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.
the outdoor spots
When it’s sunny out, Bright is one of our favourite places to be. This London Fields wine bar and restaurant has a couple of large sharing tables out front and it’s an extremely easy place to while away several hours. Sit down, ask the excellent staff what they recommend to drink, and get yourself a katsu sandwich immediately. Before you know it you’ll be chatting to the people next to you and day would have turned to night.
Oh Llewelyn’s. Lovely, lovely Llewelyn’s. This neighbourhood spot next to Herne Hill station is the kind of restaurant you expect to be a setting for a Richard Curtis meet cute rather than a real-life restaurant that happens to be at the back of zone two and only 15 minutes away from Blackfriars by train. There are only a few tables outside this popular spot, but it’s worth booking ahead for the chance to eat some great seasonal food, sit in the shade of the square’s tree, and get in some top people watching.
If your idea of summer involves eating chargrilled prawns, picking on bread with hummus, and getting saucy quail juice all over your face, then you’re going to love Peckham Bazaar. The Mediterranean menu isn’t the only thing to like here either, because Peckham Bazaar has one of London’s most secluded and lovely front terraces. Combined with the food, it makes for a brilliant summer lunch or dinner spot. You’ll want to book ahead to guarantee outside seating.
If, like us and vampires, you’re not one for direct sunlight but want to eat outside, then Yen may just suit. It’s a Japanese restaurant on the Strand that has a big and covered outdoor eating area, meaning that you can enjoy their homemade tofu and seaweed salad, and cold soba dipping noodles in complete outdoor comfort. Also, both of these dishes are excellent summer bites.
One of our favourite spots in Chelsea also happens to be in a cute courtyard off the King’s Road. Phat Phuc is a little noodle bar making everything from laksa, to noodle salads, to pho. Open from 11am - 6pm, this is a go-to if you’re in the area and looking for a good value and tasty bowl of food. You can sit on a stool at the bar if you fancy it, but when the sun’s shining, the courtyard is where you want to be.
Villa Mamas is a Bahraini restaurant ten minutes from Sloane Square that has the Made In Chelsea outside seating area that you may or may not be dreaming of. Plonk yourself down on one of their cute little sofa seats, get yourself some khubus (flatbread) and dips, and try not to worry about what the bill comes to.
Yes, it’s been sunny for four days. No, you don’t need to move so that you can finally live somewhere with a balcony. Just head for Taiwanese spot Mr Bao in Peckham instead. This place is a cute, charming, and very popular, so although it might be tricky to secure one of their few outdoor tables, it’s entirely worth trying - eating the shiitake mushroom bao with a plum wine negroni in the sunshine is one of our favourite summertime activities in London.
This morning you preemptively smeared sun cream on your face, mostly because you ran out of moisturiser and it smells better than Sudocrem, so even though it’s a bit cloudy, you might as well sit outside. If you’re around Chelsea, Peruvian spot Chicama is a good shout. Their seafood dishes can be hit or miss, but you definitely want to get involved in their vegetable dishes. On summer days they open up all the doors, and there’s several quaint little table and chairs in their courtyard.
Well look at that, you just went to Westfield to invest in some shorts and have left with a giant inflatable Free Willy pool float. Do you have access to a pool? No? Who cares. It’s a thing you do when it’s summer. And sitting outside eating Indian small plates at Kricket is another thing you should do in the summer. Part of the old Television Centre, this place has a big outdoor terrace, some excellent Keralan fried chicken, and there are plenty of cocktails and sparkling wines to choose from.
There’s nothing quite like being outside. At one with nature. Actually, this is London, you’re more ‘at one’ with bus fumes and angry businessmen on electric scooters. But, thanks to its location on Newington Green, Jolene feels a bit out of the way and more suburban park than urban jungle. Outside there are several benches, and although you might have to balance your plate on your lap and this place can be more expensive than your average bakery or caff, it’s worth it for their excellent egg dishes, pastries, and the fact there’s enough spelt bread to make Paul Hollywood weepy.
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.
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. It’s 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.
Remember when you went to Paris a few years back and had a horrible time attempting to get a clear shot of yourself in front of the Louvre? Yeah, that was bleak. But sitting outside all of the boulevard cafes and getting day drunk didn’t bother you so much, did it? Recreate that feeling by sitting on the pavement terrace at Colbert, a French all-day brasserie on Sloane Square. Expect lots of rattan tables, steak tartare, fresh patisserie, and, realistically, a bit of a battle for a seat at peak hours.
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.
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, it’s never not a good time for a good plate of pasta.
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.
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 then a plate of sizzling lamb chops lands on your table. Well done, you.
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.
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. 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.
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 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.
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 at the nearby White Cube and need to get some sunshine.
There aren’t heaps of seats outside at Exmouth Market spot Caravan, but it’s worth hanging around for one. 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.