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As much as we’re willing the summer to hold out and give us a break, there’s no knowing what the weather will do from one minute to the next. Many London restaurants have long since given up on the idea of offering sustained alfresco dining, opting instead to install a retractable roof. Here are some of the best restaurants and bars for ‘semi’ open-air dining.
For all its tradition and long-standing gastronomic institutions, the SW3 enclave boasts a number of retractable roofs. Gastropubs to adopt the trend include The Admiral Codrington, a characterful pub whose modern dining room is made considerably lighter and airier by its sliding skylight. The Cross Keys’ vaulted roof (pictured, top right) also opens seamlessly at the touch of a button, allowing diners to make the most of the rays. Meanwhile, the conservatory roof of Daphne’s (pictured, left) is tastefully draped in silks and lets in balmy summer air when opened up.
Central London is more about pavement or terrace seating than anything more technical, but it does have a few hotspots that lessen the effect changeable weather can have on your meal. Pretty French crowd-pleaser Clos Maggiore (pictured, right) in Covent Garden has a famous courtyard that’s supremely popular with diners – the roof is opened on sunny days. Meanwhile, Elysée in Fitzrovia serves sunny Greek food under the safety of its own ‘now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t’ roof. Elsewhere, Pimlico’s Il Convivio makes alfresco dining indoors its USP.
East London has a few open-air gems worth shouting about. Shoreditch House is perhaps the most obvious, although non-members don’t get a look-in at the rooftop bar, where the state-of-the-art roof is located, and have to content themselves with drinks in the Biscuit Tin Bar. In Hackney, Namô’s roofed garden area shelters Londoners from the worst insults the British weather has to throw at them, and is opened up when the sun comes out again. Up north, the gigantic restaurant and bar in Camden behemoth Gilgamesh (pictured, left) are covered by a glass roof, which weatherproofs diners from less-than-perfect summer months.