Because it involves both eating and being outside, eating outside is a joy. There’s just something about swatting flies away from food that makes us feel like we’re on holiday. While outdoor dining itself could feasibly be done anywhere, the dullness of lockdown has left us wanting to do so at more formal establishments such as actual restaurants. Since we are now able to do just that, we've gathered the very best places in London for outdoor dining to celebrate. Don’t forget to bring a light jacket. And you can still order restaurant meal kits for days when eating al fresco would be nothing short of an endurance sport.
We've gushed about Ampéli before and, since they recently launched a terrace, this is set to continue. It's justified, though. This isn't just a terrace, but a Greek Summer Spritz terrace established in collaboration with METAXA. If you fancy a change from Aperol Spritz and wish to lament Greece remaining on the Amber List (with Greece's most loved amber spirit no less), we recommend it. And the lamb kofte scotch egg, for that matter.
So, this is not a restaurant as such, but given that there is no superior iteration of eating outside other than simply having a picnic, we think that it deserves a place here. This summer, visitors to Elephant Park – the regenerated part of Elephant & Castle that features a natural stone and water landscape designed by the artist behind the Diana Memorial Playground – will be able to go on a restaurant crawl through the area. There, they will encounter delights such as plantain sandwiches from Miko's, arancini from Sugo and gyoza from Koi Ramen. During a time in which 'proper' holidays are cumbesome affairs, this might be the next best thing.
A visit to an oyster and vermouth bar is just the sort of decadence we need after months of restraint, so it's convenient that the Sussex Bar & Restaurant has partnered with Noilly Prat to bring just that to the streets of Soho.
The absence of public brunch in our lives was a veritable struggle, but all is well when we are eating things like buttermilk pancakes on the covered and heated terrace at Rail House Café in Victoria.
Located slightly further north, Riding House Café is the sister establishment of Rail House Café. It offers similarly delightful food and a covered terrace to eat it on.
Most people are familiar with the assertion that the world's best pizza can be found in Naples, but since foreign travel is not yet advisable, we shall have to settle for the next best thing: Cinquecento, the Neapolitan pizzeria that benevolently rules west London. And conveniently, outdoor seating is available at its Chelsea and Notting Hil branches. Our order? The Romagnola pizza for the mortadella alone.
Because it opened in between lockdown 1.0 and lockdown 2.0, it's fair to say that Marylebone's TAKA was initially robbed of its chance to shine. But, when we're sitting on its terrace perusing the Japanese sake selection and eating Loch Duart salmon tataki, it's like 2020 never happened.
If you like deliberating over wine lists and food like Jerusalem artichoke soup with ceps and sourdough croutons, you're in luck: both the Marylebone and Covent Garden branches of 28-50 have opened their terraces.
While WatchHouse has locations across London, the nicest is probably in Somerset House. There, you can sit in the neoclassical courtyard with a cold brew coffee and a slice of orange, cardamom, almond and polenta loaf cake in peace. And it's also worth noting that alternative milks are available at no extra charge with classic coffees.
Not only is Portugal on the UK government's green list, it's also accessible via Bar Douro. Once there, you will be drinking port, eating 'croquteas de alheira' and generally having a lovely time.
Dim sum al fresco is just one of those things that we can't resist. And it's even harder to now that the Soho and City branches of Yauatcha open. But we don't care, because venison puffs and scallop shui mai make us happy – especially when they're washed down with a Rose Fortune cocktail.
Part of the Hakkasan group, Sake no Hana offers an authentic modern Japanese dining experience within walking distance of Green Park station. We're ordering the nabe (a Japanese stew).
Our inclusion of COYA in this list currently only refers to its Angel Court branch or, more specifically, 'The Courtyard'. Launched in partnership with Veuve Clicquot, The Courtyard offers all the best bits of COYA alongside some new additions to the menu (like a crispy pork belly burger with sweet potato, red onion and coriander).
What a relief that Souvlaki street – along with other al fresco establishments – has reopened at Pop Brixton. We will be getting extra halloumi and spicy feta dip with ours, obviously.
HIDE looks magnificent from the inside, but it's the terrace you'll want to be seated at on a balmy day. With breakfast, lunch and dinner bookings available, the food will consist of familiar favourites from the á la carte menu at HIDE ground and cocktails from HIDE Below. Think blue prawns with ripe avocado and fig leaf oil as a starter and The Fallen Madonna to drink (Tanqueray gin, pea shoots, decarbonised tonic, aloe vera). Utter bliss.
Well, if it isn't those igloos that randomly appeared near Tower Bridge once and haven't left our minds since. Who knew that they were actually part of a restaurant called Coppa Club that also has several other branches across England! And while an igloo evidently constitutes outdoor dining 'goals', there are also individual tables on the terrace should these not be available.
Most restaurants only have one outdoor terrace, but Hicce – at Coal Drops Yard besides Regent's Canal – has two. While we obviously prefer the one that overlooks the canal, you can feast (our favourite dish involves tuna and shiso kimchi) at either, so maybe it doesn't really matter.
Beloved BRAT, how kind of you to have set up a permanent residency at Climpson's Arch for 2021! We're certain that your new dish of winter tomatoes with aged mutton and grilled cep mushrooms will taste infinitely better al fresco.
Smoking Goat don't just do Thai food, they do Thai food with a cult following that utilises unique ingredients and 'underrated seafood' from UK waters. And with a heated covered terrace, it's an outdoor dining establishment that can withstand the elements.
Various iterations of cheese available to eat al fresco in Camden? This sells itself really.
While we’d be perfectly happy eating on the pavement outside any one of our favourite restaurants, eating outside on The River Café’s terrace is a privilege. Now, would you like to get your own chocolate nemesis or share?
Offering British food with a distinctly Meditteranean influence, Llewelyn’s is the highlight of Herne Hill. May your people-watching be scintillating.
In a post-pandemic world, we wonder – for hygiene reasons, of course – if tapas is still something we’re obliged to share. Either way, outdoor tables at Barrafina’s Dean Street branch are now available to book.
Days seem to melt away peacefully within the walled garden of Rochelle Canteen, especially when you have some spinach arancini by your side and a pavlova for two to conquer. If you want some respite from the chaos of Shoreditch, this is your safest bet.
At either location of Petersham Nurseries, everything is begging to be photographed. The food, once you remember that it’s there for eating, is primarily Italian. This is outdoor dining for the Instagram obsessive (which would be all of us).
The cafe within Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is Associate Editor Emma’s Firth’s favourite place for this sort of thing.
In all seriousness, who wouldn't want to nurse a ROKU gin cocktail while eating Black Cod Miso and Yellowtail Jalapeño at Nobu's latest London outpost?
A life involving small plates of seafood and Laurent-Perrier's Cuvée Rosé by the glass (or bottle) is just the kind of life we deserve, which is why we enjoy being at the Sea Containers London x Laurent-Perrier Summer Terrace. And who's to say that the indigenous flora we're surrounded by when we're there doesn't ground us?
London's Golden Square is said to be where Soho meets Mayfair, which goes some way to explaining why the part cool and part classy Folie can be found there. We can't stop thinking about its octopus carpaccio à la niçoise.
Eating al fresco is resplendent in meteorological risk, so nothing makes us feel safer than the retractable roof at The Prince in West Brompton. If you enjoy watching sports fixtures, it's also a splendid place for that.
If summers in Scotland are good enough for the Queen, they're good enough for us. And, if The Macallan Manor House at Rosewood London has anything to do with it, we won't even have to leave London for ours. We'll be there eating lamp rump with Jersey royal potatoes and spring vegetables without a care in the world (before becoming mildly agitated when we're forced to choose just one whisky cocktail).
If you're an indecisive vegan who likes pictures of their food to solicit fascination on Instagram, Beza – an Ethiopian restaurant in Elephant and Castle – is the al fresco establishment for you. Here's to food that's healthy, delicious and affordable – and to eating it in the sunshine, too.
If there's one thing we want to be seen doing, it's dining beneath a marigold awning. And so we shall be going to Jikoni to eat on their covered terrace. Complete with wool blankets, statuesque heaters and hot water bottles on request, even the most eclectic weather doesn't stand a chance here (and neither do the sweetcorn and lime leaf fritters once we've seen them).
We'll use any excuse to enter a five-star hotel, but Wild Honey St James – located in the Sofitel – would be worth a visit even if it wasn't. We'll be ordering the nduja tartine with endive and fried hen’s egg. And a dozen oysters, obviously.
We'll always nod along happily to the prospect of eating pizza al fresco, but when those pizzas involve toppings like black truffle and veal meatball – as is the case at Pizza East Portobello – it turns to rabid excitement.
If you ever get the chance to go to Taiwan, go. In the meantime, however, go to Mr Ji in Soho. With a menu centred around chicken (as well as options for vegetarians) and cocktails that pay homage to the country, it's the next best thing.
If you're looking for a dog-friendly food and drink outlet, look no further than Borough's St Felix Place. The only sore point is having to choose between Texas Joe's Adobe and The Good Slice.