London’s Best Alfresco Dining
Just Opened London’s ‘Best of’ series covers a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Words: Joanne Gould
When the sun is shining in London, nothing beats sipping a chilled glass of white wine, munching on summery grub and soaking up some rays. We’ve rounded up the best al fresco eats you’ll find all over the city – whether it’s a trailer park in Hackney, a Barcelona-esque riverside hotel or a Bloomsbury-set inspired terrace – there’s a sunny spot for everyone.
12. The Roof Deck
A serious shopping trip can work up quite the appetite, so you’ll need to book yourself a space at the Roof Deck Restaurant & Bar at the top of Selfridges. You will need to book too, as every time we’ve attempted a walk-in, we’ve failed. Apparently inspired by the relaxed, cool Californian lifestyle, the Roof Deck serves healthy, tasty West Coast-worthy plates like seared broccoli, lentil salsa and toasted walnuts, and prawns a la plancha with blistered corn and pomegranate.
Head up via the designated lift and enter through the boardwalk, which is lined with timber beams and tropical palms bringing strong LA vibes. A fully retractable roof ensures guests can continue to enjoy the views and vino even if the weather turns distinctly ‘UK’. On warm balmy evenings, cool down with one of their frozen cocktails (cucumber and chilli margarita, anyone?) and hide out in the cute cabanas, complete with twinkly fairy lights.
The Roof Deck, Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB
11. Dalloway Terrace
Part of The Bloomsbury Hotel and named after the Virginia Woolf character, Mrs. Dalloway, it’s no surprise that this literary-inspired space oozes poetic charm and elegance. As lovely as it is in Winter, all fairy lights, greenery and cosy conservatory, Dalloway Terrace is a thing of beauty in the warmer months when you can get stuck into their all-day dining or cocktails until the small hours.
Brunch is particularly good, with summer-inspired plates like burrata with tomatoes and crostini, or Dorset crab on toast with egg, watercress and apple, all taken in the lovely secluded garden that feels a million miles away from its bustling postcode. There’s the option to go bottomless with Skinny Prosecco at £30pp too and frankly, it would be rude not to.
Dalloway Terrace, 16-22 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3NN
Head over to the City for al fresco rooftop dining ETM style (The Botanist, One Canada Square, Greenwood) where Aviary is newly ensconced on floor 10 of the shiny, new Montcalm Royal London House Hotel on Finsbury Square. Already proving itself to be a popular post-work drinking destination, we really suggest you book a table to take advantage of the sky-high views in comfort. Dishes are modern British and cooked in a coal oven – it’s essentially very fancy pub food, as you’ll find in most of the group’s venues. On the menu you’ll find hunks of cow, Gloucester Old Spot double chops and steakhouse style sides.
Comfy corner sofas, in-your-face citrus and palm print styling and plenty of blankets and heaters mean that this is a great-looking place to drink, too and like the sound of the Sour Cherry Bomb (Ketel One, Kamm & Sons, cherries and rhubarb bitters) and the Jennings Steam Boat ‘sharing pineapple’.
Aviary, 10th Floor Montcalm Royal, London House Hotel, 22-25 Finsbury Square, EC2A 1DX
9. Petersham Nurseries
Possibly the prettiest dining destination we’ve ever known, Petersham Nurseries in the Richmond countryside has bags of picture-perfect style and charm, and did so way before Instagram came along. Quite literally a nursery, you’ll be drinking and dining under a beautiful pergola of Mediterranean bougainvillaea, trailing ivy and heady scented jasmine as shoppers browse the garden centre for additions to their herbaceous borders.
The menu is full of garden-inspired sustainable slow food with much greenery and – if we’re honest – portions are a little on the small side. Don’t go expecting your usual garden centre café prices either; this is moneyed territory and the menu reflects this: a fillet of hake with Vermentino, asparagus, chives and peas is currently £29.50. Customers are undeterred by the spend though, with bookings to be made around two or three months in advance for peak times. We also know that they’ll soon be opening a new branch in Covent Garden…
Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane (signposted St Peter’s Church) Off Petersham Road, Richmond, TW10 7AB
8. Anna de Codorniu Terrace
The spirit of Barcelona is alive and well this summer thanks to the Anna de Codorniu pop up at the DoubleTree Hilton Docklands, transforming the 17th-century Grade-I-listed Columbia Wharf into a sunny Spanish riverside terrace. Hop on the Thames Clipper from Canary Wharf pier to make the most of the experience and on entry you’ll see Iberian-inspired white and gold sofas, cushions, deck chairs and parasols, then work your way through a frankly exhaustive Cava and sangria menu against a soundtrack of Spanish tunes (get the Royale Sangria of Anna Blanc de Blanc, peach schnapps, elderflower, citrus, cucumber and mint). Food is typical Catalonian tapas with mini chorizo and Manchego bocadillos, croquettas and calamari with aioli.
At weekends, the Anna Tasting Brunch (£32pp) allows you to sample a flight of four Anna Cavas and a dish from the brunch menu, and we’re excited about the impending Codorniu Summer School with paella and Cava masterclasses.
Anna de Codorniu, DoubleTree by Hilton London Docklands Riverside, 265 Rotherhithe Street, SE16 5HW
7. Le Pont de la Tour
Even when you’re inside, Le Pont de la Tour feels outdoorsy, thanks to its absolutely stunning riverside views and unparalleled vista of Tower Bridge – which is even better at night. For summer, visitors should head directly to the terrace for some uber-luxurious al fresco dining; simple pared back decking, crisp white tablecloths and sparkling glassware as standard mean the 1930’s Parisian vibe is strong, and that’s before we’ve got onto the food.
There are wild rock oysters, if you’re so inclined, otherwise have a gander at a wild fillet of sea bass with shellfish tortellini, confit fennel and bouillabaisse or canon of lamb, braised shoulder, black garlic with ratatouille, petit violet artichoke and lemon yoghurt. Yeah, they know what they’re doing in the kitchen here but we suggest you don’t come the day before payday.
Le Pont de la Tour, 36D Shad Thames, SE1 2YE
6. The Lido Cafe
Anyone looking to channel a full-on holiday vibe should take a trip to south London and the Brockwell Lido to work up an appetite for a tranquil poolside breakfast. The iconic Art Deco building means that your laps will come with more than a small helping of 1920s glamour, and eggs Benedict or blueberry buttermilk pancakes taken under the potted palms make for a chilled out Mediterranean vibe.
There is a short menu of light lunch options, dinner and booze served all day at this outdoor haven and the focus on British produce is noticeable. On a hot day, dining on the beech furnished patio next to the pool, it’s easy to believe you’re in far sunnier climes. Swimming optional, of course.
The Lido Cafe, Brockwell Lido, Brockwell Park, SE24 0PA
5. Sipsmith Secret Sipping Garden at Charlotte’s W5
Gin fans should make the trip out to west London for an idyllic summer afternoon at the newly installed Sipsmith Secret Sipping Garden in the beautiful setting of Charlotte’s W5. The historic stables and grounds date back to Victorian times, and gently bubbling fountains and a cosy, informal ambience mean that Ealing residents are in for an al fresco treat this summer. As Sipsmith gin is distilled just a stone’s throw from Charlotte’s W5, the bar team have capitalised on provenance with other local ingredients like Ealing Honey and Electric Cold Brew Coffee from neighbours The Electric to make up their list of ambitious summery serves.
We love the sound of The Bee’s Gees (Ealing honey, lemon, Cocchi Americano and Sipsmith London Dry Gin) and the Modern Gibson (Onion jam, Rose Vermouth and Sipsmith V.J.O.P). You’ll be needing something to soak up all that gin, so feast on plates of ham hock croquettes, wild mushroom and truffle quiche or spatchcock poussin with honey and mustard slaw. Come night time, twinkly lights and cosy blankets complete the experience, so you can continue sipping to your heart’s content.
Sipsmith Secret Sipping Garden, Charlotte’s W5, The Old Stable Block, Dickens Yard, Longfield Avenue, W5 2UQ
Making rooftops look passe this summer, is Our/London – a food, music, cocktail hybrid series taking place in a trailer park. It’s in Hackney, of course, where the Our/London Vodka distillery at Hackney Downs plays host to the edgiest al fresco drinking and dining every Saturday during summer.
The bar will be serving a steady stream of Our/London Vodka cocktails (at the bargain bucket price of £5) whilst the food truck sees a range of food-famous faces popping up to show off their wares – chefs from The Dairy, Sager & Wild, Salon, Anglo are already confirmed in addition to Zoe Adjonyoh of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. If the weather takes a turn, head into the distillery for table tennis and listen to some of London’s finest independent record labels and DJs. It’s open to all, including families – not just trendy E8 residents.
Ourvodka.com/ourlondon, Spurstowe Road, E8 1LS
3. J. Sheekey
We already waxed lyrical about J. Sheekey’s seafood and their magnificent fruits de mer, freshly caught fish and imaginative, coastal menu is hard to beat, but today we’re here to tell you how fantastic the Atlantic Terrace is. The slightly more affordable and informal section of the J. Sheekey offering, there’s an indoor turquoise horseshoe shaped bar which is tons of fun, but for sunny days you need to bag a table outside sharpish.
The revamp saw lots of new comfy seats and a dazzling shade of aquamarine used liberally to channel the essence of the Atlantic. Sit and watch the world go by, quaffing excellent wines, some of the best seafood money can buy and congratulate yourself on time – and not a small amount of money – very well spent.
J. Sheekey, 28-32 St Martin’s Court, WC2N 4AL
Over in SW3, ever-popular Bluebird is always a good option for summer dining. Light, airy and with plenty of ‘bringing the outside in’ styling, the whole café and restaurant is good for a fun, sunny lunch, but a table outside in the café and courtyard is the perfect stop off for a restorative Bluebird cheeseburger, Benedict or Caesar salad after a hard day’s shopping on the King’s Road. A favourite of those who want to see or be seen (namely the Made in Chelsea crew), Bluebird is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and have gone all out to commemorate the occasion with a little help from Jo Malone.
The already pretty courtyard is currently all dressed up, as Jo has transformed the space into a ‘magical blossom city’ literally overflowing with scented foliage and flowers inspired by her own fragrance creations. Heavenly. It’s in full bloom until the end of the June 2017.
Bluebird, 350 King’s Road, SW3 5UU
1. Coppa Club
The South Bank always gets all the glory, but over the river, there’s some serious competition from the lovely Coppa Club – especially as the terraces this side are the ones that get the sun all day. Coppa Club installed quirky little bookable igloo pods all over the terrace for winter, but now these have been replaced with seven standalone timber cabanas offering the same terrific views of Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, The Shard and more.
Pergolas of hanging wisteria mean that things are no less Instagrammable for the summer season and are accompanied by a menu of simple, European small plates, brunch dishes and cocktails – think sticky chorizo, fava bean and mint hummus and trout on the plancha. They’re open for early morning breakfasts right through to late night, so you can easily grab a slice of the Coppa Cabana action.
Coppa Club, 3 Three Quays Walk, Lower Thames Street, EC3R 6AH