As the UK prepares to leave lockdown this week, a quintet of the capital's finest al fresco dining spots.
From secret gardens to hidden oases, we've rounded up five of our all-time favourites for bucolic alfresco dining.
A secret garden and courtyard restaurant in the heart of Chelsea inspired by the English country garden. Located just off the King’s Road in Chelsea (next to Phat Phuc Noodle Bar), Stanley's Chelsea - the first opening for restaurateur Hugh Stanley (who used to run the nearby Sydney Arms) - boasts a large outdoor terrace which has a garden feel to both the décor and the menu. Enter through a floral archway flanked by olive trees and tiered shrub planting into the flagstone courtyard area. The courtyard comes complete with olive trees, tinkling fountains, a reclaimed timber bar and flower-festooned parasols with upholstered booths separated by wooden and glass screens, whilst the indoors has an orangery-style feel with timber shelving, planters with mid-century style chairs. MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Olivia Burt - late of Claridge’s - is the head chef overseeing a small-plates menu with dishes such as sourdough crumpet with Cornish crab & potted shrimp and Westcombe cheddar doughnuts with burnt leek.
Found on the seventh floor of The Stratford near the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Allegra is a modern European restaurant headed up by chef Patrick Powell (who previously held the position of head chef at Chiltern Firehouse). The restaurant features retractive glass walls which open out onto one of the building’s sky gardens. Here, you’ll find outdoor seating among a meadow of wildflowers, water features and cedar pathways sheltered under a cedar-cantilevered roof - overlooking the London skyline. Allegra’s modern European menu follows a hyper-seasonal approach, making use of organic ingredients sourced from a farm 40 minutes away as well as produce from the garden - including his pistachio choux filled with liver parfait and preserved kumquat as well as his fried black pudding burger with pickles and fried shallots.
A Firmdale hotel, housed in a beautiful mid-Victorian stucco, terraced townhouse in South Kensington that features a beautiful tree-filled English garden accessed through The Orangery restaurant. One of London's best kept secrets, the garden has shady mulberry trees, mini manicured hedges, blooming hydrangeas, an exotic koi pond and a romantic pagoda at one end. On the menu are Loch Fyne smoked salmon, superfood quinoa salads and Aliveris spaghetti with crab and chilli. Both The Orangery and the garden are available for private hire and are ideal for smaller, more intimate events.
Chelsea Physic Garden sits amongst some of the rarest and oldest plants in England in beautiful 3.5 acres of botanic gardens along Chelsea’s Thames bank. The walled apothecary gardens date back to the 16th century. Sit outside at The Physic Garden Café for brunch with calming views of their impeccable lawns and tuck into a simple menu of dishes such as crab salad or butternut squash, spinach and Parmesan fritatta with crispy kale which can also be enjoyed as a picnic amongst the plants.
The hidden garden on top of this Spitalfields pub has a pared-back, rustic aesthetic, with the bounty of the garden providing decoration and ingredients for The Culpeper's modern-English menu and tinctures. Up here, there's a greenhouse (which doubles as a private dining room) and garden with dining room, bar, and wood-fired grill - ideal for long lunches and suppers around a large al fresco dining table. Dine of dishes such as heritage tomato, peach and cucumber salad, or courgette risotto with goat’s curd and mint. Originally opened in 1884, the place is named after Nicholas Culpeper, a local 17th-century herbalist.