London’s move into tier two has seen the city embrace al fresco dining hard. Where once we would have scoffed at the idea of piling on several layers and chilling outside in the winter months, this year has put things in a rather different light.
No need to despair though – there are tonnes of restaurants with outdoor seating in London – brilliant ones at that.
Looking for the best spots to eat al fresco in our fair city? Look no further.
£ – Mains £10 and under
££ – Mains £10-20
£££ – Mains £20+
Best Restaurants with Outdoor Seating in London
How do you fancy feasting on some of London’s best fish and seafood dishes on a heated terrace surrounded by gorgeous festoon lights (with extra blankets on hand too)? If the answer is a lot (and let’s face it, it’s guaranteed to be), head to Borough Market hotspot and Applebee’s. The seafood platter is legendary and is particularly suited to being washed down with a bottle of bubbly… just so you know.
Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill
Sometimes you need to indulge in an exquisite meal in a grand dame London restaurant – these are moments that Richard Corrigan’s Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill was made for. The al fresco dining space is both heated and covered – ready for you to swan in and nab a spot on even the most inclement day. To have anything other than the seafood at Bentley’s – expertly prepared and paired with a crisp white – is to do it an injustice.
Bleeding Heart Bistro
There are actually two separate venues here (well three, but one’s currently closed) – The Tavern and The Bistro – the tucked away courtyard is mostly used for the latter. Go for excellent French classics in a classic London setting.
Caravan Exmouth Market
Caravan ticks all the boxes for punters looking for a laid-back meal that’s big on flavour but without the fuss. This all-day dining champion is just as good for a hearty breakfast as it is for lunches, snacks and dinners – with house-roasted coffee and delicious cocktails to round it off. You can only book the outdoors table by email.
Chiltern Firehouse is one of the hottest tables in town, so you should count yourself quadruply lucky if you snag one of the hard-to-get tables in their beautiful courtyard. Kick things off with oysters from the roving oyster cart, before settling into the (surprisingly reasonable) menu of grills, salads and European specials.
London’s biggest (and most Insta-famous) riverside outdoor terrace has had its winter makeover – complete with festoon lights, plants galore and, of course, those igloos. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been blown away by the food at Coppa Club’s Tower Bridge outpost but hype aside – it is one of london’s prettiest al fresco dining spots. Beware though – those famous igloos count as indoors, so if you’re dining outside of your household bubble, it will be at one of the (uncovered) outdoor tables.
You’d have to have been living in a cave not to have spotted the fussy floral terrace at Dalloway Terrace at some point this year. The seasonally-changing decor in this Bloomsbury restaurant may draw in the Instagram crowd but its boujee menu – which extends from breakfast pancakes to fancy afternoon teas and equally exclusive dinners – also steps up to the plate.
Mayfair newcomer Fallow Restaurant has had a tough time of it – it was only open for two weeks before the national lockdown forced it to close for several months. Now that it’s open again, there’s plenty to catch your attention. Two of the owners, Will Murray and Jack Croft met whilst working in the kitchens at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner, while the third founded local favourite Mews of Mayfair. The emphasis is on sustainable ingredients done well with menu highlights including a dairy cow ribeye steak and a umami-packed plant burger.
If ever there was a time where Southbank Pizzeria Green Room’s spacious outdoor terrace really came into its element, it’s now. Tucked just behind the National Theatre, the central location is only paralleled by their pizzas – made in house with heritage grains and sustainably sourced ingredients.
Nine Lives Alley
The folks at cocktail bar Nine Lives are all about the tropicalifornication – so it should come as no surprise that they’re on a mission to brighten up winter by bringing a little taste of Mexico to the covered and heated Nine Lives Alley. Tacos, tostadas and some of the best cocktails in town? What’s not to like?
The hearty contemporary French fare at The Coach always deserves to be celebrated – even more so when you tuck in in the confines of their pretty plant-filled garden. While outdoor dining in London can often feel like an afterthought, no such accusation can be levied at The Coach, whose outdoor space is an absolute delight.
The Modern Pantry
The Modern Pantry is a rare breed of London eatery – an international restaurant that serves unwaveringly excellent dishes. Anna Hansen has been blessing Clerkenwell with her particular brand of brilliance for over a decade, and it’s just as popular as ever. Expect to hustle for the outdoor tables on quiet St John’s Square.
The Restaurant at Ham Yard Hotel
Those looking for outdoor drinks will do well to nab a spot on the upstairs (covered) roof terrace but if you want to eat, head the restaurant courtyard of quirky Soho boutique hotel Ham Yard instead. The seasonal British menu may change regularly, but is always underpinned by the promise of high-quality ingredients used to create delectable eats. There are plenty of cosy blankets to keep you warm.
Whyte & Brown
Nestled in Kingly Court, chicken maestros Whyte & Brown have outdoor dining in London down pat thanks to the court’s spacious covered (and heated) terrace. As you’d expect from a restaurant championing free-range chicken, the focus is very much on some rather excellent… chicken dishes, though there are plenty of options for veggies and vegans too.
Patrick Powell’s fantastic restaurant in Stratford is proof that quality outdoor dining in London is by no means confined to the city centre. Created by the same team behind the Chiltern Firehouse and St Pancras Renaissance, Allegra is fast becoming a Stratford favourite. The recently-opened covered and heated terrace features a hyper-local menu made using produce from their own organic farm, with plenty of warming dishes and hot drinks to keep you toasty.
Just because we’re heading outside for our social eats, doesn’t mean that we have to let standards slip. Chic Michelin-starred Angler celebrates the best of British produce with a seafood menu that, quite frankly, is a delight. It’s spenny – but the dishes, which include stars like wild turbot with scallop stuffed courgette, Dorset crab and Bouillabaisse sauce are worth it.
So you can’t reserve the outdoor seating at London Fields neighbourhood eatery Bright. That’s the bad news. The good is if you do manage to snag a table at this local favourite, you’re in for one helluva meal. The emphasis here is very on simple dishes done exceedingly well: think spaghetti with bottarga and lemon and monkfish tail, beurre blanc and fennel pollen – do try not to drool.
Feast on their stone-baked pizzas (washed down with some Crate beer naturally) in the outdoor terrace at one of East London’s coolest spots. The pretty views of the River Lea don’t exactly hurt either.
London pop-up-turned-success-story Homeslice has several outposts dotted across the city but it’s the garden at the Shoreditch spot that’s best-suited to an al fresco meal. The pizza’s so good it’s built a loyal following of Londoners who swear it’s the best outside of Italy: in no small thanks to the creative toppings like the four cheese – which takes the standard and transforms it with Neal’s Yard cheeses, a jalapeno salsa and a rye crumb.
Until recently eating outside at Hackney salumeria and pizzeria Lardo meant bunkering down under layers of jumpers and coats and braving the (covered elements). That’s all gotten a bit easier thanks to the recent addition of heaters to help keep you toasty. Food-wise, it’s all about seasonal Italian dishes that will elevate your tastebuds to a higher state of consciousness – expect lots of pizzas and some handmade pasta.
Four Hundred Rabbits
Brockwell Park’s delightful Lido Cafe has been revamped as Four Hundred Rabbits – an excellent spot celebrating fermentation in the forms of pizza and beer. It’s popular and deservedly so because the pizza truly is a thing of beauty, particularly when wolfed down on one of the al fresco seats overlooking the lido. The Tenner Tuesdays – where you can nab a pizza and beer for a tenner are a must.
Herne Hill-ites must thank their lucky stars to have a fabulous restaurant like Llewelyn’s in their midst – if not, they should. I’ll level with you, there are only a couple of outdoor tables here but they are absolutely worth booking ahead to snag. Let’s face it, serving a menu of seasonal British delicacies in a former Victorian dining room with chefs from the Anchor & Hope, St John and Rochelle Canteen was always going to be a win.
Elephant & Castle
South London treasure Paladar enchants diners with its Latin American tapas-style menu – which you can tuck into in their homely courtyard. Once there, you’re free to indulge in the zingy dishes – with stars like grilled octopus with tempura breadfruit and tuna tartare bringing some much needed sunshine to your plate.
There aren’t huge numbers of restaurants serving food from the Balkans in London and, if Peckham Bazaar is anything to go by, that’s a real shame. Smoke-infused dishes speed out of the kitchen, fresh and hot off the charcoal grill before being promptly devoured by punters ever-hungry for more. The location – on a mostly-residential road in Peckham – makes for a pleasant terrace dining experience.
The Canton Arms
Stockwell Gastropub The Canton Arms may look like a rather old-fashioned pub – but the food that comes out of its kitchen is anything but old-fashioned. Brilliant, delicious and accomplished are better-suited descriptors. The front garden is a place of beauty (umm, perhaps not literally, it does face onto a relatively busy road) with lots of outdoor seating, heating and lighting – the holy triumvirate for eating al fresco in London during the colder months.
Much as I adore Soho eatery Brasserie Zedel, its cavernous underground dining room just isn’t suited to non-household Tier two eats – just one reason to celebrate the spacious outdoor seating at sister restaurant Bellanger on Islington Green. Bellanger recently returned as a pop up until Christmas but I suspect it’s a stayer. Unsurprisingly, this all-day brasserie from the team behind The Wolseley and Zedel hits all the right notes: a keenly-priced menu of French classics, prix fixes and a weekend brunch among them.
Pairing the cuisine of a country with much colder winters than ours and a heated terrace feels like a particularly good idea right now, and the folks at King’s Cross favourite German Gymnasium know it. The menu is the definition of hearty – with a rib-sticking selection of schnitzels, sausages and knodel (potato dumplings) that would do a long way to keeping you warm on their own.
Locals adore Islington classic Frederick’s – and really, it’s not hard to see why. The menu of classic European dishes is exceptional, the service impeccable and now – a garden marquee where you can dine with friends and family (of six) without being exposed to the elements.
I know, I know, another entry from the Granary Square area but really, it does have the biggest concentration of restaurants with outdoor seating in north London – and brilliant ones at that. Sri Lankan restaurant Hoppers wins out – with a gorgeous (and more importantly, fully-covered) large terrace with views of Regent’s Canal.
With views of Granary Square and Regent’s Canal, the three terraces at The Lighterman are coming into their own this winter. They’ve even got parasols and heaters to sweeten the deal. If that doesn’t warm you up, the contemporary Gastropub’s seasonal menu will – with dishes like Norfolk lamb shoulder and baby turnip hot pot and baked celeriac pomegranate salad, chanterelles, caper and raisin dressing stealing the show.
Chelsea classic Bluebird’s spacious outdoor terrace is a winner in all seasons. In the summer months it’s the perfect spot to sip on rose with a light lunch and a healthy dose of people-watching. Things get even cosier in the winter with heaters and blankets aplenty and a high-end Modern European menu.
It’s not been long that diners have been able to eat at Sam’s Riverside’s newly-opened seafood terrace – but if there ever was a time it’s welcome, it’s now. The terrace – which comes with heaters and pretty views of the Thames – seats 32. Go for British classics with a heavy seafood focus.
The Ivy Chelsea Garden
Many of The Ivy’s (ever-increasing) outposts have outdoor dining areas but the one in Chelsea really sparkles. The green terrace, complete with trailing ivy, fragrant herbs, plump cushions and those all-important heaters, is a pretty magical take on eating al fresco in London – particularly at night when the fire pits come out.
The flower-draped enclaves of The Prince’s beautiful garden have proven understandably popular this year. Not only is it pretty much perfect for your socially-distanced non household catch ups, but its buzzy vibe and spot-on food keeps punters returning again and again. That food provided by Filth & Co, Utterly Waffle and Jack’s Sprat comes on a sizeable menu varied enough to keep even the pickiest diners happy.
Practical Tips and Map for Al Fresco Dining in London
- Look, I know it’s a bore and I kind of keep repeating myself here but you should book ahead to avoid disappointment. Trying to find a restaurant with outdoor seating in London that still has availability a couple of hours before dinner on a Saturday is the kind of Herculean task you should spare yourself if at all possible.
- I’ve tried to flag up the heating / cover sitch at the different restaurants because when it’s December it’s blowing up a storm, there’s a big old difference between dining outside underneath a cosy heater and canopy and not. Check ahead and dress appropriately.
PS: Looking for more inspiration and ideas? Check out the Unusual London Book.
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