7 best garden tables that are perfect for alfresco dining

Whatever space you're working with, we've found outdoor furniture to suit

Aime Grant Cumberbatch
Friday 28 May 2021 15:50
<p>Garden accessories have exploded in number and variety, with everything from<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/house-garden/garden-furniture/best-hanging-egg-chair-aldi-b1838752.html"></a>  egg chairs to<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/house-garden/bbqs-accessories/best-fire-pit-garden-bbq-grill-campfire-chiminea-camping-patios-cooking-a9670096.html"></a> fire pits  appearing on balconies, patios, and lawns across the country</p>

Garden accessories have exploded in number and variety, with everything from egg chairs to fire pits appearing on balconies, patios, and lawns across the country

Gardens are a delight and one that has perhaps never been so precious. In fact, a study by property site RightMove found that searches for homes with gardens were up 100 per cent in June 2020 compared to June 2019.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who does have access to outdoor space (and lucky you are, as one in eight people in the UK doesn’t, rising to one in five in London) then decking it out with the right furniture, accessories, and plant life to make it as pleasant as possible is obviously a top priority. So much so that the demand for garden furniture has led to retailers experiencing shortages in recent months.

Garden accessories have exploded in number and variety, with everything from egg chairs to fire pits and pizza ovens appearing on balconies, patios, and lawns across the country.

But that doesn’t mean more traditional outdoor furniture like the humble garden table isn’t worth investing in – after all you’ll need somewhere to eat all those pizzas you’ll be rustling up.

In the UK, dining outside is a summer treat that’s rare and worth relishing. But even if you don’t intend on dishing up an al fresco banquet, a side table or coffee table will make simply lounging with a drink and a few snacks so much more enjoyable.

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If you’re puzzling over which garden table to purchase this year, we’ve simplified the process by trying and testing some of the best options out there. From side tables and sun lounger tables to dining tables that could double up as a potting bench, in metal, wood, and poly-rattan.

We’ve taken into consideration, style, surface space, sturdiness, stability and store-ability, subjecting each and everyone to the wobble test, so you can get on with the real purpose of a garden – enjoying it.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best garden tables 2021:

  • Best overall: Scaramanga vintage folding table: £235, Scaramangashop.co.uk
  • Best for roomy two-person dining: B&Q denia wooden table: £75, Diy.com
  • Best side table with extra snack space: Novogratz Roberta side table: £115, Freemans.com
  • Best for small balconies: Ikea tarno table: £15, Ikea.com
  • Best for storing and transporting: Christow Home 6ft folding garden table: £79, Christowhome.co.uk
  • Best for using a laptop on your lounger: Alps sunlounger table: £89, Dobbies.com
  • Best for visual impact: Jakta round garden table: £350, Laredoute.co.uk

Scaramanga vintage folding table

Best: Overall

Materials: Metal and tropical hardwood

Measurements: L150cm x D60cm x H75cm

With sustainability increasingly on shoppers’ minds, vintage furniture is growing in popularity. You may have qualms about the sturdiness of second-hand options, but well-sourced old furniture can offer quality craftsmanship and durability at very reasonable prices. Moreover, when you buy from Scaramanga specifically, each piece is sourced by owner Carl Morejenki who has 15 years of experience buying and selling vintage, antique and recycled furniture.

The quality and provenance of each item is checked by the Scaramanga team and restorations are made where necessary to ensure a piece can continue to be enjoyed well into the future. When repairs are required they are done using sustainable materials like reclaimed woods and in a manner that ensures the piece retains its unique character and charm. All furniture is also guaranteed by the company for a year.

The vintage folding table we tested was a gorgeous bright blue (though, of course, individual pieces will vary in finish). Assembly was easy – just a case of unfolding the trestle legs and giving them a quick tap with a hammer to ensure they were fully in place. The table is very heavy which means it isn’t ideal for moving around – it’s definitely one for those who have a fixed dining spot in their garden.

However, what it lacks in transportability it makes up for in sturdiness – you can tell this is a solid, well-built table that has stood the test of time and will continue to. Its lived-in charm brings character to a garden but it’s definitely one for those who like their outdoor space rustic rather than immaculate. It’s not the most spacious of table tops, but its depth of 60cm does give you enough room for two standard dinner plates with some space to spare. Plus, its length of 150cm makes it easy to stagger places if needed, with some room spare for serving dishes.

You should be able to fit four very comfortably, six at a bit of a squeeze and eight at a real push with two on either end. But it’s worth noting that the trestle supports do become a bit of a knee knocking hazard with more than two people on each side. As it’s slim, it’s still a great option for those pushed for space. Plus, the table is easily sturdy and roomy enough to be used as a potting bench if you require your garden furniture to do double duty.

Denia wooden table

Best: For roomy two-person dining

Materials: Acacia wood

Measurements: H75cm x L90cm x W90cm

The Denia is made out of attractive acacia wood, known for being a durable and sustainable option. Despite what you might expect for the price, the wood is of good quality, is rust and UV-resistant and has a smooth finish and warm tone. It requires what initially appears to be some fairly straightforward assembly, however, it was a tight fit trying to fit the washers in between the legs and the brackets, so what should have been a simple 15-minute job turned into a half-an-hour faff. It’s easy to fold up and down, however, so once assembled you shouldn’t need to worry about the washers again when storing.

It’s got a generously-sized top at (90cm x 90cm), which leaves plenty of room for plates and serving dishes. While the surface is certainly large enough for four people and it’s advertised as being intended for that number, we’d argue it’s best for two – any extra guests will find they struggle to comfortably tuck in because of the design of the legs. You could get around this by sitting at a corner, but it’s not ideal. However, for this price, we’d say it’s a sacrifice worth making, especially if you usually dine with just two people and rarely need to accommodate more. The top has gaps between each slats allowing rainwater to drain through, but these are mercifully narrow which means there’s no risk of glasses tipping.

Novogratz roberta side table

Best: Side table with extra snack space

Materials: Steel

Dimensions: W51cm x D51cm x H55.4cm

This Freemans side table is ideal for lovers of clean lines and simple but effective design. It’s made from powder-coated steel, and has a large surface which allows for side plates and the potential to use it as a small coffee table. It’s not only nice and sturdy but is weather-proof and available in white if you’re after a more minimalist feel or bright yellow for a pop of colour.

It passed the wobble test with flying colours and although slightly weightier than others, it was still easily moveable by one person, making it ideal for sun chasing. It’s also no assembly required, a real boon for when you just want to get out in the garden and enjoy the sun. It comes with one year warranty against defective materials or workmanship, to give you extra peace of mind.

Ikea tarno table

Best for: Small balconies

Materials: Acacia and steel

Dimensions: L55cm x W54cm x H70cm

These are a balcony and small garden classic and at £15 a pop are an absolute steal. Our tester has them in her own garden and they’ve survived a lot of weathering with minimal warping – although the acacia wood does start to look a little grey and sad after about a year of use. However, this is something that could be easily, and cheaply, rectified if you’re handy with a paintbrush and a pot of weatherproof wood stain. They are light, moveable, and easily pushed together to create extra settings. You’ll need one for every two people you want to seat.

While cheap and cheerful and available with legs in a variety of shades, there are a couple drawbacks to these tables. In order to fold them up and down, you have to unscrew a metal pin – it’s not complicated and can be done by hand without tools, but it is a bit of a faff, especially for those on a small balcony with not much room to manoeuvre. The other potential drawback is top size – this is small (54cm x 55cm) which means a standard dinner plate, cutlery and a drink just fits, but squeezing in serving dishes is a pipe dream. However, for the price, you could easily purchase another table to use purely for serving. And for those after a table for a very petite balcony, its small size will work well.

The other, and for us, the biggest drawback, is the size of the gap between the slats. It’s large enough to destabilise drinks, and sent a water bottle and clattering onto the floor and a glass of wine into someone’s lap when we tested it. Coasters will sort this problem out, but if you’re going to be using these tables for drinks, it’s something worth bearing in mind. Assembly is easy and, metal pin aside, these are simple to fold down flat and store. You can get the metalware in a variety of colours with matching chairs that are just as competitively priced.

Christow Home 6ft folding garden table

Best for: Storing and transporting

Materials: Polypropylene and steel

Dimensions: H72cm x W74 xcm x L178cm

While our personal preference is for the natural rattan effect, you can’t argue that this black rattan-effect table from Christow is well worth the price. It may not be the world’s most stylish option, but it more than makes up for that in sturdiness and practicality. It’s fairly light (enough to be carried by one person) and includes a handle to make transporting even easier, which is great for moving the table in and out of a shed or vehicle should you wish to take this one camping or caravaning. It’s easy to put up and down and folds away very neatly.

At 74cm by 178cm the top is spacious enough to fit six with space for serving dishes. You won’t be able to squeeze in extras on the ends without knees being knocked against the table legs, however. The frame is sturdy powder-coated steel, and the poly rattan, while a little shiny when compared to the real thing, is sure to last longer than the natural fibre and is a lot easier to clean – very useful if you’re planning on using your table for dining. Matching chairs are also available should you wish to complete the set.

Alps sunlounger table

Best for: Using a laptop on your lounger

Materials: Synthetic wicker and aluminium

Dimensions: H61.5cm x L49cm x D43cm

Designed as a lounger table, for which a matching lounger can be purchased, this is a useful side table that’s sturdy and well made. It’s larger than it appears on the website so do be sure to measure if you’re working with a particularly small space. It’s also quite tall, so it’s best used with raised loungers, rather than those that are very low to the ground. However, it would still work with a lower lounger if needed, it just will be more of a stretch to access with your drinks and snacks.

The design comes in handy for slotting in around you so it’s easy to use a laptop while lounging – ideal for making the most of WFH living. It’s made from durable poly wicker with sand and grey tones blended to achieve a more natural effect. The rattan is very neutral and should blend in well with garden accessories in lots of different colours too. It also comes with a glass top which provides a very stable surface for drinks and snacks, however, it does require regular shining as marks are easily noticeable.

It arrives assembled, which is a great time-saver, but it doesn’t fold down, so it’s not ideal if you’re looking to store and are pressed for space. It comes with casters on the bottom to raise the rattan off the ground, which should help stop it from wearing when moved, but it does make the table slightly less stable than it would be if it sat directly on the ground. The table still passed the wobble test, however, and it’s easily moveable by one person if you’re wanting to follow the sun around your garden. Wipeable, waterproof and UV-resistant, with a three-year warranty (subject to T&Cs) – overall this is a really practical and versatile option.

Jakta round garden table

Best for: Visual impact

Materials: Acacia wood

Dimensions: D130cm x H75cm

We’ll make no bones about it, this table isn’t the easiest to assemble which is disappointing for the price. The instructions are somewhat misleading when it comes to the placement of the legs, and though we eventually worked it out, this took a good 30 minutes to build, if not more. If you have minimal patience for flat-pack assembly then this might be one to skip, but for those more willing to persevere or those able to afford to pay someone else too, this is still a table worth having.

When you finally have it assembled it’s a thing of beauty. The leg effect is architectural and adds interest – a nice twist on a traditional round garden table. The top has an attractive starburst pattern, with a hole for an umbrella. The slats are spaced to let water through but with gaps thin enough to ensure no danger of drinks being destabilised.

It’s very spacious, fitting four generously, six comfortably and eight at a push with some space leftover for serving dishes. The acacia wood has a gorgeous warm teak tone and patina and comes with the previously mentioned benefits of durability and relative planet-friendliness. You can get the table in an all-teak colour option or with black legs to suit your style. There’s also a matching side table should you wish to complete the set or a slightly larger rectangular version if you’d like a little more space.

As for storage, it’s much easier to deconstruct than it is to construct and its constituent parts don’t take up a huge amount of space width-ways. However, any storage space will need to be deep to accommodate the diameter of the top. Given that it’s a bit of a faff to assemble and heavy enough to require two people to move it, you may want to opt for a rain-proof cover and leave it in situ, given it’s unlikely to blow over.

The verdict: Garden tables

For style, sustainability, and sourcing it has to be the Scaramanga vintage table. Knowing your table has been specially selected from a reputable source and carefully restored where needed is well worth paying for. Plus, as it’s pre-loved, any additional weathering just adds to the rustic charm.

For those looking for a bit more space, or for a more immaculate garden feel, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more versatile and practical option than the Christow Home folding table. For those with their eye on a drinks table with ample space for snacks, the Freemans Novogratz roberta is a well-constructed winner.

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