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.
With no outside lighting and the backlit jewel colours of the mixologist’s toolkit giving a seductive hint of fun, time just slips away in this bar at the heart of the Mandarin Oriental, where the well-heeled drop by for a glass of something classy before heading to Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner.
If bubbles are your preference, Moët is the starting point, but if cocktails are up your street then there’s more than enough to float your boat. Many sips have a South American/Asian slant, as in Veiled Quebranta, which delivers plum- and apple-infused pisco with umeshu, matcha tea, nori, plum and yuzu. There’s not much demand for food from the darlings who hang out here, which is a shame, because both the sea bass ceviche, tomato tartare with caperberries, and beef tataki with roasted garlic make very good snacks.
Mandarin Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel
A new conservatory has doubled the footprint at the luxuriously inviting Blue Bar, seamlessly marrying Richard Rogers’ glass pavilion (shades of a VIP airport lounge) to the David Collins-designed snug (a flatteringly lit, seductive salon complete with periwinkle-blue panels by Edwin Lutyens). Bar manager Rashid Ghuloom (ex-Berners Tavern) has produced a lavish drinks list that is colour-coded according to style and strength. Light, refreshing and low in alcohol, La Limonata adds sparkling lemongrass mineral water to kaffir lime, limoncello and blue agave nectar, while punchier hits include the deeply rewarding Smoke & Mirrors (a Manhattan involving Michter’s barrel-strength rye whiskey, Bénédictine, toasted cinnamon, rosehip, sherry and Madeira, produced in a puff of smoke from a crystal decanter). With its bold new space, tastefully tweaked design, five-star service, classy snacks, vintage Champagnes and top-notch whiskies, The Blue Bar is back with a bang.
The Blue Bar at The Berkeley Hotel
It’s almost inconceivable that there should be a grand private country house within a stone’s throw of Victoria station, but The Goring has all the necessary attributes, from a warm cosy drawing room and terraces for balmier weather to a garden with ducks waddling across the lawn. The bar’s line-up of Champagne is astounding and the barmen are adept at mixing and shaking anything that takes your fancy. Ultra-traditional, but also super-friendly, this gorgeous bolthole is equally appealing for a quiet business drink or a jolly get-together with a (smart-ish) bunch of friends. The simple bar menu has something for all comers (from caviar to soup of the day), all beautifully done in an understated way – they only boast about their connection with their royal neighbours when it comes to the “fabulous” afternoon tea.
The Goring (bar)
An old-fashioned, clubby sort of space, full of tartan, antlers and a head- spinning array of Scotch whisky (including some arcane three-figure drams), the bar at Boisdale is normally a prelude to eating in the restaurant – although it doesn’t have to be that way. Done out in vintage style, the long area at the end of the dining room is probably the most atmospheric, with the added advantage of live jazz. Otherwise, escape the noise by heading to the back bar or sneak up to the cigar terrace (the list of prime puffs is really impressive). If Scottish spirits aren’t your thing, there’s also an extensive selection of Champagnes, epic Bordeaux and more on the weighty wine list, while sustenance comes from the likes of mini haggis with mash and neeps, oysters, steaks and Aberdeen Angus burgers – plus sandwiches and savouries.
Boisdale of Belgravia (bar)
There’s only one bar at the preposterously plush Lanesborough, so it has to be all things to all guests – unless you're a puffer, in which case a word in the right ear will transport you to the astonishing cigar lounge. Elderly couples, businessmen, wealthy tourists and drop-ins alike feel right at home here. The drinks list is jaw-dropping – a simple selection of wines and plenty of Champagnes give way to a blinding list of whiskies and Cognacs reaching back to pre-French Revolution stock. It’s also worth seeking out the canapé cocktails – mini versions of very grown-up libations, which allow customers to have more than one before they’re over the limit. The food is (inevitably) posh, but diners can eschew the caviar and oysters for cauliflower and Cheddar cheese soup, steak and chips or slow-cooked chicken wings with crispy onions.
Library Bar at The Lanesborough