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.
£50 - £79
43 Blandford Street, London, W1U 7HF
Old-fashioned at heart but with big-city appeal, Il Baretto is that rare thing – a restaurant with a subterranean space that can be just as thronged and atmospheric as the pavement-level salon. Downstairs, the wood-burning oven is a major feature, and the daily bread is recommended alongside starters of grilled courgettes, burrata paired with vitello tonnato or a carpaccio of Sicilian red prawns. On the pasta side, readers reckon the truffle macaroni is “out of this world”, while a pairing of home-made tagliatelle with pesto demonstrates the kitchen’s unfussy confidence. It’s back to the fiery mouth of the oven for pizza crudo, topped with Parma ham, rocket and Parmesan, and there’s also a selection of hefty grills. Pudding goes flavour-first with tried-and-true combinations ranging from peanut mousse with caramelised banana to pannacotta with cherries. Service is “traditional”, the better to serve a compendium of regional Italian wines.
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50 Baker Street, London, W1U 7BT
The Turkish term ‘yosma’ translates as ‘coquette’. What to flirt with at the standalone bar of this modern mangal (grill restaurant) is a list of temptingly priced cocktails and a wide range of raki. Yeni raki informs a deft Pisco Sour on a list that’s largely inspired by other lands – witness the Rob Roy, Negroni, and Pomegranate Margarita – along with various Martinis, Slings and a house punch (where mezcal meets yellow Chartreuse). Various smoothies, cold-pressed juices and mocktails will find takers aplenty, paired with a cuisine associated with teetotal tipplers. Typical snacks include good barrel-aged feta; slightly bland hummus and crispbread; calamari with tartare sauce; and pomegranate, pistachio and chilli chicken wings. The interior mixes brash late-1960s American pop decor with nods to retro Istanbul cinema culture. DJs play at weekends, and during the day the bar becomes a coffee shop. Pity about the lamentable Turkish-disco soundtrack on our visit.
£50 - £79
1 Chiltern St, Marylebone, W1U 7PA
The fervour that surrounded André Balazs’ Marylebone hotspot has died down and you no longer need to be famous to secure a table, but Chiltern Firehouse still delivers in spades. Readers praise the outdoor-themed interiors as well as the high-decibel “party vibe”, and we’ve also been impressed by the all-inclusive attitude of the staff, who happily laugh and chat with diners. Meanwhile, in the open kitchen, chef Nuno Mendes and his team send out plenty of likeable big-time successes. Snacks such as bacon cornbread and the famous coral-dusted crab doughnut kick things off nicely, but there are other highlights too: char-grilled Ibérico pork comes with the unexpected additions of grilled peaches and red pepper kimchi, while a side of mac ‘n’ cheese is given a fiery kick with jalapeño peppers. Early risers pack in for breakfast (potted eggs with caramelised onions and curried potatoes), freelancers take advantage of the indulgent lunchtime offers (crab and lobster omelette, say), and we’d also recommend Chiltern Firehouse for a pre/post-meal trip to the botanically themed bar for cheekily named cocktails. Be warned – the bill (with impressive wines included) may have you reaching for the fire alarm.
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The Coach Makers Arms
£30 - £49
88 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2PY
Handsomely rejigged by its new owners in 2017, this Edwardian hostelry is drawing a crowd for its food and an improved range of craft brews. The oak-panelled ground-floor bar is where to sample the beers; upstairs, a smart dining room offers seasonal British menus. Starters of chilli salt squid, or Jerusalem artichokes, crispy kale and sunflower seeds with a truffle dressing set the tone for above-average pub food that might also include flaky pan-fried hake with leeks, and our rich, meaty (but over-salted) cottage pie. Finish with exemplary Bramley apple pie with caramelised chestnuts and cinnamon parfait. The 72, a sherry- and olive-tone basement bar reminiscent of 1940s Madrid, is worth discovering for its Poire William Martini, Honey & Ginger Mojito and Spicy Coach (Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila, Manzanilla, lime and green jalapeño). Small plates here include beefburger sliders, charcuterie plates and buttermilk chicken in spiced tomato and ale.
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£30 - £49
15-17 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2NE
Chic 28°-50° is a haven for oenophiles who can sample over 30 wines by the glass or carafe as well as choosing from a bespoke ‘collector’s list’ gleaned from private cellars at greatly reduced mark-ups. Attention has been paid to details and service is excellent.
To eat, try exemplary foie gras terrine or a punchy gazpacho served over an olive and cucumber salad, before tackling a meltingly tender onglet or a rich Icelandic fish stew with chunks of cod and potato in a velvety béarnaise sauce.
Otherwise, sharing plates, rock oysters and La Fromagerie cheeses encourage more casual grazing. A striking central bar provides focus in the airy dining space, while the more intimate basement boasts an open kitchen.
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Artesian at the Langham
The Langham, 1c Portland Place, London, W1B 1JA
Under Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale, Artesian was repeatedly voted The World’s Best Bar. Can successors Dino Koletsas and Gabor Fodor now reclaim the crown? They’ve certainly produced some quaffable, high-end drinks on their 17-strong ‘Artesian Moments’ menu.
The collection was realised through a survey of the general public, which asked them to submit the flavours and feelings that they associate with pivotal moments in their life. Over 500 responses later, the team have created a menu of cocktails which are all named after ‘that moment when…’
Reminisce by sipping on ‘…you went to big school’, which is made with a blend of Blanche de Normandie, almond lemonade, apple and meadowsweet, or mourn past loves with ‘…your heart was broken’, which sees Craigellachie 13YO paired with cacao, saké, racilla and verjus. Such concept-heavy cocktails and kooky presentation can veer into the kitsch, but expert mixes and a strong selection make a visit to this bar another moment which you’re unlikely to forget.
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50-54 Blandford Street, London, W1U 7HX
Reviving the illicit jazz-era speakeasy isn’t the most obvious move for bartenders in this postcode, but Purl has been evoking the glam end of clandestine drinking below Blandford Street since 2010. With raw brick, polished leather and aged objets, and alcoves for larger groups, it’s a hip rather than complicated space. All the detail is reserved for the drinks, which smoke, foam and fog out of unusual vessels, and often have a matching edible of some sort served alongside. Is that an old-school camera long lens, or a glass heaped with ice and mixed liquor? Both, of course. Bartenders have a sure mastery of their art and the experience can be captivating for the patient drinker, who is wise to book ahead. If you act on a spontaneous urge for high-class moonshine, you may be turned away. There’s live jazz on Wednesdays, and cocktail masterclasses make an enlivening team activity.
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34 Portman Street, London, W1H 7BY
Texture’s chic bar offers sleek comfort in natural tones. Champagne is the main draw, with a 100-strong list including five pourers alongside many satisfyingly obscure marques and a neat assortment of swish cocktails. Sparks of statement glamour, such as the ice buckets sunk deep into curvy tables, are matched by a few big-ticket wines on a fascinating, intelligently edited list that also allows room for plenty of fine ‘stickies’ and Madeiras. The bar shares its high, corniced ceilings and striking Nordic-themed art with the restaurant, which sends through offbeat bar snacks including bacon popcorn and crisp wafers of cod skin.
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