12 Secluded Courtyards and Gardens for a Beautiful Summer Dinner in London
The sun traps, hidden terraces, and vine-twisted patios to visit when the sun’s out
Tucked away on a cobbled corner just off Columbia Road, Campania & Jones is a rustic and romantic restaurant with a brick-built burrow of small rooms, a tiny courtyard, and a handful of outdoor tables offering prime pasta-eating real estate and a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of the flower market. The cosy, rustic chic setting and focus on regional dishes as well as fresh, daily made pasta, provide a tranquil retreat from the busyness of the city and transport diners to the cobblestone streets of southern Italy in an instant.
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Native is the self-styled ethical dining restaurant set within designer store Brown’s, serving innovative, wild and sustainable small plates with an emphasis on foraging and protecting and preserving Britain’s culinary heritage. The 40-seater courtyard offers a secret haven within the heart of Mayfair, where a special menu of “garden bites” showcases ingredients grown in the courtyard, foraged cocktails and natural wine selection. Heaters and 100% recycled cotton Atlantic Blankets make it perfect for cooler evenings and year-round dining.
Organic bakery E5 Bakehouse moved into a London Fields railway arch in 2011 and has expanded across three arches, adding a pastry department, flour mill, chocolate facility and deli shop to the mix. Out back, the loveably ramshackle courtyard with a subtle mixture of long wooden communal tables and well-worn vintage metal tables for two, is the perfect spot in which to enjoy their delicious sourdough bakes and hearty organic breakfast and lunch offerings. The yard recently underwent developments with the addition of an open-sided roof structure providing all-year round weather protection which still giving the experience of being immersed in nature. E5 also hosts pizza nights, BBQs, supper clubs and events in this versatile backyard space.
Clerkenwell restaurant Luca combines Italian cooking with British seasonal produce in a sleek 19th century listed building, with an unassuming exterior that belies the glorious, floor-to-ceiling glass conservatory and secluded, foliage-filled terrace at the rear. Surrounded by olive trees and jasmine, with a large stone fireplace and exposed brick walls enclosing the area, the terrace is about as close to a traditional Italian garden as it gets in London.
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There’s already been plenty of cooing over the striking brutalist building in which Toklas restaurant is housed, but attention is turning towards the expansive pergola-covered, plant-filled terrace which is fast becoming one of the most sought-after al fresco dining spots in the city. Set on a side street near the Strand, behind building site-type doors and up a small flight of concrete stairs, it’s easy to blink and miss it. But the 100-cover sun-facing terrace tells another story, offering cool, casual cooking that feels thrillingly exclusive, with views that invigorate a love for the city’s architecture.
Rochelle Canteen - East Shoreditch
On the Southern side of the leafy Arnold Circus, behind a hidden buzzer entrance lies Rochelle Canteen — an oasis of tranquillity and loveliness that maintains its sense of seclusion despite now being one of the most famous restaurants in the city. The tented cover erected during the pandemic has developed into a permanent transparent structure providing year-round weather protection to the verdant, country-house-style outdoor terrace. Extending from the backyard patio where chefs barbecue fish and meat on to the flower-lined front lawn complete with picnic tables and deck chairs, this conservatory-like space has become the beating heart of the restaurant.
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Burnt Provisions is a sun-dappled café on Hammersmith’s Askew Road with a hidden courtyard garden oozing rustic charm. Having proved itself as an exceptional brunch newcomer, Burnt is now open on Thursday and Friday evenings for seasonal small plates, natural wines and house made cocktails. Evenings at Burnt exhibit chef and owner Finlay Logan’s culinary flair, and the charmingly ramshackle outdoor space offers the kind of atmosphere that can’t be manufactured. Dishes include a ‘nduja-mozzarella fritter topped with truffle honey, that has all the potential to become one of London’s most recognisable: A whole ball of mozzarella slathered in nduja and plunged into hot oil emerges as a great golden fireball of oozing cheese and spicy sausage. Burnt may be a hidden gem, but it is packed out with locals so booking for evenings is advised.
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Brunswick House Restaurant
Whilst the glistening, chandelier-festooned interiors of Brunswick House get most of the attention, the secluded Statuary Garden at the front of the building is a striking and unexpected arbour of greenery and sunshine. The food is as decadent and detailed as the restaurant setting (devilled eggs with black sesame and trout roe; wood-fired belted Galloway rib dowsed in smoked anchovy hollandaise). However his cooking can also be sharp, light, and angular: a dry-aged Chalkstream trout with pickled white asparagus, braised pine nuts and pomelo, in a split dressing of white asparagus vinegar and galangal oil, begs to be eaten outside under the verdant ceiling of plants that have enmeshed themselves in a complex woven arch.
Western’s Laundry is one of London’s best seafood restaurants, and the spacious, industrial yet warmly candle-lit room opens onto an open 20-cover cobbled courtyard lined with Himalayan Birch and olive trees, hand-crafted benches and a roaring fireplace, making it one of London’s best al fresco dining spots also. The daily-changing menu strikes the perfect balance between classy, confident cooking and comforting familiarity: a scalding pan of baked cuttlefish and squid ink fideo pasta, and a gloriously oozy rum baba are rarely far away, while unexpected combinations like raw bass, gooseberry and mint might grace the menu only fleetingly, dictated by seasonal and market availability.
The Garden Cafe
The Garden Museum Café is a beacon of tranquillity in the heart of Lambeth. Affixed to the Garden Museum — itself a sanctuary of the best in garden art , history and design preserved with thought and tenderness — it is a green-fingered diner’s paradise. The restaurant is a glass-walled, light-filled space that reveals a leafy cloistered courtyard in which to enjoy head chef George Ryle’s confident, considered, cooking. It’s all a far cry from what usually comes to mind at the term “museum café,” offering high calibre hospitality and food that surprises and inspires in a unique and secluded setting.
Brunswick East serves imaginative, sincere yet unpretentious Australian brunch, excellent sourdough bakes and speciality coffee in a spacious, sun-drenched courtyard in the heart of Dalston. It is also home to a rooftop edible garden — the Sky Farm — growing plants, herbs, fruits and vegetables that feature on the menu across both the Dalston and Hackney Downs sites. The Sky Farm is able to supply 100 percent of Brunswick East’s garnish needs, with a recent harvest including yuzu and bergamot leaves, bee balm petals, Mexican marigolds and nasturtiums destined for weekend pastry specials and seasonally dynamic toasts.
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Sessions Arts Club
Whilst the elegantly distressed, sexy yet stately dining room of Sessions Arts Club would seem to be the place to see and be seen, the restaurant actually bills itself as a “place to disappear.” The inconspicuous entrance and elevator-ascent to the fourth floor certainly gives the restaurant a sense of being a hidden treasure, but not immediately obvious even to those in the restaurant are the three surrounding terraces. Accessible via a labyrinth of staircases and glimpsed only through the vast mezzanine level windows, they come complete with fireplaces, a rooftop bar, a garden and even a hidden pool. The evergreen hedges, olive trees and even the tiniest of vineyards all have their part in transporting guests to a Mediterranean landscape and elevating Florence Knight’s artful and acclaimed cooking to new heights.