Eating outside in London doesn’t have to mean sitting on a tiny strip of pavement. Here’s our pick of the restaurants and bars that have pulled out all the stops to make your alfresco dining experiences as summery as can be.
Words: Ben McCormack
What: Bentley’s first opened in 1916 and has been serving some of the best fish and seafood in London ever since (the white-jacketed staff shuck up to 1,000 oysters a day). Its 60-cover terrace in traffic-free Swallow Street is a year-round attraction thanks to heaters, blankets and parasols, and you can bring your pooch along, too.
Eat + drink: A dozen Carlingford oysters and a bottle of Ruinart Champagne
Where: 11-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG
Cinnamon Soho Summer Festival Terrace, Soho
What: Not only does Cinnamon exec chef Vivek Singh collaborate with top chefs (his next guest chef is Texture’s Agnar Sverrisson) he works with the best drinks people around too. Star billing at Cinnamon Soho is currently Super Lyan and Dandelyan’s Ryan Chetiyawardana, who has worked with Singh on a ‘green’ summer terrace to promote reducing food waste. Expect Indian street food served in recycled dishes and drinks in repurposed milk bottles.
Eat + drink: Bhel puri chaat and a Watermelon Rind Tonic
Where: 5 Kingly Street, W1B 5BF
Grain Store, King’s Cross
What: Bruno Loubet’s veg-focused menus feel summery whatever the season but they’re best appreciated from Grain Store’s terrace as the sun beats down on Granary Square, a cooling herb-based cocktail close at hand. It’s also a brilliant place to take young kids, who can splash about in the nearby fountains.
Eat + drink: Citrus-baked fennel and a Nettle Collins
Where: 1-3 Stable Street, Granary Square, N1C 4AB
J Sheekey Summer Terrace, Covent Garden
What: The Ivy’s fish-focused sibling is a delight at any time of year but its setting on traffic-free St Martin’s Court comes into its own in summer, when the restaurant’s terrace sets up outside. In addition to the main menu, there are five new seaside-inspired dishes, with a new wine list featuring wines from coastal regions to wash it down with, including lots by the glass.
Eat + drink: Ahi tuna poké and a rosé spritzer
Where: 28-32 St Martin's Court, WC2N 4AL
Le Pont de la Tour, Shad Thames
What: Riverside dining doesn’t get any better than this. Even the most cynical of diners can’t help but be impressed by this picture-postcard slice of tourist London, where the Thames laps against the embankment and Tower Bridge (Le Pont de la Tour, geddit?) twinkles behind. Heavyweight French wines are matched to classic French cooking. For something cheaper, try the Amalfi-themed terrace at nearby sibling Cantina del Ponte.
Eat + drink: The famous fruits de mer platter and premier cru Chablis
Where: Butlers Wharf, 36d Shad Thames, SE1 2YE
The Lighterman, King’s Cross
What: This pub, dining room and bar has three alfresco areas but we reckon the canal-side terrace is the nicest of the lot. Kick back with craft ale, cocktails and bucketloads of rosé and pretend you’re by the Canal Grande in Venice and not the Regent’s Canal in King’s Cross. If you can’t bag a table waterside, try the top floor terrace instead.
Eat + drink: Fish & chips and a pint of Meantime
Where: 3 Granary Square, N1C 4BH
Mondrian London Summer Terrace, Bankside
What: This year’s theme for the Mondrian hotel’s annual terrace extravaganza is the French Riviera, which is a bit of a stretch given that one of London’s most iconic buildings – St Paul’s Cathedral – is pretty much in your eyeline at this spot right on the river. Choose between eating on the restaurant terrace, in a more casual drinking and dining area – or a Grey Goose vodka boat with room for 10 guests.
Eat + drink: Truffle flatbread and a La Poire Espresso Martini
Where: 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD
Rex Whistler Restaurant, Pimlico
What: The terrace at Tate Britain’s restaurant would have to be pretty special to drag diners away from the Rex Whistler mural inside but not only does it boast a spacious setting in the gallery’s grassy grounds, there’s a Barbara Hepworth sculpture to gawp at, too. Classy modern British cooking is matched to one of the best wine lists in London.
Eat + drink: Roast trout with Jersey royals and a glass of Alsatian Pinot Blanc
Where: Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG
Sipsmith Summer at Trishna, Marylebone
What: From 19 June until 17 September, Michelin-starred Trishna is teaming up with award-winning distillery Sipsmith London to match its south-west Indian seafood cooking to cocktails that draw on India’s history of gin-based drinks (the quinine in gin and tonics kept the expats of the British Empire safe from malaria, don’t you know.)
Eat + drink: The legendary butter pepper garlic crab and a Trishna Fruit Cup
Where: 15-17 Blandford Street, W1U 3DG
Spanish Serves Bar at Camino Bankside, Bankside
What: Super-handy for Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe, this Bankside branch of the good-fun Spanish mini chain has just launched its evening-only summer terrace in partnership with Fever Tree. Spanish-sized goblets are filled with gin, vermouth, sherry and Fever Tree mixers and topped with fragrant garnishes to match the rosemary, thyme and olive trees sprouting around the terrace.
Eat + drink: Paella and a Spanish-style G&T
Where: The Blue Fin Building, 5 Canvey Street, SE1 9NA
Looking for more outside inspiration? Check out our lists of the great alfresco restaurants in London, alfresco drinking spots and London’s best beer gardens.
This article was published 16 June 2017