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The 15 best bars and pubs in London for outdoor drinks

From boutique cocktail joints to art-bedecked rooftop bars and leafy beer gardens, we round up 15 of the most atmospheric al fresco drinking spots in the capital — all now open for bookings.

Published 14 Apr 2021, 13:01 BST, Updated 15 Apr 2021, 11:54 BST
The Terrace Bar at Alexandra Palace, now open for the summer season. New drinks venues have opened across ...

The Terrace Bar at Alexandra Palace, now open for the summer season. New drinks venues have opened across the capital, all vying to capture Londoners’ attention with special Covid-friendly flourishes.

Photograph by Lloyd Winters

The first weeks of April witnessed a flurry of excitement as restaurants and bars across London prepared to welcome people back to their tables. Windows were washed and signs repainted for the grand re-opening on the 12th (albeit only for outdoor seating for groups of up to six people or two households — for now). A handful of interesting new drinks venues have launched, too, all vying to capture Londoners’ attention with special Covid-friendly flourishes.

Across the board, expect to see crafty solutions for socially distanced seating, freshly created drinks menus, new from-your-table ordering apps, orderly one-way systems and, most notably, the addition of plenty of outdoor heaters to combat the capital’s changeable weather. Here’s our round-up of some of the best spots in the city for al fresco drinks.

1. Costa del Tottenham, Tottenham

The wonderfully-named Costa del Tottenham is a new al fresco complex that’s part of north London nightclub and event space The Cause. It’s split into North Side and South Side, stretching across an industrial estate close to Tottenham Hale. Pint-sized cocktails are served here alongside street food vendors, DJs, cabaret and, of course, palm trees. Visit the website to see what’s coming up.

2. The Terrace, Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace turned its south-facing terrace into a mighty big beer garden last summer, with space for up to 400 people. The beer garden has panoramic views of the city skyline — an ideal spot to catch the sunset — and a rotation of street food vendors. Groups of up to six people can book a table for 3.5 hours and better still, this year the entry fee has been waived. 

The Terrace Bar at Alexandra Palace is open to groups of up to six people, who can book a table for 3.5 hours. This year, the entry fee has been waived. 

Photograph by Lloyd Winters

3. Knowhere Special Islington, Angel

This new venture from the people behind underground cocktail bar Knowhere Special in Kentish Town launched on 12 April after a successful series of lockdown-friendly ‘finish-at-home’ Sunday roast kits highlighted the chain’s talents in the kitchen. This new outpost, situated between Angel and Old Street, combines a flair for cocktails with a new culinary offering: small plates focusing on British cuisine. Outdoor tables are available to book.

4. People’s Park Tavern, Hackney

This east London beer garden is one of the capital’s largest and grandest, with tables spreading through a ‘secret garden’ at the tip of Victoria Park. It’s a great spot for open-air drinking, with its own on-site microbrewery, a barbecue kitchen, a pop-up cocktail bar, tap room and mini golf course. If things get cold there are heated booths and the cosy ‘greenhaus’ to hunker down in, too.

People’s Park Tavern, near Victoria Park in east London, has its own on-site microbrewery, a barbecue kitchen and a pop-up cocktail bar.

Photograph by People’s Park Tavern

5. Midnight Apothecary, Rotherhithe

Cosy campfires and botanical cocktails are the main draws at Midnight Apothecary, a roof garden perched on top of the Brunel Museum in Southeast London. Ingredients used in the cocktails are inspired by what’s grown in the garden or foraged nearby, and the ever-changing menu is based on what’s in season. Meanwhile, the beer on-tap is locally brewed. Personal fire pits are available for toasting marshmallows and making s’mores. There’s table service, plus food can be ordered from the nearby Mayflower pub.

6. Skylight, Tobacco Dock

This venue to the east of the city is spread out over the rooftop of a car park. There are booths, daybeds, benches and those all-important heaters, and the complex includes a bunch of different bars and street food stalls. It’s a bit of a playground, with four different levels that include fun additions such as petanque, table tennis and croquet in the summer, and an ice rink in the winter. The games resume here on 21 May.

There are four different levels at Skylight, in Tobacco Dock. From 21 May, games such as petanque, table tennis and croquet in the summer will resume. For now, food stalls and bars cater to guests across the rooftop space. 

Photograph by Haydon Perrior

7. The Sun Inn, Barnes

The Sun Inn in west London has two outdoor drinking areas available for bookings, with a reduced al fresco food menu, too. A great spot for craft beers and traditional Sunday roasts, the gastro pub’s front terrace has views over a quaint pond while there’s also a sizeable beer garden out the back. The pub itself is in a Grade II listed building and fits in perfectly with the twee cottages of riverside Barnes.

8. Vinegar Yard, London Bridge

The Shard dominates the view from Vinegar Yard, based in the heart of London Bridge. It is thought to be the biggest beer garden in London — perfect for social distancing — and has newly opened ‘rum shacks’ this summer. Table service is of course underway, and reservations accommodate up to six per party. There’s also a suntrap of a mezzanine terrace, numerous food stalls, a small flea market and art installations by renowned scrap artist Joe Rush.

Expect table service and art installations at Vinegar Yard, one of the biggest beer gardens in London.

Photograph by H Perrier

9. Prince of Wales, Brixton

Over the years, this Brixton institution has transformed from a staid gastropub into a live music venue with a buzzing, late-night dancefloor. It also has a two-tier roof terrace that’s currently running as a beer garden Monday to Thursday, and as an event space from Friday to Sunday. There are live Jazz Jam sessions on Thursdays and Sundays, with a regular line-up of DJs playing on other days until 11pm. You can also expect rooftop events including musical bingo and drag shows.

10. Champagne Bar by Searcys, Kings Cross

St Pancras station is open air and covered, making it an ideal spot for drinking on rainy days. The Champagne Bar by Searcys, which sprawls decadently across the station with a 1,055ft bar, is the perfect destination for a celebration. There’s terrace seating and individual leather booths that seat up to six people, equipped with ‘press for champagne’ buzzers. The bar has a new menu for its reopening, with champagnes, wines and small plates to pair.

Champagne Bar by Searcys in St Pancras Station offers individual leather booths that seat up to six people, equipped with ‘press for champagne’ buzzers.

Photograph by Jason Purple

11. The Distillery Bankside, Southwark

Situated in what used to be a fragrance factory that distilled essential oils, essences and garnishes in the 1800s, The Distillery Bankside pays homage to its heritage with signature cocktails that include aromatics, infusions and bitters inspired by the former workshop. Snack and sharing platters are also served here, as well as a menu of more than 100 different gins from around the world. The terrace reopened on 12 April for daily drinks and food.

12. Prairie Fire BBQ, White City

The name gives it away: this spot tucked under the railway arches close to White City station focuses on beer and barbecue. There are 16 beers on tap to pair with a menu of Kansas City-style barbecue dishes, all cooked for long hours at a low heat in the smoker. Think 16-hour-oak-smoked brisket, applewood-smoked pork and smashed burgers. The beer terrace spills out either side of the taproom/restaurant and is available for table bookings.

Prairie Fire BBQ has 16 beers on tap to pair with a menu of Kansas City-style barbecue dishes.

Photograph by Prairie Fire BBQ

13. Frank’s Cafe, Peckham

Another south London stalwart, Frank’s is reopening for the summer to offer brunch, lunch and dinner. The pop-up bar on top of a 10-storey car park has incredible views over the city (and often of colourful sunsets, too). It’s all part of the Bold Tendencies art project, which can also be found in full swing on the floor below, showcasing sculptures and installations from international artists. Come for the negronis, stay for the drama events and concerts.

14. Golden Gai, Soho

A newly-opened Soho bar with a covered terrace, Golden Gai serves up cocktails with Italian and Japanese influences. The bar originated as a tiny six-seater venue in Dalston’s Angelina restaurant, before branching out on its own. There are bento cheese boards and a selection of piadina (thin Italian flatbread) sandwiches on the menu to pair with all the cocktails and wine.

Cocktails with Italian and Japanese influences characterise the menu at Golden Gai, Soho, which boasts a covered terrace. 

Photograph by Anton Rodriguez

15. Vauxhall Food & Beer Garden, Vauxhall

This al fresco spot in the centre of Vauxhall has been extended to double the original floor space and allow for seated guests to be more spread out. There’s sports screening, comedy shows and live music as well as other activities and events such as bottomless brunch. Street food and drinks from the surrounding stalls and bars can all be ordered through an app and delivered to your table.

Love food and travel? Taste the world at the National Geographic Traveller Food Festival, our immersive culinary event taking place on 17-18 July 2021 at London’s Business Design Centre. Find out more and book your tickets.

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