Summer’s here and the cobwebs in pub and restaurant kitchens are being shaken out. But when they do start opening their doors from July 4, things will look rather different.
Only people from the same household will be allowed to sit together and tables are to be set at least two metres apart. Where this isn’t possible, customers on different tables will have to face away from one another.
Pubs, bars and restaurants that have outdoor space are being encouraged to use this as much as possible, and for many diners the living buzz of river embankments and shopping squares will be far preferable to sitting in an eerily quiet restaurant. Here is our round up of the seven best spots for outdoor dining in London.
The River Cafe, Fulham
This laidback fine dining spot sits on the banks of the Thames. Centred around a pretty square lawn with outdoor tables and umbrellas, it has the feeling of a traditional trattoria.
Some of Britain’s most prestigious rowing and sailing clubs are based just along the river and most weekends you’ll be able to watch a scatter of boats gliding by.
It’s a great place to people-watch, whether you’re out for a cool glass of rosé, grabbing a morning espresso or enjoying the full dinner experience. The restaurant specialises in Italian fare and the quality of the ingredients attests to its Michelin star status.
The menu is seasonal but will almost always include some kind of fresh fish. The wines are also Italian and offer a good opportunity to try something a little unusual, with local specialities from dozens of regions, from Piemonte to Puglia. It is taking bookings from July 6.
From its grey plastered frontage and ambiguous name, Untitled doesn’t look like much. But behind that deceptive facade hides a sleek cocktail bar and fairytale garden.
White toadstool seats, real miniature trees and glowing orbs make you feel as though you’re sitting in a moonlit forest. In fact the garden is supposed to be styled on a Japanese temple garden. Either way it has a deliciously calming atmosphere and only seats around 20 people, meaning it is always nice and quiet.
The place was set up by Tony Conigliaro, known as ‘the Heston Blumenthal of cocktails’. Its specialities include New Moon, a vodka concoction infused with jasmine tea, sake and mineral water, and Snow, made with distilled white clay and vodka, blended to taste like the sensation of snow. The food is creative too, with a menu comprised mainly of Asian-inspired small plates. Untitled is reopening to customers on July 4.
For Londoners with no garden to host their own bbq, SMOKESTAK is the next best thing. This rustic bar and grill is focused on quality ingredients, slow cooked to perfection. Front and centre in the restaurant is the smoker, which billows out mouth-watering scents as you wait for your food.
It has a sun trap terrace and is also reopening this “super Saturday”. From the slightly stripped-back menu you’ll be able to choose from a range of meats, including pulled pork and beef brisket, that have been wood-smoked overnight, sold by the 100g.
Don’t miss out on the flavoursome starters and sides. The sea bass ceviche and charred corn salsa are a must-try. Finish off the summer atmosphere with a round of frozen margaritas.
Ognisko, South Kensington
Very few people know there is a green square filled with ancient trees that nestles between the hulking laboratories of Imperial College and the giant rabbit’s warren of London’s Natural History Museum. But there is it, set back just off Exhibition Road.
Views of Prince’s Gardens are best enjoyed from the terrace of Ognisko, London’s premier Polish restaurant. The opulent interior, with its iron and marble staircase, oil paintings and chandeliers, is a favourite with local Polish dignitaries and ex-WWII generals.
The menu is similarly grand, featuring specialities such as marinated gravlax with mustard sauce and braised beef with horseradish cream. A summer’s dinner out on the terrace is best rounded off with a crisp glass of vodka.
Cinnamon Kitchen, Battersea
Under the brick arches of the old Battersea Power Station a number of trendy restaurants have popped up. Among them is Cinnamon Kitchen.
This modern Indian eatery offers brunch, lunch and dinner as well as an imaginative cocktail menu. It does both up-market takes on British takeaway classics, such as lamb bhuna with kachumber and lime, and more unusual dishes including spiced mussels with date pickle.
There is also a nine-dish sharing menu which is incredibly well-priced, at £33 per person, and features one of the kitchen’s stand-out dishes: sea bass wrapped in banana leaf and encrusted with chilli and tomato.
The slick, industrial interior spills out onto the square in front, with plenty of space for al fresco diners. The restaurant reopens on July 4 and it’s a great spot to fuel up before a summer stroll through nearby Battersea Park or along the riverfront.
Wright Brothers, Battersea
Also reopening in the Grade II-listed Battersea Power Station is Wright Brothers, a casual seafood joint.
Although the restaurant’s atmosphere may be relaxed, it takes the quality of its ingredients very seriously. The brothers-in-law are London’s seafood gurus and have a wholesale business in the famous Billingsgate fish market as well as another four restaurants spread across the capital. They focus on sourcing only the freshest and most sustainable seafood, which you can also order for home delivery.
A key part of their ethos is to make fish, oysters and other types of seafood less stuffy and accessible to all. The menu isn’t exactly cheap but is much more affordable than you’d find elsewhere and features an interesting mix of influences, from Norwegian pickles to piquant Spanish tapas plates. There’s also a few meat and vegetarian options.
The Battersea branch will be reopening on July 9.
Petersham Nurseries, Richmond
This lush plant nursery feels a world away from central London, despite being just a 10-minute bus ride from Richmond tube station.
The old greenhouse has been turned into a dining area, swathed in seasonal blooms, which merges almost seamlessly into the garden centre. Enjoy a generous slice of homemade cake among the jasmine and bougainvillea before you head off to browse the wide array of bespoke gardening tools.
If you’re in need of something more filling, the lunch and dinner menus are stuffed with fresh, organic options, many of which are grown in the on-site kitchen garden. The garden fritti, featuring crispy courgette flowers, sage and borage, is a proper taste of summer.
Richmond itself is lovely to explore, with its village atmosphere, independent shops and enormous deer park. The nursery’s cafe and teahouse will be opening on July 4 and Petersham’s sister site in Covent Garden five days later.