Thursday, 18 April 2013

Sun-soaked dining in London

The best pub gardens with food in London

"Sun's out guns out" my horrid, horrid university friends used to say. And while they threw rugby balls at each other and laughed about penises (to be fair I did that too) I got the barbecue going, or insisted we went somewhere other than Wetherspoon's for a summery dinner – I grew tired of crying children, tramp stamped young mums and wasps trapped in pint glasses. So here are my favourite pub gardens with food, more of the of the craft beer and leafy corners persuasion. They are all just beautiful places to be in the summer.

The Stag (NW3) >>>
My local and a really special place to be on a summer evening. Lots of seating, sun all evening, heaters when it goes cold, and live acoustic music on Sunday afternoon. The food’s great all year around, but in the summer they get a barbecue grill going and produce trashy pulled pork, burgers and such. It also has 50 varieties of beer in the fridge, so settle in for a long one ladz.

The Avalon, south London (SW12)
I only went there once, and it was busy as hell, but the food looked great and the outside was buzzy, beautiful, and large enough to hold a good few parties. The inside is also large enough to host the Proms, so if (when) it starts raining, everyone has somewhere to go. Give it a shot if you happen by some terrible accident to end up south of the river.

<<< Narrow boat (N1)
Much more a restaurant than a pub despite appearances, if you can bag a spot on the balcony you’ll have sun, a canal and a lovely atmosphere. The food is decent gastro-pub stuff with a bit more thought than you might expect. If you just fancy a nice pint (it’s Youngs so pretty good beer), you can get plastic glasses and take it down to the water or further to the lock.

Spaniards Inn (NW3)
Bit of a way from anywhere, but if you’ve got a bike or fancy an adventure across Hampstead Heath on a summer afternoon, this is well worth the trip. Food’s exactly what you’ll be wanting – pies, burgers, butternut squash salads (becoming omnipresent on pub menus) and the like – all changing daily. A lovely outside and as far from London as you can feel in zone 2.

Albion, Islington (N1)
A truly gorgeous old pub in the middle of Islington’s richest area. The food’s good and well priced despite the occasional gastro-pub nonsense (triple-cooked chips) , but it’s the lovely garden that’s going to make you love it. You’ll need to book on a weekend or nice evening though – despite the Albion’s weird location it’s hardly a hidden gem.

Counter café (E3) >>>
On paper it doesn’t work – a floating astroturf coated barge attached to a very decent café with an event better brunch menu. But it feels undiscovered and special, does great breakfasts and overlooks the Olympic Stadium. Bonkers but beautiful. 

Garden Gate (NW3)
Another Hampstead corker. Run by Mitchells & Butler with their inspired it’s-freehold-but-it’s-not vibe, it has great great bar selections, a picky and tasty food menu and a lovely, haphazard outside area, littered with old garden furniture and statues. Perfect for a long afternoon of ale and Scrabble with friends.

The Chequers (RH17)
Not in London, but a brilliant day’s ride for cyclists or a quick train journey for a romantic night away. It’s got great food, great wine, lovely rooms and a relaxing garden outback, overlooking rolling fields all the way back to London’s suburbs. It’s also 20 minutes drive from Brighton, so makes a lovely country stop if you want to make a day trip there.

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