine so expect falafel, merguez and lamb wraps, hot and cold mezze, and Moroccan Afternoon Tea on an exotic alfresco terrace, where authentic African furniture, green foliage, and the smell of sheesha pipes provide a relaxed setting for those who need a brief respite from the shopping mayhem of Mayfair, Oxford Street and Regent's Street. Don't chance it though, book in advance to be sure.