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 East London
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
White Building, Unit 7, Queens Yard, E9 5EN
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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