6 of London’s best al fresco dining spots

The Boundary, Shoreditch

words: Amy Kimber

From sweeping roof terraces to lush courtyards, London is positively teaming with al fresco dining spots for the summer…

The Boundary
Boundary Street, Shoreditch 
Once a Victorian warehouse, The Boundary was converted by designer and restaurateur Terence Conran and relaunched in 2008 as a vibrant venue comprising restaurants, bars, guest bedrooms, a food store and bakery. Head to its rooftop bar and grill where you can enjoy drinks on a sunny summer’s evening seated next to tubs of fragrant wild herbs, which form part of their rooftop kitchen garden. Then, as the sun goes down, dine under a canopy of grape vines. Two 100-year-old olive trees and a unique humidor, purchased at a Cuban auction, are two of many decorative extras procured from around the world, which add charm to the rooftop. The Mediterranean-influenced menu ranges from bar food, to chargrilled steaks and oysters. To ensure an al fresco table, book in advance and request rooftop dining. 


Gallery Mess

Gallery Mess at the Saatchi Gallery
King’s Road, Chelsea 
The artistic environs of the Saatchi Gallery backdrop a dining experience with a difference. Its brasserie proudly boasts vaulted ceilings and wall-to-wall artwork to culture an informal, inspired interior, while its open patio space is located beside the pretty tree-lined green at Burton Court. Enjoy an eclectic menu with an extensive seafood selection ranging from your classic beer-battered catch-of-the-day, to gin and tonic salmon, as well as rustic Mediterranean sharing boards, seasonal salads and gourmet grilled goods. Afternoon tea is also available; adults can enter into the summer spirit with an accompanying pitcher of Pimm’s, while the children can enjoy a ‘Little Artist’s Afternoon Tea’, decorating cupcakes with fun, healthy ingredients and a babyccino in hand.


The Fish and Chip Shop, The City

Vintage Salt (formerly The Fish & Chip Shop)
Old Broad Street, the City  
Des McDonald, one-time head chef of The Ivy, has brought your local chippy to the big city. Enjoy seafood delights on Vintage Salt’s relaxed, sunny terrace. From cod and chips to fish finger butties, all the traditional seaside treats are on offer, but be prepared to waive your old favourites for more refined offerings like sea reared trout with charred asparagus, lemon and herbs. Head here for after-work cocktails or London beers, or early risers can enjoy a full-English Fisherman’s Breakfast with a free morning paper. The original branch is on Upper Street, Islington, and both eateries pride themselves on sourcing seafood from sustainable British fisheries where possible.


St James' Courtyard at Taj London

St James’ Courtyard at Taj London
Buckingham Gate, Westminster
Tucked down a side street between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Cathedral lies the lavish Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences complex. Once home to Lords of the Royal Court and now under ownership of Asian enterprise Taj group, the five-star complex combines four centuries of historic English charm with Indian opulence. The concealed quadrangle of St. James’ Courtyard, with its majestic fountain, offers an ultra-chic al fresco dining experience throughout summer. The menu celebrates the multicultural heritage of the venue with Asian, European and Mediterranean dishes ranging from an Aloo Tikki burger to oak-smoked Loch Fyne salmon. Over dinner, you can marvel at the panorama of the impressive Victorian-Edwardian brick façade with its turrets, columns and stone carvings.


On the Roof with Vintage Salt at Selfridges

On the Roof with Vintage Salt at Selfridges
Oxford Street
City skyline meets Cornish coastline at Vintage Salt, a quintessentially English pop-up restaurant perched on the roof of Selfridges until late September. Inspired by Devonshire fishing villages, Vintage Salt will sweep you away from the inner city as you inhale its freshly grilled fish and meat, crunch on deliciously healthy salads and sip a ‘G&Tea in the Afternoon’ – gin mixed with speciality teas – from the Drift Bar. Get into the spirit by savouring a brunch of Cornish crab omelette or West Country black pudding, or enjoy Jersey Rock oysters for dinner! The whitewashed wood décor, open roof and floor-to-ceiling windows culture a light, airy space reminiscent of a beach retreat.


Boulestin, St James'

St. James’s Street, St James’s
Unearth a hidden gem of gourmet dining at the fabulously French Boulestin restaurant. The courtyard offers a tranquil al fresco experience away from the bustle of central St. James’s. The brasserie relocated two years ago from Covent Garden where its namesake Xavier Marcel Boulestin, a bon viveur hailed as the ‘first television chef’ with an encyclopedic culinary knowledge, opened its doors in 1927. Its established London heritage, together with current owner Joel Kissin’s desire to recreate Boulestin’s remarkable recipes, results in rustic cuisine catering for all palettes. Enjoy French favourites like duck confit as well as salads, soups and steak, all with a Provençal twist.




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