When it’s summer in the city, it’s not enough just to have an excellent meal – you also want a terrific alfresco setting. No problem, says Tania Ballantine: here are some of the latest and greatest places to dine outdoors in London.
Angler £££, Moorgate
Best for: City slickers
Hang on a mo. We’re bang in the middle of the Square Mile. Up on a roof. It’s all City fancy-pants, with chaps in pinstripes and gals sipping champagne. But we’re not at the Coq d’Argent. Angler is the pretender to le Coq’s City rooftop throne: a sibling too, as both are run by D&D London. The restaurant is a study in muted elegance, while the narrow terrace feels more relaxed. White bistro tables (and a communal concrete area) are set off by olive trees, lavender and canvas parasols with heaters. But it’s perhaps the food that’s the most remarkable thing about Angler: accomplished, Michelin-starred stuff that’s understandably a hit with the expense-account set. South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, EC2M 2AF. 3215 1260.
Bleeding Heart Bistro ££, Farringdon
Best for: history sleuths
Squeamish types, look away now. The name of this site comes from a gruesome seventeenthcentury murder. The story goes that a young lady left a ball with a dashing stranger (as you do), but was later found here, torn limb from limb, her ‘bleeding heart’ still pumping blood on to the cobblestones. The crime scene has long since been scrubbed and is now home to a bistro and swanky French restaurant. A word of warning: if there’s a sudden storm, you’ll have to go inside (there are no canopies). We don’t want it to be renamed Death by Lightning Strike Yard, do we? Bleeding Heart Yard, EC1N 8SJ. 7242 2056.
Brew House Café £, Hampstead Heath
Best for: period drama fans
Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath’s seventeenth-century neo-classical mansion, is in the limelight these days thanks to its starring role in recent film ‘Belle’: the film’s aristocratic heroine was raised here. By contrast, the food at its on-site café Brew House is fairly common: sandwiches, soups, daily ‘hot specials’ and own-baked cakes (tip: the cakes are definitely worth saving space for). But this is a place you visit mostly for the history and the setting, rather than the food itself: the tiered outside terrace is one of the nicest alfresco spots in all of north London, and includes umbrella-shaded tables and – in the summer months – a Pimm’s stand and ice-cream cart. Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, NW3 7JR. 8341 5384.
Grain Store ££, Kings Cross
Best for: vegetable lovers
Been fretting about getting your seven a day? (They added two to the original five back in March.) Look no further than this upmarket, yet unstuffy, King’s Cross restaurant. The cooking is supervised by the acclaimed French chef Bruno Loubet, who – thanks in part to eight years spent in sunny, health-food-loving Australia – pays special attention to veggies and grains, creating vibrant, exotic dishes that are more Sydney than St Pancras. The outdoor area, with its brightly coloured metal furniture, is a relaxed setting from which to watch the world go by, or see children (and occasionally grownups) scampering around Granary Square’s 1,000-plus choreographed fountains. Granary Square, 1-3 Stable St, N1C 4AB. 7324 4466.
Ham Yard Hotel £££, Soho
Best for: calm-seeking
West Enders The outdoor area at the newest addition to the Firmdale family (a group of small stylish hotels that includes the Charlotte Street Hotel and the Haymarket Hotel) is such a Soho oasis that you can almost see the air shimmering. The hard lines (stone floors, a gleaming modern sculpture, brick buildings on all sides) are softened by a handful of lush oak trees, cream parasols and linen tablecloths. There’s a safe but smart modern European menu (risotto, grilled fish), which is all nice enough, but the real reason to visit is to calm down with a refreshment after a hard day up West. 1 Ham Yard, W1D 7DT. 3642 2000.
Lola Rojo ££, Clapham
Best for: people-watchers
Adored by the area’s yummy mummies, this modish tapas bar may occasionally suffer from slow service, but it has two real strengths: its contemporary Spanish cooking (roast red peppers stuffed with oxtail; chicory salad with blue cheese and hazelnuts), and its compact but appealing outside space. With relatively little passing traffic, you can wave hello to schoolgate mums on the other side of the street, or if you prefer, snipe to your dining companion that ‘her jacket is so last year’s Boden’. For more traditional cooking, try nearby sibling Rosita. 78 Northcote Rd, SW11 6QL. 7350 2262.
Polpo ££, Notting Hill
Best for: stylish, leisurely folk
Fancy watching the world go by the Italian way: ie drinking negronis and shouting ‘Ciao, bella!’ as pretty girls walk by? Well, now you can (if you don’t mind the occasional slap), as the new branch of this Venetian-inspired small-plates bar has opened in Notting Hill, with 20 outdoor seats to assist in your admiration of W11’s beautiful people. It serves cicchetti, fritto misto and meatballs, and summer dishes such as crab and chickpea crostini or grilled lamb, caponata and basil. You can book for lunch, but not dinner, so roll up in good time for a table. 126-128 Notting Hill Gate, W11 3QG. 7229 3283.
£££ More than £70 for a meal for two
££ Between £40 and £70 for a meal for two
£ Less than £40 for a meal for two
Prices above include service, but do not include wine or alcoholic drinks.
Hungry for some more? Here’s plenty more places to dine outdoors in London.