London’s Best Restaurants For Al Fresco Dining

London’s Best Restaurants For Al Fresco Dining
The Shed, Notting Hill

It's that time of year again. No gas heaters needed. No blanket draped over the knees like an elderly dowager. Embrace the tiny window we have to bask outside, eating beautiful food in balmy weather. Here's our pick of London's al fresco food spots.

NB — London has so many great beer gardens serving good gastropub food we couldn't fit them into this list. Find them in our pub database.

Barrafina, Drury Lane

The Drury Lane branch's terrace just adds to this mini-chain's already-substantial charms. Barrafina serves some of the best Spanish food in London — famous for gooey croquetas, and a way of making the simplest tortillas or pan con tomate feel special occasion. Summery food, on a summery terrace. Wash it down with a Basque country white or a cool, buttery sherry.

Barrafina, 43 Drury Lane, WC2B 5AJ.

Bistro Union, Clapham

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One of Clapham’s favourite spots has a small terrace out front. Yes, you're on the street, but Abbeville Road's about as quiet and village-y as zone 2 comes. Expect a menu crammed with British ingredients, Mediterranean influences and home-cured charcuterie. Also some thoroughly summery cocktails. Read our review here.

Bistro Union, 40 Abbeville Road, SW4 9NG.

The Shed, Notting Hill

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Secluded but buzzy, the leafy front terrace at this Notting Hill spot only fits a handful of punters so hotfoot it there after work to snap up a spot. A Gladwin Brothers restaurant, expect farm-fresh ingredients yoked together in spectacular, punchy seasonal menus. Smoking, curing and preserving feature largely. At the time of writing, look out for dishes like baby artichokes and black garlic, smoked cheddar ravioli or mushroom Marmite.  

The Shed, 122 Palace Gardens Terrace, W8 4RT.

Royal China, Canary Wharf

While the Fulham branch of Royal China also has a terrace — and a very dainty, leafy one at that — you stand a better chance of getting a seat at the Canary Wharf venue. The terrace seats 80, and has the side advantage of being a hop away from the docking point for the Thames Clipper, so your transport can come with the same al fresco creds as your lunch.

Royal China, 30 Westferry Circus, E14 8RR.

Sushisamba Covent Garden

Flamboyant cocktails, floral terrace, sought-after location: Sushisamba Covent Garden

Bringing their high-end Japanese-Peruvian fusion to Covent Garden, the second London Sushisamba is as flamboyant, pricey and decadent as the City original. With lavishly OTT decor and an iconic location, the new suntrap terrace is going to be Instagrammer-magnet. If you plan to settle in for dinner, prepare yourself for a hit to the wallet — those raw-fish fitpics won't come cheap. But if you're ready to spend, the Nashi Martini (vodka, lychee and plum wine) and the Yuca Plantation dish (charred yuca, sesame, sweet potato and smoke emulsion) are serving up some big summery flavours and worth the splurge.

Sushisamba, 35 The Market Building, WC2E 8RF.

The huge terrace at Royal China Canary Wharf.

River Café, Hammersmith  

Mind-bogglingly pricey but utterly lovely, there's a reason you have to book way in advance for this Italian spot. Amazing pasta. Sun-dappled terrace. Those river views. Bellissima.

River Café, Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, W6 9HA.

Wright Bros, Soho

Perfect al fresco food at Wright Bros. Photo: Helen Graves.

Lean nonchalantly around barrels in the courtyard of this Carnaby seafood restaurant. The outside set-up's better suited to oysters and a cold beer, than a sprawling dinner, because of the perching involved — but for tapas-style snacking or a shared seafood platter, the sunny courtyard's a reliable favourite.

Wright Bros. Soho, 13 Kingly Street, W1B 5PW.

Foley's, Fitzrovia

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This mixed-influence spot is a beaut, and if you're lucky enough to score their streetside seating, you're winning at Fitzrovia al fresco. Four seats and a thin counter edge the front of the restaurant, with drinks shuttled out through the window-hatch to ensure efficient access to summery, lychee-studded cocktails. Read our review here.

Foley's, 24 Foley Street, W1W 6DU.

Dalloway Terrace, Holborn

Forgive us for expecting The Bloomsbury Hotel's restaurant to be a bit style-over-substance. After all, it's packing plenty of the former. Their terrace — relaunched this year as the Dalloway Summer Estate, in partnership with spirit brand Ramsbury — is one big mass of floral exuberance. Vines, trellises, canopies of flowers and a summery cocktail menu are in full bloom on their quiet Bloomsbury sidestreet: Dalloway Terrace isn't doing anything by halves. Same goes for their food, which despite the venue's delicate, pretty-pretty looks is a collection of punchy, indulgent and powerfully chillied/truffled/cheesed classics.

Dalloway Terrace, 16-22 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3NN.

Untitled, Dalston

It's a touch solemn at this concept-album of a restaurant — think highly-wrought tasting menu and complex cocktails — but the garden's a small stunner. Luminous-lit and studded with small, low stools, it's stylish, memorable and faintly otherworldly. A bit like their menu. Read our review here.

Untitled, 538 Kingsland Road, E8 4AH.

Applebee's Fish, South Bank

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Not the Applebee's of Borough Market, but their South Bank summer pop-up: stashed underneath Hungerford Bridge, it's a small, pretty seaside-shack-meets-champagne-pergola, serving fantastic fish and chips. Made largely out of wooden beams, ropes and strings of bare-bulbs, it's a shaded dream of a spot on a hot day. Sit at the champagne and oyster bar for Thames views, a long mural from street artist Stik brightening the underside of the bridge, and trains rattling (at a soothing rumble) overhead. Bonus feature: a little fairy-light studded petanque pitch, with boules available to borrow for free behind the bar.

Applebee's Fish South Bank, Queen's Walk, Hungerford Bridge, SE1 8XX. Only open till 15 September, 2019.

Last Updated 20 August 2019