If you’re planning a trip to the UK this summer, you’re looking for good outdoor dining. What London lacks in terraces, it makes up for with restaurants with secret gardens and courtyards. The rise of excellent outdoor restaurants in London was one of the few silver linings to emerge from the pandemic. Following the pandemic, the capital’s best bars and restaurants will again make good use of their newly discovered outdoor space. You can now enjoy multi-course meals among friends and foliage alongside pretty outdoor bars and pub gardens while people-watching to your heart’s content.
These are London’s best tried-and-true outdoor restaurants for a hearty seasonal spread. Now is the time to reserve a table at one of London’s best outdoor dining spots and al fresco terraces.
Southwark’s glitzy rooftop restaurant, The Hoxton, is hard to beat for a meal that feels more like a night out. Seabird’s terrace on the 14th floor has come into its own. It has an extensive menu of oysters, seafood platters, and Spanish and Portuguese-inspired dishes that will make you feel like you’re on vacation, as well as views of the city, palm trees, heaters, and a retractable awning for wet days. Book an early evening table to watch the sunset with a Caipirinha, or try the flying lunch set menu for £29 per person, which includes jamon croquetas, wood-fired market fish, seasonal greens, and more, followed by dessert.
The Maine Mayfair
Maine in Mayfair is one of London’s swankiest outdoor restaurants, serving New England classics and global please-all plates. Consider lobster rolls that are generously stuffed, crispy fish tacos, and bowls of gravy-covered poutine. While the food is appealing, the luxuriously designed surroundings are the real draw. A fringed, striped awning covers well-placed tables surrounded by lush foliage, a clever combination that transports you to another era. The sweet staff is dressed for the part, wearing white jackets and bow ties.
The Towpath Café, located on the canal’s banks, is a London institution that hasn’t changed much since it first opened on the Kingsland Towpath more than a decade ago. There are no reservations here, but chef Laura Jackson’s cult menu items, which include moreish cheese toasties with homemade quince jelly and bright, peppery radishes with whipped taramasalata, are worth the wait. On Sunday morning, go for breakfast, then stroll over to Columbia Road Flower Market to stock up on seasonal delphiniums, sweet peas, and hydrangeas.
Allegra has received rave reviews since it fully reopened post-pandemic, with the full menu available on its Scandi-inspired seventh-floor terrace, and is housed in one of East London’s most striking new buildings, with interior design by the team behind Noma. And it’s an extensive menu. Standout dishes created by chef Patrick Powell include confit chicken wings with parmesan dumplings and wild mushrooms, as well as juniper, roasted venison loin with red cabbage, pear, and parsnip.
Borough Market, the original outdoor/indoor foodie haunt, is the place to go for large groups, especially when different palates need to be catered to. It may be a stretch to include it in our list of outdoor restaurants in London, but we have no qualms about praising this delectable oasis. If you’re willing to brave the queue, you can get hot pasta from Padella or try a little harder to get one of the few tables outside the restaurant. Applebee’s Fishbox is the place to go for delectable seafood wraps, Bao Borough serves up Taiwanese street food at its finest, and Gourmet Goat’s sustainable Cypriot fare is always a good idea.
The vast alfresco space at Devonshire Terrace is one of its main draws, housed under a soaring domed glass roof to protect diners from the elements. Of course, the food and drink offerings are excellent because Drake & Morgan is a London hospitality institution. A crowd-pleasingly informal menu with classics like chicken yakitori skewers, crayfish linguine, and gnocchi mac ‘n’ cheese is complemented by an extensive cocktail menu ideal for making up for missed celebrations.
This Mayfair restaurant is popular with the city’s foodies. Two former Dinner by Heston chefs have created their restaurant with a strong sustainability focus, introducing dishes such as venison tartar, Cornish mackerel, smoked sausage with apple ketchup and the classic Fallow burger – aged dairy cow, braised short rib, bacon, shallot and cheese in a brioche bun. The outdoor terrace can be heated, making it a year-round destination.
This all-day dining establishment on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton gets its name from the building’s previous life as Walton Lodge, a commercial steam press laundry that opened in 1904. Converted in 2019 by entrepreneur Melanie Brown, it also has one of Brixton’s largest covered and heated terraces, serving everything from casual brunches to hearty Sunday lunches. The kitchen’s highlights include Devon crab with pickled cucumber and a mean chicken Kyiv, and The Laundry’s side hustle as a wine shop means there’s also an extensive drinks menu to choose from.
During the summer, the terrace at Scott’s is a celebrity magnet, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself seated next to Tom Hanks or Ronnie Wood (or in paparazzi photos the next day). With only a few prime alfresco tables available, you may need VIP-level connections to get one in the first place. But what should you order once you’re safely hidden behind the meticulously trimmed lemon trees? Scott’s is, after all, a seafood restaurant.
You could easily pass by this grand house in the middle of the busy Vauxhall gyratory without knowing what treasures lay within. Chef Jackson Boxer has transformed this Georgian mansion into a dining destination. The interior is brimming with antique trinkets, furniture, and chandeliers, and the wisteria vine-covered outdoor tables are equally enchanting. Book the entire space for a special occasion, or reserve one of the terrace tables for an unforgettable meal.
A short distance from the Saatchi Gallery and the boutiques of the King’s Road, this modern Indian eatery from Rohit Ghai and Abhishake Sangwan is ideal for a pitstop while exploring Chelsea’s highlights. Kutir’s al fresco space, housed in one of the area’s gorgeous period townhouses, is reminiscent of a chic dinner party, with cosy tables arranged on a lawn surrounded by lightly landscaped foliage. If this is your first visit, choose the Expeditions tasting menu to get a sense of what the kitchen is capable of. Highlights include tandoori lamb chop with black cumin, salmon mooli, and squid ink lehenga.
Located down a side street just behind 180 The Strand, diving on the terrace at Toklas feels like you’ve just discovered a true hidden gem in the capital – if, of course, you can block out the other 50 or so diners who have also been lucky enough to nab a table. The menu here is Mediterranean-inspired and changes weekly to make the most of whatever’s in season, with dishes built on the premise that great ingredients don’t need to be messed with. Expect the food to be simple but plentiful.
40 Malby Street
There are no reservations available at 40 Maltby Street, which is only open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday, but if you must wait, you can do so while browsing the stalls at the nearby market. There are no gimmicks here, just exceptionally good food (order any dessert with gooseberries in the summer) and equally good wines (many are available by the glass because it is housed in the Gergovie Wines warehouse). Alternatively, take a seat on the terrace at Café Deco in Bloomsbury, which chef Anna Tobias and the 40-strong Maltby House team launched.
The foliage-filled Mandrake in Fitzrovia will reopen its Jurema Bar for spring, adjacent to the five-star hotel’s Yopo restaurant on the first floor. This enchanting urban oasis is surrounded by hanging jasmine and passionflower and serves an impressive menu of summer-perfect cocktails and moreish bar snacks with a Mexican twist. A charming glasshouse of medicinal and botanical plants is located upstairs and can be reserved for private dining.
The River Cafe
The River Café sprawls leisurely across a lawn overlooking the Thames, exactly where we’d like to be after a bottle of rosé and one or two courses more than was strictly necessary. Since its inception in 1987 by chefs Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray, this London institution has become synonymous with easygoing, excellent Italian food and easygoing, excellent people. People would flock here even if the location weren’t so inviting, such is the kitchen’s ingredients-driven expertise, but the sun-dappled garden also has a dreamlike quality.
With its first Michelin star in the 2022 guide, now is the time to join a waiting list for a table at Trivet, especially since its intimate outdoor dining area offers some of the best people-watching in the city. Food and wine are equally important here, with chef Jonny Lake and sommelier Isa Bal collaborating to create a concise food menu and an expansive, eclectic wine list that complements each other. Few things beat lingering over plates of chicken in vinegar sauce, braised celeriac, and roasted pigeon while quizzing the knowledgeable staff on the best wine pairing.
On a sunny evening, sitting on the covered terrace outside Ombra, sipping spritzes next to Regent’s Canal, it’s easy to forget you’re in the heart of East London. And that’s before you’ve started on a bowl of hot, fresh pasta. Ombra serves authentic Italian joyful plates with well-chosen Italian wines, all made on-site. If you can’t decide what to eat, there’s a £65 tasting menu for dinner – just don’t skip the tiramisu.