In this round-up, we’ve focused on cafés in London’s parks, gardens and other open green spaces. There’s something for everyone: kid-friendly eateries, smart venues, Italian and Indian food, kosher food, social enterprises and community cafés, and gourmet destinations for dressing up and enjoying cocktails, art and music.
Unless otherwise stated, the venues are open all year round. However, do phone and check the opening hours if you’re making a special journey: many cafés’ hours are flexible and vary according to the seasons, the weather and how busy the park is. So… take a break from your everyday routine, enjoy a brisk walk in a green space with friends, and then unwind in fresh air surrounded by fragrant flowers and awe-inspiring beauty.
Park cafés in central London
Fields Bar & Kitchen, Lincoln's Inn Fields, Holborn
While there are plenty of well-known cafés in London's royal parks, finding lesser-known gems in the city centre can prove difficult. Londonist's Ruth Hargreaves suggests this garden square cafe in Lincoln's Inn Fields for a summertime spot off the tourist trail. It still gets busy, mind, especially during the warmer months when nearby office workers flock to find a slice of sunshine.
Bask in one of the cafe's two outdoor terraces with a coffee in hand, or hoover up a wood-fired pizza over a lazy lunchtime. Surrounded by lawns, trees and the gentle thwack of balls from the adjacent tennis courts, it's a central oasis and ideally located for anyone planning a visit to Sir John Soane's Museum right next door. In fact, a portion of all café profits are donated to the museum. If it's heaving, there are takeaway options perfect for picnicking.
Fields Bar & Kitchen, Lincoln's Inn Fields, WC2A 3LJ
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Park cafés in north London
Lauderdale House Café, Waterlow Park, Highgate
Located near Highgate Village and the famous Highgate Cemetery, Lauderdale House, which faces Highgate Hill, is an elegant, white 16th century building that backs onto Waterlow Park. It’s now an arts and education centre that hosts exhibitions, concerts and poetry events throughout the year. Its café is located adjacent to the Lower Gallery with a generous patio, picnic-style seating and a tea-and-cake heavy menu.
Lauderdale House Café, Highgate Hill, Waterlow Park, N6 5HG
Queen’s Park Café, Queen’s Park, Kilburn
Very popular with local families, this 12-hectare Victorian park has a café set amid tennis courts, pitch and putt course, ornamental garden, children’s playground with paddling pool and a small zoo. After suddenly closing to much dismay in late 2017, the café reopened in 2018 under new ownership promising to keep the community feel of the site alive, with just a few menu tweaks. Inside you’ll find sandwiches, soups, cakes, and hot and cold beverages.
Queen's Park Café, Harvist Road, NW6 6SG
Hendon Park Café, Hendon Park, Hendon
Frequented by members of the local Jewish community — and open to all — this friendly café claims to be the first kosher park café in the UK. It’s located in the quiet Hendon Park, which has pretty flower borders, tennis courts and a lovely children’s playground. According to the Jewish dietary laws, milk and meat are not mixed, and as this is a ‘milky’ café, there’s no meat on the menu, only fish and vegetarian dishes. You’ll find delicious Israeli specialities, such as Israeli breakfasts, shakshuka (slow-cooked eggs with spicy tomato sauce and toasted pita), and various Israeli platters featuring falafel, hummus, Israeli salad, olives and pickles. Sesame-studded giant toasted Jerusalem bagels come with Mediterranean-style fillings or pizza toppings.
Another speciality is freshly made sushi, and staff can make you sushi platters for a picnic. The menu also offers full English vegetarian breakfast, soups, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, pastas, salads, cakes, waffles, crepes, ice creams and desserts. To drink, there are fresh fruit smoothies and milkshakes; plus there’s a separate children’s menu. Big portions of food, and a choice of both indoor and outdoor seating, make this café-with-a-difference a pleasure to visit.
Hendon Park Café, Queen's Road, NW4 2TL
Park cafés in west London
Physic Garden Café, Chelsea Physic Garden, Chelsea
Loved by an older crowd of affluent locals and open only April to the end of October, the secluded Chelsea Physic Garden has the hushed, exclusive feel of a little-known secret. We spent several hours admiring its amazing collection of edible plants: everything from olive and cocoa trees to black rice and sumac berries grow here, making it a must-visit for foodies.
Situated near trees bulging with little pods of bright green almonds, and attached to the Curator’s House, the charming Physic Garden Café has lots of tables on the terrace outside. You can also sit on nearby benches, plates on the lap, among the rose bushes, as many do. Organic, British produce takes centre stage via a simple, sophisticated menu comprising homemade pie specials, superfood salad and fresh pasta. Liquid refreshments include wines, beers and their must-try Amalfi lemonade. Note that the garden charges an entrance fee of around a tenner, which you'll have to pay to use the café.
Physic Garden Café, Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Road, SW3 4HS
Drawing Room Café, gardens of Fulham Palace, Fulham
Set amid sprawling 13 acres, Fulham Palace was once home to several Anglican bishops. Its 18th and 19th century-style grounds boast rare trees including 450-year old ancient holm oak, and impressive landscaped and walled gardens. The smart Drawing Room Café, located in the Palace’s former drawing room, overlooks the gardens and offers a seasonal, daily-changing menu of fresh, simple, prettily presented food. It's the usual sandwiches, soups, quiche, cakes and salads. Younger visitors are well catered for with a dedicated children's menu and a selection of colouring sheets up for grabs.
Drawing Room Café, Fulham Palace, Bishop's Avenue, SW6 6EA
Urban Meadow Café, Kensington Gardens, Bayswater
Although not located inside a park, Urban Meadow Café is right beside the Bayswater end of the exquisite Kensington Gardens, with views of both the Gardens and nearby Hyde Park. The Modern British brasserie has a bright, airy ‘urban countryside’ look painted with a fetchingly contemporary pattern of leaves, and has a large patio for al fresco feasting.
There’s a versatile menu of grazing dishes and more formal meals, along with salads and sandwiches. Vegans have their own dedicated menu. Start with a breakfast of London sourdough roll with bacon, pork sausage or egg; then move on to something more substantial like spicy seafood linguine, sweet potato curry or British ribeye with stilton sauce. There’s a popular ‘larder plank’ for two to share, comprising mackerel, calamari, chicken terrine crab with horseradish and sourdough toast. A grab and go service of food and drink to be enjoyed in the nearby parks is also available.
Urban Meadow Café, 150 Bayswater, W2 4RT
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Holland Park Café, Holland Park, Kensington
Located inside the majestic Holland Park, this canteen-style, tranquil café serves freshly made seasonal food that’s sustainable and locally sourced. There’s a basic menu of breakfasts (including kids’ breakfast), sandwiches, paninis, salads, soups and pastries. Also available are tempting freshly baked cakes, such as carrot and walnut, or chocolate and orange marble cake. A list of hot and cold drinks includes freshly squeezed juices. More elaborate hot dishes are served whenever the park hosts operas. The self-service café caters for special diets; and sells food to takeaway, including snack lunch boxes for children.
Holland Park Café, Ilchester Place, W8 6LU
Park cafés in east London
Springfield Park Café, Springfield Park, Upper Clapton
Despite its impressive size of 40 acres, not many Londoners know about Springfield Park by the River Lea, near the Olympic Park. There’s a children’s play area in the centre focusing on traditional ‘natural play’; and the park has won the coveted Green Flag award for being one of the best green spaces in the UK.
Inside is the White Lodge Mansion, a Grade II listed building that's home to the Springfield Park Café. Surrounded by lawns and rose bushes, the outside tables give views across Walthamstow Marshes. Inside, the café hosts exhibitions by local artists, live music and other events, and provides free wi-fi, and colouring sheets for kids. There’s an eclectic menu of dishes from around the world, including breakfasts, healthy meze platters, fresh salads, soups, paninis, cakes, pastries and hot meals. There’s a good choice for vegetarians, and freshly squeezed orange juice to drink. The seasonal, regularly changing menu is created from locally sourced, ethically produced ingredients, and the prices are deliberately kept low.
Springfield Park Café, off Upper Clapton Road, E5 9EF
Timber Lodge Café, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford
Timber Lodge is situated in the North Park, near a children’s play area called the Tumbling Bay Playground. (The opposite side, accessible via Westfield shopping centre, is the South Park.) Although the main attractions in the park are the ArcelorMittal Orbit (boasting the world's longest tunnel slide), Aquatics Centre and Velodrome, there’s also much else to explore, including wildlife meadows, waterways, mountain biking facilities and a large number of picnic spots dotted around everywhere.
The café blends into its natural surroundings and creates its own green energy using solar panels. Doubling up as a sleek, modern events space and community centre, it’s a social enterprise that creates jobs for disabled people. In accordance with the government guidelines, food is low in fat, salt and sugar. You’ll find freshly made, seasonal dishes such as Mediterranean salads, hearty soups, breakfasts, weekend brunches, baguette and bagel sandwiches, hot dishes, cakes, desserts, snacks and milkshakes. Enjoy these on the terrace outside with free activity sheets for children, or buy picnic boxes to takeaway. Ingredients are mostly sourced from small local shops and market traders.
Timber Lodge Café, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 1A Honour Lea Avenue, E20 1DY
The Hub Café, Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets
What used to be The Park Café has now become The Hub Café: a bright, airy and spacious venue in Victoria Park. The name change may be small, but everything else has undergone a transformation. Completely refurbished with chunky wooden tables, hanging lamps and heated floors, it now has a more modern focus. Free wifi for two hours is sure to be a big hit too. New owners Sandra and Draga were chosen by Tower Hamlets due to their community-focussed proposal. Mightily child and dog friendly, the menu features homemade cakes, sausage rolls, pastas, and a knockout breakfast porridge topped with poached fruit.
Located in the heart of the park near the children’s play area, water pools and skate park, the other noteworthy features here include a striking collection of trees and a model steam boat club. If you’re feeling sporty, there are football pitches, cricket playing facilities, tennis courts, bowling green, and even professional cycling instructors.
The Hub Café, Victoria Park, Grove Road, E3 5TB
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Park cafés in south London
The Lido Café, Bar & Restaurant, Brockwell Park, Herne Hill
This smart Modern British restaurant is housed in the grounds of the wonderful art deco, Grade II listed Brockwell Lido, tucked away in a corner of the beautiful Brockwell Park. Located between Brixton, Dulwich and Herne Hill, the large park boasts ornamental ponds, formal flowerbeds, ancient walled herbaceous flower garden and a handsome 19th century clock tower. There’s an all-day menu of breakfasts featuring polenta scramble with mushrooms and spinach, buckwheat pancakes and spicy shakshuka. Some tables are set aside for walk-ins, otherwise booking is advisable.
The Lido Café, Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, SE24 0PA
Kennington Park Café, Kennington Park
One of the few arts and crafts cafés surviving in London, this characterful venue is located in the relatively small Kennington Park. It holds art and photography exhibitions by local artists, and is a great place for meeting friends. The park has a large variety of historic trees, formal flower beds, beautiful displays in the old English flower garden originally created in the 1930s, areas for wildlife, a nature trail for kids, children’s playground, sports facilities, and even a separate exercise area for dogs. Enjoy beautiful views over the park while nibbling on toasted sandwiches, salads, cakes and pastries. In cooler weather, there are hearty, freshly made soups and hot drinks. *Update: as of May 2019, new leaseholders are making alterations to Kennington Park Café. This means the park is without a café for the time being*
Kennington Park Café, 119 Kennington Park Road, SE11 4JS
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Parco Café, Vauxhall Park, Vauxhall
Located between Vauxhall and Stockwell, the Green Flag award-winning 8½ acre Vauxhall Park is a picturesque oasis with its renowned lavender garden, model village and tennis courts. Located in what was once the park’s public loo, Parco has been rebuilt and refurbished as an Italian café. The small modern venue is furnished with comfy leather sofas and bar stools, with terraces on either side dotted with pretty potted plants in which chillies, rosemary, grape vines and olives grow.
The menu encompasses freshly cooked Italian classics like own-made lasagne, veal Milanese, calzone and ciabattas, plus traditional English café fare like sandwiches and soups. There are breakfasts, daily specials, quiches, salads, cakes, pastries, good coffee and Italian ice creams on offer too. The venue is both family-friendly and sophisticated, attracting yummy mummies in the morning, and local office workers and arty types later in the day.
Parco Café, Vauxhall Park, 190 Fentiman Road, SW8 1QY
The Dysart Petersham, Richmond Park, Richmond
This amazing venue challenges the idea of a park café altogether. Formerly the Dysart Arms pub, the Dysart Petersham is now an upscale fine dining restaurant. It’s located on the edge of Richmond Park, between the park itself and Petersham Meadows from where it can be accessed by foot. It’s a beautiful arts and crafts building dating back to the early 20th century. The interior has been sympathetically restored and retains many of the original features. Inside you’ll find log fires in winter, crisp linen, sparkling glasses and pottery commissioned locally. In the summer, you’ll want to enjoy full table service in the romantic garden outside, with views over Richmond Park, surrounded by trees lit by twinkling fairy lights at night. There’s even free wi-fi throughout the restaurant and garden.
The food here is serious. The contemporary British cooking is rooted in classical traditions. Expect the likes of poached guinea fowl with pied bleu mushrooms and Madeira consommé on the main menu. Plus there’s a separate vegetarian menu featuring items like roasted cauliflower tortellini with a barley miso sauce. Tasting menus give you a real showcase of the best on offer. Carefully sourced seasonal ingredients include wild produce picked by its own forager nearby, and fresh vegetables and herbs from its kitchen garden. The Dysart takes music seriously too, hence monthly classical music recitals from international artists, background music on grand piano, classical guitar and lute, and annual events hosted on behalf of the London Jazz Festival. Regular food and wine matching dinners are also held — and not many park cafés can boast that.
The Dysart Petersham, 135 Petersham Road, TW10 7AA
Other honourable mentions courtesy of Londonist writers and readers
Pistachios in the Park in Greenwich, Brockley, and Lewisham: A commendable franchise of family-friendly, community-minded cafés located in council-owned parks.
The Pheasantry Cafe, Bushy Park in Hampton: Perfect for breakfast, coffee and cake after a morning stroll (they have their own on-site bakery). Does get extremely busy.
Hollyhock Cafe, Terrace Gardens in Richmond: Large terrace, dogs allowed, views down over the River Thames. Coffee, cakes, salads and light lunches complete the line-up at this traditional teahouse.
Sunny Hill Cafe, Sunyhill Park in Hendon: A chalet-style family cafe sporting Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. Outside seating pops up on sunny days.
Brown and Green Cafe, Mayow Park in Sydenham: Marvellous south London cafe specialising in breakfast and brunch fare. Vegan and gluten friendly options. Another location sits next to Crystal Palace Park.
Oxleas Wood Cafe, Shooters Hill: Good value, fuss-free food with panoramic views over the surrounding Kent countryside.
Roundwood Park Cafe, Willesden Green: Reopened in April 2018 by a husband-and-wife team with a focus on environmentally-friendly catering and a 'farm-to-table' ethos.
Whittington Park Cafe, Holloway: Community-led and extremely family-friendly. Pizzas, cakes and smoothies lead on the menu while toys and books keep the little ones occupied.
So, do you know of any other fabulous park cafés that we should include on our list? Ideally somewhere unique or different with great food, smiling staff and a setting of breath-taking beauty? Let us know in the comments section below.
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital's top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.