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Revealed: London's Hidden Alfresco Restaurants

By Christian Rose-Day (01 May 12)
Tags: shoreditch, buckingham palace, sex, london restaurants, olympic games, queen jubilee, euro football, ray-ban sunglasses, alfresco dining, alfresco restaurants, outdoor dining, outdoor restaurants, roof terraces, roof gardens, stress ball, secret restaurant, hidden restaurants, bikram yoga

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According to a report commissioned by the insurance firm, Aviva, in 2011, 60% of employees regularly work beyond their contracted hours, averaging 1.5 hours overtime per day, with a huge majority of these hours going unpaid. When combining these long hours with the recent lack of sunshine, it is easy to understand why London is a stressful city to live in.

Aside from the obvious regular exercise, regular sleep, and regular sex advice to combat this cycle of stressful behaviour, we also recommend buying a stress ball, attending a session of hot Bikram yoga, and involving yourself in a constant supply of healthy eating and responsible drinking, preferably in the sun.

As summer approaches, carrying with it the European Football Championships, the Olympic Games, the Queen's Jubilee, and, most importantly, the summer sun, it is time, fellow Londoners, to get (semi) naked, chuck on a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, and head out into the sunshine to replenish those important vitamin D levels.

We've already published lists for the best alfresco restaurants in London and the best alfresco roof terraces and roof gardens in London, so you'd be forgiven for thinking that we'd covered all areas of outdoor drinking and dining. However, we have fastidiously uncovered a host of lesser known, near-secret alfresco dining options for you to utilise in your pursuit of a less-stressful, sun-worshipping lifestyle.

Central London's Secret Alfresco Restaurants

Courtyard at 51 (pictured above) is a swanky spot for peaceful, alfresco dinners, late cocktails and schmoozing. Throughout the week it is open from 6-11pm, with the exception of some nights when live opera and West End classics are performed in the secluded space. Hidden round the corner from Buckingham Palace, Courtyard at 51 also boasts foliage, an ornate Victorian fountain, a Rémy Martin Cognac & Cigar Terrace (opening at the end of June), and a large, posh BBQ serving Middle Eastern delights. The drinks list is stocked with many North African wines and shisha pipes are also available for a near-perfect taste of the exotic.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Art Deco building is positioned in the heart of London's West End and is home to one of London's hidden urban terraces, as part of the Restaurant at The RIBA. The restaurant, located in the magnificent Florence Hall, opens out onto a sunny terrace ideal for spring and summer al fresco dining. Visitors can enjoy fresh, creative and seasonal dishes in a modern and sophisticated atmosphere, and the chef's specialities include chilled pea & mint soup, and chargrilled loin of yellow fin tuna served with potato gallette, roasted courgette and balsamic jus vinaigrette. Designed by Dan Pearson Studios, the terrace offers diners an enticing, sociable space for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea as well as dinner on warmer Tuesdays evenings. (To book, call 020 7631 0467 or email

East London's Secret Alfresco Restaurants
Boundary in Shoreditch houses three restaurants, a hotel, a bakery and a shop, but it's the rooftop, alfresco grill that is the most impressive. With a garden, open fireplace, and 360° views of east London, this is one of the capital's most romantic dining spots. If a chill kicks in, Welsh blankets are offered.

A Grelha at The Gun near Canary Wharf offers a BBQ menu plucked straight from the Algarve along with sweeping views of across the river Thames from the south facing decked terrace. Fresh fish, bought daily from Billingsgate Market, is the focus at this alfresco terrace. The rustic cataplana seafood stew is a must, coupled with a Portuguese wine. The alfresco grill re-opens on Wednesday 23rd May 20112 at the award-winning Docklands pub, The Gun.

South London's Secret Alfresco Restaurants
Hidden above the rowdy and raucous (and enjoyably so) Clapham North bar in south London is the Four O Nine restaurant and its modern European menu. The restaurant's small alfresco sun terrace is particularly suited to ladies of leisure who enjoy a spot of Afternoon Tea in the sun of a Saturday afternoon (booking essential prior to visiting so we recommend choosing ‘Afternoon Tea' from the drop down options in the calendar below). EV restaurant is a charming oasis hidden under the railway arches in the back streets of Southwark, close to the Young Vic and Old Vic theatres. Split into separate cafe, restaurant and bar sections, EV boasts a verdant range of potted flora and fauna interspersed with white clothed tables, all bound by the glue of good humour and a varied Turkish menu.

North London's Secret Alfresco Restaurants
The Driver off the Caledonian Road near King's Cross is a multi-layered boutique venue offering drinking, dining and dancing, but it's the picturesque roof terrace that we're most interested in during the summer months. Basic yet stylish wooden decking, comfy seats, and a BBQ put us in mind for long afternoons spent in the company of someone we probably shouldn't be spending a secret afternoon with, if you know what we mean (we are only joking, of course; we wouldn't condone such nefarious behaviour).

Primrose Hill, further into north London, is home to Odette's restaurant which has a quaint little walled garden that is, thankfully, no-smoking. Comfortable cushioned banquettes rest along red brick walls which are complemented by ornate cast iron chairs and white cloth-covered tables. What makes this garden wonderful is the feeling of being far away from London. That, plus chef Bryn Williams' delicious cuisine.

West London's Secret Alfresco Restaurants
The roof terrace hidden atop of Fulham Broadway's Broadway House has been treated to a facelift this spring with extra seating installed, heated lamps, and more alfresco dining tables. Pop along on a Monday or Tuesday night during the summer and you can enjoy the weekly open air Film Club screening classic genre movies, complete with blankets, hot dogs, nachos, popcorn and cocktails.

To discover the best alfresco restaurants in London, click this link and start booking.

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This week's faves

  1. SophistiCats (W1)
  2. Sunset Strip (W1)
  3. The Dove (W6)
  4. Nanban (SW9)
  5. Ristorante Frescobaldi (W1)
  6. Freemasons Arms (NW3)
  7. Reun Thai (W6)
  8. Bucket (W2)
  9. The Eagle (N1)
  10. Founders Arms (SE1)

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