Britain has seen scorching temperatures this summer, and restaurants across the capital have expanded their offering to maximise their outside space. This being London, if the weather turns, most provide wet-weather coverings, so rain or shine, you can feast alfresco. Here’s our pick of the best terraces…
Central London Terraces
One of London’s most Instagrammable restaurants, this colourful, high-octane restaurant offers the Italian trattoria experience without stepping on a plane. The sunny 60-seat terrace is decked out in Circolo’s signature maximalist style, with festoon lighting, colourful cushions and plants galore. Feast on an XXL spaghetti cacio e pepe for two, served in a wheel of pecorino cheese, or a metre-long pizza such as the O Carbo Mio – a moreish carbonara/pizza hybrid with a pecorino base (whether you share or not is up to you).
40-41 Rathbone Place. www.bigmammagroup.com
London’s newest rooftop bar/restaurant is this beauty in the heart of London’s City. Its USP? A spectacular close-up view of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. This lofty oasis is seven floors up, giving a prime view of the iconic dome on one side and of the glittering Shard on the other. The breezy botanical theme that runs through the decor is picked up in the excellent cocktails, such as Whizz Fizz, a mix of Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb & Ginger, elderflower cordial, crème de cassis and lemon juice. The food is deliciously summery, with moreish sharing plates and mains such as Lebanese chicken flatbread with ezme, tamarind yoghurt and picked red onions. A retractable roof means that you can eat alfresco even when it rains, and the ‘bongs’ from the clocktower of St Paul’s as you dine add a certain frisson in all weathers.
10 Godliman St. www.sabinelondon.co.uk
The restaurant terrace at the Bloomsbury Hotel has a scene-stealing nature-inspired backdrop that’s almost an art installation in itself. Both the display and the restaurant menu change seasonally, and there are collaborations with artisan drinks companies, whose inventive cocktail creations are in keeping with the theme. In winter, you might find yourself in a snowy landscape, while in spring the terrace might be covered with a lush jungle canopy woven with exotic orchids. In summer you might find yourself in a sun-baked lemon grove on the Amalfi Coast, surrounded by bursts of summer flowers, while autumn is celebrated with flame-coloured foliage. Selfies obligatory.
16–22 Great Russell St. dallowayterrace.com
West London Terraces
One of this summer’s top terraces is at the iconic Mandarin Oriental hotel in the heart of Knightsbridge. The hotel’s sun-trap gardens, whose manicured lawns border Hyde Park, make the perfect location for this chic pop-up lunch restaurant. Best of all, the menu is curated by the prestigious Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant. Dishes are mini-masterpieces bursting with summery flavours, from the lobster and lemon salad to a dessert of dark choc ice, topped off with a typical Blumenthal flourish of popping candy. Tables are unsurprisingly in demand, so book ahead.
66 Knightsbridge. www.mandarinoriental.com
An enchanted garden in the heart of chichi Chelsea, this is a restaurant for romantic soirees. Dine in a magical English garden, surrounded by tumbling roses, ivy and wisteria, with tables arranged around a tinkling water feature. On the menu are deliciously summery offerings such as yellowfin tuna carpaccio and lobster linguine, as well as classics of The Ivy – a stalwart of the London restaurant scene – such as shepherd’s pie and fish & chips. A retractable roof means that you can eat outside in all weathers.
195 King’s Rd. theivychelseagarden.com
East London Terraces
For dinner with a difference, try this 118-year-old Dutch barge in Hackney Wick, transformed by three childhood friends into a floating restaurant. Outdoor tables – covered and heated to allow for all weathers – are available on the front and middle deck, with knockout views of the skyline. On the riverbank are the Barge East Gardens, thronged with Hackney hipsters. The large terrace has tables set among pots of the barge’s homegrown produce, and more stunning canalside views. The Gardens serves more casual fare – street food and ‘barge burgers’, while the set 4-course menu on the barge itself is fancier, flying the flag for seasonal British fare (with occasional international flourishes), in dishes such as seared pork neck, apricot, Tropea onion and chard. There’s also a popular bottomless brunch on Saturdays.
98 White Post Lane. www.bargeeast.com
Coppa Club’s riverside terrace enjoys standout views of Tower Bridge and the Shard. The best vistas are reserved for those in the restaurant’s igloos on the riverside edge (be sure to book early to secure one). Comfy banquette-style seating and squishy cushions make the igloos an enticing prospect for an evening with friends, and the sparkling lights across the river and fairy lights overhead conjure a festive atmosphere. Order a Coppa Sour (Amaretto, gin and berry cordial) before perusing the crowd-pleasing menu, which features sharing plates, salads, pasta, pizza and grills.
3 Three Quays Walk. www.coppaclub.co.uk
Set in an old railway arch in Bethnal Green, this inviting wine bar/restaurant has a convivial outdoor terrace with large wooden communal tables, lit by candelight and low-hanging bulbs after dark. There’s a short menu of snacks, rustic small plates – charcuterie boards, asparagus salad, burrata with pickled tomatoes, and the like – plus a handful of mains, but the main focus here is the wine. The wine list is vast, so thankfully the staff are knowledgeable and happy to suggest parings. The service is swift and smiley, and it’s always buzzy: perfect for catching up with friends or for a relaxed date.
250 Paradise Row. www.sagerandwilde.com
North London Terraces
Parrillan is one of many enticing offerings at Coal Drops Yard, a shopping and foodie hotspot by King’s Cross station. A spin-off of cult Soho favourite Barrafina, rooftop Parrillan has more of the same delicious Spanish fare – but with a twist. Staff fire up your own personal barbeque and deliver your order – 50-day aged beef picanha, perhaps, or juicy prawns or grillable veg – to your table. You then cook it yourself exactly to your liking, drooling as your meal sizzles to perfection on your mini-grill. Your waiter will bring you four freshly prepared sauces to add zing to your meal, plus there are tasty Iberian nibbles and sides, and a Spanish drinks list, with a choice of sherries and cavas by the glass.
Coal Drops Yard, Stable St. www.parrillan.co.uk
South London Terraces
This permanent open-air food court and beer garden is crammed with a hugely diverse array of street-food traders. You can feast on Mexican-style tacos courtesy of Breddos, Japanese gyoza at Rainbo, fresh, hand-rolled pasta at La Nonna, contemporary Spanish food at Edu, and many more. There are also three restaurants if you want a full meal rather than a casual plate of food: Lupins offers British seasonal tasting plates, Bar Douro serves up Portuguese specialities, while Where the Pancakes Are tempts with its stacks of buttermilk pancakes. There are also four bars – our pick is the cosy, grade II-listed Tap & Bottle – as well as a music venue, Omeara. See the website for information on weekly DJ sets and pop ups.
Flat Iron Square. www.flatironsquare.co.uk
Lost in Brixton
Set above Brixton’s trendy covered market and accessed by a secret staircase, Lost in Brixton is a huge, jungly, buzzy alfresco bar with Latin American-inspired cocktails (hibiscus margarita, anyone?) and beer from the celebrated local Brixton Brewery. There’s also the option to order food from Brixton Village and Market Row (one of South London’s best street-food venues) direct to your table – so no risk of losing your spot while you queue for food. Embrace the Latin American theme with a Venezuelan meal from Jalisco, dine on raclette from Champagne + Fromage, or tuck into jerk chicken from Rudie’s Jerk Shack. The retractable roof opens in fine weather – or keeps punters dry under the faux foliage when the sun fails to shine – and DJs and live music keep the bar buzzing whatever the weather.
Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane. www.lostinbrixton.com