A perfect summer’s day is often best paired with a large group of friends, their friends, a few of their cousins, and some of their friends - and all of their dogs. And in a post-lockdown world, we’ll take as much socialising as we can possibly get. But the stress of organising such an event - especially at a place with good food and drink - does mean that you probably don’t do it often enough, and the low-level digital torture of the WhatsApp back-and-forth means choosing a location by consensus is not going to happen.
That’s where we come in. Here are some outdoor spots you can turn up at with a group. They’re all prime real estate, and they have really great options for food too.
This huge outdoor space is on a field. Like an actual cricket field... where people play cricket. Once you get past that, you’ll appreciate this 200+ cover beer garden for what it is. And that’s the place to rock up with a group of friends and eat some of the best brisket in London. British Afghan catering company Cue Point have set up residency at The Chiswick Pavilion this summer and the menu has their excellent smoked meats, 10/10 brisket bun, and beer on tap. It’s the perfect spot to hit up when you want a BBQ and don’t have the patience to smoke brisket for 16 hours.
Varanda is one of London’s big outdoor spaces that has wild amounts of untapped group hang potential. Why? Well, it’s in Crystal Palace. Not that there’s anything wrong with Crystal Palace, in fact, we like going here for a regular reminder that we should probably work out more often so that a single stroll up Gipsy Hill doesn’t leave us breathless for two hours. But we also love this area because of Varanda. A cool bar packed with exposed brick, this place has a huge back garden situation with plenty of long tables, gazebos, and - swoon - heaters. The real perk here though is the cocktails. Their margarita is one of the best in town.
You could walk past this open-air garden under Vauxhall’s railway arches, without realising it was even there. We know this because that’s exactly what we did when we came here. Twice. But now that we’ve warned you, we’re sure you won’t miss this literally huge spot. Picture rows upon rows of benches, all covered with a huge marquee roof, a resident DJ, beer, and a bunch of food vendors selling things like wagyu burgers, halloumi wraps, and - our favourite - French Tacos. They’ve always got events on the weekends, think bottomless brunches every Saturday, drag brunch picnics, and live sports screenings.
If frosé, burgers, and dumplings sounds like your sort of party, then Pergola Paddington is where you and your pals want to be heading. This enormous open-air market is non-stop come summer, but grab yourself a spot and you’ll find it’s an extremely easy (and dangerous) place to pitch up in.
In the immortal words of cultural phenomenon and presumed big outdoor space enthusiasts, the Vengaboys, ‘we like, we like to party’. Profound, we know. If you too like to party, then Costa Del Tottenham should absolutely be on your radar. This huge open-air bar and events space truly manages to encapsulate that electric Friday night at a big festival feeling, thanks to the DJs in the yard, regular big-name drag acts, and the strong bevs. That being said, it’s worth noting that if you want you and your gang to find yourself beneath one of the colourful verandas on a Saturday night, you’ll definitely need to book ahead. This place can book out weeks in advance, because as it turns out, lots of people like to party. More specifically, they like to party here.
The absolute wrong way to do The Prince is to rock up eight deep with no booking. So definitely book. When you do get there, booking in hand hopefully, you’ll find a massive drinking hall with four restaurants in residence along the sides of the space. This summer, they have Homeslice, Jefferies, Patty & Bun, and Edu, which should mean something to suit everyone’s tastes. With a covered roof, this is a solid choice to day drink and day eat even when the weather is being a bit ‘British’.
Now, we’re going to preface this by saying that Barge East is very much a docked boat that you can eat, drink, and be merry on. But for the purposes of a hang with all of your friends, your partner’s three cousins, and someone you think is called Sarah who you’re 99% sure no one in your group actually knows, Barge East’s garden is where you want to be. You’ll still get excellent views of the river, not to mention access to heaters, cute little log seats, and all the excellent drinking options you’ll find aboard. Importantly, most of their garden terrace is also completely covered from the, ahem, trash London weather and you can get involved in their very exciting Flatbread Society street food situation. Yes, the smoked haddock flatbread is, in our humble opinion, mandatory.
One of the newer additions to London’s al fresco bar scene, St. Felix Place is the kind of place (see what we did there) that feels like it’s been around forever. A couple of streets down from Borough Market, this outdoor spot has three different sections you can book a table at: the garden, the arch, and the taproom - all of which have a QR code which you can scan food and drinks from their bar and food vendors - you can get Roman-style pizza, BBQ, and live musicians. With fairy lights everywhere, fully covered and heated seating, this place has a solid air of summer. Book ahead, because we have a feeling it’s going to be popular.
Nothing says summer like hanging out with all your friends in a car park, right? We’re not talking about a couple of cans leaning on a Corsa though, we’re talking about Peckham Levels. The food and drink floor of this old car hotel is perfect when you’ve got a serious amount of people with seriously different tastes.
This huge open-air market in Elephant & Castle is a good spot to rock up to at the weekend with a group of friends to eat and drink in the sunshine. With a square footage of 45,000, we’re pretty sure there’s enough space for you and your five pals. On top of the usual craft beer, burgers, and hot dogs, there’s an Italian slant (clue’s in the name) and as well as an artisanal gelato vendor, there’s a grocery where you can pick up some fancy cured meat and cheese. Give it a visit when you want something a bit more chilled out than the usual street food scene.
Picture this: half your group want to watch the football, the other half of your group - despite very much enjoying the tender emotional embrace of the show Ted Lasso - definitely don’t want to watch the football. Where do you go? To Peckham Riviera, that’s where. A big bar right by Peckham station, this place has that whole urban paradise thing going on and has everything from great amaretto sours to live sports covered. Basically, it’s a real crowd-pleaser and the tasty hot dogs don’t hurt either.
One of the greatest and most underrated miracles of the everyday is walking into a packed pub garden at the exact, precise, moment a table gets up to leave. What could have been an hour of twitchy drinking and intensely staring at people having a good time, suddenly turns into instantaneous joy and comfort. This is what we’ve felt at The Landor, and it’s made all the better by the fact that this is one of the best gardens in London. Hands down. It’s big, welcoming, and has a friendly atmosphere.
Like the Great Plains being roamed by herds of majestic bison, the warehouses of Hackney Wick form the perfect habitat for fun loving east enders 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. At weekends, there are DJs spinning and a party vibe, and there’s masses of outdoor space for your crew to sit by the canal.
Dalston isn’t lacking in drinking establishments. There are cocktail bars and pubs aplenty and a couple of wine bars as well. Slurp is the latter of these, however, unlike most places around here, it’s got a massive covered front yard for you to enjoy something sparkling, orange, or whatever else in the great outdoors. It’s right next to the Dusty Knuckle so if you’re day drinking you can also be day munching. Drinks-wise, the wine list out front regularly changes, but there are about 50-odd different bottles in the cellar at all times in a space that can easily fit over 100 people.