London doesn’t have many secret, hidden, hush-hush, wink wink, outdoor eating and drinking spaces. There are, after all, nine million people here, people. You think there’s gonna be a patio that only you and your mates know about? One that serves Aperol on tap with a complimentary bucket of Calippos as well? That friend, is just your front garden with private catering.
Instead, what we have is a lot of little spaces that not absolutely everybody knows about. Which is about as good as you can ask for in this city. These are the best secret outside spaces in London. No password or membership required. Just make sure you don’t tell anyone else about them.
Kudu’s little oasis out back was very much previously the bin-and-cheeky-cigarette area. Now, the South African-inspired spot in Peckham has transformed the back into a colourful and covered and altogether idyllic looking space. You can book too, so prepare to settle in and break some of that lardon butter bread with friends.
As cutesy little neighbourhood spots go, Minnow is definitely up there. This all day place overlooks Clapham Common and has a small patio out back, complete with fairy lights, fresh flowers, and the kind of pastel colour scheme that makes eating brunch here feel like you live in Edward Scissorhands’ neighbourhood. It’s also worth knowing that there’s a cool, old school bar downstairs - so whether you’re here on a date or a catch up over some courgette gnocchi, there’s somewhere to hide if the rain starts.
If the Primrose Hill set makes you think of unruly 90s British celebrities lavishly consuming all in their path, then let us give a much more pleasant and reasonably priced alternative. Odette’s, which is a privately tutored hop and skip away from Primrose Hill, has a set lunch and early evening meal available for around £20. Ordering this and bagging a spot in their secret garden is an extremely tasteful move this summer.
Unfortunately Theo’s is one of the best places for pizza in London. We say unfortunately because not only is there a risk of them running out of dough when you need your late night munchies, but also because their perfect summer garden is becoming a busy south London hotspot. The reason why? You can’t beat the combo of excellent pizza and beer in the sun. You just can’t.
As secluded terraces go, the one at Luca is pretty next-level. There’s well-worn exposed brick, there’s some very perfectly maintained foliage, and yes, you better believe it, there’s a working fireplace too. Basically, when celebrities get ‘secretly wed’ in their back gardens, this is what we picture. A meal here can be expensive, but sharing the pork sausage ragu pasta, a portion of the parmesan fries, and a bottle of wine? You’re golden.
Native @ Browns Courtyard
The sustainable and foraging-first fine dining spot previously of Southwark is popping up at Browns courtyard in Mayfair. The closed off space is very slick and stylised, and you can expect to see lots of fashionista types wearing those boots that make their feet look like hoofs whilst nibbling on roasted onion tarte tatins. Best of all is that you can book for drinks and snacks, as well as dinner.
Authentique is a wine shop, bar, and restaurant in Tufnell Park, and it was already one of our favourite spots in north London for a casual glass of wine and some ham and cheese, and that was before we discovered they had a little patio at the back. They’re open all day Tuesday through Sunday, but if you want to use the patio you’ll have to do it before 8pm, because neighbours.
You wouldn’t expect that the Victoria Park location of My Neighbour The Dumplings has an outside area and that’s because, well, sometimes it doesn’t. The interior patio of this trendy dim sum spot has a roof in winter but in warmer months they whip it off. It makes for a lovely in between on sunny days. Not quite totally outside, nor totally inside either.
Does a fancy McMuffin-inspired breakfast muffin sound like exactly the kind of brunch you want to get back in the groove with? It should do and history suggests - if Staff Writer Heidi Lauth Beasley’s July 2020 Reopening Report is anything to go by - that it will absolutely have you grooving towards a slice of pistachio cake as well. Excellent brunch and ingeniously named ‘hungover sauce’ aside, this Tooting café has also just sized up its walk-in only outdoor terrace which is something not everyone knows about, but you should.
Italian small plates, botanical cocktails, and fresh seasonal produce - that’s what La Goccia is all about. Even the interiors of this restaurant feel very garden of Eden, and their large courtyard has several tables for twos and fours with plants, trees, and flowers all over the place. On a sunny day with a bowl of ricotta gnudi and some courgette fritti in front of you it’s very easy to forget you’re in the middle of Covent Garden. And, realistically, as soon as you’re nursing a couple of cocktails, you won’t even feel like you’re in England.
When you’re in Clerkenwell and looking for somewhere classy and refined to enjoy London’s 12-hour summer, The Coach is one of the best little patios you can be in. It’s a classy pub, and a decent restaurant, meaning you can continue going drinking in the sun before filling up on some French bistro style food.
It’s date night and you’re both looking for something ‘kind of healthy’, but also a tad romantic. Try Casita Andina, which has the added bonus of having a brightly-colored, kind-of-secret terrace. Sip some Peruvian inspired cocktails and food, ideally during the golden hour, when you both look good.
If you’re looking for somewhere grown-up feeling then look no further than Mazi. The upmarket Greek spot in Notting Hill has a lovely little white-walled patio space that screams a-bottle-too-many-but-who-cares. It’s got a Santorini feel (and Santorini prices) and, though it may not literally transport you there, their seafood manti does a pretty good job.
Lost Boys is a vampire-themed pizza joint and absinthe bar in Camden. Okay, we hear you, anyone who’s seen Interview With The Vampire knows that sun rays and blood suckers do not mix. But bear with us because this place has a garden situation that is completely hidden from the street, heaters, and is chilled enough to feel like you’re at your mate’s place. There’s probably one too many bloodsucker puns on the menu, but who cares when the pizza is great, there’s a banging playlist of 80s classics, and the cocktails are cheap.
Calling something a ‘hidden gem’ isn’t something we’re meant to do - because of tired clichés and all that - but we can say that Goldfinch is quite the secretive little jewel of a neighbourhood cocktail bar. The Tooting favourite also boasts a small, fairy-lighted, covered and heated garden area that you can access via a side entrance and a wink and a nod.
Reopening May 2021
From the outside, Snackbar is a lowkey looking trendy little Dalston cafe that may or may not have a life-size cut-out of Jeff Goldblum staring at you from the entrance. And on the inside you’ll find a cute space that serves everything from mortadella banh mi to tempura rice bowls to kimchi toasties. But it’s only once you mooch around that you’ll find a brilliant sun trap of an outdoor patio waiting for you and your brunch-loving buddies.
Secret patios aren’t just for Christmas. Wait, no, let’s try that again - secret patios aren’t just for weekends. If you’re freelance or happen to work around EC1, then The Clerkenwell Kitchen’s hidden outdoor terrace should definitely be on your radar. This place serves excellent lunchtime options from a changing daily menu, as well as your classics like salads and multiple eggy options.
Newcomer Wines is a very low-key wine shop and bar in Dalston, and we’re likely to be spending lots more time here when the weather’s right because they have a suitably low-key patio out back. It’s perfect for two, or a few of you. Plus glasses start at a very reasonable £6.50.
This place used to be called L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele and people would come to Stoke Newington Church Street from all over London to try one of two pizzas on the menu - margherita or marinara - made just like they are in Naples. Though the famous name might have gone, this simple little spot has maintained standards, and the pizzas are still as good as - if not better than - anything else you’ll find in London. And on those days when the weather is as good as it probably is in Naples, they have a small garden where you can enjoy your pizza in the fresh air and sunshine.
Fare is an all-day bar and restaurant in between Old Street and Clerkenwell that’s a casual and classy option for day or night. The interior patio is perfect for a stone-baked pizza and an aperol spritz mid-summer, and such is the easy-going feel of this place that hours later, you may well find yourself leaning against the enormous marble bar, cocktail in hand.