Five things you should know about dining al fresco in London

This is a guest post written by Fiona Maclean, editor of London Unattached.

The British love to dine al fresco.  Even though we don’t really have the right weather, you’ll find us taking shelter under parasols in the pouring rain and wrapped up in blankets in the depths of winter.  Once summer comes, it’s a race to see who can find the best spot. Beat the crowds with these top tips for al fresco dining in London.

GrainStore1.  Many of the best bars and restaurants in London don’t take reservations for their outside tables.  It’s partly down to the unpredictable British weather which can result in chaos if the weather changes.  The solution, if you are booking, is to plan to dine early and arrive a little earlier still.  Then judge for yourself if it’s warm enough to be outside.  It’s the perfect excuse to go for brunch and stay through for a late lunch at places like Charlotte’s W5 in Ealing or Grain Store, King’s Cross.

2.  If the sun DOES decide to shine, pubs and cafes can become very busy very quickly.  Great if you like a lively atmosphere, but for something a little quieter it’s worth looking at some of the hotel terrace offerings.  Try the new Garden Lounge at The Corinthia, the secluded terrace at The Royal Horseguards hotel or the quirky rooftop terrace at the Sanctum Soho Hotel which comes complete with rock and roll styling and a hot tub for residents!  There’s plenty of space at the newly opened Dalloway Terrace, which serves a great all day brunch menu at weekends.

Boulestin3.  Some of the best places for al fresco dining are hidden from the street.  There’s a magical garden at the Troubadour coffee shop in Earls Court with plenty of options for food and drink from snacks and salads to full meals.  The Bleeding Heart in the City has a great courtyard area set back from the street where you can enjoy their traditional French cuisine and excellent wines.  And Boulestin in the heart of St James’s, has a pretty hidden courtyard, lit at night by original Victorian gas lamps.  It’s the site of the last duel fought in England and the smallest private courtyard in London.

4.  The South Bank has a range of great options for al-fresco dining.  You’ll find family friendly restaurants, including Giraffe and Wahaca by the concert halls and theatres.  A little further east, if you are looking for something different, Gabriel’s Wharf has good casual dining options including The Gourmet Pizza Company and The Wharf – both with substantial outside terraces and a river view.  Anchor Bankside, just after the Globe theatre, has riverside tables and a good selection of pub grub.  Once you reach Tower Bridge there are a group of restaurants with river terraces and great views where you can indulge in everything from French fine dining at Le Pont de la Tour (pictured below) to casual Italian at Cantina del Ponte or traditional British dishes at Butlers Wharf Chop House.

Le Pont de la Tour5.  Don’t discount Shopping Centres.  There are good options for al fresco dining in Duke of York Square where you’ll find Polpo, Comptoir Libanais, Manicomio and even a small informal dining area outside traditional grocers Partridges.  St Christopher’s Place, just off Oxford Street at the Bond Street end is similarly well served.  And, some of the bigger department stores have great rooftop bars and terraces.  Try Harvey Nichols or Selfridges, for example.

Looking for the perfect place to dine outdoors? Check out our round-up of the London’s best restaurants for al fresco dining, plus these waterside restaurants with views of the Thames.

News bites: What we’re reading

From naked restaurants to top spots for tapas, here’s what we’re reading about this month.

IbericaWhere are the best Spanish restaurants in Manchester? – Manchester Evening News

The Fork Awakens: London is getting a Star Wars pop-up restaurant – Metro

Chefs Claude and Cedric Bosi to open Surrey pub – The Caterer

Waiting list at London’s naked restaurant reaches 27,000 (and counting) – Telegraph

New York’s Dominique Ansel Bakery are bringing their cronuts to London – Hot Dinners

“There is…an understated brilliance to this restaurant which does set it apart.” – Jay Rayner reviews The Ninth

Ten great places to eat & drink in and around Bournemouth – Olive Magazine

Got some food news or a restaurant review we should check out? Get in touch!

UK diners fed up with phone use at the restaurant table

Have you ever watched a dish go cold while someone instagrams it? Or been tempted to hurl your partner’s phone into the ice bucket? You’re not alone. Our recent research revealed that 90% of Brits said they find it rude when others use their phones during a meal and 83% would welcome a ‘no phone zone’ in restaurants.

While Brits are increasingly frustrated by phone use at the table, it’s something most of us are guilty of. 66% of diners use their phone when dining out, spending an average of 7 minutes neglecting our fellow guests. 32% of diners ask for a restaurant’s Wi-Fi password before they’ve even ordered their meal and a shocking 40% wouldn’t go to a restaurant if it didn’t have Wi-Fi.

NoPhoneZone2The rise of Instagram and our appetite for food porn has had a huge effect, with 41% of us regularly posting food pics on social media. 18% admit to posting about a meal on social media to make their followers envious, while 1 in 10 do it to give the impression they lead an indulgent lifestyle. Restaurants have embraced this trend, encouraging diners to tweet and share photos of their signature dishes.

Adrian Valeriano, Vice President of OpenTable Europe, comments, “Mobile phones and social media are now a central part of both our professional and social lives, so it isn’t surprising to see that diners are using their mobiles at the dinner table more than ever. It’s fair to say that in recent years the restaurant industry has had to adapt to this change in dining behaviour, but you would be hard-pushed to find an establishment that had a problem with it. However, if diners are serious about wanting no-phone zones, it will be fascinating to see whether restaurants adopt it.”

Food critic Grace Dent comments, “I am definitely guilty of using social media at a restaurant dining table and I don’t see a problem with sharing the odd snap of your meal here and there. However, it’s fair to say the trend for ‘food porn’ is impacting on the pleasure of the dining experience. As a result we’re all guilty of forgetting basic social manners and so I think it’s important to establish a greater sense of etiquette and decorum at the restaurant table.”

Some of Grace’s tips include:

  • We all use various technology and social media to book and discover new restaurants but once sat opposite your dining partner, remember you’re there to be with them.
  • Prioritise conversation. If someone’s more interested in being on their phone than being with you, it’s time to get the cheque.
  • Food first, filter later. Get in and get out, if you’re desperate to document and upload your food then make sure you document it quickly and labour over uploading it later.
  • Don’t insist on involving your fellow diners in a social media brag. If your guest doesn’t want to be snapped mid-gorge, then respect that fact.
  • Never, ever, let someone’s social media snapping get in the way of enjoying your food. If they want to photograph your dish, they should have ordered it.
  • Rearrange the table at your peril. Not only does it invite judgement from your fellow diners, but you’ll look like Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen shifting furniture on Changing Rooms.

Are you guilty of being glued to your phone when you’re dining out? Would you visit a restaurant with a ‘no phone zone’? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #NoPhoneZone.

OpenTable Discover: App redesign helps travellers and locals discover new dining experiences

In anticipation of summer travel season, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our redesigned OpenTable iOS app, enabling diners to more easily discover and book great dining experiences, from the hottest new restaurants to neighbourhood gems.

The redesign features a new Discover tab, which allows traveling and local diners to discover more with a single tap by connecting them to new dining experiences, ranging from trending cuisines to most popular restaurants.

OpenTableDiscover“Whether you’re landing hungry on the tarmac in a new city or planning a last minute date night in your local neighbourhood, OpenTable wants to be the dining concierge in your pocket,” said our own Christa Quarles, OpenTable Chief Executive Officer. “Dining has never been more mobile and our new app experience helps diners discover the perfect restaurant to satisfy every occasion, mood and craving whether they’re at home or on the road.”

The content presented on the Discover tab factors in elements like availability, popularity, proximity and personal favourites. It enables quick visual browsing of categories to get recommendations that will satisfy any taste. The recommendations are especially handy for local diners eager to explore something new and for travellers hoping to sink their teeth into amazing culinary experiences. New categories in the Discover tab include:

  • Most Popular – Restaurants with the highest popularity scores
  • My Favourites – Diner’s favourite restaurant list
  • Special Features – Restaurants perfect for every occasion ranging from romantic to kid-friendly
  • Near Me Now – Nearby restaurants with immediate availability
  • Dinner Tonight – Restaurants with availability that night
  • Earn Bonus Points – Restaurants with bonus dining points available

The OpenTable Discover tab is currently rolling out gradually for English-language iPhone users of the OpenTable app in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. Android support will be launched shortly. In addition to the new features of the redesign, diners can still use OpenTable’s quick and easy search functionality.

To find out more about OpenTable’s newest discovery-focused app features, please find details here. And be sure to share your experiences with Discover using the hashtag #DiscoverOpenTable here or over on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.