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Photograph: Luca
Photograph: Luca

London’s best restaurants for outdoor dining

The unbeatable combination of fresh air and fine food

Written by
Time Out London editors
,
Angela Hui
&
Leonie Cooper
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Spring has finally sprung and outdoor dining in the city is officially back on the cards. Soak up that all-important vitamin D while you eat at London’s best restaurants that have some of the best rooftops views and terraces that will make you feel like you’re on holiday. Whether you’re in the mood to take bottomless brunches outside or have spaghetti in the sun and snack on schnitzel by starlight, our list has you covered. 

London’s best alfresco restaurants

What’s the vibe? Essentially, a carpark in Dalston with a very lovely covered terrace and a live fire restaurant from chefs Andrew Clarke and Daniel Watkins. (Promise, it sounds a lot nicer than that).

Why go? For an innovative barbecue menu that’s not your run-of-the-mill bangers and burgers menu. Try small plates such as beetroots with sweet and sour dill dressing, beetroot purée, pickled blueberries and sorrel and grilled leeks with pistacho romesco. Alongside the food, there are special edition beers brewed each month by 40FT to pair with the menu.

Price? £60-£70 per person.

  • Comedy
  • Mayfair

What’s the vibe? Bentley’s has been serving oysters and champagne to the masses for over 100 years. Order the signature fish pie, shellfish cocktail and Cornish dressed crab. For those wanting something lighter while soaking up the glorious sun try the scallop and gurnard ceviche with jalapeño and mint.

Why go? Its 60-seater terrace is the place to be during these sunnier climes. And the best thing? The space can also be completely covered and heated for when the sun goes down.

Price? £65 per person.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • King’s Cross
  • price 2 of 4

What’s the vibe? This stylish outdoor terrace is a lush, green oasis tucked away from busy King’s Cross. Kick back and relax at one of the city’s coolest hangouts while you enjoy classic cocktails, snacks and hearty fare such as hot dogs, burgers and fish and chips.

Why go? For the boozy bottomless brunches on Sundays. Or, for their signature Aperol slushies to cool you down.

Price? £30-£45 per person.

  • 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

 

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  • 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. 

  • 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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  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Clerkenwell
  • price 3 of 4

What’s the vibe? This secluded, foliage-filled terrace is one of London’s best kept secrets. The terrace is surrounded by olive trees and jasmine plants that will make you feel like you’re on an idyllic Italian getaway.

Why go? It’s available walk-ins and private events for up to 18 guests. There’s a retractable roof and an open fire for the chilling evenings. Food wise think: Parmesan fries, burrata with winter tomatoes and olives and n’duja and rigatoni pasta with pork sausage ragù.

Price? £50-£75 per person.

  • Restaurants
  • Bethnal Green
  • price 2 of 4
What’s the vibe? Ombra offers alfresco views from the sun drenched terrace that’s equipped with heaters and a wind shield for when the temperature drops.
Why go? For the fresh, silky pasta dishes and moreish cured meats from a seasonally changing menu. Wash it all down with a mighty selection of Italian and European natural, low-intervention wines. 
Price? £45-£60 per person.
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  • 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.

  • 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.

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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.

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. 

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  • 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.  

  • 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. 

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  • 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.

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.

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  • 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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