We’re all familiar with London's swanky sky-high rooftops and Thames-side terraces, but what about the beer gardens that are a little bit off the beaten track? (Read, Zone 1.) Whether you’re on the hunt for somewhere less busy, are keen to explore new spots or are just looking to add to your beer garden arsenal, we’re bringing you the very best of London’s quirky and lesser-known outdoor drinking dens. And if anyone asks? You didn’t hear it from us.
Located a short stroll away from Deptford Bridge, The Brookmill is a classic British boozer with a gorgeous secret terrace. While not visible from the road, this alfresco drinking spot can be found by heading past the bar to the back of the pub. Decked out with twinkling lights and low-hanging plants, it’s the perfect place to escape the hubbub of the city. Feast on a menu jam-packed with hearty pub grub at reasonable prices or catch up on the latest sports fixtures on one of the many TVs dotted about the place, before returning to the bustling street, with passers-by none the wiser.
Arguably the only beer garden in London that sometimes requires its patrons to wear wellies, The White Cross in Richmond boasts one of the city’s finest locations. Set on the banks of the River Thames, this place regularly becomes flooded at high tide - although rather than shutting up shop, the staff here merely don their waterproof gear and get on with the job in hand. Perfect for cooling off on a summer's day, grab one of the raised bar stools, order yourself a pint and dip your toes in as the water rushes past (if you dare, that is).
Dating back to 1620, The Mayflower is one of the oldest pubs along the River Thames’s banks. Surrounded by cobbled streets and bursting with original character at every nook and cranny, this place is the definition of a hidden gem. The outside decked jetty (now a waterfront beer garden) is the place from which The Mayflower ship departed for Virginia over four hundred years ago. And while you probably won’t be able to hop on a transatlantic cruise from there now, you can still enjoy a freshly poured pint and stunning views across the river.
Another hidden gem, although this time south of the river, The Railway in Streatham well and truly ticks all of our summertime boozer boxes. The perfect pitstop after a hot and sweaty commute, this picturesque pub holds its very own secret garden, decorated with twinkling lights, mirrored walls and plenty of plants. The menu has put a fancy spin on traditional pub food - think moules marinières, lentil and coconut dahl and gourmet chorizo burgers. And when Sunday rolls around? Expect the hidden terrace to be packed out with people loading up on roast tatties, golden Yorkshires and ladles of thick gravy - just as it should be.
A long-time favourite on South London’s pub scene, The Dolphin offers a huge and tranquil landscaped garden, complete with a table tennis table, elegant topiary and low-hanging fruit trees, all watchfully guarded over by Francis - the friendly pub cat. Perfect for group gatherings, this place allows you to sit amongst the greenery in your own private hedged-off area. Alternatively, you can grab one of the comfy sofas that are out the front for some seriously good people-watching action. And with a loyalty scheme that rewards you every time you purchase a main dish? It would be rude to not visit on a weekly basis.
Finsbury Park’s best-loved boozer is better known for its warm Irish welcome and electric atmosphere on Six Nations match days. What you may not know though? The Faltering Fullback is also home to an enchanting beer garden, full of tipsy topsy staircases and cosy wooden booths. From the hockey sticks and paddles that hang from the ceiling, to the walls covered in creeping plants, this place would be right at home in The Shire, and is the perfect spot to cool off on a long hot summer’s day.
One of London’s liveliest outdoor drinking spots, The Prince in West Brompton always delivers debauchery on the weekend. Part of the group that includes Pergola, Bloom and Lost in Brixton amongst others, this swish pub is home to a huge woodland-themed garden, with regular DJs, large group tables and a menu jam-packed with summertime spritzes and cocktails. And for when those rain clouds inevitably rumble into town? There’s a retractable roof to keep the party going. Bank Holiday Nirvana? We like to think so.
A beer garden with rooms for you to crawl up to after a drawn-out day drinking session? Hell yes. Drayton Court Hotel may look like something out of Downton Abbey, but enter through the grand doors and sneak through to the back and you’ll find an epic beer garden big enough for all your mates, and then some. Grab one of the private outdoor pergolas or opt to perch on one of the long sharing benches, making full use of the outdoor bar, which boasts an impressive collection of local ales, fruity ciders and sippable spritzes.
On the look out for more summer sipping inspo? Check out our ultimate guide to London's best beer gardens here.