Cosy outdoor dining
Published 27 November 2020

Baby, it’s cold outside… but don’t let that halt the pleasure of eating out this winter! What’s a bobble hat and an extra jumper between friends and family, now that we can once again – with some provisos – go out to eat?

Restaurateurs have gone into creative overdrive to design twinkly, cosy inside-outside winter dining spaces. You can sink into sheepskin-covered seats in a cool tipi, or let firelight and fairy lights, starlight and brisk air sharpen your appetite on a stylish heated terrace. The ingenuity of many hospitality businesses has been rightly applauded through the unimaginable challenges of 2020, and with Christmas on its way and lockdown 2 easing from 2 December, it’s time to get booking again.

It may be cold outside, but the welcome you’ll receive will be toasty, the feasts warming, and the drinks sparkly with promise. Let’s hope they are heralds of a happier 2021 for us all.

Corinthia London, Westminster
Snow globes and lanterns, blankets and firelight set the season luxuriously at Corinthia London’s Winter Garden. It makes a delightful backdrop for André Garrett’s all-day menu of luxury comfort food – he tempts with the likes of venison ragoût with cheese dumplings, and warm potato rösti with cured salmon and sour cream. Why not lace a luxurious hot chocolate with a liqueur, or toast the imminence of 2021 with Champagne or cocktails?

at Climpson’s Arch, Hackney, London
The many fans of Tomos Parry’s blinder of a Shoreditch restaurant, Brat, will be punching the air that his summer residency at Climpson’s Arch is extending through winter. Bring a boundless appetite to the covered and fire-warmed courtyard, and enjoy rustic, open-fire, flavour-packed cooking inspired by Spain’s Basque country – think robust grilled meats, smoked potatoes, roasted game rice, burnt cheesecake, and the rest.

Fare, Shoreditch, London
Grilled meat and fish, rustic sourdough pizzas, handmade pasta with rich sauces, and heavenly al forno dishes tick boxes aplenty at this relaxed east London spot. With the courtyard terrace fully covered and heated, there’s no reason not to stop by whatever the weather – expect the warmest of Italian-style welcomes, the punchiest of negroni and the most enlivening of coffees.

Sam’s Riverside, Hammersmith, London
The terrace at this classy spot by the Thames is ready for whatever wintry weather is in store. There are heaters, planters and protective glass screens to shield you from the outside, and an appealing menu to warm you from the inside. Linger over steak & kidney with beef dripping toast, clams with braised pig's trotters and white beans, or a proper Sunday roast, leaving room of course for a sumptuous prune & Armagnac tart.

Petersham Nurseries Café,
Richmond, London
This west London spot in a smart plant nursery is as magical in the stillness of midwinter as it is when bouncing with summer life. Surround yourself with plants in a cosy candlelit corner to enjoy steamed clams with butter beans, bottarga and herb bruschetta, or Haye Farm lamb with Jerusalem artichokes and salsa verde.

The Crown at Bray, Berkshire
Expect plenty of winter sparkle at this much-loved village pub where a cosy garden marquee, festooned with cheerful lights and glowing with warmth, creates a memorable setting for a meal out. The menu offers such treats as roasted Windsor Estate venison with quince, or halibut with bacon and morels, and perhaps a bright clementine trifle to finish.

The Cornish Arms, Tavistock, Devon
Canopied, cushioned and firepit-cosy, the beer garden at this Tavistock pub is ready to combat the chill of winter, plenty warm enough for guests to linger over tasty brasserie classics. Choose the likes of slow-cooked beef short ribs or baked cod with St Austell mussels and saffron butter sauce, and finish with what else but a spirit-lifting sticky toffee pudding and butterscotch sauce.

Le Talbooth, Dedham, Essex
Wrap up for the slopes rather than the banks of the Stour is the suggestion, the better to enjoy lunch or dinner ‘out out’ whatever the weather on Le Talbooth’s smart winter terrace. Festoon lighting, rugs and heaters make for a cosy space from which to enjoy warming dishes such as pork schnitzel ‘holstein’ or a classic steak & kidney pudding. The gardens are a year-round delight.

Tuddenham Mill
near Newmarket, Suffolk
It’s all about ‘mussels, meats and wheats’ in Tuddenham Mill’s sheepskin-strewn, fire-lit tipi, the stylishly rural winter incarnation of the popular summer Secret Garden. Choose a steaming bowl of Cornish moules marinières, or bite into a satisfying Dingley Dell pork bun with crisp onions, cheese and black truffle. Cinnamon sugar-coated doughnuts round a meal off sweetly, especially when swooped through a hot, rich chocolate sauce.

The Black Bull, Sedbergh, Cumbria
Pull up a sheepskin-covered chair at The Black Bull’s outside bar – find a table by the wood burner if you can – for a cosy but airy evening in this much-loved town-centre spot. The beer will revive, and the food comfort. Chef Nina Matsunaga’s playfulness with flavours brings layers of interest to local ingredients: look out for richly spiced kolhapuri hogget, slow-cooked pork belly served with homemade kimchi, and a hearty chestnut and lentil stew.

We’ll keep updating the list, but these inside-outside places also promise to keep you safe, warm and well-fed through winter:

Vermuteria, King's Cross, London
Go for negronis, all-day food and punchy flavours served in an airy heated outdoor space at Anthony Demetre’s European-inspired café/bar in Coal Drops Yard.

Smokestak, Shoreditch, London
Enjoy this barbecue restaurant's signature brisket buns and smoked pastrami at one of the tables on the heated winter terrace.

Galvin Bistrot & Bar, Spitalfields, London
At the newest iteration of the Galvin brothers' Bishop Square venue (on the site of the former Galvin Hop), the terrace is as warm as the rustic French food is heartening – think soupe de poisson, steak-frites, and tarte tatin.

The Vineyard at Stockcross, near Newbury, Berkshire
OutSide is a winter dining experience that captures the apres-ski vibe with its coal-fired barbecue and menu of raclette, goulash, venison and mulled wine.

The Beckford Arms, near Tisbury, Wiltshire.
Antiques and elegance make the heated marquee at this classy coaching inn a seamless extension to the indoor dining space. The superb food and wine are guaranteed to lift spirits.

The White Horse, Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk.
Choose mussels grown in the creeks just metres from your table, or smoked fish from adjacent Staithe Smokehouse to eat in the airy, clear-sided (for the views!), heated marquee of the Marshside Bar.

The Terrace, Yarmouth
Right by the ferry terminal, this is the first and last place to eat for many visitors to the Isle of Wight. Clear-sided new ‘shelters’ are heated, lit, and deliver spectacular Solent views as a backdrop to local game, whopping burgers or pitch-perfect fish cookery.