It's that time of year once more when chairs and tables pop up like hibernating meerkats and creep across the pavements of London. And if we close our eyes for a second, we can all pretend we live somewhere warm, chic and cosmopolitan - like Paris, or possibly Greece.
When it gets like this, it takes all our willpower not to throw our keyboards to the wind and head to the nearest urban oasis for a chilled Negroni or three. For those lucky few who can escape the office, we've rounded up some of London's best alfresco dining spots, from cool rooftop bars to sleek restaurant verandas and a chilled pub garden or two.
Come embrace and enjoy...
Dishoom, a king of London's Indian restaurant scene, is great whatever the weather. But it really comes into its own in summer, with a eclectic veranda filled with antique furniture, colourful brocade fabrics, generously stacked bookshelves and gently-burning incense. Lounging is pretty much an art form here and you can easily laze away the hours with a stack of newspapers, a glass of Chai and bowlfuls of okra and skate cheeks.
Dock Kitchen, Ladbroke Grove
Stevie Parle’s West London restaurant has itself a serene resting spot by the Grand Union Canal. Housed in a Victorian wharf building, the veranda area is a proper sun trap, with a wide and inviting patio and cool, modern décor . Don't miss the innovative set menu which changes with specific ideas and events - Mexican cuisine such as chocolate and tequila nieve is the order of the day right now, for Cinco de Mayo.
The Lido Cafe, Brockwell
The spirit of summer is alive and kicking at Brockwell's wonderfully retro Lido Cafe. People flocked here from the 1930s onward and its art deco ambiance was revived in true style in 2003 after a period of closure in the 1990s. Kick back over a plate of buttermilk blueberry pancakes and locally brewed London craft beer as you watch the swimmers sail by...
Boulestin, St James
This timeless French abode in the heart of London has just opened its terrace for the season. With original street gas lamps, white table cloth and large umbrellas, it's easy to conjure up the glamour and elegance that Boulestin was famed for in pre-war years. Summery dishes such as artichoke salad and roasted cod with lentils and salsa verde from head chef Andrew Woodford form the final flourish.
The Garden Gate, Hampstead
The Garden Gate touts itself as one of the best pubs in Hampstead and it's no empty promise, despite the crowded market in this picturesque corner of northeast London. Its large and ramshackle garden is a central part of its charm, with mismatched ceramic and wooden tables dotted between overgrown foliage so you can really find your own hidden spot. There are regular barbecues come summer, and at night fairy lights illuminate the trees.
Taberna Etrusca, City of London
La Dolce Vita can practically be inhaled at this hidden gem of a trattoria. Taberna Etrusca has been serving up fine, authentic Italian cuisine in the City since 1967 and its alleyway terrace offers all you need in the way of escapism from the frenetic pace of urban life. Feast on a plate of Italian antipasti - think parma ham with fresh honeydew melon and goat’s cheese with sun-dried tomato - and make like you're in Sorrento on a balmy summer evening.
Boundary Rooftop Bar & Grill, Shoreditch
A canopy of grape-producing vines give a whimsical edge to this popular east London hangout, which comes with its own working kitchen garden. Order the signature dish, the Boundary Pan Bagnat - a Niçoise-inspired sandwich with a flame-grilled beef patty, goat’s cheese, roast vegetables and green salad - and grab a rooftop sofa amid fairy lights and unparalleled views of the city.
The Belvedere, Holland Park
There are few more beautiful places to dine outside than The Belvedere, a 17th century ballroom flanked by lawns, flower gardens and a striking water fountain. A re-design by architect David Collins has restored this unique building to its former glory, with a chic, updated twist. Wile away a Sunday afternoon here over sea bream, rocket pesto and a pichet of Chablis.
Sushisamba, Heron Tower
Party times are guaranteed at Sushisamba on the 38th and 39th floors of Heron Tower near Liverpool Street. You'll need to book in advance to get in, but it's well worth it for the incredible setting. Guests gravitate to the structural orange tree on the west terrace, with immense views of the capital by night. And that's even before you've started on the top notch Japanese-meets-Brazilian-meets-Peruvian cuisine.
Babylon at The Roof Gardens, Kensington High Street
A classic of the al fresco dining scene, Babylon at Kensington Roof Gardens offers up glorious views from its seventh floor vantage point - and of course, the jewel in its crown is the spectacular landscape garden. Over 1.5 acres of greenery makes for a summer wonderland, with fully grown oaks, fruit trees and beds of fragrant lilies, roses and lavender. Highlights on the menu include scallop and squid pasta and Colchester crab salad.
Words: Anna Brech