23 August 2014

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Best for… restaurants with gardens


Fredericks_Restaurant_2013_5.jpgSummer in the city can be hot, hot, hot – and despite London’s wealth of parks and green spaces, few of the capital’s restaurants can offer a leafy oasis for alfresco summer meals. Here’s our pick of the best London restaurants with gardens, greenery, or bucolic views.

Aurora, Soho

A Soho stalwart that attracts a good mix of locals with its seasonal menu and romantic, intimate vibe, Aurora’s secret weapon is its cute, dinky courtyard garden, whose eight tables are hugely sought after in the summer months – book ahead to guarantee your spot.

Babylon, Kensington

When it comes to spectacular views of the London skyline, Richard Branson's seventh-floor Kensington stunner really delivers. Its three themed roof gardens – Spanish, Tudor and English Woodland – are chock-full of lush plants and fragrant blooms, with the latter home to four flamingos. The venue is often booked for private events, but visits are free when the gardens are open to the public, and they’re perfect for a late-afternoon drink or two. Meanwhile, the chic dining room continues the horticultural theme, with green furniture, flock wallpaper and murals of London cityscapes.

Benugo Garden Cafe Mayfair 2013 - Benugo_Garden_Cafe_2013_IMG_0105.jpgBenugo Garden Café, Mayfair (pictured, left)

The refurbished Brown Hart Gardens make an enchanting, green backdrop for this café outpost of the Benugo chain. Dream of Arcadia as you sit on original stone seats surrounded by green hedgerows, water features and flower beds; otherwise join the tourists, shoppers and business folk indoors for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or a daytime stopgap.

Fields Bar & Kitchen, Covent Garden

Despite being in the middle of the city, this chalet-style refectory from Benugo is a true parkland oasis that’s a world away from the urban grind. Kick back on the decked terrace, which is shaded by jaunty umbrellas, mature trees and lush shrubs. Note that the café shuts promptly when Lincoln’s Inn Fields’ gates are locked at various hours, depending on the season.

Frederick’s, Islington (pictured, top right)

The food and enormous wine list at Islington’s long-serving Frederick’s are rightly acclaimed, but the big selling point of this substantial townhouse property is its lovely alfresco space. The family-run restaurant boasts a well-kept lawn edged with plants and silver birches, plus little winding paths and a pergola. Meanwhile, the bright, light-filled conservatory does its duty when the English weather isn't playing ball.

Breakfast on the terrace at Mandarin Oriental Knightsbridge - The_Dining_Room_terrace_(breakfast_only)_1082-08.jpgBreakfast at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Knightsbridge (pictured, right)

This luxurious hotel serves a mean breakfast, and when the sun is shining, the first meal of the day can be taken out on the terrace adjoining the dining room. It’s a wonderful setting, reminiscent of an English country garden, with verdant lawns, colourful flowerbeds and chic garden furniture decorated with vases of flowers – and located just next to the wilds of Hyde Park. The dining room becomes Dinner by Heston Blumenthal from lunchtime onwards, so it’s a case of the early bird catching the worm for breakfast bookings (Mon-Fri 6.30-10.30am, Sat-Sun 7am- ).

Petersham Nurseries Cafe - Petersham_Nurseries_Cafe.jpgPetersham Nurseries Café, Richmond (pictured, left)

This greenhouse eatery takes inspiration from the horticultural bounty of the nursery it is housed in – so expect an acutely seasonal menu of flower-strewn dishes with floral and herbal themes. Those expecting Michelin-level surrounds might be slightly taken aback by the restaurant’s hippy ambience and bare-earth floors – but it’s all part of the charm of this true one-off.

The Phene, Chelsea

This trendy saloon bar – a former watering hole of footballer George Best – draws the cocktail crowd of an evening, but during the day, the conservatory-style restaurant and chic terrace crammed with potted evergreens attract the area’s lunching ladies and other leisurely types. Space is at a premium here, but the tall, manicured hedges do a good job of shielding diners from the London streets just beyond.

The-Ritz-Restaurant-2013-3.jpgThe Ritz, St James’s (pictured, right)

It might not be the first restaurant that springs to mind for a relaxed meal in the sun, but the fabulously gilded Ritz Restaurant is unbeatable for special occasions – and, true to form, its expansive, spotless terrace is second to none. Decorated with generous hanging baskets and neat topiary, the terrace overlooks Green Park’s sprawling expanse – now how’s that for a view?

Tangerine Dream Café, Chelsea

This cheerful, rustic canteen-style kitchen – run with panache by an ex-River Café chef – punches way above its weight, serving artistically presented seasonal dishes and cakes, all taking inspiration from the splendour of their setting in Chelsea’s large and leafy Physic Garden. Sit on the large covered terrace overlooking the meticulously presented lawns and flower beds and you’ll feel miles away from central London.

This feature was published in August 2013.

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