With the summer sunshine finally here, alfresco dining is back. Not that it ever really went away; one of the few silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic was the influx of excellent outdoor dining options in London, many of which became permanent, year-round additions – albeit some a bit chilly during the cooler months.
But the capital’s summer spots are now well and truly open for business. You can eat in glorious gardens, revamped rooftops, secret sun traps, tranquil terraces and concealed courtyards. There’s almost too much choice (and alliteration). To help you decide, we’ve selected our 10 favorite spots for supper in the sun.
The Maine, Mayfair
This sun-smothered terrace feels a bit like a stately home or a country mansion, courtesy of its striped awning, creaking bamboo chairs and ivy-lashed brick walls. The menu is mostly New England classics done very well. The truffled steak tartare is a good choice, as is the garlicky Maine lobster.
If you’re in the mood to explore, ask Ali – the mustached Director of Guest Relations – for a tour of the building’s secret spaces, or simply kick back with a Mayflower Martini and relax.
Native at Browns, Mayfair
You’ll need to pass through Browns’ Mayfair boutique to arrive at this hidden, cherry-blossom-filled courtyard. One of London’s most sustainable restaurants, mostly zero-waste dishes use foraged ingredients and change with the seasons.
Some are evergreen though, like the hand-dived scallops served with a warming thwack of venison nduja, and the marrowmel – a white chocolate, caramel and bone marrow mix spooned out of the bone itself.
Peggy Jean, Richmond
A vision in pastel parasols, the latest addition to the Daisy Green empire serves Aussie-style dishes from a restored Jesus College Oxford barge. It’s moored near The Ivy Café in one of Richmond’s prettier spots, and the vibe is decidedly like a beach club Down Under– especially in the sun.
To eat, it’s an all-Aussie affair from brunch to dinner, and you can also order fist-sized, rainbow-colored lamingtons to go, courtesy of sister brand Radio Lamington.
La Poule au Pot, Belgravia
Nothing feels more French than sitting on the roadside with a glass of red – except when you do so at La Poule au Pot.
Often vying with Clos Maggiore for the title of London’s most romantic restaurant, it’s been serving the same French favorites since 1962 – although, in recent years, several plant-based options have appeared alongside classics such as cassoulet and beef bourguignon. Stay late; the people-watching is excellent.
If you’re dining at Scott’s, you want to eat on the terrace. However, these prime tables are notoriously difficult to secure. Once safely seated among the lemon trees, you’ll be ordering Dover sole by the ounce and oysters by the dozen. On a hot day, save room for one of the ice creams, too.
Jurema at the Mandrake Hotel, Fitzrovia
When you imagine an urban oasis, you’re probably picturing something like The Mandrake Hotel. Jasmine and passionflower are draped from almost every surface, and if you look up, there’s a greenery-filled glasshouse for private dining.
Cocktails are ethnobotanical (try the Mangosteen if you like a spicy margarita), and dishes are Mexican-leaning and seafood-heavy, such as grilled octopus and tuna tartare.
Petersham Nurseries, Covent Garden
This flower-filled courtyard is undoubtedly one of the prettiest in London – and it’s home to not one but two restaurants, plus a bar, deli, wine cellar and florist. Come for a long, lingering dinner of small sharing plates at La Goccia, preceded by aperitivo at the adjacent bar (the negroni sbagliato is a must, made with Petersham’s own prosecco).
Make sure to leave plenty of time to browse the shop and deli for flowery wares to enhance your own space.
Dining SW3, Knightsbridge
Something about this pleasant little Japanese restaurant makes you feel like you’re on holiday, even if, as the name indicates, you’re not far from Knightsbridge. It’s concealed down a mews and has a garden that feels like a quintessential West London courtyard complete with plant-smothered walls and wicker chairs that match your chopsticks.
To eat, it’s seafood-heavy sushi, although the wagyu, topped with flecks of caviar and preserved spiced yuzu, is also unmissable.
The Greenhouses, Marylebone
For a feast that feels completely private, the nine greenhouses at One Marylebone are hard to beat. Each is filled with flowers, candles and twinkling lights, and they’re available for private hire only – whether you’re dining in groups of two or 22.
The Mediterranean menu is heavy on vegetables and designed to share; expect to eat harissa-drenched cauliflower, delicate lamb shank and a chocolate tart topped with plump figs.
The River Cafe, Hammersmith
One of the few London restaurants that can truly be described as iconic, the River Cafe draws a crowd even on grizzly days. It’s been stretched across the same Thames-facing lawn since 1987. You come here for seasonal Italian dishes and the unmistakable feeling of being on holiday.
Of the extensive menu, the freshly made pasta is always a good idea, as is that second glass of rosé in the sun.
This story was first published by Quintessentially and is republished with kind permission. For more information, please go to Quintessentially.com