There's something magical about eating al fresco, and London has some great options right now. Here's a list of our current favourites:
Barrafina Drury Lane: We’re thrilled that one of the three Barrafina restaurants has opened a shiny new terrace. The mini-chain serves some of the best Spanish food in London and we always order a portion of their wobbly croquetas, a few crisp, blackened octopus tentacles, some pan con tomate, a plate of ham, perhaps a tortilla. You know what? Everything is good, especially with a bottle of super refreshing txakoli (that’s a slightly sparkling white wine from the Basque Country, pronounced 'chacoli').
Barrafina, 43 Drury Lane, WC2B 5AJ
Trinity: One of Clapham’s favourite spots now has 24 seats in an outside walled garden area, surrounded by containers of wild flowers. Expect a menu full of seafood, light sauces, and summery vegetable arrangements. We think this outdoor seating area will provide some tension relief for a restaurant that can seem a little uptight at times.
Trinity, 4 The Polygon, SW4 0JG
Royal China: Both the Fulham and Canary Wharf branches of Royal China have outdoor seating. At Fulham there’s a small, foliage-edged terrace seating 12, but at Canary Wharf there’s a frankly massive patio, which seats 80. It’s also only a minute’s walk from the Thames Clipper Pier, should you want to arrive in style.
Royal China, 30 Westferry Circus, E14 8RR
German Gymnasium: GG has launched a summer terrace in partnership with Wines of Germany (come on, you know summer’s all about the wine). The outdoor space comes complete with overhead vines and there will be a special menu of flower themed cocktails and dishes like rhubarb and custard brûlée with elderflower ice-cream.
German Gymnasium, King's Boulevard, N1C 4BU
Clerkenwell Kitchen: We love this secluded courtyard surrounded by office blocks (really a lot nicer than it sounds). Open 8am-5pm, this popular café serves breakfasts and lunches of sandwiches, salads and soups. It's a little haven away from the busy Farringdon Road.
Clerkenwell Kitchen, 27 - 31 Clerkenwell Cl, EC1R 0AT
Caravan Exmouth Market: Around 20 outside spots are up for grabs at this lively Exmouth Market restaurant, so be quick if you want to nab one. The menu is a selection of seasonally-inspired small plates and main courses and the fry-up from their brunch menu is always popular.
Caravan, 11-13 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QD
The Modern Pantry: There’s a lovely seating area outside this restaurant in a Grade II listed Georgian building on St John’s Square. It feels like a real oasis away from the main road and is the perfect place to enjoy some of Anna Hansen’s signature dishes like the sugar-cured prawn omelette, or the great value afternoon tea.
The Modern Pantry, 47-48 St John's Square, EC1V 4JJ
Sushisamba: You’ll need to get this one right because it’s only open in fair weather without high wind. When it is open, though, it’s one of the best spots in town as the views are fantastic. It can’t be booked directly — instead, book a table in the main restaurant then ask to be moved outside.
Sushisamba, Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY
Beagle: This Hoxton restaurant in a railway arch, and has a raised, enclosed dining area at the front. We love the buzz of this place with the noise of the trains overhead and being right next to the station, it’s great for people-watching.
Beagle, 397-400 Geffrye Street, E2 8HZ
Grain Store: The regeneration of King’s Cross brought some great new things and Grain Store was one of them. Bruno Loubet’s all-day restaurant has a brightly coloured seating area overlooking those famous jumping fountains. There are plenty of other places nearby to eat al fresco too, such as The Lighterman.
Grain Store, Granary Square, King's Cross, 1-3 Stable Street, N1C 4AB
Boundary: The citrus tree-lined rooftop is very popular here so you’ll need to call ahead. There’s a menu of seafood, steaks and bar food to enjoy and the drinks aren't bad either.
Boundary, 2-4 Boundary Street, E2 7DD
River Café: Yeah you’ll need to book ages in advance and take out a second mortgage to buy a plate of pasta but hey, it’s a really lovely spot. Dappled light falls over the al fresco dining area while you slurp back perfect strands of spaghetti and sink glasses of crisp, cold white.
River Café, Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, W6 9HA
Big Easy Bar BBQ: The latest branch of the Big Easy chain has a BBQ focus (on trend) but what it also has, is a whacking great terrace with views over The City and East and West India Docks. Situated at the Crossrail Terminal Building it’s a pretty great location.
Big Easy Bar BBQ, Crossrail Place, E14
Dickie Fitz: A new Antipodean restaurant with a terrace, which took over from the Newman Street Tavern. This place is slick on seafood (charcoal grilled, of course) and you can kick back al fresco knowing you’ve got one of the hottest seats in town.
Dickie Fitz, 48 Newman Street, W1T 1QQ
Lurra: We got a lurra love for this Galician restaurant in Marylebone. Beef is the name of the game here and don’t forget to order the fries, which are pretty special with smoked paprika and aioli. They don’t sound like much, but they’re textbook. Oh and yeah, they have seats outside too.
Lurra, 9 Seymour Place, W1H 5BA
Wright Bros Soho: This seafood restaurant is one branch of an excellent mini chain and they take advantage of the outdoor area at Soho’s Kingly Court. We love to order a round of oysters and fizz. There are other al fresco choices here too, like Pizza Pilgrims.
Wright Bros. Soho, 13 Kingly Street, W1B 5PW
The Marksman: There’s not much time to experience this one, so get there between 27 May–10 June. One of London’s best pub dining rooms is launching a terrace and herb garden as part of the Chelsea Fringe 2016. The floral installation will be designed by landscape designer Miria Harris using a selection of heritage herbs such as lovage, sorrel, fennel and bergamot plus culinary flowers such as violas and borage.
The Marksman, 254 Hackney Rd, E2 7SJ. Herb Garden at The Marksman will be open to Chelsea Fringe visitors and pub goers from Friday 27 May to Friday 10 June 2016 between 11am–6pm.
Almost Al Fresco:
Dalloway Terrace: To Bloomsbury and this beautiful, leafy terrace, which has just had a major revamp. This hotel space is not totally al fresco, but it has a fully retractable roof.
Dalloway Terrace, 16-22 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3NN
Ognisko: A simply excellent terrace here, spacious, sheltered but still light and breezy. The food is great too, you’ll be pleased to know – think Polish comfort food elevated beyond stodgy dumplings. We love their daintily crafted pelmeni and refreshing cucumber and dill soup.
Ognisko, 55 Exhibition Road, SW7 2PN
Blixen: Not al fresco at all, really, as it’s under the cover of Spitalfields market, but this conservatory area is so filled with plants it feels part jungle, and it’s so bright it’s almost as good as sitting outside.
Blixen, 65A Brushfield Street, E1 6AA
Bourne and Hollingsworth: Another great greenhouse here in the vast complex that is the Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings. We love to munch on their salt and pepper squid while reclining in the wicker furniture and pretending we're at our mad old aunt's crumbling mansion.
Bourne and Hollingsworth, Rathbone Place, W1T 1JF
Dishoom Shoreditch: This branch of the Bombay café chain has a huge enclosed veranda with a retractable roof. It mock-faded beauty is rather charming and the perfect spot to put away a bacon naan, one of our 100 best sandwiches in London.
Dishoom Shoreditch, 7 Boundary Street, E2 7JE
Brunswick House Cafe: This restaurant and architectural salvage yard is located on a busy junction in Vauxhall, but you wouldn't know it once you walk through the gate. The 18th-century house was home to the Duke of Brunswick and it's a fabulous place to dine, each corner hiding another curiosity, all of them for sale. As much as the inside is great in all its chandelier-swinging glory, the terrace is the place to get your fill of head chef Andrew Clarke's brilliant cooking, for he is a talent. In fact, the whole restaurant is covered with the prints of people who have effortless good taste.
Brunswick House Cafe, 30 Wandsworth Road, SW8 2LG