Every one of the bars and pubs in London with al fresco drinking featured in SquareMeal’s list of London’s best bars and pubs for alfresco drinking have been tried and tested by critics and our own customers. For more drinking inspiration, see our recommendations for the best bars in London. Each SquareMeal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from those who have visited, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.
Roka Canary Wharf
£50 - £79
4 Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, London, E14 5FW
Serving up high glamour among all that bamboo and polished wood, Roka is the antithesis of a modest Japanese restaurant – and that makes it a natural victor among Canary Wharf’s suited-and-booted client-friendly offerings. Readers love the ambience created by a boisterous, enthusiastic crowd, not to mention the “very attentive service” and consistently top-notch food. The bar specialises in shochu (you can even keep a personalised jar for repeat visits), and there’s a terrace too, but the restaurant would argue that the heart of the operation is the robata grill with its line-up of fire-licked specialities such as sweet potato baked in a bamboo husk or baby back ribs in a spiced ‘master stock’ glaze. Elsewhere, you’ll find well-made modern-day sushi and sashimi, “wonderfully delicious” snacks (black cod, crab and crayfish dumplings, say), and specialities such as cedar-roast baby chicken. If you’re here outside the working week, try the all-inclusive koten brunch.
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Plateau Bar & Grill
£30 - £49
4th Floor, Canada Place, London, E14 5ER
Plateau is the sort of slick contemporary proposition that could be in Toronto, Seoul, Frankfurt – or any other concrete and glass financial hub. Needless to say, suit-wearers predominate. But enter this fourth-floor restaurant’s curiously named ‘leather bar’ and you might encounter Forbidden Fruit and Jeux d’Amour: two from a varied and creative list of cocktails (from £9) that incorporates the classics as well as ‘signature serves’. Other sexy calls we like making here include Temptation (a vanilla-infused Ketel One and orgéat fruity cooler), and Estupendo (a Tequila, peach and cinnamon sour). Snacks have a Eurasian bent, with the likes of Korean-style wings or chilli-spiced rice balls vying for attention with cod pancakes, croque monsieur-ettes, and feta, tomato and olive parcels. The terrace is the place to sample the impressive cigar selection.
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The Merchant Canary Wharf
25-27 Fisherman's Walk, London, E14 4DH
It was formerly The Tea Merchant, although hot beverages now play second fiddle to an extended range of craft beers at this rebooted Canary Wharf spot. Expect loud colours and jangly, jazzy, punky post-industrial decor – plus a mezzanine fashioned from a shipping container, retro artworks, a games room and a wide all-weather terrace overlooking North Dock. To drink, quaff Fuller’s finest (they own the place) alongside Pogo (from the Wild Beer Co), Mondo’s Dennis Hopper IPA and Hammerton’s Pentonville from a line-up of craft ales. Cocktails include The Ron Weasley (Absolut Citron, blood orange, rosemary essence and lemon) and Pornstar Martini’s wingman, The Hugh Hefner (RIP). No-nonsense wines at easy prices also go well with sharing plates and bigger dishes ranging from harissa prawn brochettes, Vietnamese-style chicken wings, meatballs in tomato hot sauce and truffled mac 'n' cheese croquettes to cod and chips and Chalcroft Farm burgers. For afters, try Bakewell tart, a chocolate brownie or peanut butter sundae.
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Manhattan G&Tea Lounge at the Marriott Hotel West India Quay
London Marriott Hotel West India Quay, 22 Hertsmere Road, London, E14 4ED
Waving a £50 note while standing three-deep at the bar may be the norm elsewhere on the Wharf, but at the Marriott’s Manhattan lounge, standards are more ‘five star’. The vibe is comfortably a step up from ‘downtown’, all the better for a business drink or relaxed rendezvous. Manhattan’s design fits the bill perfectly with its clean lines, polished wood, leather chairs and generously spaced tables. As one would expect of an international hotel brand, the bar menu runs the gamut from afternoon tea to burgers, club sandwiches or black cod with miso, while the bartender can pull a quick espresso as easily as talking you through the single malts and Cognacs on offer. Five versions of Manhattan (dry, Latin and ‘perfect’ among them) naturally call the shots on the extensive cocktail list.
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76 Narrow Street, London, E14 8BP
With ‘not a straight floor, and hardly a straight line’ in its whole constitution (as Dickens put it in Our Mutual Friend), The Grapes has ‘olde-worlde’ charm in spades (as Dickens didn’t put it). It’s a real pleasure to introduce friends and out-of-town visitors to this diminutive and refreshingly child- and telly-free riverside boozer – a matchless, vintage ‘London’ setting for a pint (Adnams Bitter, Landlord or London Glory, say) or a glass of wine and a lunchtime sarnie.
Bar meals of devilled whitebait, curry or prawn salad are served downstairs, with classic grills and old-school seafood dishes on the menu in the petite fish restaurant upstairs (think dressed crab, potted shrimps, whole plaice and so on). One for the traditionalists.
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