Right now, alfresco is definitely where it's at. Here's our guide to London's loveliest spots to eat outdoors (although we've also listed where you can get some cover too). If you want more - check out our guide to London's rooftops.
Where: 11-15 Swallow St, Mayfair, London W1B 4DG
Richard Corrigan’s oyster palace, just off Piccadilly, has a large terrace (covered and heated if needed) on Swallow Street where you can enjoy heaped seafood platters. Finish off with a Bentley’s coffee made with Frangelico and Baileys.
Rainproof? Pretty much - bar a few tables on the edge, everything else is covered.
Follow on Instagram: @bentleysoysterbar
Where: Wilton Pl, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RalsoL
Tucked in behind the hotel in Knightbridge with a view over St Paul’s Church this terrace restaurant was unveiled after the first lockdown and is back again. It's landscaped with bay trees, lavender bushes and in a new touch, has multicoloured beach huts to rent out.
Rainproof? The beach huts are fully covered and the hotel's canopy protects most of the other tables.
Follow on Instagram: @the_berkeley
Where: 40-41 Rathbone Pl, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1HX
Tucked in behind the restaurant on Rathbone Square, the terrace at Circolo has had as much detail lavished on it as the restaurant's interiors. Strewn with lights and furnished with plants, it's perfect for pasta and Prosecco.
Rainproof? Ish - there are parasols and heaters
Follow on Instagram: @bigmamma.uk
Where: 16-22 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3NN
Probably one of London's most instagrammable outdoor spaces, the terrace here is redesigned every season to keep it looking as fresh as a daisy. Afternoon teas are particularly popular and the retractable awning means you'll be protected from showers too.
Follow on Instagram: @dallowayterrace
Where: 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
Heston Blumenthal's two Michelin-starred restaurant in Knightsbridge has one of the most beautiful terraces in town. Overlooking Hyde Park, you can enjoy signature dishes like the Meat Fruit or Tipsy Cake and - if you're very lucky - catch the Household Cavalry trotting past on their way to the Changing of the Guard.
Rainproof? There are parasols but they'll only keep off light rain.
Follow on Instagram: @dinnerbyhb
Where: Whitehall Pl, Westminster, London SW1A 2BD
This hidden away gem can be found next to the hotel’s lounge where afternoon tea is served. This courtyard space is open year-round (fireplaces at both ends help with that) and features a menu by the hotel’s executive chef Andre Garret - think fritto misto and lobster linguine along with a suitably impressive list of rosés as well.
Rainproof? Pretty much - the bespoke canopy covers the entire courtyard.
Follow on Instagram: @corinthialondon
Where: 1 Ham Yard, Soho, London W1D 7DT
A rarity in central London, the titular 'yard' here is an oasis tucked in away from the traffic of Soho and Piccadilly. Created by the bombing during The Blitz, the space is now a super place on a sunny afternoon or evening - if you can get a table.
Rainproof? All tables have some covering, but if you get the ones nearest the hotel under the canopy you're best protected there.
Where: Heddon Street, Westminster, London W1B 4BR
Tucked in off Regent Street, there are loads of good places to eat alfresco here on Heddon Street. From the terrace at Fallow to the seats outside Sabor and Mo Diner, there's plenty of choice when it comes to eating well.
Rainproof? Most of the restaurants have retractable awnings allowing some protection from the rain.
Where: 8 Brook Street, London W1S 1EY
Even though this tucked-away courtyard makes you feel as if you've stumbled on a secret garden, it's about the worst kept secret in London. You'll have to fight hedge funders and other Mayfair folk for your chance to nab a coveted table on a sunny day.
Rainproof? Yes, it's entirely covered and heated.
Follow on Instagram: @hushmayfair
Where: 55 Marylebone High St, London W1U 5RB
While there is a special terrace menu of small dishes upstairs at this Marylebone restaurant, what you're really after with your chilled glass of wine is a cheese plate from Orrery’s famous trolley. Enjoy the French food and on when the sun is shining, with the traffic noise of Marylebone a distant hum, you could easily be in Provence.
Rainproof? Yes. The canopy covers all the tables on the terrace.
Follow on Instagram: @the_orrery
Where: Barge House St, London SE1 9PH
With A-grade views over the river, this Thameside spot has got a new roof over both its brasserie and restaurant terraces so you can enjoy the views without the rain spoiling your fun.
Rainproof? Yes - the new roofs on both the brasserie and restaurant means you're covered (unless the rain is coming sideways).
Follow on Instagram: @oxo_tower
Where: 31 King St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8JD
Given they have a full-blown garden nurseries down by the river, you'd expect any alfresco space by the Petersham Nurseries crew to be rather lovely. This courtyard space they say "combines English country charm with Italian elegance". We say it provides a rare opportunity to eat alfresco in the heart of London without cars whizzing by.
Rainproof? Not really, although there are a few parasols.
Follow on Instagram: @petershamnurseries
Where: 36D Shad Thames, London SE1 2YE
One of the classics of the south bank of the Thames, this restaurant's terrace has unparalleled views of Tower Bridge. Just be prepared to have passing tourists giving you jealous looks as you toy with your crab and melon salad in the sunshine.
Rainproof? If you get the row of tables closest to the restaurant, then yes as it's covered by the canopy and you're protected from any horizontal rain.
Follow on Instagram: @lepontdelatourldn
Where: 150 Piccadilly, St. James's, London W1J 9BR
John Williams' Michelin-starred cooking is great any time, but we can't think of a more beautiful spot for a lunch than overlooking the gardens at The Ritz. If you're after something a little more casual, head to the hotel's Secret Garden bar where they serve up club sandwiches alongside caviar and champagne.
Rainproof? No - but the hotel's Italian garden is better served with parasols
Follow on Instagram: @theritzlondon
Where: 20 Mount St, London W1K 2HE
The terrace at this Mayfair establishment has long been a spot where you'll find yourself sitting downwind from unrepentant smokers like Ronnie Wood or Charles Saatchi and getting your photo taken by passing paparazzi.
Rainproof? The canopy would certainly offer protection from a light shower
Follow on Instagram: @scottsmayfair
Where: 16-18 St James's Pl, St. James's, London SW1A 1NJ
At the back of this historic hotel's American bar you'll find a sunny courtyard overlooked by the old stables. There was always a summer programme of barbecues out here, but it's now open all year round with umbrellas and heaters for less clement days.
Rainproof? There are canopies and umbrellas to stave off showers
Follow on Instagram: @thestaffordlondon
Also in Central London
The Rosewood (Holborn) has an outside space in the courtyard called The Terrace, which currently features The Macallan Manor House (i.e.plenty of whisky).
The Lanesborough (Hyde Park Corner) - The Garden Room is the hotel’s semi-outdoors cigar den where you can also enjoy cocktails, weekend brunch and a light supper.
Where: Stable St, Kings Cross, London N1C 4DQ
There are multiple handy places for alfresco dining in Coal Drops Yard in King's Cross. There's Mexican food from the under-cover Plaza Pastor, alfresco Barrafina from their spin-off Parrillan, as well as a terrace space outside Pip Lacey's Hicce.
Rainproof?: Pretty much - from the cantilevered rooftop at Parrillan to the expansive parasols at Hicce you'll find plenty of places to dine here protected from the elements.
Where: 44 Barnsbury St, Islington, London N1 1ER
This popular Islington gastropub has enveloped its lovely back garden with a marquee, added in heating and festooned it with lights, turning it into a Barnsbury idyll. To book a table in the Garden Room specifically, you'll need to call them on 020 7619 0348
Rainproof? Yes, there's a canopy roof and heaters.
Follow on Instagram: @thedrapersarms
Where: 106 Camden Passage, The Angel, London N1 8EG
The narrow frontage of this Camden Passage restaurant gives no hint of what's to be found at the back. One of London's great garden restaurant spaces, part of it's laid out in patio but there are also mature gardens too. It's popular as a wedding space though, so check ahead to see if it's booked out.
Rainproof? Yes they've got a huge marquee in the garden and on the terrace too.
Follow on Instagram: @fredericks_n1
Where: 3 Granary Square, London N1C 4BH
Apparently one of the most profitable spots in King's Cross (during normal times) and it's not hard to see why - the first floor has a wrap-around terrace, the ground floor pub has a lovely outside seating area overlooking Granary Square and there's a canalside bar terrace too.
Rainproof? Yes, pretty much. Most of the ground floor area has wall to wall parasols and you're protected upstairs by the roof overhang.
Follow on Instagram: @thelightermankx
Where: 42 Gloucester Ave, London NW1 8JD
The sunken garden area at Nadra's Primrose Hill restaurant is totally protected from any nasty draughts. All of which makes it pretty much perfect for trying one of the 15+ martinis on their bar menu. You're probably going to need some of their prawn and chive dumpling bar snacks to go with that.
Rainproof? Yes - they've got a new canopy roof and the terrace is heated as well.
Follow on Instagram: @michaelnadra
Where: 25 North Rd, Highgate, London N6 4BE
This Highgate gastropub's garden is always a winner in the summer and they've got a huge marquee over its front garden. Strewn with fairy lights, it’s very pretty at night.
Rainproof? Yes in the front garden, but not at the rear.
Follow on Instagram: @theredlionandsun
Where: 63–69 Canonbury Rd, London N1 2DG
In London's least green borough, the pretty garden squeezed into an intersection between two roads at an Islington BBQ restaurant is super popular come summer (and is completely covered with an awning now too). The smell of jasmine neatly blocks out any traffic fumes although you might get a whiff of BBQ from the grill.
Rainproof? Yes, thanks to that new stretchy awning.
Follow on Instagram: @smokehousen1
Also in North London
The St Pancras Champagne Bar by Searcys may look like it's inside but is treated as alfresco because of the open station and will be open from 12 April.
Where: 3 Viaduct Gardens, Nine Elms, London SW11 7AY
Part of the Robin Gill empire, you approach the terrace via stepping stones across ponds inspired by New York’s High Line park and it’s a super spot for a platter of Dooncastle oysters and a chilled glass of wine.
Rainproof? Yes there's a canopy over their 20-seat terrace
Follow on Instagram: @darbyslondon
Where: Circus West Village, Battersea Power Station, London SW8 5BN
Enjoy cracking riverside views at Francesco Mazzei's outpost at Battersea Power Station and watch out for weekend yoga and brunch sessions.
Rainproof? Pretty much - huge canopies cover the terrace, although you might get a little soggy at the edges.
Follow on Instagram: @fiume.london
Where: 5 Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7LB
If a restaurant at a museum devoted to horticulture doesn't have a nice alfreso space we should all go home. Luckily, there's a choice of outside dining at this excellent space at the Garden Museum in London. There's a summer terrace, but we prefer the garden courtyard atrium, which is a real alfresco haven.
Rainproof? Around the edges and under the parasols you'd be protected.
Follow on Instagram: @gardenmuseumcafe
Where: 4 Duchess Walk, London SE1 2SD
The terrace at Gunpowder’s riverside location gives you an excellent slice of view over Tower Bridge as you enjoy your okra fries and Kawari soft shell crab.
Rainproof? Yes, the combination of nearby buildings plus parasols mean you're protected from most of the elements
Follow on Instagram: @gunpowder_london
Where: Lakeside Cafe, Battersea Park, London SW11 4NJ
This park cafe punches way above its weight - the owners here are ex-Petersham Nurseries and Spring with Skye Gyngell, via stints at Chez Panisse and more. With beautiful views over the lake, this is a top spot for a steak sarnie or squash salad.
Rainproof? Sadly not.
Follow on Instagram: @pear.tree.cafe
Where: 14th Floor, 40 Blackfriars Rd, South Bank, London SE1 8NY
This high rise restaurant has a huge outside terrace overlooking a great swathe of the south bank. Although all those rattan chairs and palms make it look more like Miami than Southwark. Order up a flamboyant cocktail while you pursue the mainly seafood menu.
Rainproof? There is a retractable roof, but at these heights you're going to get a little damp if it really rains.
Follow on Instagram: @seabirdlondon
Where: 137 Lower Marsh, Bishop's, London SE1 7AE
There’s a covered and heated terrace at the back of this shipping container wine bar which features guest chefs and restaurants in charge of the food. Get the team at Unwined to pick a perfect wine pairing for you.
Rainproof? Yes, fully.
Follow on Instagram: @unwinedse1
Where: 72-82 St Thomas St, Bermondsey, London SE1 3QX
London Bridge’s street food spot has food from Baba Gs, Nanny Bills, Sugo & Nik’s Kitchen. The Bramble bar is fully covered and there’s a large area where tables are protected by a massive stretched tent.
Rainproof? Yes - all covered.
Follow on Instagram: @vinegaryardldn
Where: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 20 International Way, London E20 1FD
The wraparound terraces at Allegra’s seventh-floor restaurant at The Stratford are beautiful - imagine a wildflower meadow in the sky and you’re halfway there. The terrace menu makes full use of the wood-burning grill and their weekend brunch is a popular alfresco option.
Rainproof?: Yes all tables are covered by the building's ten metre high cantilever.
Follow on Instagram: @allegrarestaurant
Where: 374 Helmsley Place, London E8 3SB
Tomos Parry's Shoreditch restaurant's second coming at Climpson's is now a permanent fixture. There's a massive marquee over the whole area, making it suitable for dining out in whatever the weather. Enjoy dishes like roasted game rice and Bloody Marys.
Rainproof? Yes, completely
Follow on Instagram: @bratrestaurant
Where: 1 Poultry, London EC2R 8EJ
Taking up a huge space on the top floor, this is one of the City's most famous alfresco spots. If you can grab a space here on a busy weekday lunchtime, you've done a good job. Also, make sure to find your way onto the lawn out at the back with great views of the City.
Rainproof? Pretty much - there are a lot of parasols and heaters.
Follow on Instagram: @coqdargent
Where: Unit 7 Queen's Yard, Hackney Wick, London E9 5EN
If you can grab one of the coveted outdoor seats at this Hackney brewery, you'll want to stay there all night. You can work your way through the beer and match it with their stone-baked pizzas.
Rainproof? Depends where you're seated. There is a covered section, but there are a fair few tables unprotected.
Follow on Instagram: @cratebrewery
Where: 254 Hackney Rd, London E2 7SJ
The terrace leading off the upstairs dining room at this East London gastropub could feel a bit like climbing out on to your flat roof, were it not for how beautiful it looks with all the greenery. A seasonal menu will be on offer - but make sure you don't miss out on their amazing buns and legendary brown butter tart.
Rainproof? Yes every table on the terrace has some degree of protection.
Follow on Instagram: @marksman_pub
Where: Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, London E2 7ES
USP: Once you've actually found your way in, which is harder than you'd expect, nabbing a table out in the walled garden at the original Rochelle Canteen feels like a total blessing. Enjoy super seasonal cooking by owners Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson in this East London oasis.
Rainproof? Yes, they've put up a large marquee next to the restaurant
Follow on Instagram: @rochellecanteen
Also in East London
Smoking Goat (Shoreditch) are bringing back their covered terrace with a host of new dishes on the menu
Smokestak (Shoreditch) - the BBQ masters always have some terrace action and this is now covered too.
Where: 95-97 Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 2QB
If you like the idea of alfresco more than the reality, then this enclosed courtyard space with a retractable roof is the place for you. More of a restaurant with the roof taken off on sunny days, this Notting Hill establishment is perfect for England’s unpredictable weather. The menu features lots of dishes cooked over wood fire to give you that BBQ vibe too.
Rainproof? Yes the garden room has a proper roof to it.
Follow on Instagram: @goldnottinghill
Where: 195 -197 King's Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 5EQ
An Instagrammer's dream spot (and popular with the Made in Chelsea crew too) the Ivy Group brought in an award-winning designer to create the space at their King's Road restaurant. There's a covered upper terrace and a cosy firepit when the weather's not all that, but really it's just an evergreen dream out here.
Rainproof? There are parasols but they won't really stop a drenching.
Follow on Instagram: @ivychelsgarden
Where: Portobello Dock, 344 Ladbroke Grove, London W10 5BU
Stevie Parle’s extended popup at the old Dock Kitchen site currently basks in great reviews and has a plethora of options for alfresco dining. There are six pavilions with infrared heaters, plants and 1950s German artwork. There is more outside seating under the building's eaves which also have infrared heaters.
Rainproof? There are parasols on some tables, but the best protected spots are the pavilions.
Follow on Instagram: @joy_at_portobello
Where: 83-85 Duke Of York Square, Chelsea, London SW3 4LY
Tucked in away from the roar of supercard down the King's Road, Manicomio has an expansive terrace on Duke of York Square with room for 100 diners. Whether you're nibbling on Truffled Gorgonzola Crostini or settling down for a larger bowl of great pasta, this is a lovely spot.
Rainproof? Extra large parasols cover pretty much all of the terrace.
Follow on Instagram: @manicomiorestaurants
Where: 19-21 Lonsdale Rd, Queen's Park, London NW6 6RA
The new all-weather outdoor dining space at Milk Beach normally has 40 seats outside for dining on the mews, but when the weather is good they actually put all the tables and chairs out on the mews so end up with over 100 covers outside. Look out for a new menu and the promise of BBQ come the summer.
Rainproof? There are large parasols that would give some protection from the rain.
Follow on Instagram: @milkbeachlondon
Where: 55 Exhibition Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2PN
It's hard to think of a more pleasant way to spend an evening than downing ice-cold shots of vodka under the billowing canopy of Ognisko's terrace, looking out over Prince's Gardens, while pondering what kind of pelmeni to have.
Rainproof? Yes, the outside terrace marquee is huge.
Follow on Instagram: @ogniskorestaurant
Where: 5 Kingdom Street, Paddington Central, London W2 6PY
With a mix of perspex roof covered areas and open-air spots, this popular Paddington spot is perfect whatever the British weather throws at you. There's a changing roster of restaurant residencies and the bar menu changes seasonally too.
Rainproof? Yes it's got a proper roof covering
Follow on Instagram: @pergolalondon
Where: Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd, Hammersmith, London W6 9HA
As long as you don't think about the bill, sitting out on the banks of the Thames enjoying the super Italian food here really is a case of 'life doesn't get much better than this'.
Rainproof? A mixture of parasols and awnings should keep off a lot of the rain.
Follow on Instagram: @therivercafelondon
Where: 1 Crisp Rd, Hammersmith, London W6 9DN
Making full use of its riverfront location by Hammersmith Bridge, this large terrace with room for more than 30 diners is serving up a seafood menu with oyster platters and dressed crab on offer. Order some frozen margaritas, watch the boats go by and all will be well with the world.
Rainproof? Yes, they have a large covered terrace
Follow on Instagram: @samsriversidew6
Where: 151 Sydney St, Chelsea, London SW3 6NT
This newish Chelsea restaurant makes the most of its large courtyard garden. There are two large parasols that keep the banquette seating dry and they also have inbuilt heaters to keep you warm and toasty. Weekend brunch sounds particularly good like the buttermilk flatbread with crab and poached egg.
Rainproof? Yes, extra wide parasols keep most of the rain off.
Follow on Instagram: @stanleys_chelsea_
Also in West London
Brook Green Market is moving to nearby playground at St Mary's Catholic primary school - meaning more room for picnic areas, covered benches and a variety of cosy nooks and crannies to spread out into with a bottle of natural wine and some food from the many street traders.
Plus - more new alfresco spaces
With social distancing the key measure, loads of London restaurants are adding new alfresco seating. Here are more places you can eat outside this summer.
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