Sunshine and showers has to be a quintessentially British weather forecast. As a nation known for our unpredictable weather, it is often difficult to plan dining al fresco, and for obvious reasons, picnics and BBQ’s are not too enjoyable in the rain. It would appear, then, that planning al fresco dining in Britain has to be a last minute affair. Or does it? Luckily, several London restaurants have the solution to the problem in the form of retractable restaurant roofs for semi open-air dining. The concept is simple; when the sun shines, the roof retracts and allows diners to bask in the glorious sunshine. And if the clouds come and the rain pours, as happens so frequently, the roof goes back on and voila – immediate shelter from the elements. No waterproofs necessary…
Voted the most romantic UK restaurant, what better way is there to enjoy intimate, al fresco dining than in Clos Maggiore’s stylish conservatory, complete with a full retractable roof. Influenced by the country inns of Provence and Tuscany, this traditional French restaurant offers comfortable armchair seating, with crisp white table linen and outdoor vines to create a real rustic feel to the light and airy venue. Summer dishes include Maine lobster, scallops and monkfish casserole as well as caramelised honey glazed Gressingham duck with roasted red plums and ruby port sauce. Sides dishes include truffled mashed potato and wilted spinach.
For a touch of traditional Scotland in central London, head to Boisdale of Belgravia for world class jazz and fine Scottish cuisine. This eclectic venue sticks to traditional Scottish roots with tartan chairs, cushions and, on the cigar terrace, tartan cashmere blankets to keep you cosy on cooler evenings. The venue’s Macdonald Bar references a gentleman’s club in décor, but boasts the ambience of a classic ‘40’s jazz bar. The courtyard garden, planted with blooms all year round, offers the perfect location for al fresco jazz dining with its retractable roof. Reared Aberdeenshire beef and dry aged meat cuts are the restaurants specialty.
This charming Italian restaurant with its natural warmth and ambience is perfect for relaxed dining. With rustic exposed brickwork, during the summer months the front doors and conservatory roof open for al fresco dining, enabling diners to soak up the occasional British sunshine. Allowing for the more frequent chillier British climate, a log fire in the open brick hearth creates a cosy dining retreat. The restaurant’s seasonal menu includes grilled sardines with lemon and parsley, summer squash tortellini with girolles and breadcrumbed veal loin with rocket and parmesan. Roasted peaches with amaretti and marscapone ice cream has to be the perfect Italian dessert.
Set in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the Stables market in Camden, Gilgamesh is nothing short of being visually impressive. Its contemporary style is fused with the exotic imagery and mystique of the Babylonian era. Opulent dining tables and ornate wooden chairs, hand-carved to tell the story of Gilgamesh, fill the vast 15,000 square foot dining space. Diners can watch their pan-Asian food being created in the open stone-carved kitchen, and Asian inspired cocktails are served from the engraved stone Lapis bar. The venue also happens to have a fully retractable roof, allowing for glorious sunshine dining.
Named after the Italian poet Dante, Il Convivio (meaning banquet) offers perfect al fresco dining in its conservatory, with an electric roof that retracts during the summer months to enable year round dining. With cedar wood decking and exposed brickwork, the conservatory walls are embossed with words taken from Dante’s poetry, lending an air of romanticism to the elegant Georgian house dining space. The seasonal menu includes poached octopus with curly endive and black spaghetti with lobster and spring onions, and a divine dessert menu offers poached pair and coconut tart with lime granita and vanilla panna cotta with elderflower jelly.