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.
It's sometimes berated for a lack of ‘substance', but that doesn't stop labyrinthine BBB getting packed out every weekend with dedicated followers of ‘style'. Opulent interiors go all the way, with
ornate purple chairs, elaborate fireplaces and vaulted cellars suggesting a cross between the Palace of Versailles and a drag-queen club. The hordes of moneyed young things who gather here add to
the lavishness of it all – linen suits, perma-tans and Russian accents abound. Cocktails hover around the £10 mark on a list that rarely breaks new ground – think million-dollar mojitos and Moscow
mules. ‘Pedestrian' food also plays it safe, which means a trawl through chilli salt squid, seared tuna with couscous and apple pie with whipped cream. Service continues to get mixed reviews,
ranging from ‘polite and efficient' to ‘appallingly slow'.
Beach Blanket Babylon - Ledbury Road
A group of smart young London entrepreneurs have captured the carefree, sun-kissed mood of a Caribbean beach shack with this restaurant and cocktail bar. The ground-floor dining room is decked out in colourful timbers, with an open kitchen and easy-going staff. Pop in for spicy soft-shell crab burger or salt-fish fritters, or settle down to a helping of jerk chicken or mutton curry with rice and peas. It’s fun and funky, promoted through social media and word of mouth among an upmarket, party-loving crowd – there’s no sign outside the door. “Everyone looked like they were having a good time. And so did we” reports one fan. From 11pm it’s party time and a playlist compiled by DJ Fast of Fun Lovin’ Criminals keeps the beat going in the basement. The dedicated rum bar holds more than 100 bottles; ask for a bespoke cocktail.
The Rum Kitchen Notting Hill
It’s all change at this neighbourhood watering hole once synonymous with Portobello Road Gin No.171 (now made just north of here). The Star has been a Notting Hill fixture since 1740. Its new owners – also behind Soho’s Compton Cross – have stripped back the snug ground-floor lounge to appealing effect, courtesy of honey-colour washed brick, chocolate banquettes, and caramel-tone lighting. Head here for craft beers and competitively priced cocktails that rely on infusions bitters, syrups and liquors made in-house. Typical calls include a rosemary and cardamom-infused pink peppercorn Gin Sour and a Caribbean-style cousin of the Espresso Martini. Otherwise, choose classics such as a Brooklyn or Vieux Carré. DJs play at weekends and the upstairs ‘apartment’ (available for private hire) can squeeze in up to 30. Peckish? Given notice, The Star will lay on cheese or charcuterie platters, meatiness from Patty & Bun or pintxos from Pix.
Cheesier than baked Camembert, camp as Carmen Miranda, louder than a Hawaii Five-O shirt and as kitsch as an Annette Funicello
beach bimbo movie, Portobello’s Trailer Happiness is a top tiki dive. If rum is your thing, order Dr Fang (light gold rum, Velvet Falernum, pomegranate, absinthe and bitters), Cool Cat in a Hat (Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, sweet vermouth, Galliano, orange tincture and Marasca cherry liqueur) or Don Zombie – a dangerous concoction involving no fewer than nine rums. Fancy a different spirit? Try grappling with Scaramanga – a bittersweet gin fizz comprising Bombay Sapphire, lemon, Campari, orange
and homemade grapefruit soda. As for food,
you would be crackers not to sample Trailer’s dim sum and spring rolls – just add John
Waters’ trash decor and a sleazy foot-tapping soundtrack for a happy ending.