There’s no telling when we’ll once again be able to slurp a lukewarm, overpriced beer (oh how we miss it) in a crowded pub garden, but that won’t stop us fantasising about it while we’re confined to necking cans in our living rooms. With rumours circulating that restrictions may start to lift in spring (which just so happens to coincide with almost-acceptable-drinking-outside weather), we’ve started to plan ahead, compiling a list of some of the very best outdoor bars in London. So sit back, have a read, and mentally fast forward to when we’re allowed to meet our pals outside again. Hurray!
BEST FOR: A quiet catch-up
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
Less a pub garden and more a set of untamed allotments that just happen to sell beer (flash forward to us in our 60s), this popular plot may be directly opposite Kingsland station, but you’d be forgiven for never having noticed it. Hidden behind a single door set slightly off the main road, this secretive outdoor space has a similar vibe to the (now permanently closed, unfortunately) Nomadic Gardens in Shoreditch. With beer and cider available alongside coffee and tea, this isn’t the place for a wild (pardon the pun) night out, though – least of all because it closes at 7pm. Think laidback chats amongst the foliage on a Sunday afternoon.
Closest tube: Dalston Kingsland
The Barge House
With designated brunch cocktails and “boozy brews” (take note of the Knock Oat Coffee) tempting you into daytime drinking (as if we needed an excuse), The Barge House has lazy Saturday mornings written all over it. With a handful of outdoor tables perched on the edge of Regent’s Canal, it’s the perfect place for a post-lockdown debrief with your very best friend – particularly when there’s a bread-based menu on hand. They’ve even got a private canal boat to take you and five pals on a boozy ride. Heaven.
Closest tube: Haggerston
BEST FOR: Riverside relaxing
Drinking on a bright yellow boat in the middle of the Thames? Yep, that sounds like our kind of thing – which is why Tamesis Dock ranks so highly on our list of places you need to visit. Though there’s a tiny indoor bar aboard this barge, the main attraction is its upper deck, where you can sip a Spritz while taking in some rather enviable views of Westminster across the water. We recommend getting there in time for sunset, which’ll have even the most cynical Londoner coming over all gooey.
*Picture above from Tamesis Dock Instagram
Closest tube: Vauxhall
The Bell & Crown
A fairly classic British pub, the interior of The Bull & Crown may not be enough to drag you out to the furthest reaches of West London; but its exterior definitely should. Nestled within one of city’s quaintest streets on the bank of the Thames, its views on a sunny day just can’t be beaten. Take up residence on one of the outdoor tables, or when it’s busy grab your pint and perch on the wall opposite.
Closest tube: Kew Bridge
The Bar @ Swan Wharf
Londoners city wide know to head to Hackney Wick’s Crate Brewery when in search of pizza, pints, and a view of the River Lee – but less know to take a leisurely stroll fifteen minutes further along to reach Swan Wharf. Previously a Victorian warehouse, it’s now home to 30 creative studios – not to mention a teensy bar and restaurant that’s accompanied by a sprawling outdoor seating area (and some seriously impressive street art). The only thing stopping us from heading there every weekend? It’s only open for takeovers (most recently hosted by Dalston bar Brilliant Corners), so you’ll need to keep an eye out.
Closest tube: Hackney Wick
BEST FOR: City views to make you smug
You can’t swing a virtual stick without hitting a photo (or ten) of Londoners posing against the pinks walls of the Frank’s Café stairwell. But despite the bar’s drift into the mainstream, it’s still one of the best spots to head for soaking up some summer sun while taking in the city’s skyline – oh, and enjoying a cocktail or two. With an expansive, industrial space only half populated by tables, it’s probably the only place in London where you won’t have someone’s elbow digging into you, either.
Closest tube: Peckham Rye
Bussey Rooftop Bar
A stone’s throw from Frank’s (literally, depending on how good a shot you are), this terrace is set atop – yep, you guessed it – Peckham’s Bussey Building. A little smaller and a little dressier than its pink-walled counterpart, it boasts equally impressive views over the city. An added bonus? If you can’t quite face the climb (we don’t blame you), there’s Copeland Social on the bottom floor, too; a cool, laidback converted warehouse space that has local beer, great music and a spacious courtyard.
Closest tube: Peckham Rye
Housed at the top of a “monolithic 60s building” directly opposite London Fields, Netil 360 is the perfect spot to grab a drink after a barbecue on a sunny summer’s day. It doesn’t take bookings, so you’ll need to get there sharpish, but if you manage to climb the stairs to the rooftop and bag a table, you’ll be rewarded with views over the city – not to mention some hang time with the bar’s resident pooch, Tres.
Closest tube: London Fields
BEST FOR: Beer snobs
Wild Card Brewery Lockwood
Two of Walthamstow’s biggest attractions just so happen to be placed right next to each other – but you’d be forgiven for having walked straight past them. Housed in an industrial estate that’s hidden on a suburban side street, you’ll find Wild Card Brewery side by side with neon connoisseur God’s Own Junk Yard. Brewing Monday to Friday and serving at the weekends, this decade-old favourite doubled its capacity in recent years – so there’s plenty of space for stretching out.
Closest tube: Blackhorse Road, Walthamstow Central
Mother Kelly’s has several locations, but its flagship, placed within Bethnal Green’s railway arches, is our personal favourite. Sneakily set on a quiet, cobbled street just past the station, this tiny New York-style taproom boasts 23 constantly rotating draught beers to choose from. It doesn’t have the most expansive of beer gardens, but the handful of benches placed under twinkling lights outside make it feel a little special.
Closest tube: Bethnal Green
Bermondsey Beer Mile
Bermondsey’s Beer Mile (there’s a tantalising name if ever we’ve heard one) may be within walking distance of London Bridge, but the vibe couldn’t be more different. Unofficially titled, this stretch of taprooms is housed largely within the area’s railway arches, and is home to some great outdoor drinking spaces (which could be set to expand even further if plans to pedestrianise Druid Street go ahead), from Hiverquarters at one end to Fourpure at the other.
Closest tube: Bermondsey, London Bridge