London's best outdoor dining
Discover London's best places to wine and dine outdoors
London has plenty of cafés, bars and restaurants that let you take it outside. Though for every rose-trimmed terrace there's a caff with tables plonked next to traffic lights – so it helps to know where the good ones are. Here's our area-by-area outdoor guide. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
The third-floor terrace at the Royal Opera House may not be well known to ordinary Londoners, but it’s actually open to the public most days (call first to check), and only surrendered to ticket holders come evening. The food comes courtesy of Company of Cooks caterers. Lunch prices start from £11 for mains and £7 for desserts.Views are impressive from both the indoor and alfresco areas: you dine opposite Covent Garden’s covered market, and the Eye can be seen over the rooftops.
- Royal Opera House, Bow Street, WC2E 9DD
The only thing better than getting a table inside this Exmouth market hotspot is getting one outside. You can request one of the 20-odd alfresco seats, but there are no guarantees, so arrive early to snag a plum spot. The three large communal tables, rough-hewn from reclaimed scaffolding, sit under a retractable awning, providing shelter should the heavens open – with the other four, you’ll just have to take your chances. There’s an extensive selection of deservedly popular small plates and a handful of mains. The vibe is laid-back, and service is invariably warm and sunny, even if the weather isn’t.
- 11-13 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QD
Although Clerkenwell Kitchen no longer takes bookings for its six outdoor tables, it’s still well worth trying your luck by just showing up. The alfresco area, in a quiet courtyard surrounded by tall office buildings, has a lovely flowerbed and perky sun umbrellas to enhance your enjoyment of the daily changing, seasonal, organic fare. The Kitchen is licensed (a glass of house wine costs £5.50), the service friendly and the atmosphere relaxed.
- 27 Clerkenwell Close, EC1R 0AT
If breathtaking panoramic views are high on your wish list, you can’t go far wrong with the Coq d’Argent. St Paul’s, the Gherkin, the Shard – they’re all in plain view from its large rooftop terrace, and on a clear day you can even see all the way out to Crystal Palace. The covered seating areas (one for the restaurant, one for the brasserie) each seat 50 and are open throughout most of the summer; for the exposed seating (a further two areas, each holding 70 diners), phone ahead to check availability.
- No.1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ
Anna Hansen’s Clerkenwell restaurant, situated in a magnificent Grade II-listed Georgian building, boasts 13 alfresco tables deployed on St John’s Square. Far enough from the noise and exhaust fumes of Clerkenwell Road but still close enough to people watch, this is a great option for a spot of outdoor dining, particularly now that tables have parasols to provide shade when called for. The globetrotting menu is particularly suited to dining in the sun – Hansen’s signature sugar-cured prawn omelette speaks of South-east Asian sunshine.
- 47-48 St John's Square, EC1V 4JJ
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