The City of London's restaurants and bars are ready to accept guests again as they transform their al fresco dining spaces for an easing of Covid restrictions.
Come 12 April, restaurants and bars in the UK with outdoor seating will come alive again. It signals a return to normality. To spending evenings out of your own home – we honestly can’t even remember what that feels like.
But the Square Mile is its own unique beast. It is hugely dependent on local workers, who are unlikely to return until June/ July this year (at the very least). That’s why these local restaurants and bars need some extra love.
If you’re only in the area once a week, then make after-work drinks a little extra special by going to one of these joints. Or make the effort to come into the City just for a fine dining feast up on a stunning rooftop or terrace. Support these small local businesses now, to ensure they’re still around when this is all behind us.
Galvin Bistrot & Bar
The newest addition to the Galvin Restaurant family, Galvin Bistrot & Bar, will be the first of their venues to open in London.
Get ready for long afternoons and evenings spent on the terrace sipping apéritifs and eating the finest French fare. It’ll be the closest most of us will get to experience the hustle and bustle of a Parisian Bistrot for a while to come. Sigh*.
Expect to see old favourites on the menu such as their steak tartare, escargots à la Bourguignonne and aged 8oz entrecôte steak alongside seasonal dishes like salade Niçoise, with fresh seared tuna and herb gnocchi, spring vegetables & wild garlic.
All of this will make you think you are closer to the French Riviera than Old Spitalfields market. We’ll take any form of escapism we can get these days.
35 Bishops Square E1 6DY
Located right in the market itself, The Grover really is in the thick of it all. Book a seat on the terrace (full of heaters, because this is the UK after all) and get around some great gastro pub grub. It’s a non- stuffy joint where you can really relax – sometimes you need to remove all the pomp and pageantry and just chill with mates or colleagues. This is an easy local spot to do just that. Order a classic fish and chips and plenty of pints and you’re sorted. It’s the perfect local haunt for City workers in Spitalfields.
Crispin Place E1 6DW
The rooftop of this historic old boozer is home to a herb garden and vegetable patch as a nod to its namesake, 17th-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper. Because this is London, there’s also a bar, where you can sip on a Bloody Mary in amongst the tomato vines if you so fancy. It’s as locally sourced as it gets! Try cocktails infused with herbs fresh from the garden and stick around for dinner; the no bookings policy during summer means seats here don’t grow on trees.
40 Commercial Street E1 6LP
The kings of Argentine steaks are back again! And in all of their London locations, not just Broadgate. Head to their large outdoor terrace in Finsbury Square for their world-class meat and wine pairings alongside a whole host of other South American specialities. It’s classic cooking at its finest. No stuffing around with old recipes or over-fussed plating. Just be sure to book soon. This City institution is going to be busy this year.
5 Finsbury Avenue EC2M 2PG
This high-end Cantonese restaurant has one damn fine wrap around terrace, overlooking Broadgate Circle. We’ve sat out here a lot, sipping on Szechuan Margaritas and ordering platefuls of their venison puffs all the while getting our tan on. It’s one of the very best outdoor dining spots in the City of London. Either head outdoors for a few after-work cocktails or go all out for lunch by getting some of their ornately designed dim sum dishes – not missing out on their epic prawn and bean curd cheung fun. These slippery suckers are ridiculously delicious, even if you’ll struggle to pick them up with chop sticks. No judgement if you use your hands – we’ve been doing a lot of that during all the lockdowns ourselves.
One Broadgate Circle EC2M 2QS
Mr Fogg’s Dockside Drinkery & Distillery
All the fun and flair of Mr Fogg’s has been taken out into the outdoor space of Broadgate Circle. Pop by for a cheeky lunchtime cocktail or some after work drinks no matter what the weather – although we are certainly hoping for as much sun as possible. And don’t expect just the basic spritzes and G&Ts. The team here are all about creating exceptional cocktails from top tier spirits. And, once restriction ease even more, they’ll be opening the indoor themed bar, kitchen and masterclass rooms. We can’t wait for these guys to be fully operational once again!
37 Broadgate Circle EC2M 2QS
We still aren’t sure why this City rooftop remains hidden from so many people. It is a brilliant spot to head up to for either a night of cocktails and nibbles or a proper sit-down dinner. In one sweep, the view from Mercer Roof Terrace takes in London’s skyline, from the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral to the glass tip of The Shard. You can even treat yourselves to a quintessentially British experience up here – the afternoon tea. Treat yourselves to cakes, crustless sandwiches and the highly coveted scone while taking in all of those marvellous London landmarks.
20 Garlick Hill EC4V 2AU
COYA Angel Court is launching The Courtyard in partnership with Veuve Clicquot, a Peruvian oasis in the heart of the city, open to guests for outdoor dining from Monday 12 April. Guests can escape to the calm oasis of the heated courtyard every Monday to Friday from 12:30pm until 10pm, and sip on Veuve Clicquot champagne and the signature Veuve Clicquot cocktail, the Pisco Royale, alongside the all day menu.
The tucked away space will be a hidden gem in the City, brightly decorated in true South American style where Peruvian lilies, symbolising friendship, will adorn The Courtyard, providing a magnificent, Instagrammable backdrop for reunions between friends.
31-33 Throgmorton Street EC2N 2AT
If you haven’t been to Coq d’Argent yet, then you best make sure you get there this year. Surely, you’ve seen the massive rooftop lawns overlooking Bank Junction and the rest of the City on Instagram before. But It’s far from being one of those tourist destinations where you get to see across London but then are inevitably underwhelmed by the food and drink options. This spot is built for locals and doesn’t skimp on quality. Either come for lunch and drinks by the lawns during the day or head over for late-night cocktails with live DJs once the sun goes down – and trust us, this is one hell of spot to see the sunset in the City. See the concrete jungle at its finest.
No.1 Poultry EC2R 8EJ
Savage Garden opened on top of the Hilton DoubleTree in June, taking over from the fairly generic SkyLounge bar with savage-sounding cocktails and a creative menu of carnivorous bar snacks. Think charcoal bun beef sliders and pork tomahawk with black pudding fries. Just in time to welcome London’s heatwave, it’s been heaving since launch, so best leave the office a little early to snag a good spot on Thursday and Friday evenings. And if Mother Nature isn’t as kind in August, there’s always the retractable roof to keep the rain at bay.
12th floor, Hilton Doubletree Hotel, Pepys Street EC3N 4AF
The famous craft beer brewers are back open in the Square Mile, serving up fresh pints to local workers. They always have a huge list of ever-changing beers alongside their typical pubby food menu for those who want to sit in. And for those big fans who don’t want to sit inside, Brewdog is ramping up its takeaway options. Get takeaway cans or bring your own bottle to fill up at their growler station. Wander down to the river with your beers and soak up the summer weather in all its glory. Or, if you’re fast enough, nab one of their outdoor tables and set yourselves up for a long warm night out with colleagues.
21 Great Tower Street EC3R 5AR
Pubs are tough to navigate these days. Lining up at the bar can cause even the most chill of us to be flooded with anxiety. And finding a spot where we don’t have to be brushed past by crowds of other people is just as stressful. That’s why we were so pumped to find out that The Oyster Shed is back up and running for summer. Here, the bar is massive. That makes ordering so much easier. Plus, because they are located right on the river, there is stacks of outdoor space. You’ll easily find a spot to perch as you get your drink on.
1 Angel Lane EC4R 3AB
Coppa Club isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. It has always been popular throughout the year, thanks to regular updates of the outdoor terrace as well as the food and drink menus. The team here never settle on one thing for long. Things are always evolving. That’s why they are perfectly equipped for changing things up now. The massive terrace has been further expanded and the famous igloos are like your very own quarantine bubble – that’s much cooler than the random plastic walls you see popping up in restaurants these days.
3 Three Quays Walk, Lower Thames Street EC3R 6AH
More riverside dining comes in the form of High Timber. This South African-inspired restaurant is only getting more and more popular as time goes on. Much of this is thanks to the sensational wine menu. The founders, Gary & Kathy Jordan of the Jordan Wine Estate in South Africa, are winners of some of the world’s most prestigious wine awards and have brought much of this to High Timber. Even the house wines are absolute winners. And they do it without being all pretentious – how refreshing.
8 High Timber Street EC4V 3PA
The Happenstance beneath St. Paul’s Cathedral with an elegant alfresco terrace looking right at the iconic building and over the happening Paternoster Square (one of our favourite public squares in the Square Mile). In the daytime, it offers a great place for client meetings and drinks, with its laid back and friendly atmosphere; as the evening draws in, the bar becomes a hive of activity with after work drinks, romantic dinners, and large private parties all enjoying the chic and quirky interiors and excellent drink & food offering.
With private rooms available for hire as well as full weekend hire available, it also functions as a very successful party and event venue. That is, once we can host big functions once again. Overall, a pleasant oasis away from the hubbub of city life, The Happenstance is another example of a successful bar providing a refreshing venue for city workers looking to let their hair down and relax away from the office. Top buttons can be undone, ties loosened, and flats swapped in for the heels. It’s exactly what you need after (or during) a long day back in the office.
10 Paternoster Square EC4M 7DX
A picture-perfect postcard outlook over St Paul’s Cathedral awaits those who make it to the top of One New Change, which will most likely be after a lengthy wait post-5pm on a weeknight. The up-close views of Sir Christopher Wren’s most famous dome alone are worth the queue, but if your group is still feeling sour, the Pornstar Martini sharing cocktail of Absolut, passionfruit liquor and plenty of Prosecco should sweeten things up. Live music and DJs make a night up here even more unforgettable. But folks dress up to come here – bring your best frock!
One New Change EC4M 9AF
Dion Bar and Restaurant
With its unbeatable location slap-bang next to St Paul’s Cathedral, this angular modernist Champagne bar is every inch as sharp-suited as its banking and broker clientele. Inside, the leather stools, tiled floors and dark wood may be as sober as a PowerPoint presentation, but Dion can get distinctly boisterous at peak times. If bubbles are required, you can fizz modestly or push the boat out with a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal 2006 (at £375 a pop).
Alternatively, there’s some surprisingly affordable drinking on the French-led wine list, plus a decent slate of classic cocktails. At lunchtime, boost your energy levels with black peppered calamari, chicken Caesar salad, salmon and crab fishcakes or a hearty plate of cottage pie; in the evening, there are global nibbles, antipasti, burgers and mezze-style sharing platters for the drinkers. And don’t miss out on the live bands on Wednesday nights. God we can’t wait to watch some live music again!
65 St. Paul’s Churchyard EC4M 8AB
Smiths of Smithfield
Smithfield Market traders may be getting kicked out soon so that the Museum of London can set up their new digs inside the historical building, but Smiths of Smithfield isn’t going anywhere. The three-story space has been rejigged so that people can get their drink on at the Drink + Victory Bar and dine at both the Grill restaurant and third floor terrace. We are particularly big fans of their bottomless Sunday roast experiences – book ahead & hope for good weather on the terrace.
67-77 Charterhouse Street EC1M 6HJ
Attached to the one and only Club Gascon (The French Michelin-starred food institution in the City), this chic bar is all about celebrating French wine and bistro dining. Head here for a more intimate affair. Book a table out on the street and escape to south west of France. Or at least as close as you can get to it these days. Tuck into small plates of mussels, duck heart persillade and snails with crushed potatoes all the while sipping on expertly made cocktails and carefully selected wines. This is where you begin your City date night. It’s pure luxury and elegance. But we guess it doesn’t have to be romantic – you can easily have a small work gathering here celebrate being back in the office in style.
59 West Smithfield EC1A 9DS
Bird of Smithfield
At first glance, a five-storey Georgian townhouse might not meet our height requirements, but the roof of Bird of Smithfield is actually perfectly positioned to take in the historic market buildings for which the area is famous. Watch the sun set with an Aperol Spritz in hand then head downstairs for bang-up modern British dining in the restaurant.
6 Smithfield Street EC1A 9LB
St Katharine Docks
KERB’s sixth and biggest lunch market to date, launched at St. Katharine Docks not too long ago. And they are set to reopen very soon. Every Friday, KERB has a wicked line-up of 18 traders, rotating each week and serving up some of KERB’s all-time favourite dishes with everything from African fusion jollof boxes to Caribbean jerk fried chicken. But it doesn’t end there. get around Filipino backyard BBQ, Taiwanese lunch boxes, Japanese soboro bowls, fresh Vietnamese vegan banh mi and so much more, for locals and tourists alike. We can’t wait for them to bring this back to St Kats. Grab some street food from one of the traders, find a seat by the dock, and find a little peace for lunch.
St Katharine Docks E1W 1LA
Who else misses a proper brunch? We’ve had an entire year to perfect the poached egg and we still can’t do it like these guys. But the team over at White Mulberries do so much more than that. Expect homemade waffles, breakfast bowls (including the beloved acai), and the holy avocado on toast.
Plus, these guys take their coffee seriously. Which can be so hard to find in London. Find the perfect flat white here. It won’t be overly milky. It won’t be burnt. It’s what caffeine dreams are made of.
We head here to sit by the water, read a book, and slowly munch on breakfast goodies for as long as we can. It’s just outside the City limits but feels like your miles away from everything – that’s the beauty of St Katharine Docks.
D3 Ivory house E1W 1AT
Give us all the pizza outside by the water, while soaking up some sun and drinking all the beers. God, we miss that summer life. And we are pumped to experience it all at Zizzi at St Katharine Docks. But you don’t have to go for pizza – if you’re trying to stay away from carbs post lockdown. They have stacks of healthy Italian grub too. Although, we are all about their pizza, pasta and risottos. We have lost all our self-control over the past year. Just know that this isn’t your hipster sourdough pizza joint. It’s fairly basic stuff. But still, it’s pizza. It’s hard to mess up!
12 Ivory Street E1W 1AT