Best Outside and Alfresco Bars in London

Everyone in London loves to enjoy a drink outside during the summertime so it’s good to know which of London’s bars and pubs are the best for outside drinking. SquareMeal has put together this handy guide to all o

Updated on 23 May 2018

Whether it’s baking hot or there’s a chill in the air, there’s an undeniable charm to enjoying your drink outside in the open air. If you’ve been inspired by our list of the best outside bars and pubs in London, then you’ll probably want to take a look at our selection of London’s best restaurants with outside spaces. Otherwise, we also have curated lists featuring the capital’s best rooftop bars, and restaurants with stunning views to soak up London’s skyline.

 

The Old Ship Hammersmith

The Old Ship Hammersmith

25 Upper Mall, London, W6 9TD

Built in 1850, this is perhaps the pick of the pubs on that picturesque stretch of the Thames from Chiswick Village to Hammersmith Bridge. In 2018, a major refurb on a nautical theme further upped the appeal of this riverbank villa. Drop in for quality cask-conditioned beers by owners Young’s and Beavertown; sensibly priced wines such as a super Slovenian white Pinot; paired gins and tonics; and in a cosy upstairs lounge, Monkey Shoulder Old Fashioned or a Little Bird Negroni from a bijou bar. On fine days, nothing beats dining alfresco on the Ship’s pretty front terrace or on its smart upstairs verandah, where tables (annoyingly) are non-reservable. Choose from numerous veggie and beefy brunch options, Brit pub-grub staples, sharing platters and Sunday roasts. A private dining room accommodates up to 40, though the pub’s lawn was filled with five times that number on a hot Bank Holiday weekend.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
The Queen of Hoxton

The Queen of Hoxton

1-5 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3JX

Billed as a ‘bar, club, art collective’, the Queen of Hoxton is also a great East End night out. Welcome to every design student’s fantasy world, complete with window etchings, graffiti and an edgy discotheque downstairs – not forgetting the legendary summer roof garden and bar (now with an all-weather cover). This year’s fun in the urban adventure playground will include BBQs, screenings of cult movie classics, a ‘headphone disco’ and a Sunday ‘sunbathers club’ compete with paddling pools and hot tubs. Otherwise, play table football in the main bar, catch some stand-up comedy or one of the diverse live bands, and place you orders for garlic king prawns, calamari or fajita platters. The staff will even rustle up cocktails for the Mixmag and Dazed posse – perhaps a CoCo caipirinha or pear crumble.

Bars
SkyLounge at DoubleTree by Hilton Tower of London

SkyLounge at DoubleTree by Hilton Tower of London

7 Pepys Street, London, EC3N 4AF

In any other location, this hotel's bland boxy bar would be unmemorable, but the 12th-floor lounge's 360-degree panorama of historic London and its modern skyline is a mesmeric sight. Against such a dramatic backdrop, Skylounge's extensive twin decked terraces are a picture-perfect spot to enjoy sun-soaked lunches and seasonal cocktails that twist the classics. Tawny port and a splash of Prosecco inform American Hustle (a Woodford Reserve Manhattan), Sky at Night (a vodka and sloe gin cup) is a fair summer cooler, while Marshmallow Alexander is a wintry sweet treat. Elsewhere, mezcal-based The Last of the Oaxacans is a fine fix for all seasons. Regular pop-up bars and rum shacks add a blast of colour, and DJs play at Ibiza-style chill-out sessions. Blankets and heaters are on hand should Mother Nature try to spoil the party.

British
Sushisamba (bar)

Sushisamba (bar)

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate (38th floor), London, EC2N 4AY

From the moment the glass-box express lift whisks you 38 floors up the face of Heron Tower, this cocky Japanese/Latino fusion pile screams ‘Las Vegas’ – a vision of slick selfie-stick perfection and pizzazz aimed at the big-money crowd. The later the hour, the louder the DJs and the livelier the scene as booze-fuelled high rollers ramp up the party vibe. To drink, investigate Asian-inspired takes on the classics: a Gimlet doctored with coconut and kaffir leaf, a Martini involving Grey Goose La Poire Nashi or a Negroni manqué made with Hibiki Japanese whisky and plum liqueur. If the latter doesn't warm you up, the fire pits and snuggly blankets on the breezy sky terrace should do the trick. With its centrepiece alfresco bar under the flame and metallic leaf canopy of a giant tree sculpture, this is a soothing sanctuary away from the mayhem.

Bars
Nobu Shoreditch (bar)

Nobu Shoreditch (bar)

10-50 Willow Street, London, EC2A 4BH

Nobu’s strikingly modern new Shoreditch hotel has a choice of two drinking options. If you’re hoping for meaningful conversation, aim for the ground-floor Lobby Bar, a positively Zen proposition compared to the nightclubby tumult of the hotel restaurant’s bunker behemoth lounge bar. Done out in Nikkei-NY-Lon-style – all sleek natural woods, and a butch zig-zagging bar – this also includes a rather austere terraced courtyard. There is, however, nothing austere about the range of haute French fizz that kicks off with Veuve Clicquot by the flute, and a long list of classy wines; quality saké, exclusive to Nobu; and notable Japanese whiskies. Un-greedily priced cocktails on an East-meets-West theme are grouped by intensity and style. Try the light and refreshing Romeo & Juliet (a cucumber rose and lime Ramsbury Wiltshire gin cooler). Bar food comprises Wagyu sliders, and as you’d expect of Nobu, fishy fabness: lobster tofu or rock shrimp bun, say. 

Bars
Radio Rooftop

Radio Rooftop

ME London Hotel, 336-337 The Strand, London, London, WC2R 1HA

Impossibly glamorous (and sometimes impossible to get into if you haven't booked) the exclusive rooftop bar at ME London piles on the wow factor with its minimalist monochrome decor and views over the City skyline. On warm days, the prime spots are the white leather sofas by the rooftop edge: perfect for alfresco posing. House cocktails run from the Mexican (a refreshing blend of El Jimador Tequila, cucumber, mint and agave) to South Pacific (Leblon cachaça, kiwi, elderflower and apple juice), while the Champagne list is reassuringly extensive (and expensive), with bottles of Bolly for £100 and jeroboams of Cristal 1999 weighing in at a cool £5,000. Meanwhile, aficionados can pair Cognac or whisky with a Montecristo No.4 from the cigar menu. Daytime eats include risottos, salads and burgers, with dainty tapas on offer when the lights go down.

Mediterranean
Bars
Afternoon tea
Anise

Anise

9 Devonshire Square, London, EC2M 4YL

Indian culinary star Vivek Singh's standalone cocktail lounge next door to Cinnamon Kitchen is a City hotspot, popular for office celebrations, first dates and after-work bashes. Its vision of spice-toned comfort is more modern-day Mumbai than Bollywood bling, but its tailor-made for indulging in Instagram-pretty east-meets-west cocktails with names like Emerald Elephant and Mystical Journey. If Rose Pink Sari and Lady Yang (a lychee and lavender-foamed vodka Martini available by the glass or pitcher) sound a touch too camp, the bartender will happily knock out a bourbon-based White Bullet or a hair-raising Chilli Black Mango (whisky, fireball, mango juice and spicy vanilla sugar topped with dried mango and a hint of black pepper). Reasonable prices extend to the roster of affordable 'bazaar street food' – think hot-and-sweet shrimp skewers, KFC (Kerala fried chicken) or grilled aubergine with sesame and peanut crumble

Bars
Boisdale of Canary Wharf (Bar)

Boisdale of Canary Wharf (Bar)

Cabot Place West, London, E14 4QT

Don’t be deceived by the tiny entrance of this Caledonian outpost: follow the tartan carpet to an enormous first-floor expanse and breathe in cigar smoke on the terrace overlooking Cabot Square’s fountains. Then ascend again to another vast dining room and a long bar, replete with whiskies. The selection of Scotch whisky is among London’s finest; ask the friendly, knowledgeable bar staff for recommendations. Otherwise, choose something from the well-priced, mainly European wine list, sit back and relish the vivacious atmosphere.

Bars
OXO Tower Bar

OXO Tower Bar

Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, London, London, SE1 9PH

What’s not to love about the OXO Tower Bar at Harvey Nichols’ towering success on the river? Here you’ll find plausible cocktails, beef kimchi sliders, vegetable dim sum with ponzu, and grilled squid with a chilli rouille (£8.50). But the clincher is the postcard-perfect panorama of tourist London (including St Paul’s), seen across the water from the eighth-floor vantage point. Tables can be booked, with seating on curvaceous cream armchairs, but some places are saved for walk-ins until capacity is reached. The drawbacks? Well, 11pm on weekdays and midnight at weekends are ridiculously early closing times. We want to enjoy cherry Manhattans like they do in Manhattan, at an hour when others are fast asleep; and to have the option of ordering Dusk ’til Dawn (Ilegal mezcal, Cocchi, Punt e Mes vermouth and Lagavulin 16 whisky) from dusk to dawn.

Bars
Bo¯kan at Novotel Canary Wharf

Bo¯kan at Novotel Canary Wharf

Novotel Canary Wharf, 40 Marsh Wall , London, E14 9TP

This three-floor, sky-high restaurant and bar is far sexier than its Novotel wrapper suggests. In contrast to the cheery primary colours of the hotel’s foyer, Bo¯kan is an understated, dimly-lit evening destination which takes its design cues from the Dockland’s rusty, industrial past. Floor 39 is home to a large alfresco drinking terrace and whisky-focussed bar, while below is another bar where you’ll find a lengthy cocktail list. Cheaper than many of London’s other high-rise bars, we found the seaweed-garnished Wharfinger cocktail (cognac, mastic liqueur, bitters and vermouth) to be just as well-made as its Central London rivals. The kitchen is the domain of French chef Aurelie Altemaire, who spent a decade at Joël Robuchon working her way up to head chef. Touches of her home country can be detected across the international menu, from oysters with chanterelle mushrooms and a whole crispy squid stuffed with ratatouille, to its predilection for cheese and charcuterie. We particularly enjoyed the beef tartare, dotted with colourful and peppy sauces and imbued with welcome crispness via shards of sesame brittle. Prices are fair considering the restaurant’s altitude, although the super-polite service was occasionally slow on our visit. The wine list is overly fussy in its organisation, but an obvious effort has been made to provide interest and quality – something we would apply to Bo¯kan as a whole.

£50 - £79
Bars
International
Coq d

Coq d'Argent (bar)

1 Poultry, London, EC2R 8EJ

Manicured lawns, topiary, wisteria-clad cloisters and an alfresco bar make this memorable rooftop garden a shoo-in for summer drinking. Covered and heated against autumn’s chills – with a further bar indoors – D&D London's fine-plumed silver Coq has plenty to crow about whatever the weather. Cool down with first-rate fizzes, rum iced tea, a dozen different G&Ts, Italian spritzes, virgin Coladas and classy wines from under £25 a bottle; alternatively, dip into a line-up of vodka sours involving lavender, pisco and plum, apricot and Earl Grey, or sip a variant made with bourbon and saffron. By contrast, winter warmers include first-class flights of three whiskies (from £17.50) from a creditable collection of malts – all served in the après-ski chalet setting of the seasonal Lodge d’Argent. Snacks cover everything from oysters and escargots to grilled vegetable brochettes, prawn tempura, garlic-baked Camembert, hot wings and charcuterie boards.

Bars
Bluebird Café & Courtyard

Bluebird Café & Courtyard

350 King's Road, London, SW3 5UU

A second home for local celebs and self-made women, who come here to discuss business and affairs of the heart over eggs Benedict and Caesar salad, the café attached to D&D London’s Bluebird gastrodome has become something of an institution hereabouts. The bright, airy dining room combines primary colours with a mishmash of chairs and modish lights, plus oddball displays of ornamental plates, while the menu offers solid all-round appeal. Apart from eggs every which way, breakfast promises sticky patisserie, things on toast and bowls of house granola, with savouries talking centre stage from midday onwards: look for charcuterie plates, fish-finger rolls, char-grilled burgers and big helpings of shepherd’s pie or pasta, followed by rice pudding, knickerbocker glory and ice creams for those with a sweet tooth. To sip, order a glass of bubbly, a bellini or a citron pressé.

£30 - £49
Cafes
Aqua Spirit

Aqua Spirit

Fifth Floor, 240 Regent Street (entrance 30 Argyll Street), London, W1B 3BR

Although they’re increasingly common in other parts of town, rooftop bars are as rare as prolonged sunny spells in Soho – which makes Aqua Spirit’s open-air chill-out a poseur's paradise for blue-sky drinkers. Frequently themed according to the season, its terraces and cocktails are as smartly turned out as the venue’s fashion-conscious clientele: in 2016, the autumn highlight was the Hanging Gardens of Kyoto, a cute installation that followed hot on the Louboutin heels of summer's Veuve Clicquot Rosé garden. When the weather inevitably throws a tantrum, shelter indoors at the carousel bar, retreat to one of the kimono silk-lined booths and get stuck into a list of east-west Daiquiris, Saketinis and Shanghai-style classics such as Nippon Negroni, plus some Eurasian street food. Prices are more haute couture than bargain basement in this new incarnation of Dickins & Jones department store.

 

Bars
The Rooftop at The Trafalgar Hotel

The Rooftop at The Trafalgar Hotel

Trafalgar Hotel, 2 Spring Gardens, London, SW1A 2TS

With its picture-postcard views of Trafalgar Square below and the city’s skyline beyond, The Rooftop is The Trafalgar St James Hotel’s crowning glory. The previous venue, Vista, has been swept away, replaced by a smart, all-weather, south-facing alfresco bar and kitchen – a rendezvous that deserves to attract Londoners and tourists. Cocktails are key here. Loll on cushion-strewn banquettes over classic sundowners Sidecar and Aviation, or any of a dozen signatures. Skyline (pink grapefruit, raspberry and lavender bitters and pisco) is a swell Sour, while a bourbon, apple and tea syrup Taittinger Champagne cocktail is certainly our idea of ‘Teatime’. There’s a useful selection of wines by the glass, plus Asian-style bar bites: grilled Korean beef brochettes, perhaps, or octopus, whipped cod roe and mushroom tempura. Yuzu and lime meringue tart is one of a trio of sweets at this much-improved skybar that also incorporates a 14-seater glass boardroom for hire.

 

Bars
The Driver

The Driver

2-4 Wharfdale Road, London, N1 9RY

Ostensibly a members’ club – but open to all – The Driver is a genuine all-rounder aimed at the King’s Cross media crowd & local trendies. The huge designer-driven site boasts no fewer than five floors of high-style pleasure, moving skywards from a wooden-floored boozer at street level to a classy, bijou rooftop bar. The menu served in the grown-up dining room plays it straight, & consistent standards make it a good fit for client dining. Moules marinière might start proceedings, ahead of honest-to-goodness beer-battered cod & chips or even a recherché antelope & Guinness pie. Sunday brings a choice of roasts, while summer rooftop BBQs are priced at £20/£25 a head, depending on how deluxe you go. Other floors yield wackily designed spaces for lounging, dancing & general partying throughout the week.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Ham Yard Bar at Ham Yard Hotel

Ham Yard Bar at Ham Yard Hotel

One Ham Yard, London, W1D 7DT

Whether you're warming up before a trip to the theatre or simply chilling on the terrace with something suitably intoxicating, the bar at this boutique Soho hotel is a "buzzy fun place with good service". As a chic, urbane oasis, it combines spicy tones and jazzy 1950s graphics with a thoroughly upbeat drinks list – think modern wines by the glass or carafe, fizz from small producers and plenty of zingy cocktails. We like the sound of Rosemary Vesper, and Black Mamba (Portobello Road gin, homemade spiced blackberry coulis, lemon and honey), as well as the Smoke 'n' Bubbles (mezcal, agave, lime and Champagne). If you fancy a nibble, pick from various melts, sliders and small plates (beer-battered oysters, for example) – plus 'profitabombes' such as pistachio custard, white chocolate and orange brittle for those of a sweet disposition.

Bars
Little Bird Chiswick

Little Bird Chiswick

1 Station Parade, Burlington Lane, London, W4 3HD

If this sweet cocktail lounge were in the West End rather than deep in leafy Chiswick, there’d be queues outside for a table. In the wrong hands, tiki can look tacky, but here a Polynesian/Californian-inspired interior – a mismatch of jungle succulents, jingly-jangly prints, jumble-sale kitsch and covetable retro and rattan furniture – is an exercise in how to nail 1950s beachcomber boho with panache. Priced £9-£11, house cocktails might include Salted Caramel Vodkatini, Raspberry Flirtini and Little Bird’s eponymous signature (a tropical sparkler made with vanilla and ginger-infused rum, passion fruit, cassis and French fizz). Graze on elegantly presented small plates in the charming sun-trap patio garden: Angus beef sliders; charred cauliflower with red pesto and sour cream; tuna tartare, avocado and corn chips; cherry and bitter chocolate profiteroles; or coconut pannacotta with pineapple salsa.

Bars
Golden Bee

Golden Bee

Singer Street, London, EC1V 9DD

A covered all-year roof terrace, regular alfresco classic film screenings, generous happy hours and weekend house parties for sharp-dressing honeys are among the reasons to make a beeline for this buzzy mid-market hive. You can also retreat to the main bar (one floor below) for well-constructed drinks including Pear Mojito, Lychee Rose Martini and the signature Golden Bee (a tropical cooler made with Jose Cuervo Reposado Tequila, banana liqueur and apple). Otherwise, Champagne zooms all the way from house Moët & Chandon (£60) to astronomical 2007 Cristal rosé, while bottled hooch and mixers start from £120 – as the cost of your cocktail is driven by its base spirit, you'll need to order carefully if you want to avoid being stung in the pocket. To eat, sharing platters (sushi etc) can be ordered in advance.

Bars