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Our Guide to Al Fresco Drinking and Dining on South Bank

Many people have said we’re not prepared for al fresco, open-air wining and dining in this country but we strongly disagree! A quick glance at the list below shows you we have a wealth of outdoor space to enjoy whether your budget is high or low, family-orientated or fun-loving. So during this heatwave, don’t head indoors to dingy dark bars and cafes, come to South Bank and step into the (sun)light.


Situated just downstream from the National Theatre, wedged between ITV Studios and the OXO Tower, Gabriel’s wharf is an enclave of calm just a hop skip and jump away from the hustle and bustle of the riverside. Here you will find a variety of cafes and restaurants, offering anything from traditional British pies to French crêpes.  Out of all the restaurants and bars, we recommend Studio Six - grab a beer and a snack at this fresh and fun-filled bar. Popular with a young crowd, Studio Six has a reputation for its friendly atmosphere. For something a little more Mediterranean, Gourmet Pizza Co has award-winning pizzas, plus fresh salads, and fine wines. The outside deck adds to the continental feel and being right on the riverside walkway it’s a perfect place to people watch. Last but not least, The Wharf offers more pan-European cuisine than you can shake a stick at, but the best part is that there’s a balcony so you can enjoy elevated views of the Thames.



Whilst compiling this list, we realised just how many al-fresco drinking and dining spaces Southbank Centre has, i.e. loads!! Starting with the riverfront, you can enjoy international cuisine from firm favourites such as Wagamama, Strada, Giraffe and Yo! Sushi.If you’re walking across Jubilee Bridge or towards the riverfront from Waterloo station then directly ahead of you, you will find more outdoor dining spaces at Las Iguanas, Feng Sushi,and Ping Pong.If you prefer something a little less High Street and a little more Southbank Centre, either head skywards to the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden were you can enjoy a drink and a snack amongst flowerbeds and allotments, or turn round the corner for Concrete and their mix of contemporary vibes, chilled out tunes, and even more chilled drinks – 2 for 1 from 5 til 7 every Friday and Saturday. At the back of Southbank Centre (Belvedere Road) you'll find Canteen, a hip eatery with a large terrace, accompanied by heaters in the Winter - woohoo. Plus, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, right on Canteen's doorstep, you'll find the Real Food Festival with loads of stands featuring the best in international artisan cuisine.  


If you want to take your al-fresco dining to the next level (literally and metaphorically) then you need to head to OXO Tower Restaurant, Bar & Brasserie where you can dine outdoors and enjoy truly stunning panoramic views from their eighth floor balcony – and we haven’t even mentioned the beautifully presented seasonal dishes, the innovative cocktail, or the mind-bendingly fabulous Not Afternoon Tea experiences.  The Leaders Bar at Marriott County Hall has an outside terrace from which you can sample a number of fine wines, champagnes, and cocktails.  



The Terrace Bar at the National Theatre – enjoy the laid back atmosphere in this cool warehouse space.

Drinks and Ice Cream – you’ll find stalls and ice cream vans dotted all around the South Bank.

The Riverside Bar at BFI Southbank – OK so it’s under the bridge but you can always grab a drink, plonk down into one of their deckchairs, or head out into the sunshine as it is right on the river!

The Balcony at Waterloo Station – You’ve caught us again, this one is technically inside but what it provides is an escape from the crazy commuters on the concourse below!

Take a picnic to Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park which surrounds the Imperial War Museum. It’s a peaceful park that is perfecting for picnicking.