If you’re contemplating a trip across the pond this summer, you’re likely in search of decent outdoor dining in London. In contrast to other European capitals, though, the UK has never done al fresco dining particularly well—and with good reason. No one is especially keen to linger over a platter of fruits de mer and a bottle of Sancerre when it’s 57 degrees outside in August, and when the sun does make a rare appearance, most of us would rather be on a picnic in one of London’s many green spaces than trying to conjure the Cote D’Azur on a Hackney pavement.
Yet what London lacks in the way of terrasses, it makes up for with restaurants featuring secret gardens and hidden courtyards. A trip to Rochelle Canteen is great even in the depths of winter, but in the summer, when the grape vines are in leaf, and there are ripe peaches on the menu? There’s nowhere I would rather be in London. Similarly, a table in view of the River Cafe’s magenta pizza oven is a treat—but a table on its Thameside patio is a coup.
Ready to book? Here, Vogue lists its favorite outdoor restaurants in London.
Set on the banks of the canal, the Towpath Café is a London institution that’s hardly changed since it first launched on the Kingsland Towpath more than a decade ago. There are no reservations here, but it’s worth standing in line for chef Laura Jackson’s cult menu items, which range from moreish cheese toasties with homemade quince jelly to bright, peppery radishes with whipped taramasalata. Go there for breakfast on Sunday morning, then wander over to Columbia Road Flower Market to scoop up armfuls of seasonal delphiniums, sweet peas and hydrangeas.
The Garden Café
Set within a deconsecrated church on the banks of the Thames, the Garden Museum stages niche exhibitions—a retrospective of the 20th-century British florist Constance Spry, a potted history of roses in Western fashion—and houses a modern European restaurant built around its verdant courtyard garden, designed by Dan Pearson and inspired by the rare botanical collection of 17th-century horticulturalist John Tradescant.
Orasay’s Jackson Boxer oversees the restaurant at Brunswick House, an elegant Georgian property that feels comically out of place on a roundabout in industrial Vauxhall. The majority of rooms are crammed with bankruptingly good architectural salvage thanks to LASSCO, the antiques specialist behind Oxfordshire’s Three Pigeons; browse their range of fireplaces, plaster castings, and ironwork before heading into the garden for a lunch of courgette fritters and Isle of Mull scallops.