The best places to eat, stay, shop and visit in the South West

Must-visit alfresco dining experiences

From floating restaurants to pop-up tipis
River Exe Cafe - Alfresco dining experiences
River Exe Cafe

Shades and sun cream at the ready: 2021 is going to be the spring/summer of outdoor eating. From floating restaurants to pop-up tipis, we’ve rounded up the South West’s must-visit alfresco dining experiences

River Exe Cafe, near Exmouth

The South West is brimming with unique alfresco dining experiences, but few can rival River Exe Café near Exmouth, Devon.

The converted barge is docked offshore in the River Exe Estuary, offering diners unrivalled views of the picture-postcard villages that line the water. The floating ‘gastro shed’ can only be reached via water taxi (caught from nearby Exmouth) or private boat and, as well as a window-lined dining room, has a waterside terrace for blue-sky feasting.

Naturally, fish and seafood take top billing on the seasonal menu which is stocked by hyperlocal producers such as Devon Quality Fish and Dorset Oysters. There are also meat and veggie options for those wanting to feast on the views not the fish.

The Pipe & Love at Breaking Bread

Breaking Bread, Bristol

When a group of Bristol’s best indie chefs, pub landlords and events bods team up to create an outside foodie village, you know it’s going to be good.

A collaboration between The Pony & Trap, Pasta Loca and Pasta Ripiena, Team Love, The Love Inn and Pipe & Slippers, Breaking Bread on Clifton Downs was the place to eat in Bristol in summer 2020 and the gang are back for another season of alfresco eating and drinking.

For casual feasting, book a bench at The Pipe & Lovers outdoor pub where you can chow down on the likes of wild garlic and fennel bangers and mash, Cornish seaweed breaded cod, and Keralan vegetable curry. If you’re looking for something fancier, the tipi-covered Restaurant (open from May) offers fine dining from the chefs behind The Pony & Trap and Bianchis Group (Pasta Loca, Pasta Ripiena and Bianchis).

Homewood Hotel & Spa

Homewood Hotel & Spa, near Bath

Looking for a unique way to celebrate a special occasion with your nearest and dearest while restrictions prevent a blowout party? Homewood Hotel & Spa near Bath has created the perfect alternative: barbecue dining domes.

Nestled along the tree line of the Georgian country house, the uber-luxe domes offer a completely novel dining experience. Start your leisurely lunch or special dinner with a glass of Champagne Tattinger before embarking on a three-course feast cooked on the Big Green Egg. One of your party will even be invited to take on sous chef duties and help prepare the main course with the pro chefs on the lawn.

Ox Barn at Thyme

Thyme, Cotswolds

If you’re patiently counting down the days until hotels reopen and you can escape to a luxury Cotswolds country house, we recommend visiting Thyme’s alfresco restaurant to pass the time.

From Friday to Sunday, relaxed restaurant Ox Barn has relocated to its south-facing terrace for alfresco lunches and sunset suppers. Head chef Charlie Hibbert has created a tempting spring menu which features produce-led sharing-style dishes such as porchetta tonnato, puntarella and anchovy salad, and crab on hot-buttered toast.

Tables are first come first served, but you can always browse the shop and explore the beautiful grounds if there is a short wait.

Porthminster Beach Cafe

Porthminster Beach Café, St Ives

There’s no better side to a plate of fresh-from-the-sea fish than the sound of waves lapping at the shore and the waft of salt water and seaweed. And, thanks to its beachside location, Porthminster Beach Café in St Ives offers the complete package.

Until the main restaurant reopens in May, the terrace will be abuzz with holidaymakers and locals toasting their first meals out with locally made Polgoon sparkling rosé and a tower of lip-smackingly fresh seafood. If you can’t secure a table for lunch or dinner, join the team for a brunch of poached eggs, smoked salmon and hollandaise. 

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