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.
35 Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8AJ
If you ever need to describe Camden to a puzzled visitor, The Lock Tavern would probably be a useful starting point. In any other neighbourhood, its interior would seem tired, battered and in need of a complete overhaul; however this is Camden, where ‘grungy' is a compliment (although designers might prefer to call it ‘delightfully distressed'). It's not everyone's bottle of Peroni, but the Lock scores heavily with its live music, DJ sets and beer-absorbing comfort food – think ‘pie and a pint' offers, roasts, burgers, battered haddock and chips, bangers and mash, mezze plates and BBQs in the sunshine. Head indoors if you're looking for decibels and vibes, or seek out the roof terrace if you want to chill with a view over the Stables market; either way, this venue is right on the money.
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The Southampton Arms
139 Highgate Road, London, NW5 1LE
The sign outside tersely states ‘Ale, Cider, Meat’ – indeed, this singular hostelry makes no bones about its priorities. Tired of chains and generic pubs-by-numbers, the owners set out to provide something more primordial when they reopened a gritty Victorian boozer in 2009. The Southampton Arms is dedicated to showcasing small UK breweries and cider-makers, and the bar staff are an informed bunch who’ll happily wax lyrical while pulling one of 18 ciders and ales on tap: from the esteemed likes of Dark Star, Redemption or Millwhites. ‘Meat’ finds its way into hearty bar snacks: maybe plump Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, or roast joint of pork ready to be sliced into baps. The look is gloriously dressed down and retro, with worn-in stools and a cosy fireplace. It’s the kind of place you could bed in for the evening with friends, not emerging until the early hours.
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Paradise by way of Kensal Green
£30 - £49
19 Kilburn Lane, London, W10 4AE
GK Chesterton coined the phrase, which was clearly too much for the owners to resist – although the quirky moniker fits nicely with the oddball feel of this Kensal Green fun palace. From the wildly decadent interiors (marble busts, swirling drapes, chandeliers, grandiose paintings) to live bands and DJs, there’s a lot going on here – although the kitchen also puts plenty of effort into the food. Sit in the lavishly attired restaurant and enjoy seasonal dishes made from fresh locally sourced ingredients: Seared beef carpaccio, rocket, parmesan and roasted beetroot vinaigrette; Grilled prawns, avocado fattoush salad, tahini yoghurt and ?Spiced poussin with Jersey Royal potato salad, harissa aioli. With a great conservatory, private dining rooms, ‘cheeky Sunday roasts’ and more besides, this place has good-time distractions at every turn.
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