When the sun’s out, so should you be.
Hot weather in London is all too fleeting an occurrence, so you need to make the most of it.
Make a plan for where to soak up some rays while you dine with our guide to London’s top alfresco spots. Only places where both the food and the setting are up to scratch have been included, so you’re in safe hands. In fact, the only thing we aren’t confident of is the weather.
Browse the gallery above to see our full selection and read about each one. Our pick includes cafés, pubs and both smart and casual restaurants. There are riverside terraces, gardens and picnic-ready park spots.
Barrafina Drury Lane
This Theatreland outpost of London’s favourite Spanish restaurant group serves the group’s signature tip-top tapas, but with the added bonus of a sunny terrace. You can’t go wrong with dishes such as cuttlefish empanadas or milk-fed lamb sweetbreads, whether you’ll bask in Spanish-style sun is sadly less certain.
The Ivy Chelsea Garden
The Chelsea Flower Show runs all year round at this Ivy outpost, which comes somplete with pots and plants galore — as well as its own pergola and water feature. An extensive menu spans virtually every brasserie staple, including some excellent zucchini fries, and the breakfasts are also worth visiting for.
Le Pont De La Tour
This longstanding riverside restaurant delivers reliably excellent classic french fare. It doesn’t get better than when you bag one of the seats by the Thames — opt for a decadent seafood platter to complete the waterside package.
Italian-influenced West London restaurant group Chucs has just opened site number four at the Sepentine Gallery within Hyde Park. A perfect pit stop for tuna tartare, simple pastas, salads and octopus carpacio amidst the greenery, you could even go for a swim nearby to work up an appetite first.
Set on the canal in the heart of Little Venice, this bright and breezy restaurant is about as Mediterranean as they come. King prawns served with homemade mayonnaise, oysters and whole baked sea bass are among the highlights of a seafood-heavy menu.
The Lido Café
This discrete treat tucked inside Brockwell Park not far from Brixton is open for breakfasts, all-day brunches and lunches throughout the week, and for dinner on many summer evenings. Tuck into the likes of avocado and pickled chilli on sourdough or steak and chips while watching others swim lengths in the (rather chilly) pool — or jump in yourself if you’re feeling virtuous.
Brightly coloured Notting Hill food and cocktail spot Pomona’s brings a dose of Californian sunshine to west London at the best of times. When London has its own bit of sun, you can accentuate the effect by sitting in its equally vivid terrace for dishes such as soft shell crab with guacamole, Vietnamese rolls, and Madagascan prawns with lemon, chilli and parsley butter.
Summer eating doesn’t have to mean salads and lightness. At this newest branch of Big Easy, you can opt for barbecue by the river. Why not tuck into ribs while watching ribs whiz past on the Thames?
This plush brasserie on St James’s street has a little secret — a courtyard you’d never know existed. Enjoy summery dishes such as Arctic char ceviche with ponzu, grapefruit and chilli or Iberico pork pluma, razor clams and chorizo with a broad bean purée and clam and saffron jus.
The easternmost outpost of this Indian favourite comes with its own verandah, which has its cover pulled right back when the sun comes out and is kept warm and sheltered when it doesn’t. You can count on the food to offer a bit of spicy heat anytime, and there are plenty of cooling cocktails available to refresh if needed.
Ham Yard Hotel
On the right day the Ham Yard’s pristine courtyard tucked away in the heart of Soho has something of Madrid about it. Tuck into crab linguine or a sirloin on-the-bone while enjoying a marvellous serenity just a stone’s throw from the bustle of Piccadilly Circus.
This restaurant within Mondrian London’s riverside hotel also spills out of it, onto the Thames path. Its diverse menu spans hanger steak, ceviche, gnocchi and Dover sole, while the cross-water views are just as varied.
This vast German and European ‘grand café’ doesn’t do anything by halves, so it should come as no surprise that it has a rather delightful outdoor terrace which will seat 100. Call by for schnitzels, sandwiches, salads and sausages in the sun, washed down with a cold riesling, perhaps?
Nothing says sunshine like tapas, even if London is unlikely to reach Spanish-styles highs. Family-run El Parador in Camden serves up all the classics, with a gooey-centred tortilla and fried bacalao standing out from a long list. It’s particularly good for vegetarian options, and everything is at its best enjoyed in the tucked-away back garden.
This fish-focused restaurant in Moorgate’s South Place Hotel has a very special hook: a rooftop alfresco terrace laden with olive trees and lavender bushes. If the weather’s barmy, it’s beautiful. The Michelin-starred menu spans tartares, lobster and roast John Dory among other fishy suppers.
Firstly, a caveat. Dining at Petersham Nurseries takes place within the site’s greenhouse, so it’s only sort of alfresco. But, we reckon it still counts. The highly seasonal, well-sourced and delicately presented food makes the restaurant a local favourite, and dining spaces don’t get much prettier than its bountiful, plant-filled glass room.
Inn The Park
Run by Peyton & Byrne, this café and restaurant in St James’s Park excels at hearty cooked breakfasts, all-day coffees and simple evening meals — all available on the terrace right in the middle of one of London’s prettiest parks.
A legend in its own lunchtime. And what a lunch spot. It’s hard to beat a spot in the restaurant’s glorious riverside garden, where you can eat surrounded by the herbs, salad and edible flowers that go into its fresh-as-anything, unpretentious Italian dishes. It doesn’t come cheap, mind.
A grassy walled garden. Now that doesn’t sound like London. But that’s exactly what you get at this hidden-away Shoreditch gem. On sunny days, you can tuck into bright dishes such as grilled lamb with green sauce while surrounded by herbs and plants.
There is nothing misleading about the name of the waterside terrace at Rotunda — its whole length is flanked by the Regent’s Canal. Josper-cooked steaks and other meat gets top billing, and so it should — it comes from the restaurant’s own farm and is butchered and aged on site.
The offering at Victoria Park’s Pavilion is many steps above what you’d expect for a park café. Homemade breads, cakes and bakes sit alongside brunches and an array of interesting salads. Queue up to get your food inside and then settle by the park’s boating lake to eat.
Off the beaten track, but not far from Canary Wharf, this gastropub might just be one of London’s very best. It dishes up gutsy pub classics with flair and also offers a top Sunday roast. Grab a seat on the riverside terrace where you could be forgiven for thinking you’re somewhere more coastal than the Thames.
This laid back restaurant from Gordon Ramsay serves simple and seasonal British dishes — such as Cornish hake with grilled asparagus and dill sauce — and also welcomes drinkers to pop in for a beer or cocktail. Its biggest draw is its large outdoor terrace where you can watch the lashing waves of the Thames at one of its widest and most wild feeling spots.
Not a restaurant as such, but shipping container park Pop certainly has plenty of alfresco eating options. Simply take your pick of street food from a range including Baba G's Bhangra Burger, summery sicilian at Franzina Trattoria and pizza palace Made of Dough, grab drinks from one of the bars and settle in to soak up the atmosphere — and some sun while you’re at it.