9 Festive Alfresco Spots to Book Now
From fairy-lit terraces to festive fire pit nights, ‘tis the season to eat ‘out out’. So, grab ALL the thermals and five of your best pals for some outdoor Christmassy fun.
The Crown, Stoke by Nayland
Stepping into The Crown’s Winter Garden is a bit like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia (without all the annoying coats). Festooned in fairy lights, this enchanting terrace is ridiculously pretty and boasts some impressive heaters too. If you’re still chilly, wrap up in a snuggly faux fur blanket and order another mulled wine. Big socks still advised!
Downhall, Bishop’s Stortford
There’s nothing quite as Christmassy as an English country estate and Downhall is arguably one of the county’s finest. For 2020, its Winter Orangery has been dressed up to the nines (not to be confused with last orders at ten) with twinkling lights and fantastically festive tableware. The clever kitchen team has also created a delicious, bespoke menu for its socially-distanced diners.
Le Talbooth, Dedham
The iconic Milsom’s sail covering the Winter Terrace has been given a Covid-friendly makeover this year with the addition of sturdy marquee sides, sumptuous floor rugs, festive festoon lighting and, most importantly, flickering heaters. What’s on the menu? Good old-fashioned, hearty dishes and warming weekly specials.
The Star, Ingatestone
Nestled amongst the twinkling independent shops on Ingatestone High street, The Star has been working hard during lockdown to give its garden a Covid-style glam up. Complete with Christmas decs, heaters, cosy throws and hot water bottles (genius), it’s all geared up for outside get-togethers with your favourite few.
Mrs Salisbury’s, Maldon
Hidden behind Mrs Salisbury’s new location in Church House, you’ll find its secret courtyard – complete with heated outdoor seating. The festive afternoon tea menu is dreamy with roasted turkey and stuffing finger sandwiches and warm scones topped with lashings of Tiptree morello cherry jam. Make it a boozy one (when in Rome, and all that) with their bottomless option to really make an afternoon of it. Oh, and for those booking in a bubble there’s also the super-cute ski gondolas, which have made a welcome return this year.
The Rose, Shenfield
This lovely little gastro pub – conveniently located just off the A12 – has also made the most of its outside space with a huge, heated marquee and socially-distanced gazebos (which proved popular in the summer months). The only downside to dining outdoors at The Rose is that no furry friends are allowed, so you’ll have to leave the pooch at home. Paw thing.
The Plough, Mountnessing
Covered? Tick. Heated? Tick. Christmassy? Tick. The Plough has gone all-out to make sure it can welcome its locals back with (socially-distanced) arms by transforming part of its car park into a tier-2-ready terrace. The setting of the pub might not be quite as pretty as some of the others on our list, but what it (slightly) lacks in location it makes up for in great, locally-sourced pub grub and cracking cocktails.
Bakehouse Coffee Shop, Chelmsford
Give me s’mores! Especially when they’re complimentary at the Bakehouse’s Chocolate Camper & Fire Pit evenings. Wrap up warm and enjoy tipsy tipples and sweet treats (supplied by Donut Kill My Vibe on a Thursday evening) round the roaring fire pit. You might even get some live entertainment from Sister Sax who has been making the odd cameo. There are a few tickets left if you’re quick!
The Lion Inn, Boreham
Essex folk (this Muddy Editor, included) flock to The Lion Inn’s stylish courtyard every summer for a refreshing pint or fruit-packed Pimms, but right now its outside space is all geared up for December dining. Alongside its signature topiary, there is a marquee for mixed households, heaters and contemporary festoon lights.