Summer-time and the living has been rather rainy, windy or both, in London.
When that yearning for alfresco dining and drinking has just passed, it’s time to look for drinking spots which offer a day-to-night, outdoor-to-indoor hideaway. Lady-about-town Su-Lin Ong lets us in on a few hidden gems where you can enjoy the mellow mood of late summer and know that you will always be comfy. Over to her!
The Garden Café
This new venue in the re-designed Garden Museum next to Lambeth Palace is quite a haven.
Gaze out through glass walls onto the intimate Sackler Garden designed by Dan Pearson. It’s like a mini cloister around a drifty garden centrepiece. Take a mindful stroll before settling into the brightest, purest white café space. You can enjoy hibiscus tea and an easy choice of wines by the glass; it’s not often you see an unusual orange wine from Chardakhi in Georgia.
The food menu is full of accomplished dishes conceived around plenty of seasonal veg and fruit, just as you’d imagine from a garden café. Beetroot, bobby beans, walnuts, strawberry and apricots create a burst of jewelled colours in this minimalist setting. More meaty options and pampering desserts make this a romantic dinner spot too, so look out for Tuesday evenings when you can enjoy the café until later.
The Garden Café, Garden Museum, 5 Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7LB
Top tip: Handy for a Thames-side walk by Westminster or Southbank.
Here’s a hotel in the heart of the City where you’d expect the glossy bar to be buzzing. It is. But for a more continental-inspired ambience and a less styled-up bar, head straight up to the top. Next to the hotel’s Michelin-starred Angler restaurant, there’s the perfect inside-outside terrace which opens to the sky, but transforms to cocoon you in comfort if the skies look gloomy.
This retro-chic Martini-style space is created for the Summer, but good news – it extends until the end of September. Enjoy zingy vermouth-based cocktails, spritzes and punchy Negronis. Graze on Sicilian arancini with parmesan risotto and aromatic Summer truffle mayo, or a crisp seafood fritto misto. Herbs abound – rosemary dec’ing the table, basil garnish in your drink, a screen of lavender… – to relax your senses away from all that rush of the City.
Caffè Torino, South Place hotel, 3 South Place, London EC2M 2AF
Top tip: Handy for when you’re in that City to Shoreditch wind-down mood.
This exquisite jewel box of a bar ranks no.6 in The World’s 50 Best Bars. It’s that good. Everything here is designed to be small and intimate. Step into the Edwardian-tiled pub building, and you enter a gentle, twinkly bar space. Cocktailing here early before the night owls enter is a new-found joy.
As afternoon sunshine streams in, grab a coffee from the bespoke La Marzocco machine before settling down to choose from the 50-strong cocktail menu – a Tea Time With Alice is not what you may imagine. Or The Gibson martini is the heady, chilled, pure hit you know you want to start the evening with. Sip at one of the pavement tables and watch urban Clerkenwell life go by. Nibble or feast from the Vittles list.
Small plates offer grand, full-on flavours – beef tartare, pickled octopus, flambé Armagnac terrine, lobster bisque. New Sunday opening times from September let you relax with all The Gibson’s charms from afternoon until late night.
The Gibson, 44 Old Street, London EC1V 9AQ
Top tip: Handy for The Barbican Arts Centre, and either pre- or post- dinner at one of the many stylish new restaurants in the area.
The Table Café
Known for its sustainable sourcing, The Table has long been the go-to place for fans of brunch. It has been feeding local workers and visitors to the Tate Modern nearby for years. As Bankside evolves, more and more familiar restaurant and bar names race to the area, but The Table has a style which only an independent flashes so well. Still as fresh and sharp as when it first opened, it recently made space for a cocktail bar with a brightly curated list of cocktails that are perfect for afternoon to after-work drinking.
Large tables in the courtyard get light shade from young mulberry trees. The menu has everything you might want served by the glass: bubbles, craft beers, modern aperitifs like a silver birch vermouth from Sussex, and very with-it cocktails. The Salad Daze has celery infused East London gin, elderflower cordial, and tarragon tincture.
Its ‘Hours of Happiness’ 5-7pm will bring you joy with irresistible offers. Regulars know to look out for bonus fun on Friday evenings when a drinks truck may roll up for G&Ts all round.
The Table Café, 83 Southwark Street, London SE1 0HX
Top tip: Handy for Tate Modern and Borough Market.
Blink and you may miss it. Keep an eye out for the name, painted simply on the white gate pillar. This smart pub has had a recent refurb after three years closed. It stands neatly amongst this cluster of elegant St John’s Wood villas and has a privately sheltered front garden just like those of the neighbouring houses.
Order the pub’s own Summer Cup or settle in with a Summer ale – served in familiar bulbous beer glasses with proper handles.
Finally ready to move inside? Choose the bright conservatory and order from the very reasonably priced snacks and food menu. There are plenty of classic faves brought inventively right up to date. Haggis sausage roll, sliced thinly, is the snack to share. But so delicious, you’ll want it all to yourself.
With its sturdy wooden floors, the spacious main lounge bar is more like a salon – a reminder that the building was once a hunting lodge and the hub of sociable Victorian gatherings.
The Clifton, 96 Clifton Hill, London NW8 0JT
Top tip: Handy for Lord’s cricket ground, a stroll on the Regent’s Canal, or that famous zebra crossing on Abbey Road.
Su-Lin is an alcohol consultant and drinks & taste judge; by night, a go-anywhere bar fly who’s always up for finding an easy mood and daring drinks. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @sloLondon