Today central London will mirror our favourite holiday destinations, such as Barcelona and Paris, where outside dining culture is the norm. Westminster Council is repeating last year's outdoor dining scheme, which closed dozens of central London streets to traffic so pubs and restaurants could offer al fresco dining. The start date coincides with the Government’s gradual loosening of lockdown restrictions.
Jo Fernández selects six of the best alfresco restaurants for lunch or dinner in central London.
With a coveted address in St Martin’s Court, Covent Garden, sandwiched between the stage doors of two theatres - Wyndham’s and the Noel Coward - Koha Restaurant & Bar is a favourite with actors. The cosy family-run spot offers Modern European menus with classic Mediterranean dishes such as calamari and arancini tomato risotto with goat’s cheese and chipotle aioli followed by a slice of indulgent vanilla cheesecake. Outside seating on the flagstones at the front provides the perfect people-watching opportunity in the heart of Theatreland. You might even catch sight of a famous actor on their way to work.
This more grounded setting for the West End branch - Sushisamba City in Bishopsgate features one of the highest outdoor dining terraces in Europe - atop Covent Garden’s Opera Terrace with views of the tourist-filled Piazza and sexy interiors like their jungle-style bar, a tropical treat for those of us craving travel. The terrace on the square will join other popular restaurants in the area taking part in the outdoor seating scheme so diners can sample the glamorous global chain’s Japanese-Peruvian-Brazilian food under weather-proof canopies.
Housed in the smart Bloomsbury Hotel, where rooms have elegant parquet flooring and statement wallpaper by Colefax and Fowler, the Dalloway Terrace is a deeply romantic floral-themed brunch spot. Named after Mrs Dalloway in Virginia Woolf’s classic 1925 novel, a retractable canopy allows the poetic indoor-outdoor terrace to the front of the hotel to be used all year round, as does year-round heating, with sliding windows creating an al fresco idyll in spring and summer. Dine on Dorset crab on toast with watercress and apple washed down with a Mimosa topped with Ridgeview Bloomsbury sparkling wine.
The Firmdale hotel group knows a thing or two about hospitality. Their Soho outpost perfectly suits the area, cool in a casual way with two cinemas on-site, discreetly tucked away on Richmond Mews. Their playful Refuel Terrace is a Mediterranean-styled heated terrace, with terracotta floor tiles, soft green bistro chairs and attractive olive trees. In the evening, the ceiling becomes a night sky set with twinkling lights. Their Spring menu is scattered with seasonal dishes from Thorogood asparagus with a crispy hen’s egg and chervil hollandaise to baked vanilla cheesecake with poached apricots and almonds.
In the heart of Fitzrovia, Roka Charlotte Street will open its outside terrace today. Previously diners could watch the chefs in action from the rustic dining space, now they’ll dine al fresco (with heaters) surrounded by pretty lights, a gazebo and lush lawn on crowd-pleasing dishes such as Korean-spiced lamb cutlets or their signature black cod marinated in yuzu miso.
Almost rubbing shoulders with Goodge Street Underground station, this eternally popular charcuterie bar and restaurant will offer its signature cheese-stuffed deep-fried courgette flowers with honey to al fresco diners. Leather banquettes line the sleek and simple interior, but if you want to sample the Spanish and Italian small plates outside note the bijou number of wooden benches and chairs.
For inspiring properties in Central London, see Hudsons Property