Sun-drenched days and balmy nights… what better excuse to book a table at one of the capital’s new or pop-up outdoor restaurants?
If there’s one thing that Londoners know how to do well, it’s making the most of the beautiful days and nights of summer in the city. While we relish this communal celebration of the season, it can make getting a seat at the capital’s alfresco eateries something of a challenge. A game plan is essential to securing the best spot for supper or an evening aperitif; from a secret garden right in heart of Piccadilly to an exclusive Italian retreat amid the rooftops of Knightsbridge, make sure you’re first in line when the sun shines with our guide to London’s best new and pop-up outdoor dining options.
The cabana-style terrace on the first floor at The Mandrake hotel offers a moment of calm amid its bustling Fitzrovia location as you step into an urban oasis of hanging passion flower and jasmine plants punctuated by chic rattan furniture. A curated cocktail list of intriguing flavours is served from a wooden-shack-style bar, including the sweet and sour “Butterfly”, a mix of Bolt Mezcal, Laphroaig Triple Wood, lapsang souchong tea syrup, citrus, egg white and butterfly sorrel. The food menu from European/South American fusion restaurant, Yopo, provides equal temptation, with dishes such as Iberico pork and roast pineapple tacos, courgette flower tostada with pickled jalapeño, and a seabass, avocado and raspberry ceviche. Designed by world-renowned landscape architects Bureau Bas Smets, this hidden sanctuary has already made its mark as the winner of the best outdoor space at the Global AHEAD Awards 2019.
When daydreams of faraway shores prevail, a trip to Alto – nestled on the rooftop of Selfridges – might be all you need to sate that wanderlust. Accessed via a private lift in the Fragrance room, the crowds of Oxford Street melt away as you enter through an archway of greenery and citrus into an undeniably Mediterranean retreat. From the all-Italian staff and seasonal menu to the garden room decorated with trailing vines and a sun terrace with only blue skies for a view, this pop-up offering from San Carlo is an escape for all the senses.
A sunny afternoon is well-spent sharing a selection of cicchetti, from panzerotto Pugliese and Sicilian arancini to truffle and pecorino ravioli and beef tagliata, while the oysters and frutti di mare platters are a wonderfully fresh treat for the taste buds. To drink, the “Bellini Veneziana” made with white peach juice and Prosecco is a great place to start before moving on to the selection of Champagnes and fine Italian wines. You’ll be whisked away to the Amalfi Coast faster than you can say por favor.
400 Oxford Street, Marylebone, W1, sancarloalto.co.uk
The Edwardian courtyard tucked behind Rosewood’s grand façade has been transformed into a floral idyll for the summer season by notable landscape designer Luciano Giubbilei. Created in partnership with award-winning English wine producer Nyetimber, this summer’s Secret Garden pop-up (open until 29 September) delivers a taste of the British countryside right in the heart of the city, where guests can enjoy its namesake libation.
Highlights of executive head chef Calum Franklin’s menu include Jersey rock oysters, gin-cured salmon and steak tartare, all of which come with recommended wine pairings, including the demi-sec Nyetimber Cuvee Chérie, the first of its kind produced in England. Originally created to be savoured with British desserts, this delicate, fresh sparkler more than holds its own alongside robust savoury dishes too. Morning larks will appreciate the breakfast menu, featuring all the usual suspects and, if you’re feeling up to it, yet more wine pairings.
252 High Holborn, Holborn, WC1, rosewoodhotels.com
The former sous-chef at Michelin-starred Catalan restaurant Can Fabes in Barcelona and head chef of Ossiano in Dubai, Angel Zapata Martin’s passion for his native Barcelona cuisine eventually led him to his current role as executive chef for London’s favourite tapas joint, Barrafina. Calling on Martin’s experience as a private chef in Ibiza, the latest spin-off from the group – Parrillan, in buzzing Coal Drops Yard – marches to the Balearic beat.
On the partially covered rooftop, tables are equipped with a parilla, a small charcoal grill that puts diners in the hot seat by encouraging them to grill their own 50-day aged beef picanha, diver-caught scallops or BBQ-friendly vegetables. Don’t worry, you won’t have to do all the work: chefs prepare the starters, such as the deliciously simple pan con tomate and their unique take on tapas bar stalwart banderillas, and delicious salsas to accompany mains. Finish off with the Mel I Mato tart, made using an artisanal cheese called mató from Girona – the perfect end to a long, lingering lunch in the sunshine.
Coal Drops Yard, Stable Street, Kings Cross, N1, parrillan.co.uk
Alfresco dining options around London’s landmarks are few and far between, but the newly-renovated Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park more than raises the bar with its addition of the Garden Terrace and accompanying views over the croquet lawn and one of the capital’s finest Royal Parks.
This outdoor extension to French restaurant Bar Boulud is open from midday to 9pm (weather permitting), where guests can settle in to enjoy the vista over lunch, cocktails or dinner. A new three-course menu (from £45, which is the minimum spend per person on the terrace) features traditional French favourites such as tartare de boeuf and salad Niçoise alongside the restaurant’s much-loved burgers and lobster rolls. Refreshment can be found in the extensive wine list and selection of cocktails, including non-alcoholic and low-strength options. Available for hire, this urban retreat could soon be you own private oasis.
66 Knightsbridge, SW1, barboulud.com
The seasonally changing Dalloway Terrace at the Bloomsbury Hotel takes inspiration from Leonard Woolf’s The Village in the Jungle this summer. A canopy of tropical foliage dotted with magenta silk flowers sets the scene for the Sri Lankan-inspired menu additions. Botanical cocktails, such as the Colonial Garden with its blend of Glendalough rose gin, Luxardo Limoncello, lime juice, gomme syrup and Belsazar Riesling foam, complement a jackfruit salad with lime and chilli dressing, and Sri Lankan curry with tofu, chickpeas and lime pickle.
Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy an afternoon tea created by head pastry chef Chris Dodd, where mango and coriander tart with pink peppercorn meringue, and pineapple and red chilli terrine with red-vein sorrel, sit alongside a rare Sri Lankan tea. If you’re in a hurry, the vegan-friendly jungle lunch menu promises to serve two courses within 45 minutes.
16-22 Great Russell Street, Fitzrovia, WC1, dallowayterrace.com
An exploration of the relationship between taste and scent brings a unique take on Italian cuisine to Saville Row’s Sartoria, where chef patron Francesco Mazzei has collaborated with fragrance house Acqua di Parma to offer a special menu of cocktails and cicchetti inspired by the Blu Mediterraneo fragrance collection. Served this summer in the restaurant’s Libare bar and out on a terrace filled with carefully placed orange trees and scented candles, the unique offerings bring a vibrant taste of the Mediterranean spirit to Mayfair. From the aromatic and zesty mix of Italicus bergamot liqueur, Sipsmith gin, cucumber water, lemon and mint that captures the Bergamotto di Calabria fragrance to the avocado tartare with flaked almonds that pays homage to Mandorlo di Sicilia and Sicily’s abundance of fresh green almonds, this is a treat for all the senses.
20 Savile Row, Mayfair, W1, sartoria-restaurant.co.uk
Huge attention-grabbing gold eyes by Portuguese street artist Vhils adorn the front of this bohemian neighbourhood restaurant – though the star of the show here has to be the garden room. Filled with palm trees and monstera plants, the intimate space is nestled beneath a retractable glass roof, making it an “outdoor” spot to be enjoyed in even the most British of summers.
In the kitchen, chef Theo Hill, formerly of River Café, takes a minimalistic approach, cooking his food in wood ovens and over an open flame, allowing the produce to shine. Dishes such as whole sea bream with wild oregano and capers, and wood-roasted purple potatoes with caraway sauerkraut slaw, go hand-in-hand with the cocktails created by award-winning mixologists Matt Whiley (The Talented Mr Fox) and Rich Woods (The Cocktail Guy).
95-97 Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, W11, goldnottinghill.com
Whether seeking respite from the city heat over a leisurely lunch in the shade or enjoying a romantic evening under the stars as soft background music fills the air, head to the newly opened Secret Garden Bar at The Ritz, which promises to raise the stakes in elegant alfresco dining this summer. Open from 11am until 11pm daily until mid-September (weather-permitting), this secluded spot offers a unique sanctuary from its busy Piccadilly locale.
Seasonal cocktails, wine, champagne and caviar are served alongside executive chef John Williams MBE‘s menu, which ranges from the Ritz classic club sandwich to British seafood platters featuring dressed crab, oysters, lobster, shrimp and prawns. Located on the edge of Green Park, nestled among perfectly pruned topiary, olive trees and vibrant flower boxes filled with geranium and fragrant lavender, this secret hideaway is the place to know when you’re dreaming of an escape to the countryside, even if only for an afternoon.
150 Piccadilly, St. James’, W1, theritzlondon.com
Usually only accessible to hotel guests, the rooftop garden at The Berkeley opens its doors this summer with Italian-inspired pop-up La Dolce Vita. Offering a taste of the Mediterranean right on our doorstep, this exclusive outdoor space will instantly transport you to sunny shores as you relax on a sun lounger while sipping a cocktail. When hunger strikes, the poolside menu offers fritto misto, tricolore salad, pizzetta and arancini, all to be followed by a scoop of gelato or limoncello sorbet, of course.
This is the place to go to escape the crowds, as access to La Dolce Vita is available only to those who purchase a four-hour pass, granting entry to the rooftop garden and pool with a complimentary Aperol Spritz, or with the La Dolce Vita spa package, which includes the same access together with a head-to-toe treatment that will leave you feeling as if you’ve just spent two weeks in Positano. If you can time your visit to linger over aperitivo hour, you’ll witness the pool and garden’s transformation by candlelight.
Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, SW1, the-berkeley.co.uk