As soon as the suns starts shining, Londoners go al fresco. Here’s where to take your meals outside
Best for canal-side dining: Towpath Café
As soon as spring has sprung, the graffitied shutters on Regent’s Canal get pulled up to reveal the Towpath Café.
There’s no phone line, no access except from the towpath and, if you wing a table in the sunshine, you will most likely end up staying for hours. In the morning you can feast on fried eggs on toast or fruity granola with yoghurt and maple syrup, which then moves seamlessly into cakes for the afternoon (we love their olive oil and lemon cake and seriously squidgy chocolate brownies).
A floating pontoon now maximises seating in the summer, so you can watch the joggers, cyclists and Broadway Market crowds without getting jostled along the way.
Where: between Whitmore Bridge and Kingsland Road Bridge, Haggerston
When: 8am-dusk Tue - Fri, 9am-dusk Sat and Sun
Best for seriously good cocktails: Beagle
Named after the first steam train to run on the original East London line, Beagle is nestled in the railway arches below Hoxton Overground station.
The martinis here are seriously lethal (but seriously good) so you'll want to grab a couple of small plates, such as their smoked pollack fishcakes or rabbit rilletes and pickles. It's really a necessity.
When: 12 – midnight Mon – Fri, 11am-midnight Sat– Sun
Best for a pint and a pizza: Crate Brewery
This is peak beard and craft beer territory and that’s no bad thing. The beer is brewed on site (you can even watch them do it!) and they only serve pizza, but boy are they gloriously crispy pizzas full of cheesy happiness. Sitting by the banks of the river Lea in the sunshine with a pint and a slice of pizza in your hand is hard to better.
Where: The White Building, Hackney Wick
When: 12- 11pm Sun – Thur, 12 – midnight Fri - Sat
Best for vegetarians: Grain Store
Run by French chef Bruno Loubet who is no stranger to Michelin stars and has worked with some big hitters, the food is sunny in an almost California dreamin’ kind of style.
The outdoor space is peppered with brightly coloured chairs and overlooks Regent’s Canal and The Shard. So, sit back and watch the choreographed fountains on Granary Square - or people trying scamper through them without getting wet (usually us).
Where: King's Cross
When: 10am-11.30pm Mon – Wed, 10am-midnight Thur – Fri, 10am-midnight Sat, 11am – 4pm Sun
Best for courtyard cool: Dishoom
The Shoreditch branch of this cool Indian eatery boasts an indoor-outdoor verandah (complete with antique armchairs, brocade fabrics and bookshelves). It's a real hidden gem and the place to laze gracefully in the sunlight.
Head over for a bacon naan breakfast roll or soak up the sun with a glass of chaijito (a smoky rum with a sweet-spiced chai syrup and fresh mint) and a lamb raan bun – slow-cooked pulled lamb in a sourdough bun with slaw and chips. Yum.
When: 8am-11pm Mon – Wed, 8am – midnight Thur – Fri, 9am – midnight Sat and 9am-11pm Sun
Best for panoramic views: SUSHISAMBA
Open only in the summer and only on sunny days, the 38th floor dining terrace has truly sought-after tables. We love the Kuromitsu glazed pork belly, shrimp tempura and Japanese wagyu, but if you can’t get in here to enjoy the a la carte menu the Tree Terrace bar area (complete with massive tree in the middle of it) also opens daily and serves a sushi-only menu with the same views.
Where: Liverpool Street
When: 11.30am-11.30pm Sun – Mon, 11.30am – 12.30am Tues - Sat
Best for getting you into the summer spirit: Coppa
Otherwise known as Lardo’s summery rooftop, this little place has picnic tables, deckchairs and the best-ever Italian 'rosticceria' (that’s marinated roast chicken) washed down with cocktails. If this place doesn't get you in the summer spirit, nothing will.
Where: London Fields
When: opens May 24
Best for eating outdoors whatever the weather: The Boundary
This is where you go for panoramic views of London, cocktails served in pitchers and good summer grub (think tapas, oysters and meats on a proper grill). The clever folk at the Boundary have also added a pergola, so you can enjoy the swish rooftop bar whatever the weather. Take that, British summer rain.
When: 12pm – 11.30pm Mon – Fri, 10am – 11.30pm Sat, 10am – 11.30pm Sun
Best for "I can't believe I'm in the West End": Ham Yard Hotel
The restaurant plays second fiddle to this secluded alfresco area; it's so tranquil, you can (almost) forget you’re in central London.
If you like a bit of dirty food action (your sliders and pulled pork) then head to the bar, as the sitdown menu is clean and short on carbs (so the only downside is that you might be a bit peckish after).
When: 7am - 11.30pm Mon - Sat, 7am - 10.30pm Sun
Best for people who don't mind a queue: Frank's Café
An oldie, but a goodie. Frank’s occupies the entire length of a Peckham car park for a couple of months every summer and the queues get longer every year. However, they are worth it for Campari cocktails, tasty barbecue food and panoramic rooftop views.
When: opens in June
Best for a date: Metro Garden Restaurant
Just opposite Clapham Common you'll find comfy couches overlooking the park, and out back there’s a marquee with al fresco seating set amidst fairy lights and potted plants. If you haven’t got the message already, be warned: this is a summer date destination. If you’re not on a date, a big group of friends is the way forward here.
Where: Clapham Common
When: 6pm – 11pm Tues – Sat, noon – 5pm Sun