London's best beer gardens

Our pick of the city's best pubs with outdoor spaces – perfect for summery, sun-soaked supping

© Jonathan Perugia

We've rounded up London's best beer gardens, some included for their bucolic atmosphere and fine foliage, some for their summery drinks or irresistible barbecue food, some for their riverside locations (although we also have those covered in our guide to London's best riverside pubs and bars) – and even a couple for their water features. We’ve organised them by north, south, east and west (and no, there aren't any good beer gardens in central London) so you can easily track down your nearest alfresco supping spot. 

RECOMMENDED: Outdoor London

The best beer gardens in north London

Canonbury

A regular haunt of local resident George Orwell (who moved to 27b Canonbury Square in 1944), this was one of three pubs to provide him with inspiration for ‘Moon Under Water’, an essay on the criteria for the perfect London watering hole. But don’t come here expecting a period pub – inside and out, it’s now a study in modern Brit minimalism. In the walled garden, you can lounge on designer rattan sofas, all dark weaves and tight angles, while sipping a chilled draft Peroni from the outdoor bar (which also serves cold bottled beers plus a handful of wines and spirits). Need to silence a hunger? The full length of the smart menu (pork and pistachio terrine; lamb burgers; venison casserole) is available to eat in the glorious outdoors.

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Highbury

The Albion

Halfway between Upper Street and the Caledonian Road, this Georgian boozer has an olde-worlde English charm entirely in keeping with its name. It’s far enough from the main thoroughfares to ensure there’s barely a whisper of traffic noise to be heard at the wooden tables in the walled beer garden, with its trees and colourful flowers. Beer-drinkers usually have a few options on draught, there’s a short list of summery cocktails, and the quality wine list complements a menu speckled with British ingredients.

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Alwyne Castle

There’s plenty of space for alfresco quaffing in an enormous front garden that spills down the sides of this friendly pub. You can sop up the booze with summer barbecues (weather permitting), as well as upmarket gastro-grub from the indoor kitchen. Looking out on to a main Islington artery, the garden remains inescapably ‘urban’, though a recent facelift has seen a verdant injection of new foliage. What’s more, there’s plenty of capacity (the garden can hold 300), around a dozen lagers plus a few ciders and ales on tap (including a regularly-changing guest ale).

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Highbury

Earl of Essex

On a summer’s day, head to the walled rear garden of this Islington pub and bask in the evening sun. The original design had neo-classical leanings, seen in the Roman-style flooring (big paving slabs interspersed with smaller stones) and collection of stone pots. But nowadays, the pots are planted with hops, there’s bunting overhead, a hodge-podge of picnic tables and wooden furniture, and a vibe that’s friendly and informal. The main menu does a good line in posh sarnies and proper pub grub or you’ll sometimes find a laid-back barbecue on offer. Just not on Sundays, when the hugely popular roast is what’s on everyone’s mind.

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Islington

The Edinboro Castle

The rather small interior of this lively Camden institution gives way to a fair-sized outdoor area, with high walls and an array of foliage giving it a real garden feel despite being hemmed in by a busy road and a railway line. If the weather’s dreary, you can grab one of the cosy side tables with their heaters, or shelter under the convenient mini-marquee and admire the fairy lights. The garden can get rammed with Regent’s Park-goers and cool Camden types when the sun shines, especially if there’s a barbecue or hog roast on, which leads to our only grumble – sometimes the service fails to keep up with the crowds.

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Camden

Faltering Fullback

While there are definitely bigger beer gardens to be found in the capital, the outdoor space at this well-loved, ivy-covered local is certainly one of the cleverest. Faced with the difficulty of only having a small yard, the owners built upwards – creating a tiered village from decking, with room on the various split levels for several tables. It’s an early afternoon suntrap in which to sip a cold lager, from a mainstream bar that includes the likes of Amstel, Heineken and Leffe. In keeping with the exotic-themed surrounds, the cooking (from the indoor kitchen, served in the evening only) is of the Thai street food variety: think stir-fries, curries and noodles.

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Finsbury Park

Garden Gate

On the edge of Hampstead Heath just twenty yards down from the train station, the Garden Gate is a lively local with a lovely big garden that’s well endowed with greenery. Should, heaven forbid, it ever get chilly, shelter can be sought under an extended undercover area – heated and furnished too – that hosts weekend barbecues through the summer and the occasional hog roast. Ask for cask and you’ll be offered the choice of London Pride and four ales changed at least weekly.

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Belsize Park

Junction Tavern

Regular visits prove the Junction Tavern to be a reliable source of good (sometimes outstanding) gastropub food at extremely reasonable prices. In fine weather, the secluded paved garden, with its dozen-odd picnic tables, makes a wonderful place to enjoy the full run of the a la carte. In 2013, it was taken over by Kentish Town local and experienced publican Ben McDonald.

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Tufnell Park

Stag

Nowadays, the Stag attracts a young, laid-back crowd, drawn to the large selection of decent ales (around half a dozen of which are on tap) and spacious rear garden, with its leafy displays, outdoor heaters and covered areas – all of which offer table service, so there’s no need to queue at the bar. Eight Ibiza-esque private cabanas around the periphery of the garden (which can be booked in advance) further enhance the holiday vibe, as does accoustic music (check their website for exact times). The barbecue menu (usually available on Friday evenings and weekends from noon) might include grilled chicken, lamb burgers, sausage hot dogs, although there’s no venison – the deer connection ends with the name.

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Belsize Park

White Hart

In chillier weather, this spacious Stokey boozer – owned by quirky pub group Antic – should appeal to fans of Trivial Pursuit’s orange wedge (that’s ‘Sport and Leisure’, in case you’d forgotten), given that it offers everything from football on the telly to old-school pinball machines and a large pool table. Come summer though, the garden becomes the space for ‘leisure’, with two tiers (one patio, one lawned) offering ample space for locals to recline, relax and refresh themselves (from the outdoor bar, which comes stocked with cold bottles and sometimes one on-tap beer).

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Stoke Newington

The best beer gardens in east London

People's Park Tavern

One minute it was an everyday boozer, the next it had become a forward-thinking microbrewing gastropub destination. But the real appeal of the pub formerly known as the Britannia is its lush beer garden backing on to the vast Victoria Park, with an outdoor kitchen and a fantastic selection of drinks. It offers all the benefits of drinking in the park without looking like a derelict, accidentally tripping up an angry red-faced jogger or wandering around looking for a loo.

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Victoria Park

Nags Head

Located in the more salubrious part of Walthamstow, the Nag’s Head could hardly be more accommodating, hosting everything from jazz and folk sessions to the odd vintage pop-up shop upstairs. For your alfresco entertainment, there are a few tables in front, and plenty more in the back garden, with heaters and a couple of awnings against the inevitable showers. The pub brims with good beer: there’s an assortment of English ales (Timothy Taylor Landlord, St Austell Tribute and the Oscar Wilde Mild are regulars), and a flurry of Belgian fruit beers in the summer – of which the Mongozo coconut beer is the most adventurous or, depending on your point of view, ill-advised.

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Walthamstow

Prospect of Whitby

It might seem odd to visit a stone-flagged, pewter-countered ye-olde watering hole when the sun is bright, but head through the darkly wooded interior and there’s a paved beer garden under a weeping tree, right alongside the Thames. A reorganisation a couple of years back also opened up a small first-floor terrace, open to the bracing salt breezes. Inside, there’s a basic selection of standard pub grub (ham, egg and chips; lasagne; bangers and mash) and a handful of cask ales to choose from as you ponder the nearly five centuries of seriously sinister shenanigans of the swashbuckling, smuggling and gangstering sort witnessed by this venerable boozer.

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Tower Hamlets

Scolt Head

In a corner of Hackney where pool tables and a giant TV were until recently a prerequisite for survival, the former Sussex Arms did well out of its smartening up: out went the carpets and scruffier furniture and in came a more aspirational clientele, but it still manages to feel like a good old-fashioned pub. In summer, the best place to enjoy it from is the small, fenced beer garden, settled in the fork of roads in the front. Bad weather? Out comes the ‘jumbrella’, a squared-off parasol that covers half the garden. Rain or shine, sustain yourself with well-priced ales; a brief but thoughtful wine list; and good, fairly priced British food, stretching from carefully sourced gastropubby mains to own-made sausage rolls and epic, softball-sized scotch eggs.

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North East London

Water Poet

Truth be told, the space out the back of this trendy twist on a traditional boozer is less ‘garden’ and more ‘yard’, but it remains one of the few places to soak up the sun near the City. Attracting a mix of open-collared suits and a Shoreditch/Spitalfields crowd, the Water Poet boasts a sheltered spot in which to sip a pint of Landlord or Truman’s Runner. The barbecue is typically in action weekdays from the late afternoon, with a hog roast firing up on some Saturdays – weather permitting, of course.

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Spitalfields

Crate Brewery

Hackney Wick may be a hinterland of former industrial warehouses, but perched on the River Lea is a welcoming space filled with people, noise, pizza and beer. Crate serves up its own fine microbrews right by the water – and if you’re lucky, you can even sit in one of their rowing boats. A pleasant enough experience when sober, but a little dicey when sozzled. You have been warned.

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Olympic Park

Crooked Billet

Clapton is transforming quicker than Katy Perry doing a costume change, but the refurbed Crooked Billet remains a place for all E5-ers to enjoy. When the mercury rises its massive garden becomes a big boozy playground: there’s a food truck, beach-hut booths for groups, a ping-pong table and loads of plants and deckchairs for that Clapton-on-Sea feel. Grab a locally brewed beer, slap on a ‘kiss me quick’ hat and reveal your knobbly Hacknees.

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Clapton

The best beer gardens in south London

The Castle

The Castle has been home to a public house since 1832, although its newly revamped decor (2014) is anything but 19th century. The new garden - where a car park used to be – was added in summer 2014. It has various outdoor seating areas including cabana-style huts and outdoor heating on demand. The menu holds few surprises - burgers, pies, roast meats, fish and chips. Our chicken, ham and leek pie was standard pub fare, served with mash and a tiny and superfluous  saucepan of gravy. The main attraction here is undoubtedly the garden, though the Meantime brews (it's a Young's pub) are also worth investigation.

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Tooting

Avalon

Why settle for one when you can have three? The Avalon’s alfresco options comprise front and side terraces (the latter used for private barbecues) and, in the rear, a proper garden – huge, beautifully landscaped and full of families come the good weather. The pub also serves perfectly well as a comfortable pub with nice sofas, a heated outdoor smoking area, and smart dining area. There’s always a decent selection of real ales and they’ve introduced some long cocktails for summer sippin’.

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South West London

County Arms

In operation since 1852, the County Arms is a big, stately lump of a pub, dominating the north end of the Trinity Road dual carriageway. Within it is mostly winter-cosy mirrors, fireplaces, armchairs and leather sofas, with gastropub nosh and half a dozen Young’s ales on draught, usually plus a couple of guest handpulls. Out in the refurbished beer garden, there’s now a dedicated summer barbecue station manned by a young but eager team. But the real attraction is just to be able to sit outside, with the purr of traffic from Trinity Road far enough away (just) to get a little peace. Take note that Wandsworth Prison is just round the corner, in case any of your family, friends, or work colleagues in the City are currently doing time.

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South West London

Crown & Greyhound

This gigantic Dulwich Village pub ticks the beer garden box not once, nor twice… but thrice. The big, blooming back garden is divided into two tiers, one shadier than the other; while out front there’s a tidy patio area. The pub really comes into its own for lunchtime summer barbecues, served from a covered grill area, so rain isn’t a problem. Elsewhere, there’s a classic pub menu plus a handful of cask ale pumps (including at least one regularly changing guest brewery).

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Dulwich

Devonshire

Since the untimely demise of Avalon's summer barbecues, the Devonshire has become the Balham grill of choice. Sprawling though this Young’s outfit might be, it’s also attractive since the refurb a few years ago. The open-plan indoor area is done out with contemporary sofas and banquettes, so it feels both lived-in and looked after. As for the clean-lined rear terrace, you’ll need to arrive early to bag a plum spot. The posh barbecue runs most summer evenings (though call ahead to check), as well as an all day on weekends. The beer list you can imagine, but the wine list is long for a Young’s pub.

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Balham

Dolphin

Not far from Sydenham rail station, the Dolphin is a striking 1930s mock Tudor building, given a proper refurb a few years back. There are a handful of ales at the pumps (plus a weekly guest) and a range of solid pub grub to eat. But the real reason to visit is out back. There you’ll find a spacious and peaceful garden, a formal criss-cross of box, privet and gravel around a central water sculpture, edged by apple trees. Unlike so many large pub gardens, it doesn’t include a play area – a deliberate decision to maintain the space ‘for adults’. Children are permitted, but must remain seated (or at the very least, be supervised). 

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Sydenham

Florence

This spacious local does summer stuff well. The beer garden not only has its own dedicated bar, serving a shorter range of the tap selection indoors (usually a couple of their own microbrews, an Adnams and a guest), but has a children’s ‘playroom’, perfectly meeting their family demographic with soft toys, books and DVDs for unsupervised play. For the grown-ups, there are plenty of tables on the decking at which to enjoy the superb selection of beers and an original, affordable food menu.

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Herne Hill

Grand Union

Part of the Grand Union pub chain, this gentrified bar-cum-boozer on the border between Clapham and Brixton was previously known as the Hope and Anchor. Nowadays, it offers a typical line-up of gluggable wines, beers and cocktails, alongside an all-pleasing menu of burgers and pizzas. Come summer, the 300-seater beer garden is a big draw, with good-value Sunday barbecues.

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Clapham

Guildford Arms

Inside is more restaurant than pub, but the garden is a beauty. The secluded space has terraces, lawn, plants, mature trees, tables and lighting, and is one of the best spots in south-east London to drink outdoors. A seasonal beer from the nearby Meantime Brewery is just the thing to quench a summer thirst, though there’s table service should you prefer the longer range of drinks from the main bar. Soak it up with something from the compact gastropub menu or the classy weekend barbecue.

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South East London

Rosendale

Renaissance Pubs has a reputation for providing great gardens in its south London venues (the Avalon in Balham is notably good), and the Rosendale lives up to the promise. As well as a few umbrella-covered tables out the front, there's a secluded side garden (complete with a boules pitch, table tennis and table football), and a larger, landscaped one at the back with a children's play area (which has just been extended to include a new slide and climbing frame). Table service keeps things civilised, with food from the posh pub grub à la carte or own-made artisan pizzas fresh from the pizza oven (installed in spring 2013). A cold pint of Tommy (from local Herne Hill brewery A Head in a Hat), completes the picture.

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Dulwich

Ship

Popular with large groups (especially rugby fans), the Ship’s huge decked garden had a 2013 revamp, introducing, among other features, three bookable seating booths with cushions and heaters. As before, there are dedicated outdoor bars and an all-day weekend barbecue menu (which typically has gourmet leanings). What’s more, the terrifyingly loud PA has been replaced with a new mobile-based system, which sends you a text when your food is ready. Peace at last. Well, if the rugger buggers aren’t bellowing.

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Wandsworth

The best beer gardens in west London

Aragon House

This handsome Parsons Green public house is well known for its smart and spacious beer garden (not to mention its smart crowd: they don’t call it 'arrogant house' for nothing). A line-up of crowd-pleasing beers, plus cider, Sharps Doom Bar and a regularly-changing guest ale, is one attraction, as is the popular summer barbecue.

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Fulham

Crabtree

On a fine stretch of riverbank between Hammersmith and Putney bridges, in shouting distance of the Michael Jackson statue at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, this big Victorian boozer was gastrofied a couple of years back. On a sunny day locals can be found in their droves enjoying some of the nicest waterside drinking in the city, a gorgeous, gigantic beer garden bedecked in wood and stylish shrubbery. The seats under the weeping willow deserve especial mention. Inside, at a big lounge bar furnished with deep leather banquettes, weighty wooden tables and a smattering of stools you can sup a daily-changing roster of ales, or a couple of ciders. 

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West London

Eagle

The Eagle on the fringes of Ravenscourt Park is a great escape. It’s a Geronimo Inns establishment, so the wine list is well chosen, the interiors are luxurious and the grub is reliably good. The star, however, is the back garden – a vast lawn for stretching out on beanbags on a summer’s day, swing chairs for couples to sway at sunset, and tables for dinners with friends. At weekends on warm days the garden bar is open and the barbecue gets fired up.

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West London

Drayton Court

The Drayton Court Hotel is really a pub with rooms (albeit 27 rooms), so don’t feel like you need to be an overnight guest to enjoy drinks here. Come summer, the huge landscaped gardens come into their own, offering ample seating on picnic tables set either over the verdant groomed lawns, or over a stylish decked area. Lagers and ales come courtesy of Fuller’s (who own the building), and there is a perfectly pleasant range of pubby food if you’re hungry.
 

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Ealing

Old Ship

The tree-fringed deck, overlooking the languid curves of the Thames, is probably one of London’s best spots for getting a cold-one outside. There’s an appealing selection of simple pubby food but the big attraction in summer are the barbecues, held every weekend, weather permitting. The alfresco area is split into a fully covered, heated terrace, and a more open balcony. There’s also a less formal section featuring ten picnic tables.

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West London

Stein's

This is a leafy, lederhosen-slapping, stein-swaying, pretzel-munching Bavarian beer garden perched right on the Richmond riverside overlooking the Thames. A selection of unfeasibly large sausages is the ‘wurst’ they can do, while the Bavarian beers, available in towering 1 litre steins, include the golden Helles from Paulaner, Erdinger weissbier and, in bottle, the delectable dark Erdinger Dunkelweiss. There’s a small children’s play area too. In spring and summer, if the weather’s good, it’s open noon until 10pm daily. There’s a branch at Kingston (again, overlooking the Thames), too, that’s open even later.

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Richmond, Surrey

Swan

Sweltering in central London? Then jump on the 94 bus heading west and don’t get off until it stops. Within seconds, you can be sitting in the dappled light of The Swan’s lush and leafy 30-table garden sipping well-kept cask ales from one of Chiswick’s best-kept secrets. As the local hero, Fuller’s ales are ever-present at the pumps. Table service keeps things civilised, as does the tempting gastropub menu. There’s a strong wine list too, and super-friendly staff.

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Acton Green

White Horse

Perched on the corner of Parson’s Green, this popular pub takes barbecuing seriously. Every summer weekend from noon (plus sunny weekdays from 6pm), the pavement jams with eager drinkers queuing to rip into char-grilled burgers and sausages. Alternatively, there’s gastropubby food from the kitchen. There’s limited outdoor seating (with only 16 tables), but at least heaters and brollies help guard from inclement weather.

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Parsons Green

White Swan

The interior of the White Swan has seen better days, but this doesn’t matter. You’ll be sitting outside at one of the dozen or so picnic tables across the road on the sun-drenched riverside terrace with the Thames lapping at the slipways either side of you, and views of boaters and weeping willows stretching either way. On the pub’s terrace, a gas-fired barbecue does simple barbie dishes on sunny weekends. Cold refreshments include Peroni, Asahi and Orchard’s cider, while the regular ale (Sharp’s Doom Bar) is supplemented by four regularly-changing guests.

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Twickenham, Middx

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By: Time Out Eating & Drinking

Comments

23 comments
Brendon S
Brendon S

Red Lion Leytonstone, massive outside area.... turns outside cinema.

Chris G
Chris G

Having been to a number of the pubs on the list, I would urge anyone in deep zone 4 SE to check out the Bridge House, right next to Penge West on the overground and by an entrance to Crystal Palace park.


It has a 2-tier split level open air garden which is awesome for the summer. Plenty of big dogs to stroke and a wide range of ales on tap. Crackin food too as it goes.


IMHO this boozer is a hidden gem. 

MiruPotop
MiruPotop

New Cross House in New Cross, SE14.

iainh
iainh

Now London's most overcrowded beer gardens.

ginglesnuff
ginglesnuff

How is the crown and shuttle not on here?!

Andy H
Andy H

Some good boozers. That said I have no idea how the County Arms in Wandsworth got onto the list. It's basically a pretty mediocre pub - with particularly poor food - that has simply been tarted up. There are several better places in the area.

David E
David E

Anywhere central...? A hidden oasis that I have overlooked...?

Clémence R
Clémence R

What about the White Rabbit in Stoke Newington?? It would be more appropriate to call it a cocktail garden but still, so much outdoor space that feels like we're in Wonderland, sipping some "drink me" beverage. Loving it.

Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell

Genuinely need to make a visit to the Duke of Edinburgh in Brixton. Off the busy high street, one would walk past in a hurry from the outside but once you go in you see a nice indoors, however it is the beer garden in the back that really impresses. Always busy on the weekends and the BBQ also provides amazing food for those that get hungry.

Kathy
Kathy

I'm shocked Gypsy Moth at Cutty Sark, Maritime Greenwich hasnt been mentioned, most scenic beer garden you can get with the contrast of the old repaired cutty sark boat looming next to the bench's and canary wharf in the background, The sunset on a lazy sunday evening is AMAZING!!

Dave
Dave

Avoid that 'Avalon' place in Balham. Not a place for a quiet drink in an over manufactured garden. The clientele are also very up themselves.

Peeb Rewer
Peeb Rewer

Dulwich Wood House has got to be up there. Walk through Sydenham Woods on a summers eve. What's the problem with you guys never getting further south than Brixton?

Jo
Jo

The Marlborough in Richmond and The Ship in Wandsworth have great beer gardens!

johnson
johnson

was just about to say the garden and grill but topbanana beat me to it! ah well, I'll say it again!

Dean
Dean

Henry.J.Bean on Kings road has a massive secluded garden at the back that's well worth the try,

Milo
Milo

Missed a few around south and west London. the Ship by Wandsworth Bridge is an absolute gem, over looking the Thames, a popular spott on a sunny evening. the food is pretty decent too. The Castle Pub, Battersea High Street, possibly my all time favorite garden. (may have since closed down actually) Ye old White heart in Barnes, again, over looking the Thames, the garden is very basic, put the location is absolutely superb.

topbanana
topbanana

The Garden Bar & Grill, near Latimer Road tube, is outstanding (used to be called The Station)

Sharon
Sharon

In SE London, The Station in Hither Green has a great and very large beer garden (and all brand new - completely reopened last year). And for East Londoners the Red Lion in Leytonstone has a surprising amount of space out the back.

Howard
Howard

Worrabout the Freemason's Arms on Downshire Hill in Hampstead?

Cathy
Cathy

I think the 'Dulwich Wood House' should also have been included in the South list, near Crystal Palace. It has a FAB beer garden. We go there quite a lot, especially in the summer.. Quite big ,so can accommodate lots of people, and in a nice location. Great food and drinks also. This is there link: http://www.youngs.co.uk/pub-detail.asp?PubID=395&image=1