When the sun is out in London, you need to act fast. If you spend too much time debating how to enjoy the good weather, the sun gets all shy and runs away. We’re pretty sure that’s how it works anyway but it might be worth checking in with a meteorologist or Helios or someone. Either way, when you need to know the closest place to grab a drink and a great alfresco meal you can use this guide. Scroll it. Read it. Bookmark it. That way when that sun pops, you’re totally ready to find your nearest suntrap terrace or feelgood rooftop before the clouds roll in again.
Barrafina: Small plates, big prices, high-end tapas mini-chain. Very good for an aperitif. Covent Garden location is the one.
Café Deco: Homely wine bar and restaurant off Goodge Street. Beige food enthusiasts. Quiet terrace out front.
Chameleon: High-energy restaurant near Regent’s Park. Mixes brilliant Tel-Aviv-inspired food with a sometimes bizarre atmosphere.
Chisou: Intimate sushi restaurant in Knightsbridge with seating out front. Worth seeking out.
Ciao Bella: Legendary old-school Italian restaurant. Pavement terrace is the place to be. Very loud. Very fun. Likely to forget you’re in Bloomsbury.
Circolo Popolare: Visceral Italian-style trattoria near Tottenham Court Road. Part fever dream, part pecorino wheel.
J Sheekey: Classic London seafood restaurant. Ginormous terrace full of people who want to/are going to see Hamilton.
Kitty Fisher’s: Bullingdon Club cosplay spot with two exclusive-feeling tables out front.
Koya City: London’s premier udon specialist. City location has a large covered terrace. Good for lunch.
La Goccia: Dolce vita-vibe hidden courtyard in Covent Garden. Very nice, until you see the bill.
Master Wei: Hand-pulled noodle haven. Outside seating extends to a handful of tables out front. Come alone and be at peace.
Moro: North African-influenced classic on Exmouth Market. Everyone loves eating dinner on a pedestrianised street. You will too.
Morito: Small plates sibling next door. Less tables, more fun. No bookings so prepare to wait around.
Noble Rot: Our favourite restaurant in London. The bread, the wine, the four tables outside that make you feel like a celebrity if you get one.
Quality Wines: Superb wine bar and restaurant in Clerkenwell. Food leans Italian, or Greek, or whatever they’re into at the time. Settle in.
Quo Vadis: All-time Soho great. Martinis that make you weep with joy. Piles of profiteroles. Chips.
Greyhound Café: Entertainingly OTT Bangkok-inspired restaurant in Fitzrovia. Enormous terrace is the best thing about it.
Bellanger: Much-loved brasserie with a big terrace that looks out onto Islington Green.
Caravan King’s Cross: Fight off the Central St Martins students and the crowds around Coal Drops for Caravan’s massive outdoor terrace.
Dimsum & Duck: Always-mobbed Cantonese spot in King’s Cross with a handful of tables and a marquee out front. Big queues.
Diyarbakir: A mammoth Turkish spot on Green Lanes that’s a power move on sunny days that call for lamb ribs and kofte.
Gokyuzu: The famous Turkish grill on Green Lanes is an easy win when you’re after a delicious lunch or dinner al fresco.
Esters: Stoke Newington brunch spot with a lovely hidden garden. In a league of its own when it comes to food and a feel-good atmosphere.
Greenberry Café: Local favourite around NW1, all-day fare and altogether lovely outside seating area. Great daytime choice.
Hoppers: King’s Cross outpost of the Sri Lankan restaurant is blessed with a wrap-around terrace looking out onto the canal and Coal Drops Yard.
Lemonia: A provider of immaculate vibes in Primrose Hill for nearly half a century. Old-school Greek spot that’s a go-to for long lunches.
Parillan: DIY grill-it-yourself restaurant in Coal Drops Yard. Beautiful terrace. Questionable concept.
Primeur: Indoor-outdoor small plates restaurant in Canonbury. Dreamy spot for a romantic summer dinner.
Saponara: Old-school Italian off Essex Road with seating that spills onto the pavement along with pizza and spritz for days.
Sambol Shiok: Laksa spot on Holloway Road for when the weather is hot but your soul is cold.
The Clarence Tavern: Stoke Newington’s best pub. Has a back garden with both covered and uncovered seating, perfect for pints and perfect gastropub food.
The Compton Arms: Small but perfectly formed garden. An irresistible spot to settle down with lots of booze and small plates.
The Drapers Arms: Classic gastropub off Upper Street. Garden table may require some sweet talk and/or bribery. But it’s worth it.
Western’s Laundry: Western’s front patio is a prime spot for a coffee and a snack. Indoor-outdoor feel of the restaurant is fantastic for dinner if close to Highbury.
Wolkite: Brilliant Ethiopian restaurant around the corner from the Emirates Stadium. Perfect for a delicious pre-match, post-match or, no match. Mini-terrace out front.
40 Maltby Street: No reservations. Prepare to wait around for a seat out the front of the excellent Bermondsey small plates and wine bar spot.
Canton Arms: Stockwell’s favourite boozer-cum-restaurant. Has a roomy front garden that also acts as a dangerously comfortable suntrap. Haggis toasties.
Darby’s: American-inspired seafood spot part of a development in Vauxhall. Lots of room on the terrace for you and your oysters.
Daddy Bao: Bigger Tooting location of the family-run Taiwanese restaurant. Has a nice long sharing table out front. Plonk yourself down and get that mushroom bao.
Elliot’s: Borough Market restaurant covered by railway/pigeon suburbia. Famous gooey cheese puffs and good cocktails.
Forza Wine: Peckham rooftop with one of London’s prime views. Throw in a frozen margarita and some meatballs and you may just have perfection.
Fish, Wings & Tings: Colourful Caribbean favourite in Brixton Village. A plate of jerk chicken at one of the sun-kissed trestle tables is a good mood.
Juliet’s Quality Foods: For bacon, eggs, and a roomy garden where everyone should want to eat brunch, head to Juliet’s in Tooting.
Kudu: Boudoir-ish space near Peckham Queen’s Road. The garden is a sterling alfresco spot for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Don’t miss the bread with smoked bacon butter.
La Chingada Mexican Food: Taqueria with a couple of high tables on a pavement in Surrey Quays. Doesn’t need anything else. Fantastic.
Llewelyn’s: Herne Hill’s most charming restaurant. Beautiful, low-key set-up of tables and chairs out front. Get a bottle, a caesar salad, and settle in.
Mr Bao: Taiwanese restaurant in Peckham with only a few tables out front. Still one of our ideal spots for eating alfresco. Try and call ahead.
Negril: Secluded Caribbean spot on Brixton Hill. Great choice if you’re looking to get out of the mix.
Peckham Bazaar: Charming front terrace with lots of foliage. Serene option for enjoying charcoal-grilled Mediterranean dishes.
Pop Brixton: Complex of shipping containers. Not like The Wire season two. Packed with street food vendors – from Sri Lankan and pizza to plant-based burgers – and bars.
The Anchor & Hope: One of London’s first (good) gastropubs. A table under the cover or on the pavement at this Waterloo classic is still a guaranteed good time.
The Red Duck: Balham spot ideal fora slap-up Cantonese meal on a slick and roomy terrace.
Seabird: Glamorous seafood rooftop restaurant in Southwark. Lots of oysters, lots of floors up.
Theo’s Pizzeria: Camberwell go-to for top-quality Neapolitan pizza. Also does panuozzo sandwiches, cocktails, and has a laid-back garden.
Zeret Kitchen: Ethiopian restaurant in Camberwell that’s one of the best around. Handful of covered and uncovered tables out front. Top-tier group spot.
Bake Street: Always-creative brunch spot and bakery in Hackney Downs. Has half a dozen or so tables outside available on a first-come first-serve basis. But you can always just eat their fried chicken sandwiches upright.
Brat @ Climpson’s Arch: This indoor and outdoor covered courtyard in London Fields is one of Hackney’s best summertime restaurants. Prepare to spend money.
Bright: Sitting down, glass of wine in hand, outside Bright in its car park-cum-courtyard is an always excellent move.
Campania & Jones: Romantic Italian off Columbia Road. Cobbled streets and cracking ragu. Book well ahead for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
Dusty Knuckle Bakery: Home to arguably London’s best bread. Plenty of tables for its superb sandwiches. Occasional pizza nights too.
The Gun: An east London favourite. The terrace is a fine spot for pints and whatever pop-up is taking over the kitchen at the moment.
Hand: Greek-ish cafe offering some of the best brunch around. Has lots of benches and space out front to relax in.
Lardo: Easy, crowd pleasing choice when you’re around Hackney Central or London Fields. Wood-fired pizzas, handmade pasta. That kind of thing.
Molly’s Cafe: Unexpected haven in Haggerston. All-day affair with a relaxed, roomy courtyard garden. Great for solo breakfasts or weekend brunches.
Marksman: Well-known for a few reasons: its pies, its beef and barley buns and its suntrap roof terrace smack bang in the middle of Hackney Road.
Padella Shoreditch: Not quite as charming as the original. But much bigger with lots of outdoor seating for a pappardelle-fuelled catch-up.
Pavilion Cafe: Bakery and cafe in the middle of Victoria Park. Fantastic for breakfast or coffee and a light bite.
Pophams Hackney: Pastries and Vejas. There are a few big sharing tables outside the Hackney bakery for you to sit and read at.
Rochelle Canteen: Shoreditch’s most sought-after outdoor dining experience. A table in Rochelle’s heavenly little garden is hard to beat.
Sager + Wilde: Big wine bar and restaurant with space for big groups in Bethnal Green.
Snackbar: Dalston cafe famed for its sandwiches and always-inventive menu. Has a little-known garden in the back. Don’t tell anyone.
Towpath Cafe: East London’s most seasonal restaurant. Only open for so many months depending on the British summer. Get there for a canalside sausage sandwich.
Colbert: Seriously French all-day brasserie on Sloane Square. Has one of the area's best terraces for when the weather permits.
Chicama: Peruvian spot’s courtyard is a no-brainer if you’re looking for something outside in Chelsea. Rustic wrought-iron chairs and plenty of foliage.
La Mia Mamma Notting Hill: Second location of heartwarming Italian spot. Pavement seating and pasta. Dreamy.
Mazi: Seafood manti and crispy calamari in a secret and Santorini-feeling patio in Notting Hill.
Pergola Paddington: Open-air food court. Lots of plants and people getting together and/or breaking up.
Petersham Nurseries: Glam Italian spot set inside a giant greenhouse in Richmond. Extremely charming (and expensive) restaurant.
Phat Phuc Noodle Bar: Pan-Asian noodle slinger in Chelsea courtyard. Good for a quick meal.
Sumi: High-end sushi spot in Notting Hill. Has a pleasant terrace set-up for when you want to pretend you’re in LA.
The River Café: London’s most famous Italian restaurant. Comes into its own on a summer’s day.
Vardo: Striking all-day spot in Chelsea with a massive terrace facing directly onto the King’s Road. Good for coffee, good for cocktails, good for everybody.
Villa Mamas: Bahraini spot in Chelsea. Cute, Made In Chelsea-style terrace out front with little benches, pillows, and heat lamps.