18 beautiful al fresco bars, cafés and restaurants

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Amy Swales
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Spring is lovely, it really is. The warmer weather, the bluer skies, the pops of colour springing up among the reawakening greenery. It just so happens to be slightly confusing too. Just as we can’t fully commit to swapping our heavy winter coats for the light denim jackets that have been languishing in the wardrobe for at least a season, our lunch hours and evenings bring the clash of wanting to make the most of the balmier temperatures, but being reluctant to sit shivering on a beer garden bench.

Fear not, Stylist has been digging around to find some ideal spots to get the best of both worlds. From bars that make you feel like you're outside while enjoying the advantages of central heating and a roof, to cafes with French doors flung open and furry blankets, we've got rooftops, terraces and courtyards covered – sometimes literally.

We’re not kidding ourselves it’s summer, but that doesn't mean we can't get a dose of fresh air with our cocktails. So go forth and enjoy, but please note: we can't take responsibility for you getting overexcited and thinking you can ditch the tights. It's warm, but it's not that warm.

Words: Amy Swales

  • The Refinery at Regent's Place, London

    5 Brock Street, Regent’s Place, NW1 3FG

    This new Scandanavian-style bar and restaurant offers a huge airy space thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. Slouchy leather chairs and sofas spill out onto the terrace creating a nice inside/outside vibe for that in-between spring weather, while furry blankets and hot water bottles are scattered about for those in need.

  • Roof Garden Playground, Manchester

    Great John Street Hotel, Great John Street, Manchester, M3 4FD

    Heated parasols and views over Manchester make this an ideal spot for a spring drink or three, but the residents of the hotel it's attached to get the best deal - half the terrace has sun loungers, a glass veranda and a hot tub.

  • Verandah at Dishoom Shoreditch, London

    7 Boundary Street, London E2 7JE

    Dishoom Shoreditch boasts of an ‘indoor-outdoor’ space called Verandah. An outdoor area that’s covered and warmed when necessary and, well, not when not. A relaxed lounge-style space with antique furniture and “scratchy old jazz” with no fear of rain dampening the fun. What’s not to like? Open from breakfast onwards.

  • Rabot 1745, London

    2 - 4 Bedale Street, Borough Market, London SE1 9AL

    A bar/café from Hotel Chocolat (need we say more?), this is great for those not-quite-warm-not-quite-cold-I-should-have-worn-a-scarf evenings because there’s a mostly-covered roof terrace overlooking Borough Market. If it’s too busy, downstairs, you can sit on bar stools enjoying the warmth of inside, while facing out through the big open windows. Trust us, we did exactly that in October and didn’t freeze off any extremities.

  • Fifteen, Cornwall

    Watergate Bay, Cornwall, TR8 4AA

    The bi-fold windows at Fifteen ensure this space makes the most of the stunning Cornish scenery. Overlooking Watergate Bay beach, you couldn't fail to feel all refreshed and spring-like soaking up the sea air here.

  • Sky Bar, Edinburgh

    34 Bread Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9AF

    A stunning view of Edinburgh Castle awaits on the first Thursday of every month, 6pm til midnight. Who says you have to actually be shivering outside when you can enjoy a view of the outside as good as this? It fits less than 100 people though, so get in early.

  • The Terrace at The Royal Horseguards Hotel, London

    2 Whitehall Court, London SW1A 2EJ

    Treat yourself to a meal or a quiet drink in this intimate spot, part of the five-star Royal Horseguards Hotel. Running alongside Whitehall gardens and decorated with colourful spring flowers to get you feeling all seasonal, The Terrace is dotted with comfy wicker sofas and blankets to keep you cosy. The hotel has also launched Chapters, a series of luxury picnic events on The Terrace for the warmer season.

  • Sky Garden, London

    20 Fenchurch Street (via Philpot Lane), London, EC3M 3BY

    ‘Bringing the outdoors in’ is the thinking behind Sky Garden, which comprises of three floors, and we can see why. Café and cocktail bar Sky Pod, on level 35, has incredible views (pictured) while the drinks are inspired by the seasons – think hot toddies on the sofa in winter and ice-cream shakes on deck chairs in summer. All without actually succumbing to the UK’s notoriously moody weather.

  • Q at the Old Quay House Hotel, Cornwall

    28 Fore Street, Fowey, Cornwall, PL23 1AQ

    French doors opening out onto a terrace looking out over the Fowey estuary gives Q restaurant a relaxed, breezy feel. Sit down to eat some West Country food and breathe in the good air, knowing you couldn't be further from a freezing cold beer garden in spring.

  • Tom's Kitchen St Katharine Docks, London

    1 Commodity Quay, London, E1W 1AZ

    Enjoy French food with a modern British twist at this 130-seat restaurant from the Tom Aikens group. The big French windows give a nice bright feel (thrown open on good days) and it overlooks London’s only marina, so not only can you enjoy the blue skies and warming weather, but a view of the kind of luxury playthings we can only dream of. Tom’s Kitchen is open for lunch on weekdays, and brunch on weekends, as well as dinner from 6pm.

  • The Flavour Sensation, Bristol

    85 Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5PJ

    The Flavour Sensation offers old favourites like burgers and pasta, but also give customers the choice to add in healthy elements or dietary requirements, like wholewheat pasta or gluten-free bread. The big front windows open out onto Park Street to give the feel of al fresco dining while sitting indoors.

  • Paradise By Way Of Kensal Green, London

    19 Kilburn Lane, Kensal Green, London, W10 4AE 

    The gastropub's first floor conservatory isn't open air, but the glass roof gives plenty of natural light - a great way to enjoy the clear spring skies. The food is "home-cooked British", seasonal and ethically sourced.

  • Eelbrook, London

    Eel Brook Common, New King’s Road, Fulham, London, SW6 4SE

    Next to the greenery of Eel Brook Common, Eelbrook restaurant feels far from the city. It has a year-round heated terrace connected to the bright interior by full-length glass doors, and will soon feature a new canopy for less clement days. The lightness of touch extends to the menu, with dishes such as cucumber and avocado soup and white peach and almond tart served with bitter almond ice cream. Yum.

  • Opus Cafe at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

    Ikon Gallery, Oozell's Square, Birmingham, B1 2HS

    The huge heated parasols at Opus Cafe make this an easy option in nearly all weather. Boasting "exciting modern cooking" with ethically-sourced produce, it's the ideal wind down after taking in some culture at the gallery. What do you mean you just want to sit outside with some wine? Tut.

  • Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack, London

    55-57 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QL

    This seaside shack in the city feels like a British beach holiday in the heart of London. Sit inside in the light dining room and enjoy 100% British seafood, or sit outside under the stripy awning and wait for it to completely tip it down for a true Brit seaside holiday experience.

  • RAW at La Suite West, London

    41-51 Inverness Terrace, London, W2 3JN

    Vegan diners need not miss out on the spring fun, with RAW in the La Suite West hotel in Kensington offering a vegan afternoon tea in a great location on the fringes of Hyde Park. The meat-free restaurant also offers dairy-free and gluten-free options, which can be enjoyed on the beautiful private garden terrace surrounded by greenery - with a blanket provided by staff if needs be...

  • The Lookout, County Durham

    The Waterside, Seaham Harbour Marina, SR7 7EE

    A stylish, nautical-themed cafe with a stunning view from the balcony area. Situated in the newly redeveloped Seaham Harbour Marina, it's a great way to take in some air.

  • Angler, London

    South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, London, EC2M 2AF

    This restaurant in the Square Mile has a classy outdoor area with heated parasols, open seven days a week whatever the season - perfect for spring evenings that can't decide whether they're cold or not. The upscale eatery offers a la carte and tasting menus. Oh, and it has a Michelin star.


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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.