South London's Best Beer Gardens

South London's Best Beer Gardens

Our personal pick of the best outdoor drinking spaces in south London.

Duke of Edinburgh, Brixton

Used to be our local, so we're prejudiced — but it really deserves its spot on the list. The quite cramped inside space is dwarfed by the sprawling beer garden — nearly always rammed (or as rammed as Covid-safety allows), with Brixton locals coming for the shack bars serving wine and cocktails, and outdoor screens for major sports events like the Euros.

The Oval Tavern, East Croydon

As you're leaving the station, East Croydon looks immensely urban, scattered with (very good) street food and (mixed bag of) high rises and skyscrapers. But just a few minutes' walk away you're in a different world: neighbourhoody, terraced and tree-lined, occasional splash of wisteria and blossom trees — and a solid local, in the shape of the Oval Tavern.

You wouldn't stumble across it by chance, but it's near enough the station to make it a not-just-for-locals spot, and nice enough to make it worth the short journey from central. Decent drinks list, peaceful spot on a quiet street. Haven't eaten there but have heard from local sources that the food's Quite Nice. Can confirm that so is the garden: biggish, cocooned in greenery, no street noise, scattered with daffodils, and, judging by their Instagram, beloved of neighbourhood cats.

The Rye, Peckham

Bordering Peckham Rye Common, The Rye has a long strip of lawn out the back, peppered with tables, fringed with trees, and with a ping pong table. Feels like you're having a pint in somebody's back garden. Popular with dog walkers.

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The Castle, Tooting

An expansive outdoor area, just off Tooting High Street. There are also little cabins off the side with cushions and gas fires — handy for drinking into the evening. And if it's raining, there's a big swoop of canopy they can pull across the whole garden. It's a Young's, so the beer's not going to set your heart racing, but the setting alone makes it worth the journey.

The Faber Fox, Crystal Palace

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A colourful, tiered beer garden with bamboo planters and animal sculptures. The prime spot is the top terrace, where you can sip a pint (or demolish one of the excellent roasts) with a view across the treetops and rooftops of Gipsy Hill, towards the City.

The Dolphin, Sydenham

The garden's immaculately-coiffured hedges make a little oasis. Good antipasto, pizza and spritzes — and the fact this garden's a bit of a sun trap — give it a very slight Italian flavour. In the absence of a Como-side holiday this summer, we'll take it.

The Leather Bottle, Earlsfield

One of the oldest pubs in the area, the Leather Bottle's been serving up ale for over 300 years. It was here, on the slopes of the River Wandle, that the annual 'Mayor of Garrat' — a kind of village idiot award — was celebrated in the 18th century. You have to slog down the long and winding road that is Garratt Lane, but it's worth the hike. It has an acres-large pub garden, probably one of the largest in south London — pre pandemic the Leather Bottle estimated garden capacity at 450 people. Reduced now for distancing but still: fairly massive.

Enjoy the huge beer garden at Leather Bottle, one of London's best pub gardens

The Fentiman Arms, Oval

This Oval pub's a stone's throw from the cricket ground, so on a match day you might be able to hear the cheering drift over the pub garden walls. Only maybe, because the pub garden's big, and usually heaving — with the usual distancing measures now — and a vibe of Loud Bustle. There's some tarp they can pull across a section of it for rainy days, some scattered trees and vines, and high walls making it feel a bit like a private garden. Sort of average beer selection, and a standard gastropub menu, but there aren't a lot of places nearby with outside space this big or secluded, so you can see why it's usually packed.

The Bull, Streatham

Not all outdoor seating at the Bull is created equal. The garden spans some quite exposed tables, some others with a little bit of shelter — and some sturdyish cabins with just one side open and their own heaters. The cabins are the hot ticket in winter, and, to be honest, all year round, there being no season England can't chuck a bit of hail into. Food's on the pricier side of gastropub fare in the area, but service is swift, the drinks list is solid, and the location — which looks on Google Maps a bit arterial-roady — is tucked away from traffic.

Last Updated 28 May 2021