London’s best summer restaurants have a few unifying threads: transportive food, at least some outdoor seating, probably the odd plant out front. They might fight heat with cooling dishes, or summertime cuisine, or in one case, sweat-broiling chile heat. That unifier again: they’re the city’s best summer restaurants, here, now.Read More
15 Brilliant London Restaurants That Are Made for Summer
Bastions of European cuisine, transportive gardens, and more
London E11 4PA, UK
One school of thought says, in a heatwave, cool down. Another school of thought says, in a heatwave, gather a group and head for Leytonstone, pack into a dining room where a single fan gamely chugs, and order from a blackboard boasting some of London’s best Thai food as chile and herbs and caramelised pork turn all into ravenous hotheads with no mind for the sun outside. That is to say: visit Singburi in a heatwave.
2. Xi'an Impression London
Tucked on a little side street facing Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, chef Wei Guirong’s Xi’an Impression might look innocuous. Inside, this small, minimalist, and welcoming Chinese restaurant proves first impressions can be wrong. Hand-pulled Chinese noodles are its thing: pale pappardelle-like ribbons in, for vegetarians, a deep, umami-rich sauce of soybean paste and zinging Sichuan peppercorns (one between two is good as a main). But at this time of the year, the dish to get is liangpi, “cold skin” noodles, ribbons of steamed wheat-starch batter, in a sauce made with black rice vinegar, chile oil, and a spiced broth, dressed with cucumber and bean sprouts.
It’s in the name, isn’t it. One of the airiest rooms in the city, a genuinely relaxed approach to hospitality that might see diners enjoying tumbles of cuttlefish pasta or a grilled pork chop while perching on the edge of a planter, and imaginative, confident cooking across the board. Get whatever ice cream is on at dessert.
4. Towpath Café
Canalside, blackboard menu, small kitchen, rickety tables, rickety green tables — Towpath reads like a cliche but rises above it every time the shutters open for the season. On the right day, sun slanting over the canal and a smart salad or two joining some sort of rural French assembly, there’s just nowhere better to be. Get whatever seasonal fruit cordial is on for quenching.
A Venetian-style bacaro on a canal sounds like a recipe for traditionalist manacling, but Mitshel Ibrahim’s Ombra mixes first-rate pasta with smartly assembled antipasti that rely on seasonal British vegetables, and then adds serious spritz-making into the equation. Possibly London’s most summery spot.
6. Pavilion Cafe
London E9 7DE, UK
Superb Sri Lankan cooking here, at a cafe that is also a reliable standby for pastries and coffee as runners pour past and walkers do the same, just a bit slower. It’ll be busy by the water, but it’ll be lovely too.
7. Tsiakkos & Charcoal
Tsiakkos is an institution, a neighbourhood constant, which opens only in the evening, from 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday. From the short menu, there are a few must-orders: slow roasted “burnt” pork shoulder; Sheftalia, a homemade pork-and-parsley sausage wrapped in caul fat; and the Kleftico — “secret-marinaded”, slow-cooked lamb on the bone. Go with a group, and bag a table outside beneath the tarpaulin. Cash only.
The heart of Soho doesn’t sound like an ideal summer destination, all clamour and fug, but Ducksoup’s Mediterranean menu and pencil-thick dining counter have a certain charm, especially with doors open wide and a cold red wine in the glass. A £10 dish-plus-wine deal is a winner when summer workdays prove too much.
9. Casa do Frango
Charcoal, chicken, chile, garlic, lemon, sunshine, high windows, and pastéis de nata, garlic prawns and Portuguese fries. Port and tonic or sangria. Some friends, hungry ones. Have at it, and luxuriate in the fact that Borough Market’s throngs will be melting, and won’t have any chicken.
Bonjour. The menu’s written in French, the signage looks French, the vibe is French. You’re not in France, but that’s okay, because it’s hot and there’s a potato-and-truffle pie and a plate of charcuterie coming. Summer dining is best when it’s transportive, and this Bermondsey nook almost always feels like it’s looking across the Channel.
Emily Dobbs’s Sri Lankan-inspired menu adds another layer to this characterful deli’s charm, with a pea and paneer curry perhaps bookended by spaghetti vongole and salade Nicoise. Finish with scoops of Kitty Travers’s La Grotta ice cream and sorbet on a leaf-littered corner terrace.
12. The River Café
This leafy riverside overlook might not be the cheapest place to eat “simple” Italian food, but its unshakable commitment to the importance of ingredients has influenced a generation of chefs. The River Cafe alumni roster reads like the Harlem Globetrotters of food: Jamie Oliver, Theo Randall, April Bloomfield, Sam Clark, and Anna Tobias. It remains the benchmark for Italian food outside of Italy, producing bagna cauda, risotto verde, and fritto misto to challenge the most wizened trattorie.
A sun-dappled terrace serving whole grilled fish, skate acqua pazza, and sorbets for days, with doors flung wide and an exceptionally easygoing vibe. It’s a no-brainer when it’s hot in Herne Hill.
14. Little Ochi Seafood Restaurant
London SE24 0NG, UK
There’s no menu in this Jamaican seafood restaurant; just walk directly to the fridge, pick a fish, and tell the chef how you want it cooked: steamed in a sauce made of tomato, thyme and okra, fried with a side of bammy, or in brown stew with rice and peas. Take a seat, nurse a Red Stripe for an hour, and then enjoy the fish. Summers are slow, and this fits just right.
15. Petersham Nurseries
Richmond TW10 7AQ, UK
Bucolic. Adjacent to Richmond Park’s wild green, Petersham Nurseries is the most civilised and civilising of leafy restaurants, serving up River Café-esque dishes in a manicured tangle of stonework and bougainvillea. It’s fancy, and it’s bougie, but as a summer occasion, it’s wonderful.