Summer may be coming to an end but for those still holding onto the last dregs of the sunshine can at least be content in the fact that al fresco venues in London are two-a-penny nowadays. You just need to know where to find them. In the past, venues were mainly chosen by my group of friends for their smoke-friendly perks. You never know the desperation of a gang of smokers until you’ve tried to locate a venue willing to fit 30 for a sit down dinner with ashtrays on the side booking the only option 4 miles away. Now I’m pretty au fait with cosy pubs with pram-maneuverability but I’d like to think I can recommend either. Being single in your early 30’s gives you a good vision for both. So here are some great al fresco venues to seek out in the capital before the clocks go back…
Surely one of the prettiest pubs in London, The Albion has been voted one of the 50 best Sunday lunch pubs in the UK so you can order that Sunday roast with confidence. In fact, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t love their menu from braised pigs cheeks to roasted poussin with thyme bread sauce. It’s worth battling the Northern line on a Sunday just to enjoy the garden which is open until 10pm.
Settle in with a bottle of red whatever the weather and you can always go for a stroll around Highbury or Islington to work that roast off. Nothing a little shopping can’t solve.
After a morning stroll on the Heath you will probably want to rest those weary legs. Head to this Hampstead institution, The Stag, best known for Sunday roasts but also home to a rather large pub garden and the creme de la creme of roof terraces. All the pub classics done exceedingly well (scotch eggs, pork pies and a hefty side dollop of relishes) means you might while away the rest of the afternoon here.
You can only book the roof terrace for private parties but if you can track down 14 mates you can have yourself a party. We’re trawling Facebook as we type.
A Conran masterpiece, the Boundary is one of the few elusive ‘open all year round’ rooftops with a weatherproof pergola to protect the dignity of smokers everywhere. When they can drag themselves away from the ashtray, the restaurant shines with steak tartare and spectacular lobster. In the Winter, enter the glass rooftop restaurant and enjoy the views with no need for added rugs.
It’s not cheap but it’s great for daytime drinks if you’re feeling the pinch. Also highly recommended as a parental sweetener or a date to impress.
Now this is a bit more like it. Expect stripped back timber and chairs that look like they’re worth £3 but probably worth closer to £300 (that’s design for you). This super boozer is a great place to chill out. With a huge outdoor garden, The Crown and Shuttle don’t take bookings. If you’re lucky enough to get a table then great. Otherwise just sit on the floor.
NB the floor is a terribly edgy place to sit don’t you know and you can still sample all the delicious bar snacks on offer. You’re going to need it as things in buns are their speciality. Think crab with samphire lettuce or jerk pork with marinated yoghurt. Yum.
This huge decked garden is tucked away behind Sunday favourite, The Lighthouse, on Battersea Park Road. I say Sunday favourite as board games galore are found in old toy boxes meaning a good game of Scrabble on a wet afternoon is now a possibility. Or you can find the refined older gentlemen of the area who settle in for a game of chess against locals.A casual bar snack of pig’s head terrine can accompany.
It also has the added bonus of shaded or sunny areas. Dependant on the commitment to your tan. The key is to avoid The Ship in Wandsworth packed with Jack Wills types and find a good seat here instead. It’s a little bit more incognito.
For the more eagle-eyed amongst you (or those admitting to watch it), you may have spied The Phene on Made In Chelsea. Whether that’s a draw or not, The Phene was a much needed, long overdue arrival for the Sloaneys.
Slick to the nth degree, the garden shows off with outdoor fireplaces and hanging basket chairs. It may attract city slickers but brunch in the garden is highly recommended for all types. Posh or not. We’re not sure if the bouncers are entirely necessary but the Made in Chelsea location tour is obviously rather popular. It’s location rather than the food but they do the classics well.
You are fairly well-placed in West London to shut your eyes, stumble into the nearest pub and find a well-heeled type smugly enjoying their Ralph Lauren inspired local. For a little more edge, the Windsor Castle is an institution. It lacks that West London finesse but that’s why I love it – sturdy pub grub and a bar that you have to climb through takes the edge of the Notting Hill sheen.
With a great pub garden, rickety old garden chairs and an eclectic client base it remains a firm favourite for those who know good pubs.
Boasting the largest garden in Central London, this was my saving grace for my 30th birthday venue as mentioned in my intro. Located by Latimer Road station, the Garden Bar is a chilled out, late night drinking winner. The usual pub grub is considerably high calibre but it’s the fairy light laden garden that sets it apart.
The best thing is they welcome all. Book for 2 to 22 and you’ll find a place to perch in the sun. Bliss.