Alfresco Dining: Where to eat out now it’s not too hot
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This heatwave has left us all at a bit of a loss. Sweaty faced and clammy toed, we've been skulking in the shadows, lingering by the air con and generally feeling sorry for ourselves. Luckily the biblical level of scorching is now behind us (at least for the foreseeable), so we can get back to living our best lives maxing and relaxing the continental way.
Head to the below and your meals might include Italian style courtyards, Provencal walled gardens, games of chess, foliage, fresh produce, small plates and much wine.
La Muse is the kind of classy joint that doesn't have to scream and shout about its capabilities. Instead it subtly whispers, 'we're an intimate Parisian bistro and we know what we're doing', and the locals with any knowledge pack in. The walled garden out back is just made for getting passionate over a glass of red, and indulging in sardines on toast. They even have a chess board you can get stuck into if you've too much free time.
Stuck on to the side of the Garden Museum, this seasonal restaurant has a certain poise and seriousness that we have a lot of respect for. Sit in amongst the stained glass and bright leafy surrounds and sample something along the lines of whole mackerel with samphire and gooseberries. There's always a reasonably priced and reliably tasty pasta dish on the menu too, proving how well Italian and British fusion works.
Whilst we wait 20 years for our council to give us a real allotment, we can live out (some of) our gardening fantasies at this magical pop up at the Geffrye Museum. This seasonal cocktail bar and BBQ spot is serving us wholesome, bucolic vibes with a strong undercurrent of whimsy - i.e. our preferred summer mood. Go for a daily-changing menu of grilled meats (with veg, vegan, and fish options); and some good-lookin' summer blooms.
Baby sister of 10 Cases, Parsons has all the same bustling bistro vibes with more of a focus on seafood. Walk through the French wooden doors, hang your coat (as is the proper way), and settle into lunch, rubbing shoulders and elbows with other fine folk. Their menu is relatively small with an honest selection of bistro classics and some fancier bits. Get jiggy with the black rice with squid and cauliflower aioli - close your eyes and drink it all in, baby.
Just around the corner from Canonbury Station, you'll find Vins patiently lying in wait with a stellar wine list and all manner of tasty treats. Wine bars can be an intimidating affair, but Vins go out of their way to eschew the snobbier side of things with short but sweet synopses of each bottle. Statements like ‘a pale, hazy, lip-smacker’ go hand in hand with relaxed outdoor dining. The food is gawjus too. You should really go.
This one's been around for a while and for good reason. Margot Henderson, the culinary smarts of the operation, lays on some fabulous British food. It's the kind of stuff that might sound boring when reading through their tiny menu but will be one of the best things you put in your mouth. Think salad of roast lamb, or a creamy as all hell Welsh Rarebit (it's made with Guinness). It's set in the bike sheds of an old school, so you'll be dining in the playground on a warm day.
Kitty Fisher's is that impressive neighbourhood restaurant in a neighbourhood where nobody really lives. Pay a visit to this intimate, dimly-lit restaurant with an air of Victorian dining room about it, for an ever-changing menu of British and Spanish fusion dishes that might dent your wallet but are sure to impress your tastebuds. If you're really living the good life, grab a seat out front with your miniature poodle, and bask in the joy of London.
Known for their fairytale Richmond restaurant, the team behind Petersham Nurseries have taken over a hunk of Covvy G and filled it with all manner of ephemeral paraphernalia. La Goccia is part of this foliage-heavy haven just off Floral Street. The menu is a friendly concoction of small plates, pizzette, bowls of shellfish pasta and grilled meats; all washed down with lightweight cocktails. Just make sure you bag that perfect courtyard table in amongst the flora.
From the cobbled streets out front; to the semi-open courtyard behind stable doors overlooking the kitchen; to the space in the back where pasta is rolled in front of stacks of firewood by a woman who ‘learnt it from her nonna’, this is maybe London’s most authentically rustic Italian restaurant. It’s the kind of aesthetic that 100 ad-men on 100 working lunches would never be able to recreate; and yes, the food is also fantastic.
Peckham wasn't exactly short on the 'seasonal small plate', 'relaxed modern dining' restaurant type, but Kudu has upped the game with boudoir bistro touches, South African and Middle Eastern flavours; and a pretty seductive walled garden out back. Grab a table for two and let the romance flow over a couple of smoky Kudus (a whisky cocktail that should get the juices going).
Ruth Rogers was bossing it long before we were around. She set up The River Cafe with her buddy Rose Gray back in 1987, which started off as a canteen to feed the staff at her husband's architecture practice in Thames Warf. Now it's a full blown fine dining restaurant known for its ever changing seasonal menus. It's pretty much a London institution; and the riverside garden isn't too bad either.