This article is part of a guide to London from FT Globetrotter
It’s freezing outside, dark by 4pm and the latest Covid guidelines are, quite frankly, bewildering. But thanks to the ingenuity and imagination of London’s best bars and restaurants, it’s still possible to enjoy a cocktail or two with friends and stay on the right side of the law. Here are some of the cosiest, and coolest, places to find al fresco sustenance this winter — and not a Scotch egg in sight.
Veteran fruit and veg stall Turnips has teamed up with Tomas Lidakevicius, the former head chef of Jason Atherton’s City Social, to create a pop-up restaurant in the heart of Borough Market. Under arches decked with festoon lighting, festive fruit displays and an abundance of Brussels sprouts, guest can sip warming whisky and bergamot cocktails heated fondue-style over an open flame, mulled wine scented with Tout Miel clementine, and feast on fried mushrooms, cauliflower tempura and apple crumble.
Tomas Parry’s bustling Basque-style bistro launched this courtyard offshoot back in the summer — and six months on, it’s still going strong. No-frills, Michelin-starred cooking (turbot roasted over an open fire is their speciality), is joined by an exciting Europhile wine list and a selection of peppy cocktails including a laver bread martini, a Bloody Mary laced with koji and a weapons-grade espresso martini.
Petersham Nurseries in Covent Garden has created a fairy-lit, plant-filled hideaway adjoining its two restaurants, The Petersham and La Goccia, where you can snuggle under a blanket and sip mulled chai tea with hot oat milk, chai-infused whisky and spiced honey, or a long tall fizz made from sloe gin, lemon, Shiraz and soda. Italianate snacks — substantial ones, naturally — include coccolli, bruschetta with winter tomatoes and prosciutto and La Goccia’s signature fried chicken.
Many a Christmas shopping mission will come unstuck this December at Da Henrietta, the new restaurant at The Experimental Cocktail Club’s chic Henrietta Hotel in Covent Garden. West-coast Italy is the inspiration here, with a big focus on the bittersweet aperitivo: drinks available on the heated, street-side terrace include the sparkling “Crescendo” (Select Aperitivo, Galliano, Kaffir lime, basil, white wine) and the fortifying “Italo Calvino” (espresso, Fernet Branca, vermouth), accompanied by pumpkin ravioli, ricotta and truffle bruschetta and some very indulgent dolce.
Spice up your night with cocktails and comfort food at Shoreditch’s trendiest Thai, Smoking Goat, which now has covered terraces on Redchurch Street. Sizzling stir-fries, barbecued seafood and aromatic twists on classic cocktails are laced with the tastes of south-east Asia: try “20 Jazz Funk Greats” (bourbon, lemongrass, soda), “Most Things Haven’t Worked Out” (rum, coconut, green chilli, betel leaf) or the defiantly sunny “Agharta” (tequila, mandarin and lime). The wine list by Zeren Wilson is also very cool.
The pretty interior courtyard at Dinings SW3, a Japanese fusion restaurant in Chelsea, is reputedly home to one of London’s oldest trees — it also does a mean hot toddy, too, made with the restaurant’s own 78 gin, spices and yuzu juice. For December they’ve also cooked up a Christmassy Manhattan made with Toki whisky, bourbon, roasted chestnuts and walnut bitters, accompanied by bar food of the most luxurious kind: Wagyu and lobster sliders, tuna tartare chips and shrimp tempura rolls.
Fitzrovia’s most photogenic terrace has been transformed into twinkly winter wonderland for December, complete with white birch trees, spruce pines and light dusting of snow. Theatrical cocktails include the “Snowman” (vodka, chinotto, blackberry Guinness topped garnished with frozen berries) and “Keeping Cosy” (vodka, salted caramel and coffee tonic). Five-star comfort food includes posh fondue with cheese from Paxton & Whitfield, Chateaubriand fillet with truffle, and a vodka-laced White Russian tiramisu.
Had your fill of Christmas tweeness? Then eat and drink under army-green canvas at David Carter’s brawny BBQ restaurant in east London. Seasonal cocktail specials include a blood orange Negroni and a spiced ginger Old Fashioned (also available in bottled form for drinking at home), accompanied by carnivorous snacks that include a festive sandwich of gammon, gherkins and sauerkraut, rarebit jacket potatoes and pulled pork buns with chilli and ginger slaw.
Keep it classic with oysters and cocktails on one of the jolliest terraces in London. The welcome (and the air temperature) may be warm at this Mayfair institution, but the martinis are ice-cold. Choose from over 20 gins and more than a dozen vodkas in your Bloody Mary, sip a Sidecar with your crab, or revive yourself with a warming Bentley’s coffee, made with Bailey’s, Frangelico, coffee and double cream. There’s a brandy and spiced apple toddy, too.
Where are you staying warm, eating substantially and socialising outdoors this winter? Tell us in the comments
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