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Talk to the Chef Outdoor Dining
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

The 15 most sensational outdoor dining experiences in the world

Alfresco dining never looked so dreamy.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen

Last summer, in the throes of the pandemic, outdoor dining took off like never before. City streets around the world made way for sprawling patios, enchanting igloos and garden-ready greenhouses. There's no denying that alfresco dining provided a lifeline for restaurants that could no longer offer indoor seating.

As cities around the globe slowly spring back to life, patios and rooftops continue to be in high demand. It got us thinking: What are some of the most extraordinary outdoor dining experiences in the world? We turned to a panel of top chefs to find out. They shared unparalleled food memories from the archive, including a beachside dinner in Tulum, a sunrise breakfast in Kenya and a lively wedding celebration in Taiwan. 

Craving more insider insight from the world's best chefs? You're in the right place. Talk to the Chef! is a weekly food series that will tap into the minds of culinary leaders around the globe. The conversation changes just as often, and we'll chat with chefs about everything from podcasts and kitchen equipment to travel and trends.

The world's best outdoor dining experiences

1. Cooking paella in Spain

“In 2008, I filmed a series for Channel 4 called A Cook’s Tour of Spain. It was a magical two months spent travelling through the interior of Spain, foraging, picking and cooking in the outdoors. I particularly remember picking saffron with a saffron co-operative in a southern Spanish village and using it to make paella, which traditionally is only ever cooked outdoors over wood. It was a feast, eaten with a brilliant bunch of characters who were proper grafters, incredibly welcoming and utterly delightful. It was bliss.”—Thomasina Miers, founder of Wahaca in London

2. Nomade in Tulum

“The most memorable dining experience I ever had was on my honeymoon in Tulum. We were staying at Be Tulum and right next door, at Nomade, they had the most fantastic restaurant right on the beach. The food was spectacular, the mid-lunch beach dips were refreshing and the drinks were strong.”—Richard Zaro, owner of Cutlets Sandwich Co. in New York City


3. Camp eats in Egypt

“I was on a scuba diving excursion in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, and we went camping in the desert with Bedouins and they would make the most amazing meals for us over a fire with their makeshift outdoor kitchen. A typical meal they made for us would be traditional flatbread called Aish Baladi on an old oil drum lid over an open flame, grilled fish that they had caught that day on a skewer, fresh dates, goat milk cheese and always with egyptian hibiscus tea on the side.”Emily Yuen, executive chef of Bessou and Bessou at Time Out Market in New York City

4. Crawfish boils in New Orleans

“I’d have to say crawfish boils growing up in New Orleans are by far the most memorable. It’s a great time no matter who you’re with – friends, family or even complete strangers.”—Brian Jupiter, chef-owner of Ina Mae Tavern and Frontier in Chicago


5. ABaC Restaurant in Barcelona

“My most memorable outdoor experience was at ABaC Restaurant in Barcelona by chef Jordi Cruz Mas. The setting is a beautiful indoor-outdoor space, and we sat outdoors overlooking a beautifully manicured typical Catalonian garden with a huge contemporary piece of art made of steel, which took center stage. To top it all, chef Jordi’s cuisine made it even more of a memorable experience.”—Prashant Chipkar, executive chef and culinary director at Masti and chef at Time Out Market in Dubai

6. Asado in Argentina

“The most memorable outdoor dining experience I had was when I was 12 years old at my uncle’s field where he had his cattle. We had a great asado – we made a fire with wood and charcoal, and around the fire, we staked beef on metal crosses that roasted slowly for hours. And from time to time, we would brush the beef with salt and rosemary.”—Agustin Ferrando Balbi, chef-founder of Andō in Hong Kong


7. Sunrise breakfast in Kenya

“Breakfast at sunrise by the Mara river in the Serengeti Park in Kenya. I’ve never felt closer to nature, especially with a group of hippos bathing in front of us. The breakfast was simple, but the surroundings made it very special.”—Marwa Alkhalaf, chef-director of Nutshell in London

8. The Mussel Shoal in Cornwall

“I had a really great time at The Mussel Shoal in Porthleven, Cornwall. I was there on holiday with some friends who grew up there,and they took me to this lovely little place on the quay. It’s right on the harbour front and, if you book, they take you out on a pontoon to eat. It’s a dramatic dining experience, literally floating on the sea where the incredibly fresh seafood has come from.”James Cochran, chef-owner of 12:51 by Chef James Cochran in London


9. Grilling alfresco in South Africa

“One of the most amazing experiences I had with outdoor dining has to be when I was in South Africa with my kids. When we went, we were basically the only people at the safari hotel at that time, so we were able to engage a lot with each other and the awesome staff that was there. One evening for dinner, the chef told us he was going to grill for us and just started cooking all sorts of different meats outside. The best part for me was when my son decided to jump in and start helping him grill. It was such a great experience and a truly beautiful meal with my kids.”—Carlos Gaytan, chef-owner of Tzuco in Chicago

10. Casa Jondal in Ibiza

“My best outdoor dining experience was this summer at Casa Jondal located in Cala Jondal, Ibiza.  It is a magical place where you can enjoy a meal of the highest level from chef Rafa Zafra (also of Estimate and Heart) while you have your feet in the sand of a paradise beach.”—Albert Manso Miras, sous chef of Tickets Tapas Bar in Barcelona


11. Piazza Umberto in Capri

“Dining outside in the main square of Capri. Immediately after you get off the funicular from the dock, there are a few delicious cafés. Fresh seafood, simple pastas and local wine overlooking the Bay of Naples. Truly unforgettable.”—Tony Mantuano, chef-owner of Yolan in Nashville

12. Wedding celebrations in Taiwan

“The few times I have been able to experience an outdoor wedding banquet in Taiwan have just been so over the top. Think big, round communal tables, pink crockery and pink plastic tablecloths with lazy susans, laden full of delicious banquet dishes like lobster starter, jellied chicken, crab steamed glutinous rice and longevity peach baos. The atmosphere is buzzing – lots of toasting of drinks, live entertainment on stage, and colourful tarpaulins overhead. An amazing background to eating the most amazing food cooked by Banquet master chefs, watching them plate up in lightning speed and cooking in the outdoors.”Erchen Chang, owner of Bao in London


13. Beachside feast in Konkan

“My most memorable outdoor dining experience was at a shack on the beach in Konkan coast. The shack was made with dried laced coconut leaves, a few metres away from the sea. The fisherman brought back the catch of the day around late morning along with farmers that brought fresh local vegetables and greens. The cook would invite you to haggle and choose what we like to have for lunch, which was then cooked to order. It was a beautiful combination of mildly spiced with local ingredients like green mango, Kokum berries and fresh coconut. It’s as simple and authentic as it gets when it comes to Indian home cooking.”—Avi Shashidhara, head chef of Pali Hill in London

14. Rochelle’s Canteen in Shoreditch

“For me, you can’t beat a long lunch at Rochelle’s Canteen in Shoreditch. Housed in a converted school bike shed behind an unmarked door, it’s still tough to get a spot when the sun’s shining, so I like to go earlier in the week. It’s a little oasis in the city, the food is simple but executed perfectly, and they have a great wine list. It is the perfect place to while away an afternoon and take your mind off the hustle and bustle outside the courtyard walls.”—Max Venning, co-owner of Top Cuvée in London


15. Sunset dinner in Santorini

“The most memorable for me was at Oia in Santorini during the sunset with my girlfriend. The sunset is just mind-blowing and the food was very good.” —Nicolas Fagundes, sous chef at Pichet in Dublin

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