Having a meal surrounded by the great outdoors, a tasteful garden, or the pavement in London tends to be a bit of a faff. For some reason a bit of sun makes a lot of us lower our standards. Why, when it’s 25 degrees, are you more inclined to eat a subpar burger on a lopsided table that gives you flashbacks of that time you got drunk and failed to build your Ikea furniture properly? With that said, all it takes is a tiny bit of pre-planning and a load of options, and you can be eating some of London’s best food al fresco. These are the best restaurants for eating outside in London.
Some people are a little picky about what they eat on a summer’s day. They want something light but filling, delicious but not too rich. These are not the people you want to be eating outside at Kitty Fisher’s with. You want absolute hedonists like yourself. Friends who will revel sitting in one of the two tables out front, delighted to spend two hours (minimum) there. Ready to devour welsh rarebit, croquettes, risotto, and a bit of lamb. Yes this is expensive. But we can’t think of a better outside spot to spend your money in.
Yes, Greyhound can be a little bit much when you’re trying to get a nice and straightforward meal at lunch or dinner, but it also has one of the best terraces in London. With a range of seating - from soft sofas to tall tables - this is an excellent outdoor space to have a few cocktails and see what takes your fancy on the menu. We’d recommend keeping to the less fusion-y Thai stuff.
These may just be your standard pub benches out front, but is there anything better then when you bag one of these, set up for a few hours and know you’re going to eat some of the best food in London in the glorious outdoors? We think not. The food is excellent and constantly changing, but the salads and fish dishes are always delicious. The Anchor and Hope is everything you want on a summer’s day - as long as you get there early enough to get a spot outside.
Exmouth Market is one of the capital’s biggest treats: a pedestrianised street. There’s something uniquely transformative about eating outside on a pedestrianised street in London. You suddenly feel, for no reason whatsoever, like an SUI (Sophisticated Urban Individual). Moro definitely adds to this sensation. You’ll order some delicious mezze ft. pomegranate, another carafe of wine, and smiley sagely at the city drunkenly spilling out onto the pavement. You don’t know what a sage smile is, but you’ll definitely try and do it.
Sure we could’ve gone for the original on Exmouth Market, but we prefer Morito’s Hackney outpost if we’re honest. The outside tables are a bit of a makeshift set up, but with Sager + Wilde next door it makes for the perfect one-two combo. A negroni before while patiently waiting to pounce on a table outside, then a delicious meal of Spanish-y, North African-y tapas, cava on tap, and then a move back to S+W. OK it’s more of a one-two-three, but it’s a killer summer outdoors move.
A meal outside at Ciao Bella is one of London’s great pleasures, mainly because you kind of don’t feel like you’re in London. The outside terrace is best suited to early evening meals with a a bottle of wine, desserts, and lots and lots of laughter. It’s a rare restaurant that’s bang in the middle of London, and just the right balance between comfortable and crowded. Plus, there’s never not a time for a good plate of pasta.
Sitting outside for a decent meal in Soho can fast turn into a bun fight when everybody has had a drink or two. Thankfully with places like Pastaio that offer good pasta, quickly and cheaply, turnaround can be fast enough to keep stress at bay. This is an ideal spot to grab an early evening dinner when you’re out and about in the West End. Admittedly, a lot of people will probably have the same idea. You’ve just gotta be a little patient and not let that aperol go to your head.
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’ oftem 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 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. 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. They also happen to have a lovely streetside patio, which, even though you’re in a touristy part of London, is 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 get one of the few, 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, 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.
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.
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, it’ll feel worth it.
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 good-looking as Marylebone. The piece de resistance here is 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.
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. Bonus points for being in a prime spot for people watching, especially at the weekend.