Like being invited to a threesome, the opportunities to eat outside in London don’t come along too often. When they do though, it’s important to have some standards to make the most of the opportunity, especially with our rubbish weather. You don’t want to waste our five annual days of sunshine on somewhere with a few wonky tables on the pavement and mediocre food, so without further ado, here’s the Infatuation London guide to the best restaurants to link up with a few mates, have way too many drinks, and soak up some rays.
Check out the rest of our Summer Guide here.
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 scuffed furniture, small plates of French and Italian-leaning food, and a nice list of wines by the bottle or glass. Your trendiest friends will LOVE it. Come summer, the spacious terrace is excellent to lounge around on with a group of mates - hit it up for a glass of wine and some pasta, or feel free to stretch your session out all night.
Like the Great Plains being roamed by herds of majestic bison, the warehouses of Hackney Wick form the perfect natural habitat for hipsters to thrive in great numbers. You’ll find plenty of them at Crate Brewery, where in addition to excellent house-brewed beers and ciders on tap, they dish out brilliant thin-crust pizzas. There’s masses of outdoor space for your crew to sit by the canal, and even a little rowboat you can sit in - just try not to tip it over, unless you want to contract leptospirosis.
In Soho, ‘dining al fresco’ usually means standing outside a pub with a cold pint of Guinness. It’s tough to squeeze tables into the narrow streets that are usually rammed with black cabs, but classy seafood restaurant Wright Brothers has figured it out. On a sunny day, it’s tough to beat the combo of a dozen oysters and a glass of something cold and crisp. Take full of advantage of their afternoon deal that’ll give you an oyster for a quid between 3-6pm. It’s a perfect excuse to day drink.
It’s not really outdoors, but the verandah at Dishoom’s Shoreditch restaurant easily surpasses the majority of ho-hum terraces. You’ll be lucky to bag a table here but it’s worth the hassle, as you’ll feel like you’re in a rich guy’s garden in Delhi. As one of the best Indian restaurants in London, Dishoom’s great at any time of day, whether you’re grabbing a bacon and egg naan for breakfast, settling down for afternoon tea, or praising the gods when you nab a table for dinner and a plate of sizzling lamb chops lands on your table. Well done, you.
J Sheekey’s on our Greatest Hits list for a reason - it’s one of the best restaurants in London for its old school charm and excellent food and service. Newsflash - their streetside patio is even more lovely during the summer, and even though you’re in a touristy part of London, it’s relatively sheltered from the crowds. If you were 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 you wander off to Frankie and Benny’s.
Everything in the cosmos has to align for you to nab one of the al fresco tables at the Drury Lane branch of Barrafina, but if you do happen to snag one of the few tables, it’s incredible - the only thing that could be better than eating amazing Spanish food inside at their counter is eating it in the sunshine. This is the least crowded of the three Barrafinas overall, but the outdoor tables go ridiculously quick on nice days, so get there early if you want a shot. As well as any of the seafood specials, the crab burger should be on your order, along with a glass of crisp sparkling wine.
The South Bank isn’t somewhere you’d typically find us on one of our food quests, but we’ll occasionally make an exception for a fancy hotel, as long as it involves negronis and a killer view. The Mondrian hotel feels like a sceney art installation that just happens to have rooms, and Sea Containers, the house restaurant, is an extension of that. Come summer, the tables extend onto the path along the Thames, and it’s a nice spot to sit with a plate of burrata salad or some seafood, people watch, and take in views of St Paul’s while generally feeling smug.
As anyone who’s had to deal with the human carbuncles at Foxtons knows, London can be a tough place to live, but every so often we’ll have a meal that causes us to think, ‘isn’t London fcking great?’. Dinner on The Marksman’s first-floor terrace is that kind of meal. Aside from feeling like you’re in the middle of the Hackney Road action without actually having to sit on Hackney Road, this legendary gastropub is a fantastic place to eat some clams, or one of their incredible curries or pies. It’s great for small groups or a nice meal with a friend, and after you’ve had a good feed, there’s still a lovely boozer waiting for you downstairs when it starts getting chilly.
If there’s a big ticket occasion waiting for you, cashing it in at The River Cafe wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Even if you’re a devout atheist, nabbing one of the tables outside and praying that it’ll be sunny feels like the surest bet. Sure, you’ll need to book way ahead, and it’ll be expensive as hell, but when you’re eating some of the finest pasta in a pretty garden that overlooks the river, you’ll find it hard to care.
Located beneath the obligatory railways arches next to Hoxton overground, Beagle’s great for any time of day, and so is its terrace, which is perfect for rocking up with a few friends. The British food’s good, and this being Hoxton, definitely veers towards the trendy - but you can also just get a pie and mash if you don’t want to deal with anything that sounds too exotic. Bottomless brunches and roasts are legendary here, and it’s great if you want to hang out with a few drinks as the evening winds down.
Lurra’s already one of our favourite restaurants to eat tasty little plates of tapas and sip posh Spanish wine. Adding a patio with outdoor seating into the mix was enough to tip us over the edge, especially in a neighbourhood as ridiculously pretty as Marylebone. The piece de resistance here is, of course, the aged Galician Blond steak, arguably the best in town, but if you don’t feel like eating all that red meat in direct sunlight, the seafood options are great as well.
The City version of Yauatcha is definitely a little stiffer than the Soho original, but it’s still a pretty damn good restaurant. The outdoor terrace has pretty cherry blossoms and overlooks Broadgate Circle, and you’ll be more than happy to stick around for the dim sum and lineup of upmarket Cantonese dishes. Hit a few glasses of sake, and maybe a lychee martini, while lording it over the peasants beneath you. It’s pricey for sure, but it’s a lovely spot for a group dinner with a few friends.
Here are a few things that Rochelle Canteen does better than almost anyone: hidden gardens, roast meat and veg, proper outside tables, lots of space. It’s a British restaurant in an enclosed garden, in a sleepy square in Shoreditch, because of course it is. It’s also the best place to sit outside with a friend and enjoy a long lunch or a relaxed supper anywhere in East London. The vibe is laid back, and the food is fantastic. Short of actually being able to afford your own garden to sit in, this is the next best thing, but with better food.
Up in Kings Cross, every restaurant in Granary Square seems to have plenty of outdoor seating. When we’re really going all-in on this outdoors thing though, The Lighterman edges the competition, because its scenic views of the Regent’s Canal are so much better than a few fountains. There’s plenty of space on the benches outside if you have your mates and your mate’s mates in tow, and inside, it feels like an edgy brasserie serving upmarket pub food that you’ve seen probably a hundred times by now. Grab a light dinner and a few drinks before heading to second dinner elsewhere.
It isn’t exactly a secret that Bermondsey Street’s packed with great places to eat. But sometimes you don’t want authentic tapas or fancy French food. Sometimes you just want to sit outside in the sunshine with a beer and a burger. The Yard Cafe at the top of the street fits the bill perfectly, with the kind of simple, satisfying food you’ll find at a posh brasserie - quinoa and avocados may be involved. The restaurant is housed in a converted parking garage, and there’s a roomy outdoor area with proper tables. It’s a good call if you’ve been artsing at the nearby White Cube and need to get some sunshine.
There aren’t heaps of seats outside at Exmouth Market spot Caravan, but this being an Aussie restaurant, it’s best just to go easy and hang around for one, as our friends down under might perhaps say. When it’s good, it’s great - great coffee that’s roasted in-house, a nice menu of brunch and all-day dishes, and cocktails if you feel like celebrating the fact that we’re all still alive post-Brexit. Bonus points for being in a prime spot for people watching, especially at the weekend.