London’s Best Al Fresco 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.
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 floral courtyard or a California inspired terrace — there’s a sunny spot for everyone.
Wright Bros. Battersea
The newest branch of London’s best seafood train is right on the river at the newly redeveloped Battersea Power Station. Sitting here, you’ll enjoy stunning views across the river and of the old power station too (this also lights up at night in spectacular fashion).
There’s only one thing for it if you’re going to dine in the sun – get a fruit de mer and feast. Oysters, langoustines, prawns, crab and lobster on ice are wonderful things, especially when cracked into with plenty of bread, mayonnaise and chilled white wine. The best way to arrive for lunch here is on The Thames Clipper, to really make the most of the waterside location.
Wright Bros. Battersea, 26 Circus West Village, SW8 4NN
This South African inspired restaurant opened in Peckham to rave reviews; their tasteful combination of British produce and traditional SA cooking techniques have gone down a storm in an unlikely location next to Queen’s Road Peckham Station.
The restaurant itself is a stunner, with plush velvet upholstery and muted terracotta tones and now, they’ve opened a gorgeous little garden area too. Settle in under the shade of the scarlet Japanese Acer and enjoy a brunch of sourdough waffles with duck eggs, sour cream and maple cured bacon, or smoked salmon with eggs, asparagus and bearnaise.
Kudu, 119 Queen’s Road, SE15 2EZ
Frank’s rooftop bar and cafe opens up for another year on 18th May. This spot is now something of a London legend, with spectacular views over south London and beyond. We all know that it’s great for a Negroni and a gossip but did you also know that they do fab food?
Frank’s is owned by the same people behind The Camberwell Arms and this shows. Chef Michael Davies has designed a new menu including brunch and plenty of grilled dishes. Do consider visiting for brunch as it’s one of the quieter times, and you’re heading up there after 7pm on a sunny day, be prepared for a one-in-one-out policy.
Frank’s Cafe, Bold Tendencies, 7th-10th Floor Multi-Storey Car Park, 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST
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
The Floral Court at Petersham Nurseries Covent Garden
Covent Garden has a brand new outside dining spot in the form of Petersham Nurseries. In addition to its two restaurants – The Petersham and La Goccia – there’s a pretty new courtyard where you can settle in among the ferns and fruit trees for a leisurely lunch.
You can take your pick from the menus since both restaurants open out onto Floral Court. Suitably summery dishes to enjoy there include The Petersham’s Portland crab and fennel salad with pistachios, creme fraiche and dill, or something from La Goccia’s wood-fired oven, like the spatchcock quail with spiced turmeric yoghurt.
Oh, and it would be very remiss not to enjoy a Petersham Rose Petal Prosecco.
Petersham Nurseries, 27–31 King Street, WC2E 8JB
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 an 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
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
Sipsmith Secret Sipping Garden at Charlotte’s W5
Gin fans should make the trip out to west London for an idyllic summer afternoon at 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 is 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. 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
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