Never has the Great British beer garden been more important. From April 12th, cold pints and pitchers of fruity Pimm’s will make their welcome returns to our outdoor drinking areas. The Rule of Six is also back, meaning that you, your friends and family can head back to your favourite pub for a long-awaited, much-deserved drink.
But, once you’ve put some cash back in the coffers of your local, why not explore somewhere new? Sunny springtime offers the perfect opportunity to scope out the best inns, taprooms and taverns in your local area — picking out the best gardens for long summer evenings. And, if you live in London, there are plenty of top-notch choices. Lockdown may have been especially difficult for city-dwellers, but now the parks and pubs are reopening, it’s time to remember why we love to live here. So raise a glass to London — these are the best beer gardens in the capital…
The Ship, Wandsworth
Where is it? Perched on the banks of the Thames; just a stone’s throw from Wandsworth Town Station. That’s right, it’s not on the tube — meaning that you’ll only find really discerning drinkers in the al fresco drinking area.
Why is the garden good? Officially, it’s not a beer garden, but a ‘waterside terrace’. There’s even a private boat dock if you want to sail there, along with a bankside barbecue bar and private riverside cabins available for rental.
What should you drink? Keep things nautical; The Ship makes a mean Dark N’ Stormy.
Mercato Metropolitano, Elephant & Castle
Where is it? Not far from Borough Market — where you can fill up with fantastic food first. Mercato Metropolitano is close to Elephant & Castle, by Dickens Fields and Newington Gardens.
Why is the garden good? Because it’s the biggest in London. Home to more than 40 food and drink vendors, it also includes on-site micro-brewery, German Kraft. Add to that over 200 plants ranging from ferns and bamboo to hop plants and olive trees, and you’ve got a jungle paradise.
What should you drink? Something from German Kraft. We’d recommend wheat beer Edel Weiss, a harmonious combination of creaminess and fruitiness.
The Leather Bottle, Earlsfield
Where is it? In the heart of Earlsfield (that’s a ten-minute train ride from Waterloo). This suburban pub doesn’t feel like your typical city tavern — and thrums with community spirit.
Why is the garden good? Because it’s like taking a trip to the beach. There are huts available to reserve, bright coloured garden furniture and large outdoor TV screens so you can watch sport under the sun.
What should you drink? What better to embrace the al fresco springtime than a Blood Orange Spritz?
The Hope and Anchor, Brixton
Where is it? Slap bang between vibrant Brixton and trendy Clapham, stuffed with flea market furniture and with more rooms, huts and hidden spaces than you shake a bar tab at.
Why is the garden good? Because it’s softly lit, Thai-themed and totally tropical. Where else in London could you swing in a private hammock, relax with friends in your treehouse and warm yourself by a fire pit as the sun goes down?
What should you drink? It may not be very exotic, but The Hope and Anchor has Brixton Brewery’s Low Voltage Session IPA on tap — a laid-back, lower ABV option perfect for post-lockdown day drinking.
Pavilion End, The City
Where is it? Nestled in the heart of London, just beside Bank and Mansion House stations. It may be surrounded by the grey walls of the concrete jungle, but this bright turquoise taproom feels like an oasis.
Why is the garden good? Because, through the power of planters and bold furniture, Pavilion End will transport you away from the hustle and bustle of London to fresher, more Mediterranean climes.
What should you drink? It’s a Fuller’s pub, so we’d go for a pint of frosty Frontier. Or, if you want to remind yourself that you’re still in the city, there’s always London Pride…
Duchess Belle, Battersea
Where is it? Over in Nine Elms; if you can find it for the the flowers. Drenched in buds and blossoms, the Duchess Belle may not seem like the most appealing drinking spot — but it’s got a trick up its floral sleeve.
Why is the garden good? Hidden out the back of the Duchess Belle, there’s a beer garden that feels like you’ve stepped into Versailles, or the set of a period costume drama. Think bright white walls, hanging baskets and a sun-trap ideal for summer drinking.
What should you drink? Not beer, that’s for sure. We’re calling it a ‘beer’ garden, but a burly pint just wouldn’t look right in such a delicate setting. Instead, go for fizz; they do Dom by the bottle.
Lost Society, Battersea
Where is it? Battersea’s Lost Society isn’t technically a pub. Instead, the glitzy venue touts itself as ‘London’s finest cocktail, dancing and drinking venue’. We don’t know about that, but we sure do like the monochrome, stripped back beer garden.
Why is the garden good? It’s another walled affair, but the chic decor and subtle greenery make this an urban oasis similar to Pavilion End’s above. With a partially covered terrace and outdoor bar, it’s an ideally situated central spot for drinks with friends.
What should you drink? Modelo Especial. It’s a beer we discovered in this very bar — with a deep golden hue, orange blossom aroma and slight hint of sweetness.
The Railway, Streatham Common
Where is it? Just next to Streatham Common station, The Railway is a sturdy, serious gastropub with a coffee shop attached to it. Which means that this beer garden isn’t just for beer — and is also perfect for mid-morning catch-ups.
Why is the garden good? Because it doesn’t look like a garden. Semi-covered and stripped back, the walls are whitewashed and the wooden furniture is simply varnished. And yet, this blank canvas has an ineffably summery charm.
What should you drink? Something off The Railway’s seriously good London craft beer menu — a first-rate selection that changes week-on-week.
The Exhibit, Balham
Where is it? The Exhibit couldn’t be closer to Balham station. An independent bar, cinema and restaurant (check out the Sunday roast while you’re there), this is another hidden gem.
Why is the garden good? Because it’s hidden. Again, a walled garden — but this time cut-off from the rest of Balham by bright, breezy white planks and palm fronds. On the right day, you’ll feel like you’re sipping away on the southern Spanish coast.
What should you drink? The ‘Nutty Mai Tai’ is a house special; Spiced Rum, Koko Kanu, Cointreau, orgeat and Peychaud’s Bitters. Served over ice.
The King’s Arms, Wandsworth
Where is it? Back where we began; in Wandsworth. But, unlike The Ship, The Kings Arms sits by the smaller River Wandle rather than the Thames. There’s even a semi-private waterside garden area, The Moatside
Why is the garden good? If The Moatside wasn’t a good enough reason, how about a huge shady tree, al fresco bars and food hatches — and a whole host of differently sized huts available for booking?
What should you drink? With the soft sunlight and rustling leaves, it’s got to be the M de Minuty Côtes de Provence Rosé. You’ll feel transported out of London in no time.