While the blooms on show at Chelsea Flower Show (22-26 May) are undeniably beautiful, we’re more interested in London’s other landscaped lovelies: its beer gardens.
But you can forget rickety old trestle tables, Sky Sports screens and stale ale — these are the height of sophisticated sipping, whether it’s signing contracts over craft cider or impressing a date with champagne and oysters. This summer, it’s time to take your schmoozing outdoors.
The one for your gin loving chum
Oxford Street – every hour 13,560 hapless souls make their way along London and Europe’s busiest thoroughfare looking to unlock their phones and jostle with pickpockets. It’s not where you’d expect to find a hidden and relaxing botanical gin garden – but that’s exactly what The Wigmore have served up.
Two minutes from Oxford Circus, The Langham hotel’s modern British tavern have transformed their courtyard into a welcome oasis of climbing plants, atmospheric lightning, and ever-so-refreshing gin concoctions.
Partnering with Plymouth Gin, selected cocktails are served in the famous ‘Glug Jug’ fish – a favourite of the Navy back in the 19th Century – we presume minus the mint garnish, or Champagne mixer.
The accompanying menu is a hit: high-end pub snacks, such as chunky chips and cheese toasties as long as a sailor’s forearm.
The pop-up runs throughout the summer, with occasional Botanical Lab masterclasses where punters can blend their very own gin.
The Wigmore at The Langham
The one for your ‘special one’
The relationships on reality TV show Made in Chelsea have been brokered and broken in the al fresco courtyard at Bluebird, a Grade II-listed giga-restaurant on the Kings Road with a terrace geared towards toffs.
Its striking Art Deco design – originally built in 1923 as a motor garage by the same name – sets a spectacular scene for wining and dining, Sloaney pony-style. Book the whole thing exclusively from £8,000 to really blow someone’s socks off; or, at the very least, bag a sofa for cosying up in private. A boozy brunch – when the terrace is saturated in rays – is best: the eggs benedict is a failsafe choice for first dates, while half a dozen Jersey Rock oysters are a precursor to passion for the ones that follow.
For more established couples, a screening of the Royal wedding in the courtyard takes place on 19th May, complete with barbecue and bubbles. What else could encourage an engagement quite like watching our prince and his Hollywood star tie the knot?
The one for your country chum
With wisteria-draped wooden pergolas set within a picturesque walled garden, you’d be forgiven for thinking that The Albion was in the depths of the Cotswolds and not in a discreet corner of our fair capital.
Just off Upper Street in the leafy Barnsbury conservation area – protected from the concrete jungle – this country-style pub is proof that you don’t need to go away to get away: it was built in the Georgian era when Islington was nothing but farmland and regulars took long walks out of the city for a cold pint. Now, the 450-square-metre garden retains its rustic charm, with sun-dappled pockets playing host to languid lunches and lively sundowner sessions.
Sundays are something of an institution and absolutely the time to go: pre-order the 28-day aged Longhorne rib of beef or the slow-cooked shoulder of Lighthorne lamb with all the trimmings. There’s barely a whisper of noise outside, let alone the thunder of traffic, so rest assured you can enjoy your post-pig out espresso martini in peace and quiet. This is village green with va-va-voom.
The one for your party pal
The Garden at Home House — a lush green oasis hidden behind the façade of a Georgian townhouse— is where parties reach Gatsby-era proportions. Secreted away in a Marylebone courtyard, it’s a playground for adults with colourful flowers and structured topiary at every turn; smart parasol tables beneath crisp white canvas billowing in the breeze; and free-flowing Moët & Chandon on tap for toasts on the hour, every hour.
There’s a grill menu, too, serving all-day crowd-pleasers like rack of rosemary-infused lamb; king prawns with saffron aioli; and whole wild sea bass with fennel. And just like the best pubs, man’s best friend is also catered for, with food and water provided for loyal companions.
It’s members-only, though, so reserve a room for a one-night-only, access-all-areas pass: our pick is the Wimbledon package, including a well-appointed suite and a three-course lunch outside with a screening of the Men’s Final (15 July). It’ll set you back £509 for two for the privilege. But it’s the perfect excuse to carry on celebrations – whoever wins, Pimm’s in hand – until the small hours.
The one for your fashionable friend
Nothing says Londoner quite like knowing your way around the latest and greatest openings. And launching on 18 May is the Moon Garden, an outdoor oasis tucked behind Untitled, the innovative drinking den in Dalston by mixology maestro Tony Conigliaro.
The space – a cool collaboration between Japan’s favourite beer Asahi Super Dry and design studio Soho & Co – will be the garden to book, with a sleek bar and seating for 20 beneath an explosion of cherry blossom. Inspired by the Japanese gardens once found in historic temples, it will serve up a sanctuary of calm amongst the hustle and bustle of the city, complete with herb wall from which fresh garnishes will be gathered for the creative cocktails on the menu.
What’s more, yakitori will be available on weekends to help soak up all that Asian-inspired booze, with skewers such as lamb neck with spicy miso; eel with spicy teriyaki sauce; and sweet and sour pearl onions. Even more impressive, perhaps, are the guest chefs being lined up to collaborate on specials – already confirmed are Koya and Aside. Host with the most? Your guests will certainly think so.
The one for your hard-to-crack client
Within easy walking distance from the ‘scrapers of Canary Wharf is The Gun at Docklands – a 19th century pub restored to its former glory thanks to a swish refurb by new owner Fuller’s pubs.
Conveniently reopening on 13th May, just in time for blissful lunch-hour and after-work drinking, its prime Riverside location and rich 250-year history make it a truly impressive spot. Impress clients by treating them to a tipple or ten in the revamped Gin Garden Bar overlooking the O2 arena. With more than enough blends of its namesake spirit to sample, there’s no business matter that can’t be put right after a long afternoon on the sauce.
And equipped with a retractable roof, there’ll be no raining on your parade, either. The best bit, though, is the complimentary taxi service back to Canary Wharf. Perfect for wrapping up any necessary business post-pub – because that’s always a good idea.
The Gun at Docklands
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