Usually, a British summer lasts somewhere between three days and three weeks, depending on who you ask. Within this totally subjective time period, the average Londoner packs in around 18 barbeques, 104 Aperol Spritzes, 12 ‘park jams’, 96 tubs of hummus, 357 cold pints, 4 different sunglass variations, 11 Mr. Whippies, and 234 wears out of ‘that nice dress’ or ‘those nice shorts’. We like to make the most of things, alright?
When that ‘heat wave’ of four consecutive rainless days finally ends, it’s deeply depressing. Deeply, deeply depressing... unless you’re getting on a plane to sunnier climes. But if you’re not, you need that summer vibe. The drinks, the friends, the food. Thankfully there are some restaurants in London that will give you that exact sunny feeling, even when the summer is being very British.
You know that album on Facebook labelled ’MYKONOS ‘08’? The one you would rather not look through. Well, put those youthful regrets aside and just remember the fun-loving atmosphere, the cocktails, and the lovely Greek food. That’s much better, isn’t it? If that’s what you’re after, plus an extra bit of refinement, then Meraki is the place for you. This is basically a Greek getaway restaurant for grown-ups. Grab a negroni and get dipping into the hummus with smoked eel or the Greek style potato rostis. This is a swanky place to have a bit of fun in.
Nothing says you’re on holiday more than sitting at a bar, ordering tapas as and when you fancy, and steadily ploughing your way through a bottle of Rioja, does it? Even better is that you don’t even have to go to Gatwick to do this now - you can just pop to Sabor in Mayfair. This place has got every part of a Spanish holiday you could wish for. Apart from the sun. The food is reliably good - croquetas, duck breast, chargrilled potatoes, and the like - and the setting is informal. It’s the sort of place you may wander into and end up spending a few hours in because, well, you’re on holiday... oh wait. Well almost.
A lot of the best places to eat when you’re on holiday are a bit rough around the edges, but very tasty, and very fun. That’s exactly what Song Que is like. This is a huge no nonsense Vietnamese that’s always busy, and for good reason. The pho here is excellent, as are the vermicelli bun noodles and everything is geared towards having a very good time. This is a restaurant where you can be yourself, take anyone, and get relaxed in.
In a lot of ways, this Little Venice spot is quite ludicrous. It’s a rag-topped canalside restaurant in a city where it rains one in every three days, and where it’s hardly ever warm enough to sit outside without a rug on your lap or over your shoulders. Happily, they provide rugs, and we really respond to them calling themselves The Summer House. It’s just the sort of pursed lip irony that we love. The food here is OK at best, and it’s pricey too, but there’s something joyful about the place. It’s probably because they have to work overtime to maintain the summer-y vibes. You can head here on a rainy day, order a seabass to share, and even if it doesn’t brighten up enough for them to roll back the tarps, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve been on holiday.
Yes it’s grim outside. So, how about you go somewhere that is the complete opposite? Swap grim for grand and head to The Wolseley. There probably isn’t a better place (maybe Zedel, from the same people) to forget about the outside world in. The Wolseley is a place where you can transport yourself back to a different era, rather than a different season. Sit down, order some champagne, a few oysters, and then a schnitzel to follow. Take your time. There’s no rush here. After all, what’s there to go outside for?
There’s something uniquely summer-ish about sitting down - not on a bench, a pavement, or your kitchen table - for a meal in the early hours of the morning. It feels like the sort thing you do when you’re in a foreign city. That’s the vibe you get in Hung’s. This is straightforward, bish-bash-bosh dumplings and roast duck. It’s perfect for when the weather’s let you down, the day’s turned into night, but you still want to go somewhere that’s full of people, and full of good food.
There’s no better London neighbourhood on a proper summer’s day than Primrose Hill. But when summer fails to show up, that doesn’t mean you should rule out a visit to NW1. Especially when you consider that it’s home to one of north London’s most popular restaurants, Lemonia. Though it might not be the best Greek restaurant in town, it’s probably the happiest. You get all the normal stuff here: hot mezze, cold mezze, and a selection of meat and fish cooked on charcoal grills, however, it’s the spirit of the place that makes it a forever summer spot. The staff are gregarious and fun, it’s always rammed, and the space itself - particularly the back room - feels like the memory you have of a sunbaked Mediterranean courtyard. It’s the perfect place for ridding yourself of the perma-gloom of a British summer.
A proper Neapolitan pizza is one of the ultimate tastes of summer. And while a few slices are unbeatable - either as a meal or a snack - when the sun is shining, it’s also one of the best foods we know for fending off that special type of misery that descends when it’s August and it’s been raining for four days on the trot. Santa Maria Chelsea (which is actually in Fulham) is one of the best spots we know for getting a pizza that will chase the blues away.