It’s the perfect time of the year to soak up the sun and enjoy the alfresco dining experiences that London has to offer
Summer has finally blossomed in London and it’s a record breaking one to boot. Ironically, despite the dreary winters London is a city built for sunshine with its many beautiful green parks, and when Londoners have had their fill of picnics and barbeques, there are a plethora of outdoor dining options.
When the sun peaks many Londoners head to the usual suspects including the Southbank with its assortment of outdoor restaurants, or to one of the many dining options in and around Covent Garden Market. In addition to these ground-dwelling eateries, exclusive rooftop bars and restaurants are dotted amid the tall towers of the financial centre of London, such as Coq D’Argent in Bank. But for those who don’t want to spend a fortune on a small meal, or mingle in and amongst the tourists, there are other lesser known alfresco dining spots to choose from.
St Christopher’s Place, located less than a minute away from Bond Street, is hardly mentioned in tourist travel guides yet has one of the highest concentrations of outdoor dining restaurants in one street in all of London. This includes restaurants serving Italian, French, Spanish and Japanese cuisine, as well as bars and coffee shops. The recommended restaurant here is Sofra, with its host of outdoor tables and a perfect location looking out into the main section of this mini square. Serving Turkish food with a mix of the Mediterranean dishes, Sofra has remarkable lunch and pre-theatre menus with options for less than £10. However this does mean it pulls in an office crowd, so plan either an early or late lunch to beat the lunchtime rush.
A peaceful and more polished alternative to St Christopher’s Place can be found on Heddon Street located just behind Regent’s Street. Home to a variety of classic establishments along with more unconventional venues, it plays host to my favourite haunt by far, Momo.
Momo has a reputation for being the most glamorous Moroccan restaurant in London with food to match. The owners describe their décor as a ‘Marrakesh-souk-meets-Parisian-troquet style’, with an outdoor seating area surrounded by olive trees, palms and other lush green foliage. This exotic outdoor garden terrace is an ideal place to enjoy all day mezze, traditional mint tea or a flavoured shisha pipe while bathing in the sunshine, forgetting entirely that you are in fact slap-bang in centre of London. All the trinkets found in this restaurant are for sale, including the tea sets, lanterns and even the music. In all, Momo is a hidden gem when it comes to stylish alfresco dining in London.
Shoreditch provides a more confidently casual alternative to the glitzy Momo in the form of Dishoom and its new outdoor courtyard. Labelled ‘The Verandah’, harking back to the name given by locals to outdoor extensions in Kenya as well as India, this is a large space with 40 covers. Filled with beautiful antique furniture, armchairs, bookshelves and old photographs creating an incredibly homely atmosphere, this is the perfect place to set about lounging outdoors. The menu in this Mumbai-styled cafe offers proper Indian house chai, tempting snacks typical of Mumbai, and even an Indian breakfast including very strong monsooned malabar coffee. Like any proper verandah, this outdoor space is partially covered, meaning shelter from the sun and any unexpected and unwelcomed downpours. They also have the compulsory chilling accessory: WiFi, lovingly referred to as ChaiFi.
Finally, Cinnamon Kitchen in East London has a chic outdoor dining terrace in the midst of Devonshire Square and is a popular location for post-work gatherings. This modern Indian restaurant has a large terrace complimenting its creative menu. The terrace is open all day and can also be booked for private dining. Similarly to Sofra, Cinnamon Kitchen also has enticing set menus, offering three courses for £21.
Adding to the dining experience, Cinnamon Kitchen will soon be joining forces with Picturehouse Cinema to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema by turning their terrace into a big-screen cinema. This collaboration will allow diners to experience the top two summer London trends of great alfresco food and outdoor cinema viewing all in one go.
Conveniently, many of these outdoor dining spaces are open all year round, so even if the autumn comes along far too quickly, they needn’t be disregarded. Londoners will know that this capital city seems to boom in population when the sun is out, but these are a few places diners can experience enjoyable alfresco dining. We can’t guarantee that they haven’t already been discovered, but if you can’t beat them, it’s definitely worth heading out and joining in.
Image from: http://www.stchristophersplace.com/
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