The sunny weather is back – and so too is dining out. From April 12, provided coronavirus cases continue to fall, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to serve food outdoors. But with outside space in London at a premium, restaurants with al fresco seating are being booked up fast.
Here are our top picks of the eight best eateries to reserve now for your outdoor reunions.
The small collection of tables here spills out onto Kensington High Street and on a sunny day it’s as if you really are enjoying a lazy lunch on the edge of a piazza in Rome or Venice.
Como Garden specialises in Italian small plates. It has its own pasta chef on hand to roll noodles of all shapes and sizes fresh every morning.
The hospitality of Alberto and Arian Zandi, the brothers behind the restaurant, is no less than impeccable: whether you’re after the perfect wine pairing or to be regaled with stories about the grandmother who gave them their gnocchi recipe.
Those gnocchi, smothered in creamy gorgonzola and flecked with crunchy caramelised walnuts, are a must-try – as is the ossobuco, slow-cooked for 36 hours until the veal practically melts away. Three plates per person are recommended and seafood lovers should make sure to try the crispy octopus. Prices range from £6.50 for antipasti to around £20 for secondi.
Head for a stroll around the Serpentine afterwards for your own little slice of Lake Como life.
Circolo Popolare serves pizzas by the metre and desserts so large you could lose your face in them. It finds that perfect balance between serving really excellent, authentic Italian food – without taking itself too seriously.
The restaurant has become a favourite with Fitzrovia locals for its cacio e pepe: never-ending ribbons of spaghetti served straight from the pecorino wheel for an extra cheesy whammy. Indulge yourself by following that up with Circolo’s lemon pie, topped with just under six inches of fluffy meringue.
It has an outdoor terrace which seats 60 and is overhung by bunting, foliage and twinkly lights. Both Circolo and its sister restaurant Gloria are open for deliveries and takeaway prior to reopening. Mains cost about £15 each.
Rail House Cafe
One to book if you’re nervous about the British weather, the Rail House Cafe’s terrace is both heated and covered. Located a few hundred metres from Victoria station, it’s a good central spot to meet friends for brunch before a walk and some pelican-spotting in St James’s Park.
The menu is playful, with dishes such as the Eggs Burderdict, which comes with dry-aged beef and special hollandaise, and buttermilk pancakes with berry compote and clotted cream. There’s also a selection of zingy cocktails.
For an Easter treat before April 12, try one of the restaurant’s at-home delivery boxes. The Carribean-inspired roast dinner adds a flavoursome twist to the British classic and includes a whole corn-fed pimento chicken, moorish crispy potatoes with pineapple chili chutney and an oozy ginger-caramel pudding. The box costs £60.
One of the capital’s most well-respected independent pizzerias, Santa Maria was set up by Angelo and Pasquale, two Neapolitans on a mission to bring authentic Italian food to Londoners at a reasonable price.
They now have four restaurants across the city. There are a couple of outdoor tables at their ;Ealing and Fitzrovia joints and plans are afoot to create a large al fresco dining area at their Brentwood site. Pizzas cost from £6.95 and make sure to order something with Santa Maria’s signature smoked burrata. We highly recommend the Santa Cristina pizza, which pairs the cheese with a mushroom and truffle cream base, or the starter of smoked burrata pugliese with Santa Maria’s homemade bread. There are also six vegan pizza options.
Hidden on the seventh floor of The Stratford hotel is a wildflower meadow, crisscrossed with cedar walkways and with water features and dining tables spaciously dotted around.
The terrace, which can seat 50 diners, is part of Allegra, a modern restaurant with a focus on sustainably sourced food. It has 360 degree views of the Olympic Park, with the City of London in the skyline.
Many of the ingredients on Allegra’s menu come from its own organic farm. Typically it serves upmarket fare such as venison loin and grilled cauliflower with truffle. However for the first four weeks after reopening, the terrace will become a pop-up burger joint with a fun (and very reasonably priced) menu including a Beyond Meat burger for £10 and fried potatoes with pickled onions for £5. Throughout the month there will also be guest chefs preparing one-off five course feasts on the terrace’s barbeque pit.
It is well worth coming back when the restaurant’s interior opens and experiencing its walk-in wine room. Guests are encouraged to visit to taste and select their own wines.
An old Young’s brewery has been converted to create a buzzy new community in the centre of Wandsworth. The red brick building with its beanpole chimney now houses various trendy outlets, including an artisan coffee shop and London Stock, a restaurant with a modern tasting menu. A craft beer bar will be opening soon.
The team behind London Stock has heaps of experience, including at Heston Blumenthal’s two Michelin-starred Dinner by Heston.
From April 14 diners will be able to enjoy a 10-course tasting menu for £65 on the restaurant’s suntrap terrace. Specialities include red mullet with smoked gazpacho and beef cheek doused in Imperial stout. There is also a vegetarian menu and a lunch offering costing £30 for three courses. On Sundays there are roast dinners a la carte.
The restaurant is currently running a delivery service, including a fabulous three-course Easter roast dinner of slow-cooked lamb shank and truffled potato dauphinoise. The finish-at-home kit costs £80 for two people.
Outdoor tables at La Goccia are nestled within forests of rare trees and blooms. The restaurant is the central London sister site of Richmond’s Petersham Nurseries and channels the same “Garden of Eden meets Victorian greenhouse” vibe.
It focuses on seasonal food, served in Italian style. Prices range from about £6.50 for small plates to around £20 for larger portions.
Diners who can’t wait for reopening to try this spring’s menu can order a home delivery box. For £90 you get six sumptuous yet surprisingly light courses including chubby burratas with sweet, vinegary slices of squash and hand-rolled rigatoni in a slow-cooked beef ragu. There is a vegetarian alternative costing £80.
La Goccia also has its own cellar, where you can purchase fine wines, and a shop selling indoor plants, artisanal gardening tools and homeware.
The Garden at Corinthia
Lemon trees and twines of jasmine fill the courtyard of The Corinthia hotel with a delicious bouquet before any food has even been brought out.
On a warm day, go for a crisp glass of rosé from the restaurant’s extensive collection. When it’s feeling wintery grab a blanket or a seat by one of the fire pits and order one of the Corinthia’s speciality whiskeys.
The outdoor menu has a Mediterranean feel, with dishes including fritto misto, lobster linguine and woodfired pizzas. Starters and desserts cost around £11 each, while mains cost around £24.
There’s also a cigar menu, with more than 180 different types from rare and vintage brands, and a cigar sommelier to talk you through them.