London’s Best Restaurants For Eating Outdoors

By Lydia Manch Last edited 47 months ago

Last Updated 10 July 2020

London’s Best Restaurants For Eating Outdoors
Dalloway Terrace: floral, flamboyant and summery.

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.

Whether you're looking for a gentler way to ease back into the whole being-in-public-spaces thing, or just because London's summer is fleeting and we have to soak up every sunny moment, al fresco is the answer. Here's our pick of London's best outdoor eating spots.

NB — London has so many great picnic spots they deserved a list of their own. Same goes for the city's many brilliant beer gardens serving good gastropub food — have a browse through our pub database for more ideas.

The Shed, Notting Hill

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Secluded but buzzy, the leafy front terrace at this Notting Hill spot offers the best seats in the house. 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 sardines and blood orange, wild garlic pasta, or eclairs stuffed with mushroom Marmite. If you're not ready for restaurant dinners — or don't manage to snag a table — they also do some of their greatest hits as a delivery menu.

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

Caribe', Brixton

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Keshia Sakarah's remit's 'bringing island food and carnival vibes all year' to Brixton. Maybe there's no time of year that wouldn't be improved by some saltfish fritters, supermalt ice cream and rum cocktails — still, the 12 balcony seats, spilling out of the open front of Caribe's shipping container unit in a little suntrap corner of Pop Brixton, are a good reason to make your visit a summer one.

Caribe', Pop Brixton, Brixton Station Road, SW9 8PQ.

Eat of Eden, Brixton

With a unit at the edge of Brixton market, this vegan Caribbean has the truly al fresco set-up and sunshine access that the inner arcade units don't. Prices are a ray of sunshine, too: a 'mini' platter for £13 will get you a far from mini amount of food (we've shared between two and had some leftover), with your choice of any five dishes from their brilliant range of curries, stews and sides. A Guinness Punch is optional; a callaloo or vegetable patty is compulsory. Okay, not compulsory, but we strongly advise it.

Eat of Eden, Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8PR.

River Café, Hammersmith

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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, Battersea

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

A few of the terrace tables at this Battersea seafood restaurant are open for reservations, but most are being saved for walk-ins — if you manage to snag a space, it's equally good at towering sharing platters, lingering dinners, or just a summery pitstop for a cold beer and some fresh oysters.

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

Buster Mantis, Deptford

Making Deptford feel like summer all year round. Photo credit: Buster Mantis.

A railway arch bar-restaurant-nightspot: pre-lockdown, Buster Mantis was a place to slide effortlessly from early drink to jerk dinner into late night music. It's unsure what'll happen to the music programming, but the reopening of their fairy light-hung terrace and the return of their regularly changing Jamaican menu are reason enough to celebrate. Sister bar The Stockton, just down the road, also has some pavement tables.

Buster Mantis, 3-4 Resolution Way, Deptford, London SE8 4NT.

Foley's, Fitzrovia

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This Thai-influenced menu is a beauty, and if you're lucky enough to score their very limited outdoor seating, you've won the Fitzrovia al fresco game. There are two seats and a thin counter in 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.

Arabica, King's Cross

The terrace seating at Arabica's second branch, down a lesser-trodden and office-heavy KX street, doesn't have the most exciting views — but the food more than makes up for it. Brilliant boregi, a great cocktail menu — including a refreshing but fierce Levantini: gin/vermouth/limoncello/basil/citrus, and a bitter and fierce Turkish espresso martini — and good dips at decent prices mean that Arabica lends itself to long mezze-snacking evenings. Read our review from November here.

Arabica KX, 7 Lewis Cubitt Walk, N1C 4DT.

The Compton Arms, Islington

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A neighbourhoody mews pub with excellent craft beers and a belter of a food menu — courtesy of the long-term Four Legs residency — The Compton Arms has always been good at making the most of their pocket-sized and lovely courtyard space out back. If any beer garden in London's going to be able to make a socially distanced set-up still feel warm, rowdy and joyful, it's probably this one. Read our review here.

The Compton Arms, 4 Compton Avenue, N1 2XD.

Peckham Bazaar, Peckham

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Smells good, looks beautiful, warm welcome, equally suited to a romantic one-on-one or an exuberant group dinner: Peckham Bazaar's one of those restaurants you get a great feeling about the second you walk inside. Or outside, if you're sticking to the terrace — secluded, pretty and twinkly, but not twee, partly thanks to the very muscular smells wafting out from the pan-Balkan dishes on the charcoal grill inside.

Peckham Bazaar, 119 Consort Road, SE15 3RU.

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 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.

The Culpeper, Spitalfields

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The Culpeper rooftop's a splash of city-centre greenery that also happens to serve up a solidly good menu — British-ish ingredients turned into modern European dishes, with bits and pieces of them grown on that roof. Kitchen garden feels, fringed by skyscrapers.

The Culpeper, 40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP.

Dishoom, Shoreditch

The Dishoom Shoreditch verandah might be themed around Bombay's mid-century Irani cafes, but it's surprisingly well-suited to the capriciousness of an English summer: retractable roof, spicy comfort food on the menu and a steady flow of chai. First flicker of a raindrop and you can be under shelter, cradling a hot drink, and warming yourself with gunpowder potatoes, whiskey cocktails and cheddar-stuffed naan.  

Dishoom, 7 Boundary Street, E2 7JE.

Untitled, Dalston

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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.

Untitled, 538 Kingsland Road, E8 4AH.