There are people who make plans and there are people who plan to make plans. This guide is for the latter. Not everyone could have foreseen that hungry and thirsty Londoners - both literally and metaphorically - would book up every table, every corner, and every bin-adjacent ‘terrace’ as soon as restaurants opened for bookings.
Thankfully, restaurants knew this as well. And these excellent spots either have some seats or are entirely made for the likes of us who lean a little more spontaneous.
- Bellanger: Arguably Islington’s finest and roomiest terrace is operating on a first-come-first-served-only basis, Tuesday to Sunday.
- Made In Italy: The Neapolitan pizza specialist is walk-in only at their Battersea location and its dozen or so pavement tables.
- Sodo Pizza: Sourdough pizza, natural wines, and a solid number of seats without a reservation are on offer at Sodo.
- E Pellicci: We once described E Pellicci as a living breathing situational comedy, where the situation is an authentic East End cafe, and you’re one of the main characters, whether you like it or not. It's first come first served on their outside tables right now.
- 40 Maltby Street: For the organised, lucky, or very patient: 40 Maltby have got a handful of tables outside for their bar menu and drinks, Wednesday to Saturday, from 5:30pm.
- Fish Wings & Tings: Although the reliably delicious Caribbean spot in Brixton Village does take bookings, there’s also room for walk-ins on their trestle tables out front.
- Negril: Negril’s front garden is an excellent summer dinner spot in Brixton and the Caribbean restaurant is welcoming walk-ins as well as reservations.
- Theo’s: With a not-so-secret garden for walk-in diners and now a load of tables out front, you should be eating pizza and sipping cocktails in no time at Theo’s.
- Mildred’s: London’s most popular vegetarian and vegan mini-chain has a load of al fresco walk-in options. They’ve extended their outdoor dining area in Camden especially.
- Colbert: Excellent for all Francophiles, Colbert’s pavement terrace is open Tuesday to Sunday and is walk-in only.
- Granger & Co: The always-reliable Aussie cafe and restaurant is walk-in only for breakfast and lunch and has a decent number of tables on the pedestrianised Pavilion Road.
- La Mia Mamma Hollywood Road: Complete with a secret patio and back garden, La Mia Mamma’s new location is around the corner from their original spot on the King’s Road.
- Made In Italy: The west London Italian mini-chain has a kept handful of tables on its idyllic little roof terrace aside for walk-ins.
- Cue Point: Cue Point’s residency at The Chiswick Pavilion means you can get their 16-hour smoked brisket, lamb barbacoa, Afghan chutney and dips, and more, whenever you want. Not only are the open to walk-ins, they’re also doing drive through.
- Sodo Pizza: Sourdough pizza and a solid number of seats without a reservation are available at Sodo.
- Koya City: The City outpost of London’s udon specialist always has room for walk-ins but you might have a little wait.
- Mildred’s: London’s most popular vegetarian and vegan mini-chain has a load of al fresco walk-in options. They describe their outdoor dining area in Dalston as “massive” (!).
- Oren: Oren’s Mediterranean-inspired menu is made for picking and sharing. They’ve kept some standing tables aside for walk-ins for you to do just that, alongside a drink or two.
- Slurp Yard: A new wine bar (and soon-to-be restaurant) in Dalston. Slurp is neighbours with The Dusty Knuckle and is open seven days a week, from 4pm on weekdays and from midday on Saturdays. Its covered space has room for 150 people.
- Yalla Yalla: Yalla Yalla’s al fresco isn’t the largest, but their Lebanese menu is very enticing. If the weather is a bit chilly there are heaters as well.
- Marksman: The esteemed gastropub has a glorious balcony/terrace that very much isn’t available for walk-ins. But their tables and chairs out front are for both pints and nibbles.
- Ozone Coffee Roasters: Breakfast, brunch, pizza and all-round enjoyable place specialists Ozone have opened a brand spanking new outdoor seating area at their Emma Street location.
- Pophams: As good for pastries as it is handmade pasta, the Hackney location of Pophams bakery has covered and heated outdoor seating. Expect to wait patiently.
- Bake Street: A brilliant spot in between Stoke Newington and Hackney Downs with a weekend menu has become the stuff of legend, brunch is served outside from 11am and it’s walk-in only.
- My Neighbours The Dumplings: This popular dumpling spot are taking reservations at their newer, bigger, Victoria Park outpost, but the original Clapton branch is walk-in only.
- Smokehouse: The Islington meat specialist is taking bookings for diners but also keeping tables aside for drinkers who, more than likely, will then have a snack.
Highbury & Islington
- Four Legs @ The Compton Arms: Home to one of London’s finest cheeseburgers and a scant amount of walk-in standing tables in their garden, swing by if you’re happy to take a chance.
- St Paul: A daytime coffee shop with a solid brunch set-up, this Highbury Corner spot is walk-in only in the evening too, when it converts into a wine bar.
- Cafe Bao: Self-service is the set-up at the King’s Cross outpost of Bao, so one person grab a table and the other get the buns in.
- Mildred’s: London’s most popular vegetarian and vegan mini-chain has a load of al fresco walk-in options. Their King’s Cross spot is covered too.
- Hoppers: London’s most popular Sri Lankan mini-chain is holding some tables back for stragglers, but don’t expect a tonne.
- Bright: A month on the terrazzo is how the London Fields wine bar is billing things and 90% of it is reserved for those seeking natural wines, superb small and big plates, and shelter under their gazebo.
- Padella: A table inside Borough Market is as idyllic as it sounds and Padella have got a few of those. Turn-up or queue virtually with the WalkUp app.
- Tapas Brindisa: The OG location of the tapas spot on the edge of Borough Market has always been first-come-first-served, or you can queue virtually with the WalkUp app.
- Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte: As ever, the French-born steak and chips house is strictly walk-in only for their dozen or so pavement tables.
- Farm Girl: Pastel pinks are a favourite of this all-day cafe, as are people without bookings. Turn up or check their queues time via WalkUp.
- Granger & Co: The always-reliable Aussie cafe and restaurant is walk-in only for breakfast and lunch and has extended their outdoor dining area in Notting Hill.
- La Mia Mamma: The newest location of the mamma-run Italian favourite is first-come first-served with a dozen plus uncovered tables on their pavement terrace.
- Sumi: The latest sushi spot from Endo of Endo at the Rotunda has a very limited six person outside terrace. It’s walk-in only and will definitely be worthwhile.
- Smokey Kudu: The slick cocktail bar in the arches of Peckham Queen’s Road has a comfy covered terrace and doesn’t take bookings.
- Albion: The brunch favourite on Redchurch Street is operating a walk-in only policy for its NYC-feeling pavement set-up.
- Dishoom: Open from 8am on weekdays and 9am on weekends, Dishoom’s roomy outdoor terrace is available for those who get a sudden hankering for a bacon naan or a chicken ruby.
- Padella: The second location of London’s most well-known handmade pasta spot has a new specially built outdoor covered terrace. Take your chances or get queuing via WalkUp.
- Smokestak: Although you can book for 4-6 people, the majority of Smokestak’s 60 covers are being held for walk-in.
- Bar Termini: As good for coffee as it is for cocktails, the bar has space for walk-ins on its bustling Old Compton Street terrazza.
- Ceviche: Though Ceviche are taking bookings they’re also welcoming walk-ins. You might have to wait on the weekend.
- Dishoom: Open from 8am on weekdays and 9am on weekends, Dishoom’s roomy Carnaby Street terrace is available for those who get a sudden hankering for a bacon naan or a chicken ruby.
- Ducksoup: The wine bar and small plates spot has spread out onto Dean Street and is taking walk-ins as well as reservations.
- Mildred’s: London’s most popular vegetarian and vegan mini-chain has a load of al fresco walk-in options. Their outdoor Soho seating is covered as well.
- The French House: The legendary drinking hole with a classic bistro menu is strictly first-come first-served on their dozen-ish tables out front.
- The Table Cafe: The Southwark brunch spot is keeping things strictly first-come first-served, so head down there and nab a place on their roomy sharing tables.
St. John's Wood
- Soutine: The French-ish brasserie in St. John’s Wood by messrs Corbin and King has a dozen or so tables on its pavement terrace and is very much first come first served.
- Norman’s: The old school-inspired caf has a half-dozen red and white table-clothed spots out front waiting to be covered in ketchup.
- Sodo Pizza: Sourdough pizza and a solid number of seats without a reservation are on offer at Sodo.