From a beach-side café in Cornwall to an iconic Italian restaurant in the heart of London and a Michelin-star barn in Lancashire, we have traversed the UK to round up the best restaurants with terraces, rooftops and gardens for eating and drinking al fresco this summer.
Established in 2004 by Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson, Rochelle Canteen sits in the converted bike shed of the old Rochelle School with outdoor tables looking out to the trees of Arnold Circus in Shoreditch. Decorated with seasonal flowers, the Canteen is a place to revel in simple and highly-executed dishes from Henderson and co. Expect slabs of terrine with pickles and toast, cod cheeks with kohlrabi and anchovy, Sutton Hoo chicken salad, pork schnitzel with fine beans, potato and dijon and a raspberry sorbet with vodka.
Since its inception in 1987, The River Café has remained the undisputed champion of al fresco dining in London. Based along the River Thames in Hammersmith, the restaurant offers simple Italian food with a menu that shifts with the seasons. A few signature dishes have remained evergreen over the decades, such as their chargrilled squid with chilli and wild rocket and the Café’s infamous chocolate nemesis cake. Not forgetting their pasta dishes to twirl onto your forks, such as the Spaghetti Alla Vongole and Ravioli with zucchini flowers, buffalo ricotta and mint — la dolce vita.
Discover The Hidden Hut tucked away along the coast path near Portscatho on the remote Roseland Peninsula. During the day, the hut serves a small menu of uncomplicated, freshly-made lunches and refreshments. At The Hidden Hut food is cooked on a simple outdoor stove and indoor bakery oven, serving up fish chowders, big beach salads with fresh fish from the local day boats, freshly-made butcher’s pastries and handmade sausage rolls. By night, the hut opens on selected summer evenings to host open-air feast nights. Previous feasts have included “Lobster & Chips,” “Slow-roasted Spring Lamb” and “Wood-fired Seafood Paella”, all cooked outdoors on either wood-fire or local charcoal.
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Mark Birchall’s one-Michelin star restaurant, The Barn, offers a delicious and diverse menu, showcasing the best of seasonal dishes in a rustic setting with views out to Moor Hall and the lake. Most of the ingredients for the dishes are grown within Moor hall’s five-acre grounds or are sourced from local suppliers. Expect dishes such as 60-day aged grass-fed Jersey beef tartare, Cornish cod with smoked onion, charred leek and bacon crumb and stem ginger panna cotta with blood orange and granola.
All aboard a water taxi to the River Exe Café, a custom-built barge that floats well offshore in the Exe Estuary. Open from 1 April until 30 September each year, the River Exe Café offers a wide range of locally sourced food and drink surrounded by superb views for the ultimate al fresco dining experience. The Café serves nibbles such as fresh cockles with a blend of spices and fresh dill, starters such as citrus cured sea bass ceviche with wasabi mayonnaise and pickled saffron shallots, and mains of fillet of hake with barbecue octopus, peanut coconut sauce, kale, samphire and seaweed new potatoes.
Natural wines and provenance are the anchors of the restaurant Nook By The River. The menu is curated with a focus on authenticity and seasonality at this snug restaurant in Cardiff’s Victoria Park with dishes such as Jerusalem artichoke with lemon pesto, artichoke crisps and shredded savoy cabbage with caramelised onions, pressed potatoes with truffle, cauliflower croquettes and lemon curd dessert.
The seaside sister of East London restaurant Brawn, Sargasso sits along the harbour wall and boasts views of the Kent coast. While some may dub Margate as the “Shoreditch-on-sea”, Sargasso’s light dishes have elevated the town’s status with its Italian-accented dining, where guests can enjoy coastal cooking, natural wine and music. Expect dishes such as parmesan fritters, smoked eel with cucumber and gooseberry, hand-dived scallop and gremolata and black pudding with summer beans and pickled apricot.
Perched above Brighton beach with expansive views of the coastline, the upmarket restaurant Riddle & Fins is an ideal location to enjoy seafood dishes, oysters and champagne al fresco on England’s south coast. Dishes on the menu include; squid and shellfish risotto, Sri Lankan monkfish and prawn curry, whole grilled lobster with garlic and herb butter and fruits de mer platters that sing of the sea.