The 26 Best Outdoor Restaurants In London guide image


The 26 Best Outdoor Restaurants In London

Oysters on the terrace, gardens with pizza, jerk chicken on a patio—here's where to dine alfresco.

London’s climate makes for an extremely indecisive striptease. On, off, on, off. But, in the brief moments it’s hot and glorious outside, you need to be ready to take advantage. Which is where we can help. These are the very best of London’s restaurants for eating excellent food outside.

When the weather's playing ball, check out London's best rooftop bars and rooftops that do good food.


Pophams Hackney

During the day, Pophams is London Field’s swishest and slickest bakery cum cafe. The irresistible aroma of freshly baked croissants and rosemary twists waft outside of the light-filled industrial space to the famished parents manoeuvring buggies outside. Sambas, Hokas, Salomons—you name it—they all move quickly here when there’s a spot free on one of their outside tables. In the evening, dough is boiled instead of baked, and delicate handmade pastas are served. And, best of all, at night you can book the alfresco terrace.

Italo has the kind of freewheeling vibe that defined Bonnington Square in the 1980s. The deli and cafe is one of London’s most idyllic locations for an alfresco lunch that spills out on to the pavement. A meal can involve anything from ciabatta filled with goats’ curd and braised leeks, fresh pasta, or whipped ricotta french toast topped with blueberry sauce and maple syrup. Just know that if you’re sitting down at midday, it’s more than likely that you won’t be leaving until late afternoon. It's the ideal day-off lunch spot.

It’s easy to understand why the word ‘cult’ features in this Dalston restaurant’s name. There’s the sensual coupling of bone marrow and Dorset crab on toast. The buzzing open barbecue syphons a permanent waft of pork chop and smoked potato across the covered terrace. And there’s a feelgood mood that’s like taking a bubble bath in 60 pints of IPA. This place will quickly enter your rotation of ultimate places to gather a few mates for good times and great food.

On a corner of Kingston filled with restaurants, Poor Boys is known for having queues that go all the way down to the river on a sunny day. Don’t be tempted to give up. Excellent OTT comfort food, a lively dive bar atmosphere, and laid-back service, make this New Orleans-inspired restaurant a go-to for a casual catch-up. Grab one of the table-barrels outside and share a meaty brisket feast between a group, or just silently concentrate on a solo portion of chicken popcorn and a beer.

Glaring sunshine, a gentle breeze, and a salad of salt cod, pink firs, and egg—The Garden Museum Cafe has got summer locked down. This peaceful canteen by the Thames, inside St Mary-at-Lambeth church, is a serene space doing British dishes. During the spring and summer months, tables and chairs are brought outside so you can enjoy a lunch (or dinner on Tuesdays and Fridays) of wild halibut and seaweed butter sauce, in a courtyard that’s been there since at least 1062. 

On a sunny day, a terrace table overlooking the water at Scott’s, a seafood restaurant in Richmond, is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon in this city. The menu is a love letter to the big blue sea. You’ll find oysters, caviar served with blinis and crème fraîche, and a whole dover sole that’ll make you consider turning pescatarian.

Campania probably has the most romantic outside seating in London. Its handful of alfresco tables are on a cobbled street off Columbia Road, are candlelit come evening, and (preferably) piled with risotto and pappardelle. The setup is perfect. And your organisation or luck will have to be the same—the pavement seats at this Italian restaurant fill up quickly all year-round. Menu-wise, just make sure you ask them to send gnudi.

A meal outside at Italian restaurant Ciao Bella is one of London’s great pleasures, mainly because you kind of don’t feel like you’re in London. The covered outside terrace on Lamb’s Conduit Street is best suited to early evening meals with a bottle of wine, nicotine, and even more wine. It’s a rare restaurant that’s bang in the middle of London, and just the right balance between comfortable and crowded. Plus, when do you ever not want a good plate of pasta?

Forza Wine, an Italian place way up high on Rye Lane, leans more restaurant than bar. Once you see a couple happily sharing an oil-drenched panzanella on a roof in the sun, you’ll understand why. Even the inside seats feel kind of outside here and it’s one of London’s most glorious summertime eating and drinking locations. The indoor-outdoor thing works well for the inevitable summer showers too.

The much-loved Caribbean spot in Brixton is a dreamy setting for a summer’s day. There’s plenty of long bench seating on the front patio, rum and Ting on the menu, and perfect summer food like codfish fritters or pepper prawns. If you’re in a group, share the lot alongside some roti and jerk chicken.

J Sheekey’s street-side patio, is, even though you’re in a touristy part of London, relatively sheltered from the crowds thanks to strategically placed planters and the big, red awning . If you’re going to splurge on a fancy seafood tower, it should be here. But even if you’re not looking to flash the cash, it’s great for a few oysters and a glass of champagne before heading elsewhere.

Kudu’s little oasis out back was very much previously the bin-and-cheeky-cigarette area. Now, the South African-inspired spot in Peckham has transformed the space into a colourful, covered, and altogether idyllic-looking garden. You can book too, so prepare to settle in and break some of that lardon butter bread with friends.

We once described La Goccia at Petersham Nurseries in Covent Garden as “the beautiful lovechild of a spa and a florist”. With tables set up outside on Floral Court in Covent Garden, it makes for a serene spot to enjoy a few Italian small plates and a bottle of wine.

Oh Llewelyn’s. Lovely, lovely Llewelyn’s. This Herne Hill restaurant is the kind of place you expect to see in a Richard Curtis film. It’s popular, so it’s worth booking ahead for the chance to eat some delicious modern European food, sit in the shade of the square’s tree, and get in some top people watching. Come in the evening to sit under twinkly fairy lights and get familiar with the extensive wine list.

Morito remains one of the most reliably delicious places to eat on pretty much any occasion. The north African and Spanish-inspired menu changes, but it’s hard to go wrong. Roast quail, seafood rice, any croquette, and cheese fritters are favourites. Oh, and roast cauliflower salad. You’ll more than likely be perfectly happy with everything. The Exmouth Market spot is still the best, with tables out on one of London’s nicest pedestrianised roads.

If seafood manti and crispy calamari in a secret and Santorini-feeling patio (with Santorini prices) sounds like just the ticket, then Mazi’s your place. The upmarket Greek spot in Notting Hill has a lovely white-walled back garden that’s made for couples and groups looking to be transported.

Sunsets and siu mai dumplings: a match made in heaven. The people who run My Neighbours The Dumplings clearly thought similarly, as the front terrace of their Clapton location is made for this combo, and the veranda in their Victoria Park branch is similarly lovely on a summer’s day. A glass of ice-cold sake is mandatory.

Set inside a giant greenhouse in Richmond, Petersham Nurseries feels a million miles away from the city and all the noise and discarded hot wings that come with it. Yes, the seasonal Italian food is expensive, but it’s also fantastic and worth splashing out on for a special occasion. And the charming, covered glasshouse was made for summer days.

It doesn’t get more Soho classic than Quo Vadis. A few glasses of wine, their smoked eel sandwich, a little eavesdropping. Sign us up any day, any week, and any lifetime. Plus their outside seating, a mixture of boothy type things and tables on Dean Street, is great.

If there’s a big occasion coming up, then suggesting the River Cafe would be a very good idea. Nabbing one of the garden tables and praying for the sun to shine feels like the way to go. Sure, you’ll need to book way ahead. And it’ll be very pricey. But eating some of London’s best Italian food in an idyllic space that looks over the Thames is, almost, priceless.

Buzz yourself into the old Shoreditch schoolyard and enjoy a long lunch or a relaxed supper filled with cod’s roe, chatter, and a glass of something bubbly. We like to think of Rochelle Canteen, with its glass greenhouse and park-like benches, as London’s little Garden of Eden.

Sager + Wilde’s outpost on Paradise Row ticks all the boxes you’d expect of an east London restaurant. It’s housed in an old railway arch, with artfully distressed furniture, small plates of French and Italian-leaning food, and a nice list of wines by the bottle or glass. Come summer, the spacious terrace is excellent to lounge around on with a group of mates.

If you like your oysters with a side of “check out that view”, then you’re going to be really into Seabird. This isn’t another rooftop cocktail bar masquerading as an overpriced Mediterranean restaurant. No, it’s actually home to some of London’s best oysters and with their Southwark roof terrace, it’s a special combination.

Sumi is a down-to-earth spot on Westbourne Grove spot, with a calming interior and a covered front terrace offering a mix of big sharing tables and tables of two. Despite being a lot more low-key than sister restaurant Endo at the Rotunda, the sushi here is still the same sky-high standard. The nigiri is exceptional, and if you’re not in the mood to spend £100+ on lunch, then stick to the raw fish and steer clear of the ‘main’ section. The sushi is more than enough to leave you feeling satisfied anyway.

Towpath Café is so summery that it’s, quite literally, only open when the season is right. The Hackney canal-side spot is always rammed when the sun is shining, and that’s not just because it’s a lovely place to be. The sandwiches and salads and things on toast—from confit garlic and goats' curd, to enormous bull’s hearts tomatoes—are all simple and delicious.

Restaurant gardens—especially leafy ones—are fairly special spots in London. Which is why Theo’s, with its saucy Neapolitan pizza and Camberwell green space, is foolproof. Come for strong drinks and the finest homemade chilli sauce in the garden or on the pavement out front.

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photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

The 26 Best Outdoor Restaurants In London guide image