Where To Eat When It’s Too Hot Outside

18 airy and air-conditioned London restaurants.
Where To Eat When It’s Too Hot Outside image

photo credit: Patricia Niven

Londoners are experts in many things but in matters of moaning and the weather we truly excel. There is nothing this city craves more than sunlight… before promptly declaring the heat “a bit much”. But sometimes you really do need respite. And sometimes that needs to be something other than your third Solero of the day. You need a cool room, a crisp drink, and the luxurious flow of air con.


photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch


New Malden

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Your body feels like it’s on fire and—short of skinny-dipping in the Thames or taking your Sally Rooney book into the freezer with you—you need ice, stat. Take your overheated self to New Malden and Cake & Bingsoo Cafe will take care of the rest. Korean desserts reign supreme at the casual cafe, so make a beeline for the signature bingsoo—shaved ice is loaded with gravity-defying sweet treats and ice cream. There’s plenty of seating inside so get a refreshing mango bingsoo and wait until your weather app tells you it’s safe to step outside.

photo credit: Brasserie Zédel



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Like stepping out of the cinema only to find that it’s still light outside, stepping into this cool basement restaurant on a scorching day will be a shock to the senses—in the best possible way. Leave the sweaty streets of Piccadilly behind and descend the stairs of Brasserie Zédel for cocktails, cabaret, and no sign of the sun. There are some solid set menu options and the sprawling, gloriously art deco, gold-detailed brasserie has enough space for you to stretch your arms out and hope that the sweat patches dry. 

Stratford Westfield’s food court is good for harassed parents, watching relationships fall apart, and you on a hot day. Let’s be honest, nowhere does air conditioning quite like a Westfield shopping centre and if you’re here, you may as well be at Passyunk Avenue. This Philly-inspired spot does delicious, comforting food, like shredded rib-eye steak with obscene amounts of melted cheese inside an Italian hoagie bread roll. If you really need to ride out the heat, the cinema with that glorious jet stream of cool air is on the level above.

When it’s properly hot—too hot to face using a knife and fork—you need something delicious and handheld. That’s where Theo’s in Elephant and Castle comes in. The pizzeria is ideal for peeping the sun from the safety of cooling white walls, with your arms pressed on marble tabletops and an aubergine and gorgonzola pizza in front of you. There’s also lots of ice cream on the menu—from affogato to ice cream sandwiches. 

Chicama is a Peruvian spot in Chelsea with large bi-fold doors that swing open onto a foliage-packed terrace, decorated with fairy lights and hanging plants. Come for a casual weeknight catch-up and sit out on the patio or in the rustic front dining area. Either way, you’re getting that light summer breeze that rolls through. Or get a little bit suave at the velvet/marble bar with a couple of pisco cocktails. The seafood here is alright but you really want to get involved in their vegetable dishes—ideal for cooling, crunchy snacking. 

There are two kinds of respite in attritional heat. One is the kind that sees you collapse through the doors of Argos, arms outstretched worshipping the AC above you, completely ready to spend three figures on a fan that looks like it will one day become sentient. The other, is to go to British restaurant Quo Vadis. The Soho stalwart not only has wonderfully officious air conditioning but it also makes a martini so crispy and so robust that your senses may just forget to register the temperature.

You take cover in a pub when it is hot, cold, rainy, a little grey, or simply a day when you don’t know what to do with yourself. The Camberwell Arms is an excellent choice for any and all of these days. The cavernous gastropub has plenty of bar space up front where natural light is present but not overbearing, plus lots of tables for a meal that should certainly end in sorbet. There’s also an exposed brick wall that you can press your face up against in a sweat-based emergency. 

Periods of unimaginable heat are becoming more frequent. So investing in something or somewhere with excellent air circulation becomes paramount. Throw in some melt-in-your-mouth anchovies with cold butter and sourdough, or an ‘ugly but good meringue’ (their words not ours) with ice cream, and you’ve got the perfect summer sanctuary. FYI it’s in Farringdon, it’s an Italian restaurant called Trattoria Brutto, and it has massive overhead fans.

You know where it has to stay cold. No, we’re not suggesting going to the penguin enclosure at London Zoo. We’re talking about a gelateria. A chilled environment is a professional necessity for an ice cream shop. So head straight for Soho and Gelupo’s alphonso mango ice cream or the desiccated coconut number, and consider yourself very clever. Snag one of the comfy booths so you don’t have to watch your ice cream quickly turn into a puddle on the street.

If the idea of soup on a roaster of a day isn’t appealing, then you need to think a little more laterally. What are we saying here? We’re saying xiao long bao in the air conditioned safety of Imperial Treasure in St. James’s. This high-end Chinese restaurant is by no means cheap, but escape the midday sun with a few friends for some of London’s best dim sum in a black-clad, cool (in both senses of the word) environment and it’s worth it.

Westerns Laundry, a seafood restaurant in a converted garage in Islington, is a beautiful open space that feels very Grand Designs. So much so that you half expect Kevin McCloud to walk out and start one of his long, meandering monologues, rhapsodising about how eating oysters in a converted garage is the perfect example of nature and machine working in harmony. That probably won’t happen. Nevertheless, this is still one of London’s best summertime restaurants. Think foliage and fresh air, and lots of shady spots on the fairy light-strewn terrace. 

A full bin is not great in hot weather. Nor is Shoreditch. Unless you’re in Leroy, that is. This European-leaning restaurant and wine bar is the place to be when the sun is shining, but you’d rather it shine on your glass of wine or your veal tartare on toast, rather than your face. It gets pretty buzzy here day or night, so you might need to call ahead to see if there’s a table or a spot at the bar to pitch up at. Once you do, you’ll find yourself here for a while.

To the narrow-minded, heading for a curry in the blazing heat is an error. But for those more in the know (you and us), heading to Gunpowder in Tower Bridge is an extremely good choice no matter how hot it is. This outpost is part of a brand spanking new development, meaning it has all of your chilled air needs, as well as those incredible lamb chops. Test your mum’s theory that a hot tea on a scorching day does wonders with the spicy venison and vermicelli doughnut. 

Uchi is a relaxed and airy Japanese restaurant off Lower Clapton Road that serves reliably tasty sushi. This is the perfect place for a post-sunny-day-drinking dinner especially as everything here—from chicken kara-age, to miso aubergine skewers, to nigiri and sashimi—is great. It’s a popular neighbourhood spot with cool plaster walls and floaty linen room dividers, so call ahead before you take cover here because everyone probably has the same idea.

Willis Carrier invented the first electric air conditioning unit way back in 1902. He must have been one sweaty and smart bloke, and we’d like to thank him. Thank you Willis, thank you. Anyway, Bloomsbury’s Noble Rot is our every-situation spot, so of course it’s A/C’d up. This place is a life saver in many ways. Not least when your face is rapidly turning into an animate slice of cheese on toast. This is the wine bar and European-leaning restaurant for when you need cold air, cold wine, and shit-hot focaccia.

The problem with being hot—in the “my body is a human waterfall” terms, rather than the Ryan Gosling way—is that it’s easier to warm up than cool down. If you’re cold you put on a jumper. If you’re hot you take off clothing and start rubbing a decade-old can of Fanta from the newsagents all over yourself. Italian restaurant Bocca Di Lupo in Soho removes this problem by having both air conditioning and ice cream. So have a plate of pasta at the bar and some gelato for dessert. Or head to their ice cream shop opposite, Gelupo, afterwards.

Remember when you were young and your parents told you to wear a white t-shirt in the pool to reflect the sun? No? Anyway, Bistrotheque is that white t-shirt in restaurant form. This trendy Bethnal Green bistro is in a big old, airy, whitewashed warehouse and serves French easy-pleasers like oysters, steak tartare, and fish and chips. All to the soundtrack of a bloke on the piano.

Primeur is on a residential road near Newington Green and when the sun has got its hat on and the main door is slid open, it is truly one of (if not the) most enjoyable restaurants in London to be in. The food, European-style small plates, is the perfect accompaniment to a bottle of wine. The ideal time to book is for early evening, so you can eat jamon and gnudi in sunlight, and then cheese and meringue in candlelight.

Sometimes you don’t want somewhere full of natural light and space when it’s a roaster. Sometimes you just want the blast of artificially cooled air and enough dim sum to sink a ship. Which is why you should be sitting in Royal China Club on Baker Street. This legendary Chinese restaurant is a haven from the outside world and it’s so big that most of the time you can just walk in.

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