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 bars, BBQs, pubs with beer gardens, kids play areas, riverside terraces, roof gardens, 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 bars for outside drinking 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.
West End / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: European
On the Thames - From the relaxed seating on the deck of this boat bar you can see the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben (well, the clock face in front of the chiming bell). What lovely spot for a lunchtime drink with colleagues or an after work drink to watch the sunset along the River Thames. There's also an all-day menu for those feeling peckish. Contact 020 7839 3011 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Balham / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: American
The Exhibit is the perfect South London venue for enjoying alfresco dining and drinking this summer. From 10:30am, Friday to Sunday, you can enjoy the tasty American brunch menu in the terrace and garden while also indulging in an extensive range of cocktails and famous alcoholic milkshakes. For the rest of the week you can stop in for an after work drink or order from the bar snack menu and take advantage of the daily happy hour offer of 2-4-1 cocktails. View all the menus and Happy Hour times at www.theexhibit.co.uk
Wandsworth / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Gastro
Wandsworth - Overlooking the River Thames, tucked away in a quiet corner of south London, this Young's pub is more of a day out than just a gastropub, including an outdoor bar, BBQ, huge decked area, conservatory, inside bar and a restaurant that serves the classics but with an ultra refined and ultra delicious twist. It is hugely popular with young, sexy professionals during the warmer months of the year, and gets rowdy in the evenings thanks to live Irish music sessions and similar entertainment. A must are the Scotch Eggs!
Shepherds Bush / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Gastro
Ravenscourt Park - This is one of our favourite beer gardens in London because it's just so quirky. This is partly due to the variety of outdoor seating, mixing between standard picnic benches, granite top tables, bean bag cushions on the lawn, deckchairs in the sun, and rocking swing chairs. The gastro pub cuisine and the wine list chosen by a Master of Wine also play their part. As do the BBQs, the outdoor bar, the giant lawn Jenga, the real ales, the Wednesday steak nights, and the Sunday quiz nights. An alfresco oasis that west Londoners would normally never know was there.
Clapham / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Gastro
Clapham - With not one, but 3 of the best beer gardens in south London, The Avalon pub is a popular summer alfresco venue for outside drinking and dining. The three beautifully landscaped al fresco spaces include the quintessentially English rear garden with BBQ, the side courtyard perfect for private alfresco parties, and a front terrace for people watching whilst sat on picnic benches, warmed by outdoor heaters and shielded from the harsh British sun by large canopies. British seasonal cuisine is on offer, all washed down with a selection of long summer drinks such as Pimm's, watermelon martinis, and mint iced juleps. As mentioned, this pub is popular so book ahead.
Dulwich / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Gastro
Dulwich - The problem with alfresco fun: the sun. If it wants to hide behind a tower block there's not much you can do. Unless, of course, you're a sun-follower, jumping between picnic benches, seeking out the best angle for your sun-soaking needs. This pub, plonked firmly in the middle-of-quiet-nowhere, has cleverly devised a front beer garden, a side beer garden, and a rear beer garden so that you can constantly stay friends with the sun. Huge umbrellas and outdoor heating help in times of unwanted cold/warmth, and if you're part of a family, there's even a separate alfresco kids' play area to keep the little miracles busy whilst you make light work of a cool ale or carafe of wine.
Hammersmith / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Pub
Hammersmith - This Young's pub is one of my most beloved locations in which to kick back in the fresh alfresco air and settle down for a night of top notch outdoor food and drink. Located right on the River Thames, it's the perfect pub for watching the world (and, of course, the rowers in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race) float on by. It offers fantastic waterside seating and, should the rain clouds make their ever predictable appearance, a covered area is also made available. The Old Ship pub is great for breakfast on warm weekend mornings and excellent for BBQs on balmy evenings.
The Hare & Hounds
Barnes & Sheen / Bar / Cuisine: Gastro
Barnes - For an alfresco family venue, the Hare and Hounds pub in south west London has got to be part of the top 10 list. The children can play with toys in the large 300-seat garden; whilst the adults relax at the benches and while away the hours over their preferred tipple. The menus also suits everyone with a selection of hearty and delicious pub classics; the spicy crispy squid being a personal favourite. Located in affluent East Sheen, the Hare and Hounds pub garden is British suburbia at its best.
Borough & Southwark / Bar /
Southwark - What was once a disused railway arch has now been transformed into one of Londons finest bar lounges with a verdant, plush alfresco seating area outside. With a sumptuous interior of antique and modern furniture, dark walnut floors and bespoke lighting, set against the original brick walls of the arches, Jack's Lounge creates the ideal fun and relaxed hangout for group bookings looking for an alfresco area away from the maddening crowds.
Kensington / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: European
Earls Court - No need for a flux capacitor here; I just have to walk through the doors of the Troubadour to enter the 1950s. An offering of truly chic vintage, this cafe-cum-wine-bar-cum-music-venue is an experience I savour. The Troubadour's charm oozes into the outside world too. Elegant tables are perfectly placed to soak up the atmosphere of Old Brompton Road. There is also an idyllic garden; possibly my most peaceful part of central London and a wonderful spot to tuck into the best omelettes around, plus between 4.30 & 7.30pm there's 2-4-1 cocktails (including the perfect summer tipple, Pimm's at £6.95).
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