Whiling away a sunny evening in a secret beer garden sounds as close an approximation to Heaven as you might ever find on Earth.
Happily, you needn’t venture to the Pearly Gates for the experience; simply pop down to Balham and the Regent pub. (Or up to Balham, depending on your part of London.)
Here you can enjoy a garden the size of a small field, populated by plenty of foliage and groups of happy people whose expression tended to be set to ‘blissful’. When we visited on a Friday at the start of August, the mood was somewhere between a festival and Lotus Island circa the Odyssey: aka pretty damn idyllic.
Yes, there’s Aperol Spritz, and cocktails, and beer both local and continental. There’s also a food menu that showcases the Great British Pub at its best.
I went for the Beer Battered Fish and Chips; my friend the Cumberland Sausage and Herb Mash. Proper food, to line the stomach and make the heart sing.
Order a small plate or two first (can’t go wrong with Crispy Squid) and make sure you leave room for the Pineapple Upside Down Cake - well, you’ve got to have your fruit intake, right?
Why so spacious? The Secret Garden doesn’t belong to The Regent - you have to access it through a wardrobe round the back of the pub. The land belongs to the adjacent school, the two British institutions joining forces for a truly communal project.
Ideally it would run the whole year round (well, October at least), but unfortunately the kids can’t really share their field with a load of pub-goers, and the little buggers were there first. So you have until the end of August.
Don’t waste time: this is one Secret you’ll want to share.
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The Secret Garden is open daily until the end of August from 12pm-10pm. Bookings can be made on The Regent