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Guests sit at tables in Borough Market this week as London restaurants and pubs reopened for outdoor dining after four months of lockdown to halt the spread of coronavirus
Borough Market this week as London restaurants and pubs reopened for outdoor dining
Ejatu Shaw/for Eater London

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Under Blue Skies, Outdoor Dining Returns to London

It was cold, but the sun shone on a city that hopes lockdown is a thing of the past

After nearly four months of mandated closure, this week restaurants, bars, and cafes in London resumed outdoor service.

This, the first of the key dates in the government’s reopening “roadmap” was always going to be something of a dress rehearsal for the 17 May, when indoor dining is scheduled to return. Nevertheless, customers — in lockdown since before Christmas and emboldened by the safety net of the vaccine roll-out — were eager to get out. For both punter and restaurateur, there may be a little getting used to the cadence of service, but this week there was a steady optimism that the “roadmap” may actually lead businesses and their staff somewhere other than the depths of uncertainty for the first time in a long time.

And so after nearly four months leaning on takeaway customers, delivery apps, kits, heat-at-home meals, and provisions, many businesses have used the extended winter lockdown to take stock and prepare for a reopening that they hope will not again be curtailed.

It has been a week of unseasonably cool weather, but blue skies and enough sunshine has served not to deter customers ready to return to their favourite haunts and be able stay there. Staff could once again ask customers this week: “Is that to stay or to go?” in a gesture towards normality; the continuation of social distancing measures, mask wearing, and gatherings of groups of no more than six that will remain in place for the foreseeable future are a reminder that normality is still very far away.

Another is that, in spite of the government’s plea for “evidence,” no formal arrangement between landlord and tenant has been reached on the rent question, which could render the entire process of reopening meaningless. Like in December and September and June before that, something has to change, but no one knows if or when it will.

Nevertheless, London and its restaurants did partially reopen this week. Here’s what pockets of the city looked like: More outdoor seating, more tarpaulin, heaters, blankets, a few queues, masks, and a palpable sense of relief.


Old Town 97, a Chinatown staple serving traditional Cantonese food, was once again able to serve customers outside its premises this week.

Old Town 97 is a Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown serving dishes like pork belly in honey and pepper egg sauce, and egg fried rice.
Old Town 97 in Chinatown
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London
Inside the restaurant Old Town 97, which will be open for delivery.
Old Town 97 will be open for delivery.
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London
A portrait of a chef in a mask at Old Town 97 in Chinatown
A chef at Old Town 97
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Burger and Lobster, the formerly three-item restaurant chain, is open for outdoor dining in Leicester Square, and in other locations as well.

Burger and Lobster is a restaurant in Leicester Square serving beef burgers, lobster dishes, and drinks
Burger and Lobster is now open for outdoor dining
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Outdoor dining has resumed in Gerrard Street in Chinatown; one of the many streets in the area that was devastated by the COVID-19 crisis.

Cafes and restaurants in Gerrard Street in Chinatown are open for outdoor dining
Gerrard Street in Chinatown sees restaurants open for outdoor dining
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Flat White, Berwick Street

Flat White, a coffee shop on Berwick Street in Soho, has opened for takeaway
Flat White on Berwick Street will operate as a takeaway
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Bar Bruno on Soho’s Wardour Street.

Bar Bruno in Soho is a restaurant that serves eggs, chips, beans, and more.
Soho’s best greasy spoon Bar Bruno is open for dining, takeaway, and delivery
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Chefs inside Michelin-starred tapas restaurant Barrafina on Dean Street in Soho.

Barrafina, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Soho, will be open for dishes like ham croquetas, pig’s trotter and prawns
Michelin-starred Barrafina will resume service of ham croquetas
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

And, left, pull cañas of Estrella Galicia. Right, a plate of pan con tomate being lifted for a customer on the outside terrace.

The bartender pulls a pint for a customer in Barrafina
Barrafina
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London
Preparing food at Barrafina in Soho
Barrafina in Soho
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Next door, the Union Jack hangs above Quo Vadis, the British restaurant helmed by chef Jeremy Lee.

Customers line up to eat at Quo Vadis restaurant in Soho
Waiting in line at Quo Vadis
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Customers brave the unseasonably cold weather outside Riding House Cafe in Fitzrovia.

Guests sit wrapped up warm on the makeshift terrace outside Riding House Cafe on Great Titchfield Street in Fitzrovia as outdoor dining resumed in London after four months of lockdown
Guests on the makeshift terrace outside Riding House Cafe on Great Titchfield Street
Adam Coghlan/Eater London

Guests make use of new covered outdoor dining arrangements on Soho’s Dean Street.

A couple decide on their order while dining outside in London
Outdoor dining has resumed across London from April 12
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

A member of the front-of-house team at Barrafina.

A service staff of Barrafina
Outdoor dining comes with the enforcement of public health rules — and a chunk of the burden falls on hospitality workers
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Monmouth Coffee on Borough Market.

Customers at Monmouth Coffee in Borough Market
Monmouth Coffee is open for takeaway drinks and pastries at Borough Market, Covent Garden and Spa Terminus shops
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Kaffeine has remained open since Christmas, serving the significantly reduced number of office workers in Fitzrovia their daily flat whites and espressos. This week its benches returned outdoors for customers to enjoy those coffees in ceramic cups, perhaps alongside an Anzac biscuit.

Tables and benches outside Kaffeine on the day outdoor dining (and drinking resumed) under the blue skies of central London
Kaffeine on the day outdoor dining (and drinking resumed) under the blue skies of central London
Adam Coghlan/Eater London

Middle-Eastern restaurant Arabica Bar and Kitchen during lunchtime this week.

A shot of the window of Arabica Bar and Kitchen in Borough Market
Arabica Bar and Kitchen Coffee reopened on 15 April
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London
Arabica Bar and Kitchen at Borough Market is a restaurant that serves Middle-Eastern inspired mezze, wine & cocktails 
Arabica Bar and Kitchen at Borough Market
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Taiwanese gua bao specialists Bao in Borough Market open for service and offering outdoor dining as well as takeaway from its hatch.

Bao at Borough Market serves baos, fried chicken, sides, bubble tea and beer
Bao Borough has reopened for outdoor dining at Borough Market in the evenings only
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Outdoor drinkers on Mare Street, Hackney Central, with Otis Wright’s Rainbow Cookout jerk chicken stall in the background. Wright returned to his pitch outside St Augustine’s Tower in St John’s church gardens this week for the first time since before Christmas.

Outdoor drinkers on Mare Street, Hackney Central, with Otis Wright’s Rainbow Cookout jerk chicken stall in the background
Outdoor drinkers on Mare Street, Hackney Central, with Otis Wright’s Rainbow Cookout jerk chicken stall in the background
Adam Coghlan/Eater London

Argentinian cafe, bar, and restaurant Porteña in Borough Market.

The counter at Porteña Borough Market, an Argentinian restaurant
Porteña at Borough Market
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London
Porteña at Borough Market will serve Argentinian steak sandwiches, beer, and wine
Argentinian street food purveyor Porteña is open at Borough Market
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

A flyer at Borough Market explaining that food purchased in one of the stalls can only be eaten outside the market
Borough Market’s ‘On The Go’ stalls offer food to takeaway
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

The Southwark Tavern in Borough Market.

A couple having drinks at The Southwark Tavern in Borough Market
A couple having drinks at The Southwark Tavern in Borough Market
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Customers sitting outside the restaurants in Borough Market
Borough Market and its restaurants are open for outdoor dining or takeaway
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

A barista prepares a drink at Kahaila cafe.

A service staff working behind the counter at Kahaila, a coffee shop
Kahaila cafe at Brick Lane
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Vegan fast food restaurant Vurger co. in Shoreditch.

A pair of diners sit at a table outside The Vurger co. in Shoreditch this week, as outdoor dining resumed in London after four months of lockdown
A pair of diners outside The Vurger co. in Shoreditch this week, as outdoor dining resumed in London after four months of lockdown
Ejatu Shaw
A rider waits for their order at The Vurger Co
The Vurger Co is a fully vegan fast food joint
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Broadway Market

Broadway Market, , England E8 4QJ

Pho Thuy Tay

899 Old Kent Road, London,

Bloomberg Arcade

Bloomberg Arcade, , England

Roka

37 Charlotte St, London, Greater London W1T 1RR +44 20 7580 6464 Visit Website

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, , England SE1 6SP 020 7701 2188

Mangal 2

4 Stoke Newington Rd, London, Greater London N16 7XN +44 20 7254 7888 Visit Website

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P Franco

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Hala

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78 Queen Victoria Street, , England EC4N 4SJ 07732 077870 Visit Website

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Noble Rot

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Lamb

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Quality Wines

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Singburi

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