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Outdoor restaurants, bars and cafes

This is an archived page. Discover London's best places to wine and dine outdoors London has plenty of cafés,...


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.

Amphitheatre Bar Restaurant

Royal Opera House, Bow St, WC2E 9DD (020 7212 9254)

Highbrow haunt

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. It’s divided between a bar area, where you can snack on marinated artichokes, olives, hams and terrines from the deli-style bar counter, and a 50-cover restaurant section. The food comes courtesy of Company of Cooks caterers, with a three-course lunch priced at £24.50. Views are impressive from both spaces: you dine opposite Covent Garden’s covered market, and the Eye can be seen over the rooftops. Dishes are quintessentially British: think chilled pea soup then poached Scottish salmon with pickled cucumber, radishes and horseradish cream, all finished off with a dainty treacle tart and clotted cream. Read more


11-13 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QD (020 7833 8115)

Stall comforts

The only thing better than getting a table inside this Exmouth market hotspot is getting one outside. You can request one of the 30-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. Eating is less of a gamble, with innovative global cooking courtesy of Kiwi, ex-Providores chef Miles Kirby. There’s an extensive selection of deservedly popular small plates: courgette and goats’ cheese pancake with kohlrabi and broad bean slaw, say, or grilled scallops with crisp turnip cake and salsa of corn and black beans. A handful of mains (confit duck leg with yoghurt and curried red lentils, for example) are also on offer. The vibe is laid-back, and service is invariably warm and sunny, even if the weather isn’t. Read more

Coq d'Argent

1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ (020 7395 5000)

Ahead for heights

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 food’s not bad either: choose from the more formal restaurant menu, showcasing the likes of mustard-pickled mackerel with cucumber and mint and pea emulsion, or Romney Marsh rack of lamb for two, with dauphinoise potatoes and a rosemary jus; or the more compact (but no less accomplished) brasserie selection, which might provide a half dozen snails in garlic butter followed by char-grilled yellow fin tuna with ratatouille. 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. Read more

Clerkenwell Kitchen

27-31 Clerkenwell Close, EC1R 0AT (020 7101 9959)

Cafe society

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. You might catch smoked coley with a chorizo and chickpea stew or linguine with basil pesto, new potatoes and green beans. The summer desserts are equally irresistible – try the blood orange sorbet with an almond biscuit, or a delectable polenta cake. The Kitchen is licensed (a glass of house wine costs £3.75), the service friendly and the atmosphere relaxed. Read more

The Modern Pantry

47-48 St John's Square, EC1V 4JJ (020 7250 0833)

Sunshine Food

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, while refreshing flavour combinations, such as currant and coriander-laced feta and okra fritters with sweet tomato yoghurt, are summer on a plate. Read more

The Terrace

Opposite 59-60 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3LJ (020 7430 1234)

Holborn Hideaway

It’s now possible to reserve a spot at one of the ten alfresco tables at The Terrace, an eco-conscious, kit-built restaurant beside the tennis courts of dappled Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It’s open on weekdays only, so it’s the legal fraternity that makes the most of chef Patrick Williams’ menu of crowd-pleasers (caramelised onion tart with deep-fried goat’s cheese, salmon fishcakes with tartare sauce), enlivened by forays into modernised Caribbean dishes (jerk chicken with rice and peas) or simply Caribbean inflections (fried tilapia with a crab and mango salad, coconut and cinnamon panna cotta). This is also a great destination on balmy evenings and before work, when breakfasts of muesli, pancakes and eggs are served, but you can also linger over a three-course lunch for £24.95. Read more


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