We've rounded 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 – and even a couple for their water features. We’ve organised them by compass points (North, South, East and West), or for a quick and easy overview, check out London's best beer gardens – ‘the map’.
Best beer gardens in North London
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
69 Stoke Newington High St, N16 8EL
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