With the summer of sun still going strong, London is LOVING its alfresco dining at the mo. And with the long evenings just still dragging out and slowly merging into that golden Autumnal feel, it's time to make the most of eating outside, before the chill sets in for winter. Here are three outside suggestions for three different types of occasions.
Fields Bar and Kitchen in Holborn is somewhat of a surprise. Nestled away in the leafy Lincoln's Inn Fields, just off Kingsway, the wooden shack like exterior does not do justice to it's smart and sleek interior. With a terrace that backs on to some fairly active tennis courts, this is a great place for a date as it's slightly off the beaten track, gives you tennis to watch and talk over while you eat, and serves up absolutely superb food.
Sitting somewhere between a quick bite café and a potentially romantic restaurant, the menu is not split in to the traditional starters, mains and puds, so you have to go a bit off piste to make a full go of it. Try the Tuna Panzanella Salad for starters - delicious seared tuna steak served with red, green and yellow tomatoes and a scrummy range of salad bits. Then for mains you will be happy with either the juiciest of Cornish Lamb Cutlets, served on a delicious stewed bed of aubergine and tomato, or the crispiest Pan Fried Sea Bass, served on an unusual bed yellow courgettes, capers and olives. That's the thing about this place; there are a few unusual twists with it all. From the unusual coloured veg to the cute crockery and well placed wine list. It's a carefully crafted café in an inner city woodland, in an area of town not exactly bulging with culinary choice. Chose your date wisely and you could be on to a winner.
On the other side of town, the newly opened Garden Café on Duke Street in Mayfair is worth a visit for the setting alone. Integrated into in the stunning surrounds of Brown Hart Gardens, the elevated public square on top of the former electricity station, this cracking little spot is a great place to perch so you can get away from the hectic hustling of Oxford Street, a mere stones throw away. Ideal for shopping trip pit stops, or lengthily lunch breaks, the café serves a tasty selection of ready to go salads and sandwiches, consisting of things like hot smoked salmon and Asian rare roast beef. There's a wine list too, albeit pretty small and simple, but does provide enough for a quick tipple to ease along the meal.
The recent renovation of the garden provides a pretty stunning backdrop to sit in, complete with edgy water instillation and big box pots full of perennial blooms. The cafe itself is entirely glass clad, so while you're not technically outside you feel like you are, which works for when it rains I guess. It's got that feel of leaving London behind for an hour or so - a peaceful atmosphere, a stunning view, and scrummy food.
One place where it is IMPOSSIBLE to leave London behind is another favourite café come restaurant of mine - the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen in Hyde Park. What I love most about this place is its deck overlooking the lake, which for me epitomises what the outside world romanticize about London. Families pedaling pedalos, hipsters roller-skating through slaloms of cones, and horses cantering along the city's gallops. It's a living, breathing Richard Curtis scene. Luckily the food served up matches the setting, with classics like fish chips and tartar sauce (haddock, not cod, natch...), wood fired pizzas and hearty steak sandwiches. It's got family and tourist written all over it, and is probably the first thought place to go when your out of town relatives are visiting. But honestly you can see why: it's London in an inexpensive can, seamlessly merging a cocktail menu with baby changing facilities and postcard perfect view.
It won't be long until the rain stops play, so get outside and make the most of the last of the summer sun, when we'll be cooing over log fires and mulled wines instead.