Best for…Mary, Dickon and Colin
The Railway Tavern, 7 Station Rise, SE27 9BW. Phone: 020 8674 4101. www.therailwaytulsehill.co.uk
Presumably not a secret to those who live in Tulse Hill, the Railway Tavern has an actual secret garden. Surprising in its size (it’s as big as the pub itself), it’s a walled garden just like in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book (though more populated by boozing South Londoners) and surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers so you do feel a bit secluded and special.
The furniture is vintagey retro and quite lovely and there’s a roof canopy of fairy lights and vines. Look out for the Maori-style beach hut, out of which a barbecue is served at weekends.
Best for..duck lovers
If you haven’t been to ye olde Mayflower pub in Rotherhithe get thee there, as it’s fantastically ancient, full of dark wood, beams and leaded windows. Out the back isn’t strictly a garden, it’s more a deck or a jetty, but it sticks right out into the Thames alongside Bermondsey’s historic wharves with a view up to Tower Bridge, so it’s a great place to feel at one with London, or to take visitors (although not small ones as it’s a no-child zone) .
There are luscious hanging baskets and window boxes, inside which you might be lucky enough to find a mother duck nesting, as we were a few summers’ ago. Apparently now there are heaters and a marquis out there too.
117 Rotherhithe St, SE16 4NF, 020 7237 4088, www.themayflowerrotherhithe.com
Best For… barbecues
The Rye, 31 Peckham Rye, SE15 3NX. Phone: 020 7639 5397. http://www.theryepeckham.com
After undergoing a facelift last year, the Rye reopened in June 2012 as a trendy gastro pub, stylishly decorated with a modern rustic décor and spacious enough to always feel comfortable despite drawing crowds throughout the summer. Sports are played on the TV inside but it’s the massive beer garden out back that holds the most allure. Unlike many pubs which boast ‘gardens’ that are little more than a paved bin area, the Rye has an actual garden with grass, a BBQ, and outdoor table tennis. And they embrace the local area; they serve their soups with the local artisan Brick House bakery’s Peckham Rye bread.
Best for… chillaxing
The Sun, 47 Old Town, SW4 OJL. Phone: 020 7622 4980. http://www.thesunclapham.co.uk/
Renowned for its Sunday roasts and array of board games, the Sun in Clapham also has a relaxed alfresco area with cool music, modern furniture, trees lit up by fairy-lights, bamboo fencing and patio heaters that make braving the British weather feasible year-round. There’s also free WiFi, free coffee refills on Saturdays and plenty of year-round events on their calendar. Watch out for Independence Day celebrations with American craft beers served on July 4 and a certain joie de vivre for Bastille Day on July 14.
Best for… Pimm’s o’clock
Crown and Greyhound, 73 Dulwich Village, SE21 7BJ. Phone: 020 8299 4976. http://www.thecrownandgreyhound.co.uk/
Priding itself on being a proper local pub, the Crown and Greyhound embodies the leafy, tranquil charm of Dulwich Village. From the outside it towers above its neighbours resembling both the style and stature of a country pub. When the sun’s out, the sprawling paved courtyard is the ideal quiet spot to while away a Sunday afternoon, particularly when it’s cocktail hour somewhere. The pub is one step ahead: if you sign up to the mailing list you can claim a free Pimm’s on your next visit.
Best for… secret gardens
Duke of Edinburgh, 204 Ferndale Road, SW9 8AG. Phone: 020 7326 0301. www.thedukebrixton.com
Tucked away from the chaotic streets of Brixton, The Duke of Edinburgh’s spacious ‘secret garden’ is an urban oasis, with a canopy of trees and bunting zigzagging over wooden benches and tables, as well as beanbags for those lucky enough to nab them.
The pub offers a large selection of ales, world beers and Pimm’s (the ubiquitous summer drink), as well as a mean Bloody Mary. They are also hosting a cider festival on July 6 and 7.
The garden plays host to a BBQ at the weekends, serving up peri peri chicken, halloumi kebabs and delicious homemade burgers.