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Sager + Wilde Paradise Row
Photograph: Sager + Wilde

London’s best outdoor dining

The unbeatable combination of fresh air and fine food

Written by
Time Out London editors
&
Leonie Cooper
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September 2021: From old-school classics like the River Cafe to modern masters such as Forza Wine and Westerns Laundry, as well as venues for brilliant bargains like Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park and 400 Rabbits at Brockwell Lido, here are the best places to eat and drink in the elements. 

A note: just because a restaurant isn’t on the list anymore doesn’t mean it’s not still great. As places open and close, seasons and menus change, this list will as well.

Outdoor dining in London has undergone a massive reinvention of late, with more of us willing to brave the capital’s tricksy weather in order to get a great feed and see friends. Whether you’re in the mood for spaghetti in the sun or schnitzel by starlight, our list has you covered. 

London’s best alfresco restaurants

Barrafina Drury Lane
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Covent Garden

What’s the vibe? One of London’s most celebrated restaurants, the Drury Lane branch of Barrafina is your go-to for Spanish sherry, scallops, squid and high-end tapas.

Why go? Its outdoor parasols for Spanish-style weather in the summer can also double as shelter in the cold, and there are heaters to combat any extra chill. It might not be as balmy as Andalusia, but it’s sure to be informal, sociable and great fun.

Price? £60 per person.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Breweries
  • Hackney Wick
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Things don’t get much more industrial yet bucolic than at this totally hip warehouse-style pizzeria-cum-brewery on the banks of the Lea in Hackney Wick. 

Why go? To watch the birds and gaze at the boats bobbing past until last orders. You can book indoor tables but outdoor tables are walk-up only.

Price? £15 per person.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Dalston
  • price 1 of 4

What's the vibe? An airy outdoor terrace in the same yard as this cult bakery's original shipping container home in a Dalston car park.

Why go? For some serious sarnie action. As well as glistening buns, brioches, turnovers and savoury bakes Dusty Knuckle's doorstop sandwiches filled with imaginative ingredients like porchetta with garlic purée and sprouting broccoli or roasted aubergine with labneh, date dukkah and herb salad are a sensation. Swing by Thurs - Sat for their sweet pizza nights.

Price: £7-15

 

  • Bars and pubs
  • Wine bars
  • Peckham
  • price 2 of 4

What’s vibe? Peckham is hardly short of rooftop bars but Forza Wine’s fifth-floor views and spectacular menu make it a stand-out spot. 

Why go? It’s a spin-off from Peckham’s much-loved Italian restaurant Forza Win. Delights like braised duck leg, plums, bay and thyme will await you at your high-rise dinner and drinks sesh, as will crisp cauliflower fritti and aioli and oozy burrata.  

Price? You can have the whole darn menu for £93. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Herne Hill

What’s the vibe? A brunch and pizza spot at the Brockwell Lido Café from sourdough pizza specialists 400 Rabbits. 

Why go? A waterside venue with a difference, this lovely alfresco space nudges up against the 1930s art-deco splendour of the lido. Make no mistake: poolside seats, just a splash away from the azure water, are snapped up fast. Check out Tenner Tuesdays, when you can get a pizza and a beer for, you guessed it, ten quid.

Price? £10-£15 per person.

  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Bankside
  • price 1 of 4

What’s the vibe? Absolutely delightful, actually. The award-winning café at the Garden Museum in Lambeth has a small but lush alfresco garden courtyard. 

Why go? It’s open for lunch daily and for dinner on Tuesdays and Fridays and head chefs Harry Kaufman (previously at St John Bread and Wine and Lyles) and George Ryle (Padella and Primeur) make seasonal sensations – think smoked eel and tomato starters and whole lemon sole mains with mussels and sea beets. 

Price? £40-£50 per person.

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Harry’s Dolce Vita
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Belgravia
  • price 3 of 4

What’s the vibe? Directly behind Harrods, Harry’s is a glamorous Italian bistro with a breezy European-style terrace out front that’s often packed with people enjoying a spritz and a plate of pasta after a day of shopping across the road.

Why go? For simple Italian classics: seafood spaghetti and fresh antipasti plates.

Price? £60 per person.

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • King’s Cross
  • price 3 of 4

What’s the vibe? Upmarket but relaxed, offering arguably the best outdoor seating in the swish King’s Cross development Coal Drops Yard.

Why go? DIY Spanish cooking on a parilla (grill) is what you’re here to do. The seafood, from shimmering scallops to fabulously fresh red prawns, is stunning. Try the Lagarto Ibérico, the best-value dish on the menu, and don't forget some pan con tomate. You’ll think you’re on actual hols. 

Price? £60-£70 per person.

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  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Victoria Park

What’s the vibe? Local families, joggers, dog walkers and visiting foodies all love this park café, not only for its commitment to top-quality ingredients and local producers, but also for its charming domed pavilion and acres of outdoor space.

Why go? The peaceful views face Victoria Park’s west boating lake – all very serene until someone’s kid runs over your foot with their scooter. Yes, this is yummy-mummy territory.

Price? £10 per person.

The Petersham
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Covent Garden
  • price 4 of 4

What’s the vibe? This grand Covent Garden offshoot of Petersham Nurseries in Richmond has a splendid courtyard for that genuine outdoor vibe, complete with trees, plant-filled urns and other horticultural paraphernalia. 

Why go? For slow food you’ll want to eat fast. The Petersham prides itself on seasonal produce and quality ingredients, all shot through with classy Italian flavours. 

Price? Tasting menu for £85 per person.

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River Cafe
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Hammersmith
  • price 4 of 4

What’s the vibe? Despite its name and riverside location, the River Cafe’s gorgeous gardens are what make dining alfresco here such a treat. To snag an outdoor table, request one when booking and you’ll either eat under the awning on the heated terrace, surrounded by fruit trees, herbs and edible flowers, or in the garden amid shady trees on neatly trimmed lawns.

Why go? It’s an iconic London spot that’s been open since 1987 and the menu is a study in seasonal Italian deliciousness, with some ingredients sourced direct from the growing patch.

Price? £100-£120 per person. 

  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Shoreditch

What’s the vibe? Converted from the bike sheds of an old Victorian school, this unassuming canteen for Shoreditch creatives (and others) was opened by Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson in 2004 and has since become one of the capital’s most reliable restaurants. 

Why go? This chilled-out alfresco space is at the mercy of the elements, but whatever the weather, you can depend on the kitchen for a daily menu of colourful yet homely dishes featuring seasonal ingredients.

Price? £40-£50 per person.  

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Bethnal Green
  • price 3 of 4

What’s the vibe? Having enlisted the talents of Sebastian Myers (formerly of Chiltern Firehouse), Sager + Wilde produces British dishes with European flourishes. Combined with the cobbled alley setting and a spectacular wine list, well, you’re on to a winner here. 

Why go? For dinner, think grilled cuts of Iberico pork, black trompettes, beef-shin ragù and hispi cabbage, while brunch provides all kinds of egg dishes, sausage baps and salads. 

Price? £50 per person. 

  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Haggerston
  • price 1 of 4

What’s the vibe? Breakfast on the towpath overlooking the Regent’s Canal near Whitmore Bridge is a terrific way to start the day, and once you’ve bagged a table you may be tempted to linger for hours, especially if the sun is shining. 

Why go? This self-consciously low-key café has always been a favourite with passing dog-walkers, runners and cyclists, who stop off for coffee and snacks, light-as-air cakes and rustic but skilfully cooked hot lunches.

Price? £10-£30 per person.

 

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The Victoria
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Mortlake and Sheen
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? The Victoria’s Richmond Park location alone makes it well worth a visit. TV chef Paul Merrett oversees the show and there’s a leafy walled garden complete with supersized heated parasols and an open-air bar, as well as a conservatory for in-between days. Understandably, this smart gastropub is almost permanently packed to the rafters.

Why go? The garden even has its own kitchen, fired up for summertime grills. Arrive early to guarantee an alfresco perch.

Price? £40 per person.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Highbury
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? Occupying what was once a not-so-beautiful laundrette, this sibling of Islington’s Primeur is also the kind of neighbourhood hangout where the menu is scrawled on a blackboard, the small plates are modish and fish is a strong suit. 

Why go? To eat alfresco on the Provençal-style terrace, surrounded by olive trees and rug-strewn wooden blocks.

Price? £50 per person. 

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