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Photograph: Duke of Edinburgh Instagram
Photograph: Duke of Edinburgh Instagram

Ten really, really good pub gardens for the winter

Ten top terraces with heaters, cover and ‘substantial meals’ on offer too

By Lucas Oakeley
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Drinking with pals is back on – at least if you do it outside. Looking for a pub garden with heaters or shelter or twinkling lights or any sort of good vibe thatll make you feel less depressed about the fact you're drinking outdoors in the depths of winter? Here are some suggestions. They all serve  substantial meals’ too, so hopefully will be reopening shortly.  

NORTH

The Faltering Fullback

Yes, this pub is named after a rugby position and, yes, it is technically a sports bar but don’t let either of those facts prevent you from travelling to Finsbury Park and cosying up under the heaters in The Faltering Fullback’s multi-storey beer garden. The sedgy outdoor terraces here are strategically spread across four floors, making the most of the Fullback’s limited space and allowing for you to safely distance yourself from anyone in boat shoes.  

What’s the actual pub like? Sporty, to be sure, but Daniel Radcliffe once filmed a music video here, so I guess it’s got that going for it too?

19 Perth Rd, N4 3HB.

The Spaniards Inn

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Thought that the Heath was the only thing Hampstead had going for it? Well, you thought wrong. Located about a mile or so from the nearest tube stop, The Spaniards Inn is home to one of London’s best-looking beer gardens – the kind of manic pixie dream garden, full of energy-saving heaters and sheltered tables, that Zach Braff would write a film about in the mid-2000s. Legend has it that equally talented auteur John Keats wrote his ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ in this very garden. No confirmation on whether he listened to The Shins while doing so.

What’s the actual pub like? Timeless. Expect worn wooden floors and an embarrassment of fireplaces.

Spaniards Rd, NW3 7JJ.

The Scolt Head

The Scolt Head is a family-run boozer with a belter of a beer garden and excellent eats. The outdoor seating area (which you can request when booking) isn’t the biggest around, but it’ll always make you feel warm and welcome. Literally. There are hot water bottles handed out and you can find chef Nuno Mendes on the hots here every Friday and Saturday serving up a brunch menu rammed with everything from wild mushrooms to rock oysters.

What’s the actual pub like? Choked with kitsch dog paintings like a really lovely big kennel that just happens to serve Camden Town.

107a Culford Rd, N1 4HT.

SOUTH

The Blythe Hill Tavern

This beer garden – like many good things in this great and prosperous city – can be found situated on the A205 South Circular between Catford and Forest Hill. The Blythe Hill Tavern has bundles of space (and heaters) out back, a handsome number of real ales on tap and a genuine claim to pour the best Guinness in London. A fetching new marquee will protect your outsides from any dour weather while Van Dough pizzas, who you’ll find on the premises every Friday and Saturday night, will ensure your insides are well-warmed too.

What’s the actual pub like? Small, cosy, and lovingly rammed with Irish sporting memorabilia.

319 Stanstead Rd, SE23 1JB.

The Duke of Edinburgh

If bigger is always better, then the beer garden at The Duke of Edinburgh might be the best in the city based on square footage alone. The mammoth outdoor space is stocked with a host of snazzy new heaters, while the heady combo of tenderly charred meat from White Men Can’t Jerk and beers from Brixton Brewery and Five Points make it especially hard to go wrong with a trip to this Brixton local.

What’s the actual pub like? Oak-panelled, unpretentious and absolutely nothing like the actual Duke of Edinburgh.

204 Ferndale Rd, SW9 8AG.

EAST

The Crooked Billet

If you were to synthesise a ‘trendy east London pub in a lab you’d probably end up with something that looks a lot like The Crooked Billet. The meat is free-range, the coffee comes from Climpson & Sons, and you won’t struggle to find sturdy local beers from the likes of Fourpure, Neckstamper and Hackney Brewery. Head down to the spacious beer garden if you fancy a bit of crab bisque with your alfresco IPA. The covered booths with patio heaters are prime real estate on particularly grim days.

What’s the actual pub like? On the gentrified side, but not so much so that it dampens its life and soul.

84 Upper Clapton Rd, E5 9JP.

The Crown and Shuttle

Does a beer garden need to have grass? If you’re The Crown and Shuttle then the answer to that question is a resounding: ‘No. And we’d have to agree considering the amount of space (and the range of refreshing lagers, pilsners and pale ales) available at this partially covered Shoreditch terrace. Countless space heaters make it a suitable venue to sink a few hazy boys and shelter yourself from the cold. Do bear in mind, though, that they’re not currently taking reservations.

What’s the actual pub like? Hip in a we’ve got exposed brick and filament bulbs kind of way without being too tryhard. 

226 Shoreditch High St, E1 6PJ.

The Captain Kidd

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Named after a seventeenth-century pirate, The Captain Kidd is a Sam Smith's pub where you can drown your sorrows in organic lager and drink up a terrific view of the city. Stationed right on the river, the well-parasoled patio has become a sundowner hotspot for obvious reasons and, while it occupies an expansive yard that was once a popular site for public executions, it’s now strewn with fairylights rather than scurvy-ridden corpses. Bring a fleece, though.

What’s the actual pub like? A tad obsessed with its faux-pirate history but a wholly pleasant place to spend an afternoon.

108 Wapping High St, E1W 2NE.

WEST

The Windsor Castle

This Grade II-listed west London haunt, located smack-bang between Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park stations, has a dreamy garden that’s perfect for a pint come rain or shine. The bijou patio gets particularly intimate after dark thanks to an abundance of heaters, soft lighting and secluded nooks for hushed conversations. As for the food? Expect your pub grub classics alongside a sourdough boule or two. This is Notting Hill, after all.

What’s the actual pub like? So earnestly charming that you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked on to the set of a Richard Curtis film.

114 Campden Hill Rd, W8 7AR.

The Swan

Stuck in Chiswick? Thirsty for pints? Then a visit to The Swan is a must, my friend. The courtyard at this tucked-in tavern is as spacious as it gets and you can tell there’s been genuine thought put into its Covid-compliant layout and feng shui space heater arrangement. This isn’t the sort of pub where you’ll have to shout over a DJ playing Mase ironically, and it’s all the better for it. The superlative Sunday roast is worth the trip out west alone.

What’s the actual pub like? Proper classy, with plenty of light during the day and a sultry ambience come nightfall.

119 Evershed Walk, Acton Lane, W4 5H.

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