Put away your athleisure gear and dig out your Sunday best because, from 12 April, outdoor dining is back on the menu – and London's top restaurants are determined to make the most of it. Expect repurposed pavements, hastily-upgraded rooftops and more outdoor heaters than you can shake a restaurant-branded blanket at as the capital's eateries scramble to cater to those who simply can't face another home-cooked meal. Sound familiar? Book your table at our pick of London's best outdoor dining spots and al fresco terraces now.
Petersham Nurseries Café
Best outdoor dining space in London for: leisurely lunches in a tranquil greenhouse.
Want to get out of London without, well, actually leaving the city? Petersham Nurseries Café is the capital’s worst-kept secret and, while it looks lovely all year round (the restaurant is in a greenhouse), it comes into its own in spring and summer. Bougainvillea blossoms and British ingredients such as asparagus and peashoots increasingly appear on the ‘slow food’ menu, garnished with garden-grown edible flowers and washed down with Sussex-brewed beer. Book ahead and clear some space on your camera roll before you arrive.
The River Café, Hammersmith
Best outdoor dining space in London for: Italian cuisine in a sun-dappled garden.
The River Café is stretched leisurely across a lawn overlooking the Thames, just like we'd like to be after a bottle of rosé and one or two courses more than was strictly necessary. Since this London institution was founded by chefs Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray in 1987, it has become a byword for easygoing, excellent Italian food, with easygoing, excellent people at its helm. People would flock here even if the location wasn't so inviting, such is the ingredients-driven expertise in the kitchen, but it just so happens that the sun-dappled garden has a dreamlike quality, too. An evening at the River Café is truly restorative (although that second bottle won't be).
Jurema at The Mandrake, Fitzrovia
Best outdoor dining space in London for: greenery hanging from every angle. You'll come for the view and stay for the food.
The foliage-filled Mandrake in Fitzrovia will reopen its Jurema Bar for spring, adjoined to the Yopo restaurant on the first floor of the five-star hotel. Flanked by hanging jasmine and passionflower, this mesmerising urban oasis serves an impressive offering of summer-perfect cocktails, alongside moreish bar snacks with a Mexican twist. Upstairs, there is a charming glasshouse of medicinal and botanical plants, which can be booked for private dining.
Chiltern Firehouse, Marylebone
Best outdoor dining space in London for: people-watching and the renowned oyster cart.
Helmed by famed hotelier André Balazs, the sizzling Chiltern Firehouse matches elegance and sophistication with a mischievous dash of ‘anything goes’ attitude. Settle in on the secluded yet lively terrace for platters of fruit de mer, signature crab doughnuts and tender Ibérico pork. The stylish al fresco space is framed with greenery and finished with striped parasols overhead, ensuring complete discretion and privacy.
The Chelsea Gardener Cafe
Best outdoor dining space in London for: a secluded suntrap near the King's Road, filled with pretty flowers.
Nestled on Sydney Street, the Chelsea Gardener Cafe, formerly knows as the Chelsea Courtyard, will reopen this spring serving all-day food and drinks. Away from the bustle of the King's Road, this hidden courtyard is a showcase for the neighbouring Chelsea Gardener flagship and is suitably decked out with planters, cascading foliage, cushions and parasols. It is also available for private hire throughout the year.
The Ivy Chelsea Garden
Best outdoor dining space in London for: the 'gram, comfort food and cocktails.
The outdoor terrace at The Ivy Chelsea Garden on King's Road, which is reopening in May, is an obvious choice on a warm day, decked out with antique pots, lush greenery and a smattering of Instagram starlets. Tuck into the restaurant's signature menu of high-end comfort food, spanning signature shepherd’s pie, steak sandwiches, zucchini fries and truffle chips, complemented by a colourful cocktail menu and considered wine list.
Best outdoor dining space in London for: South-American flavours and chic, charming interiors.
Colour, flavour and style abound at Chicama, the sleek sister to Peruvian favourite, Pachamama in Marylebone. Tucked away on a quiet corner off the King's Road, Chicama dishes up meat-free meals with a bold, South American twist. Think gleaming sea bream ceviche, tangy green papaya salad and plump grilled prawns with a razor-sharp yazu kosho dressing. Beautifully presented cuisine can be enjoyed on the charming alfresco terrace, which is the perfect spot for whiling away a sunny afternoon in Chelsea.
Garden Terrace at The Hari, Belgravia
Best outdoor dining space in London for: exclusivity, champagne and rainy days – thanks to the slick retractable roof.
The intimate Garden Terrace at The Hari hotel in Belgravia has been transformed into a flower-filled Amalfi-inspired paradise for spring 2021. Lounge with an Aperol Spritz or Sorrento Lemon Martini while grazing on cuoppo fritto, pizzette and scialatielli. The hotel's cool, contemporary interiors stand out against the postcode’s more traditional offerings, while a retractable roof ensures that it is suitable for all forms of British weather this summer.
Boundary Rooftop, Shoreditch
Best outdoor dining space in London for: late-night revelry with views over East London.
Perched atop the Boundary Project in Shoreditch, this cool adults-only rooftop retreat packs out all summer long thanks to panoramic views of London and its Sir Terence Conran-curated furnishings. Select from a Mediterranean-style menu of seafood and grilled skewers, and huddle around the open fire on brisker evenings.
Dalloway Terrace, Bloomsbury
Best outdoor dining space in London for: Bloomsbury Group devotees and décor – you're literally immersed in Dalloway Terrace's silk flowers and ferns.
Named after the famed, high-society Virginia Woolf character, Mrs Dalloway, Dalloway Terrace is an outdoor space in the heart of Bloomsbury, hidden away from the clamour of Tottenham Court Road. The al fresco terrace has been transformed to resemble an urban jungle, inspired by Leonard Woolf's travels to Sri Lanka during the early 1900s. On a sunny day, nestle amid silk flowers and ferns and tuck into a new vegan-friendly menu of cauliflower steaks, colourful salads and fragrant curry.
Best outdoor dining space in London for: calm, cool architecture and Nobu's greatest hits (black cod with miso, anyone?)
Nobu Shoreditch fuses Nobu’s signature Japanese minimalism with east London’s concrete-cool aesthetic. Behind an enigmatic, dark façade, the five-star property boasts 143 rooms and a lower-ground Nobu restaurant, with a four-level stepped terrace. Visit this secluded al fresco dining space for a relaxed breakfast (try the matcha waffles) or late-night cocktails accompanied by live DJs. The sleek restaurant also operates bottomless brunch, which you can read about here.
Flora at Joy, Portobello Docks
Best outdoor dining space in London for: long lunches with waterside views.
Flora is the resident restaurant at Joy, a collection of upscale shops curated by Tom Dixon and Stevie Parle, located at the uber-trendy Portobello Docks. Outdoor dining options here come in the form of an umbrella-shaded terrace, greenhouses and private dining tents while food is hyper-seasonal and kept simple to let the quality produce, sourced from The Goods Shed in Canterbury, shine. Order the black truffle chicken, pair it was a bottle of Miraval Cotes De Provence Rosé and sit back safe in the knowledge that, finally, all is right with the world.
The Laundry, Brixton
Best outdoor dining space in London for: great food with a side of historical charm.
This all-day dining spot on Coldharbour Lane, in the heart of Brixton, takes its name from the building's former life as Walton Lodge, a commercial steam press laundry that opened in 1904. Converted by entrepreneur Melanie Brown in 2019, it also boasts one of Brixton’s largest covered and heated terraces, where everything from casual brunches to hearty Sunday lunches is served. Under the command of head chef Sami Harvey, the kitchen’s highlights include Devon crab with pickled cucumber and a mean chicken Kiev, while The Laundry’s side hustle as a wine shop means there’s also an extensive drinks menu to choose from.
American Bar at The Stafford, Mayfair
Best outdoor dining space in London for: European classics in the heart of the West End.
The American Bar at The Stafford may be best known for its world-class cocktails curated by Bar Director Benoit Provost but, thanks to the stylings of Culinary Director Ben Tish and chef Josef Rogulski, it also offers a menu of sophisticated British and Mediterranean-inspired dishes served from dawn to dusk. From 12 April, the restaurant will be spilling out onto the hotel’s pretty cobbled terrace. Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of St James’s, order a glass of something ice cold and tuck into the signature chicken Milanese with borlotti beans and salsa verde.
Best outdoor dining space in London for: upscale dining in sophisticated Scandi-style surrounds.
Housed in one of East London’s most striking new buildings, and with interior design from the team behind Noma, Allegra was receiving rave reviews in the short time it was open pre-pandemic. Luckily, it also boasts a seventh-floor terrace that will host a casual open-air pop-up, Happy Burger, in April, before fully reopening with the full Allegra menu in May. And it’s quite the menu. Devised by chef Patrick Powell, stand-out dishes include confit chicken wings with parmesan dumplings and wild mushrooms and juniper roasted venison loin with red cabbage, pear and parsnip.
Devonshire Terrace, Liverpool Street
Best outdoor dining space in London for: convivial cocktails and relaxed dining in a weather-proof City terrace.
Housed under a soaring domed glass roof to protect diners from the elements, the vast al fresco space at Devonshire Terrace is one of its main draws. Of course, being run by London hospitality stalwart Drake & Morgan, the food and drink offerings are pretty great, too. A crowd-pleasingly informal menu, featuring classics such as chicken yakitori skewers, crayfish linguine and gnocchi mac 'n' cheese, is supported by a vast cocktail menu perfect for making up for those missed celebrations.
La Poule au Pot, Belgravia
Best outdoor dining space in London for: French staples from a long-time London favourite.
If you have yet to discover the delights of La Poule au Pot, where have you been? Literally. The restaurant has barely changed since it opened in the 1960s and is famed for its annual struggle with Clos Maggiore to be voted the capital’s most romantic dining spot. Served on its pretty heated terrace, food comes via a two- or three-course set menu, as well as daily-changing specials, and features all the classics you’d expect of an old-school French restaurant. Think steak frites, boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin and tarte tatin.
Wild by Tart, Pimlico
Best outdoor dining space in London for: seasonal, sustainable dining that’s big on flavour without any pomp and circumstance.
Jemima Jones and Lucy Carr-Ellison’s vast multi-purpose eating, drinking, retail and events space housed in a former power station in Pimlico was the place to see and be seen before the pandemic. Now, after months of closure, it will finally reopen in April, welcoming guests to its 24-seat terrace in the quaint Ecclestone Yards. The grill and wood-fired oven feature heavily on the menu, with highlights including marinated poussin, grilled mackerel and an array of flatbreads, while an extensive wine list with options by the glass and bottle will help stretch those much-anticipated reunions out for hours.
The Garden at The Corinthia, Whitehall
Best outdoor dining space in London for: Pretending you're actually sunning yourself on the Cote d'Azur.
Set among the lemon tree and jasmine-strewn surrounds of The Corinthia hotel's David Collins-designed courtyard, The Garden is a Mediterranean-influenced sanctuary just moments from Trafalgar Square. A truly romantic spot perfect for wiling away long afternoons over a bottle of Domaines Ott rosé, food is by executive chef André Garrett and comprises a series of seafood dishes, woodfired pizzas and salads perfect for sharing. Signatures include fritto misto, grilled brill with fennell and champagne and fraises des bois with whipped vanilla crème Chantilly.
Sam's Riverside, Hammersmith
Best outdoor dining space in London for: The freshest seafood and excellent cocktails.
Sam Harrison, proprietor of Sam's Riverside in Hammersmith, plans to welcome lifting restrictions in style. The restaurant's terrace dining space will reopen in April with a bold Roaring Twenties theme that extends from the interior design to the cocktail list (be sure to start your meal with the Roaring 20s Revivial Martini). Chef Ashley Tinoco's food, meanwhile, will be a riot of decadence and indulgence with Carlingford Lough and Morecambe Bay oysters in abundance, the restaurant's signature seafood platter making a triumphant return and an Hereford aged ribeye tartare with dripping toast and quail egg satisfying the appetite of even the keenest carnivore.
Double Standard at The Standard, King’s Cross
Best outdoor dining space in London for: American classics and casual cocktails
The most vibrant new hotel in King’s Cross is also home to one of the capital’s buzziest rooftop bars. The Standard’s TfL-inspired Double Standard roof terrace has proved an irresistible draw to London’s cool crowd with its retro 70s vibe, American-inflected menu and cosy outdoor area. Food runs the gamut from superfood salads to pretzels and hot dogs but it is the signature burger, finished with blue cheese, bacon, Branston and truffle aioli, that has become somewhat legendary. Pair with an Aperol spritz slushy or drop in for bottomless Sunday brunch safe in the knowledge that a good time is guaranteed.