Summer is in full swing, and as of 4 July we (in the UK) are allowed to head to our favourite food and drink spots again. Enjoy the sunshine and steal a sunset at one of the best rooftop bars in London. Or, choose from our favourite restaurants with outdoor seating (be it hidden gardens, terraces or pergolas) for a socially-distanced al fresco lunch or warm evening bite to eat. Check with specific venues for the most up-to-date opening information.
Hungry for more? Check out London’s best restaurants with a view.
Boundary Rooftop, Shoreditch
In summer the Boundary Rooftop is the ideal spot to rise above the streetside hustle and sip cocktails as the sun sets over a slightly hushed, 360-degree view of London. Shelter under the pergola and a string of fairy lights with a seasonal cocktail and a sharing plate of octopus and chorizo skewers, or fish or meat dishes cooked on a Robata grill. Or just head up after dinner and sit by the outdoor fireplace nursing a digestive glass of vielle prune.
Click here to read our full review of Boundary hotel and restaurant
The Culpeper, Spitalfields
There are scant opportunities to escape the concrete and grime in London, which makes the rooftop garden at this handsome Spitalfields boozer all the more precious. Its raised beds and greenhouse (which doubles as a private dining room), provide herbs, salad leaves, tomatoes and aubergines for dishes, such as heritage tomato, peach and cucumber salad, or courgette risotto with goat’s curd and mint.
Skylight at Tobacco Dock
Head to Skylight Rooftop for some of the best views of London along with street food, croquet and seasonal cocktails. Split over three levels, there are plenty of seating areas to gather with friends. Fresh and zingy Japanese food comes from Hikari, while State Side knocks out the USA-style likes of philly cheese beef subs
If you want to feel like you’re in the country, book out the croquet courts.
The Rooftop at Queen of Hoxton
Queen of Hoxton have reopened their roof terrace for summer 2020. Last year saw the Las Mexicanas takeover, with Monkey Colada (that’s a mix of Monkey Shoulder risky, lime, pineapple and coconut on tap), while sharing platters included chicken satay skewers, mini chorizo sausages, sweet potato wedges and falafels. So let’s hope this year is just as great.
The Pilgrm, Paddington
This boutique hotel on a pretty Victorian terraced street in Paddington has a hidden secret at the top of its original mahogany staircase… A retro-chic lounge, scattered with coral and olive velvet chairs and marble tables, is the perfect hideaway for brunch or date-night cocktails. Doors open onto a sun-soaked terrace, where you can sit beneath straw parasols and enjoy the bustle of Paddington from a distance. Tuck into brioche brunch baps, including thick-cut bacon with house-made ketchup and smashed avocado with feta and olive salsa. Don’t forget to peruse the grocery store-cum-coffee shop on your way out, stocked with Workshop Coffee, fig jam, Cretan woodland honey and more.
Vinegar Yard, London Bridge
From the folks behind London Bridge’s popular foodie destination Flat Iron Square, this amalgamation of drinking terraces, bars and street-food trucks is a great al fresco hangout. Sip on a gin and tonic or a botanical spritz under the greenery-wrapped pergola of the Tanqueray terrace, choose an Atlantic IPA from the bar that shares a space with artist Joe Rush’s workshop (check out his installations made from scrap metal scattered around the space), or order a glass of fizz from the pastel-pink prosecco van.
Take your drink of choice to the grassy area of benches and tuck into street food from Baba G’s (chicken tikka burgers, loaded masala fries and poppadom nachos slathered in Indian salsa and fresh mint raita), Up in My Grill (perfectly pink flame-grilled bavette or picanha steak on beef dripping fries with chimichurri) or Nanny Bill’s (burgers and croquettes galore).
CRATE Brewery, Hackney Wick
There are few more lovely places to spend a sunny afternoon than on the canal outside CRATE’s tap room in Hackney. Each week there’s a selection of guest bottles from a fruity brown ale to a dark Indian pale ale as well as regular casks and kegs of zingy lemon gose, velvety Crate stout and a crisp Crate cider.
They do great pizza, too, such as sage and truffle, middle eastern lamb and spicy salami.
Click here to read more about the pizza at CRATE
Pergola, Paddington Central
The guys behind Pergola on the Roof have collated some of London’s best street food folk under one pretty roof in urban Paddington Central.
Try juicy burgers topped with smoked streaky bacon from Smash Patty, lamb kofta kebabs with chilli relish and garlic yoghurt at Babek Brothers, or keep things light with a spicy tuna tartare rice bowl at Temaki Bros.
Order an Aperol spritz or a frozen pina colada from the bar and take a seat at one of the long brushed wood tables laid out beneath the pretty pergola while you listen to some great guest DJs. There are blankets in case it gets a bit chilly, and an open-air bar upstairs with plenty of day beds for lounging on during summery evenings.
The Waterway, Little Venice
This large canal-side terrace is an ideal suntrap for alfresco eating and drinking. The large dining deck is well-equipped with huge parasols and patio heaters so you can sit out until late at night, while the sun-soaked little garden is a lively place to gather for after-work drinks.
Huge goblets of gin are spruced up in perfect serves – Plymouth gin comes with refreshing lemon tonic, grapefruit peel and a stalk of lemongrass, while Fever Tree’s savoury Mediterranean tonic is added to unusual Ungava Canadian gin (containing botanicals of Nordic juniper, Arctic blend, cloudberry, crowberry and wild rose hips) along with strawberries, pink grapefruit and basil. Summer jugs of luxury Pimms, sangria and watermelon cooler are sloshed out between glasses, or stick to one of the many wines or craft beers.
Order a couple of sharing platters for your group – BBQ ribs, Atlantic prawns or quesadillas – or choose from the grill menu. Seared tuna fillet is perfectly pink with a tomato salsa, red peppers and artichoke, half rotisserie corn-fed chicken comes with French fries and slaw, and there are plenty of burgers to choose from, including the super deluxe beef burger with foie gras, crisp bacon and tomato chutney.
No.16, South Kensington
As soon as you step through the door of this pristinely manicured mid-Victorian white townhouse, hidden just minutes from South Kensington tube station, co-owner Kit Kemp’s bold statements make themselves known. Textiles in the suite of drawing rooms range in colour from pistachio and pink to stylish yellow and purple, with unique artwork throughout – a huge wall-mounted birdcage marks the entranceway, books line the walls, and hand painted puppets guard the honesty bar stocked with spirits, wines and bubbles.
Continue through to The Orangery for afternoon tea in a terracotta-walled room with tribal statement vases and artwork, brightened by sunshine bursting through floor-to-ceiling French windows.
If it’s a nice day, make the most of No.16’s hidden garden oasis and enjoy a glass of wine in a thick-cut glass goblet, or afternoon tea perched on pale green garden furniture under elegant white parasols. Vases of white flowers dress the tables and Kit Kemp’s personalised Wedgewood crockery adds a bit of fun, with dancing mythical creatures from her favourite Indian fabric that literally look like they have been stitched on to teacups and saucers.
If you’re lucky enough to bag the tiny gazebo, you can look back on the garden, complete with stone fountain bubbling away in the rectangular fish pond.
Click here to read our review of afternoon tea at No.16, South Kensington
Petersham Nurseries Café, Richmond
Seasonal, Italian-inspired dishes are the focus at this charming café set within a glasshouse. Try risotto with peas, garden mint and Parmesan or spiced chickpeas with broccoli, courgette and nigella seed flatbread. Many ingredients come from Petersham itself, and, among others, you’ll find herbs, cherries and salsify growing along its walls. Supplementary produce comes from a tight-knit network of small producers such as Haye Farm, run by Harry Boglione, a son of Petersham’s founders. In summer, you can dine outside under a canopy of wisteria surrounded by roses.