Thermals discreetly at the ready, from tomorrow we can visit restaurants as long as we’re prepared for whatever combination of sun, sleet, showers & snow ensuesin the time it takes to devour three courses outdoors.
Those of us who are super-prepared have already smugly made reservations (I have a couple I am greedily anticipating) many have been so hyped and appeared in so many breathless guides that they have no tables until July.
Here are six of my recommendations where you may still score a sitting.
The Scandinavians have form when it comes to terraces stylishly furnished with fleeces and blankets and food that is warming yet different enough to feel special. Ekte (meaning genuine) owned by Danish Sorren Jensen in the Bloomberg Arcade excels at hygge and is especially pretty at dusk with plenty of discreet lighting. Even if you’re a raw herring sceptic you may be converted by chef Robin Freeman’s spiced pickled herring, potato, red onion, egg with crème fraiche, capers & brown butter. It is one of the very few places to try smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) including prawns with a tangy lemon mayo or caramelised celeriac with garlic mayo and the extra crunch of toasted hazelnuts. I’ve enjoyed roast cod in brown butter with dill pickled cucumber and barbecued celeriac, but even better are the pork meatballs, called frikadeller served in a warm hug of gravy with creamy mash, pickled cucumber and tart lingonberries. Among desserts there’s a crunchy Danish crumble with spiced apple and cardamom that reminds me of a dish my late Mum made which she quaintly called ‘peasant with a girl”
NATIVE AT BROWNS
I’ve long admired the playfully adventurous outlook on sustainable dining practised by Ivan Tisdall Downes and Imogen Davis founders of Native, though even I was surprised to discover that their new home will be within Brown’s, the beautiful clothes shop where I’ve never been able to afford to shop. They may seem surprising bedfellows but as their opening mantra goes: “it is all about the delight of discovering something rare, delicious and hyper-seasonal.” Foraged ingredients that may be unfamiliar give a wild twist to their courtyard menu of garden plates, natural wines and cocktails. There are gems like fermented potato waffle with chicken liver parfait and pickled apple, Native fillet-o-fish with ray cheeks, crab rarebit, seaweed tartar and hay ice-cream affogato. For larger dishes siDorset brown crab with duck egg and foraged sea herbs, roast cauliflower, nasturtium and brown butter, we need to wait until to dine indoors. Do try their seaweed infused “Mermillionare” shortbread and chocolate and bone marrow caramel, ‘the Marrowmel.
Who needs to go to the Chelsea Flower Show? Discreetly hidde down a secret path, Chelsea newcomer Stanley’s (just by the flower stand on Sidney Street) with its glorious, generously planted large courtyard, luxurious upholstered booths separated by reclaimed timber and glass screens, has huge parasols and awnings too to ensure a truly cosseting experience. The big lure is Olivia Burt,the first female chef to make it to the Roux Scholarship finals who was incredibly impressive on Masterchef the Professionals too. After working at Fera at Claridge’s (hence much use of edible flowers and herbs) this is her first head chef role and the menu is enticing for a balmy lunch: sourdough crumpets with shrimps and crab, beef tartare with cured egg, citrus brined chicken with wild garlic, salt-baked turnips chicken butter, barbecued beetroot, wild garlic and caper pistou, hazelnuts, chicory, jasmine cake with early strawberries and lemon verbena.
Three more outdoor dining possibilities
For the first time in its 90-year history, The Dorchester is launching a rooftop restaurant with spectacular views across Hyde Park. It promises to be a glamorous spot, even if you are swathed in luxurious blankets. There are garden menus by both Tom Booton of The Grill including prawn scotch egg, grilled turbot and blood orange posset and Jean-Claude Blondel of three Michelin star Ducasse at the Dorchester offering cucumber, bottarga and goat’s cheese, grilled octopus with confit of red pepper, citrus vacherin. www.dorchestercollection.com
Combining New York cool and Scandinavian sensibilities with incredible modern art, The Stratford is well worth the trek to E20 and will be home to both the V & A East and new Sadler’s Wells. It has an ultra sophisticated sunken rooftop garden, with elevated wildflower meadow, elegant seating and a cedar wood cantilevered roof providing shelter. At Allegra, overseen by former Chiltern Farmhouse chef Patrick Powell the bread is superlative, served with house made butter and a green salsa made from discarded vegetable and, hopefully, the outrageously rich, irresistible choux bun filled with pistachio, liver parfait and preserved kumquat Endearingly, The Stratford have invited a number of restaurants with no outdoor space to do a pop-up five course dinner each including Perilla.
Such is the demand for al fresco dining close to me in Clapham, that I understand Adam Byatt’s Trinity Outside well spaced tables with smart parasols are already booked at conventional mealtimes into July. Yet, he assures me they will take mid afternoon walk-ins which sounds a good, more impulse option to me for a menu ranging from Sardinian charcuterie and crudites with anchovy dressing to bbqed John Dory with seaweed butter and similarly grilled pluma of Iberico pork with tomato salsa.