While we’re glad that we no longer have to eat al fresco in the name of coronavirus restrictions, there are certain types of outdoor dining establishments in London that we love above all others: rooftop bars and restaurants. London’s rooftop bars and restaurants are magical places. In them, we take pictures of the sunset that – at the time – we believe are worthy of submission to National Geographic. We wonder whether we should have dressed more appropriately. We literally look down on people. We have fun. Here are the best.
Californian-cum-Mexican restaurant Madera isn't just elevated in terms of its menu and location, its general atmosphere will make you feel high too. This is never more true than at one of its monthly 'party brunches' which feature DJ sets, dance acts and Casamigos tequila cocktails paired with its signature brunch fare. Along with the umlimited churros on offer, the chorizo bowl tends to be our choice in terms of food. It's also worth noting the extensive vegan menu – we didn't dub it 'Californian-cum-Mexican' for no reason.
14-15 Langham PlACE, W1B 2QS
If shopping at Harvey Nichols exhausts you, head to its rooftop terrace for a rest. However, given that Beluga Vodka has a pop-up there throughout summer, it has the potential to offer revelry as well as relaxation. We recommend a Noble Flirt and the salmon main in particular.
109-125 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7RJ
What do you get when you combine the rooftop terrace of the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel and The Botanist Gin? The Botanist Gin Rooftop Terrace, of course. With an array of cocktails (some gin-based, some not) and gastronomical delights such as mini fish and chips on the menu, it's all very fun until a fight breaks out over who has the honour of sitting in the swing (although we'd be happy sitting on the floor here).
Euston Road, NW1 2AR
Technically, Allegra is a terrace not a rooftop. But given that it’s a terrace on the seventh floor of The Stratford, it might as well be. With dishes including lobster french toast and scallop tartare, the food is as inventive as it is luxurious.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 20 International Way, E20 1FD
Forza Wine is just one of at least three rooftop bars in Peckham, but its relative youth and moderate size makes it feel the most exclusive. We recommend ordering the whole menu (which features things like burrata with raw artichoke) and leaving the rest of your visit to fate.
133A Rye Lane, SE15 4BQ
Before Frank’s Cafe existed, many people were loath to travel even the tiniest bit south of the river, never mind all the way to Peckham. Now – whether for brunch, lunch, dinner or drinks – they come in their droves and refuse to leave, which might also have something to do with its notorious pink staircase.
Bold Tendencies, 7th – 10th Floors, Multi-Storey Car Park, 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4TG
If you want to be above everyone else in Peckham, go to Bussey Rooftop Bar – it’s literally the highest drinking spot there. And, aside from the glorious pizza and cocktails, it’s also a comedy venue. Both Stevie Martin and Sara Pascoe are performing there soon.
Roof B, Bussey Building, 133 Rye Lane, SE15 4ST
It’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth of Brixton Village, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if it results in you ascending to Lost in Brixton. Glory to the QR codes that enable you to order food from the restaurants below! We oscillate between quesadilla from Jalisco and okonomiyaki from Okan, but there are a wealth of options to choose beyond those (and a wealth of cocktails).
Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8PS
Imagine languishing on a daybed in the clouds. That’s what we go to Pergola Paddington to do. And, when we’re feeling considerably more uptight, to sit on a bench at a table. Although once we’ve had our fair share of pineapple negroni, we forget what ‘uptight’ even means. This may or may not lead to us ordering something from all four restaurants currently based there – not to share.
4 Kingdom Street, W2 6PY
So, The Cheese Barge probably won’t be the highest rooftop restaurant you’ll ever go to, but with an upper deck that seats twenty, it’s a rooftop restaurant nonetheless. It specialises in – you guessed it – cheese, with the menu offering various forms of the stuff. We’re craving one of their grilled cheese sandwiches as we type.
Paddington Basin, Sheldon Square, W2 6DL
If you ever find yourself being pursued by someone who works in The City, ask them to take you to Coq d’Argent. On account of the wonderful wine list and faultless French food, you’ll have a lovely evening regardless of whether you like them or not. And the panoramic views of London are a good excuse to avoid any unnecessary eye contact.
1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ
The ME hotel’s Radio Rooftop would be a joy to visit even if all you did there was point out significant London landmarks. But that would be foolish, because its food and drink options are as excellent as they are extensive. You can even add CBD drops to whatever you order of the latter.
336-337 Strand, WC2R 1HA
We’ve had many a main character moment to ‘Seabird’ the song, but we have to admit that Seabird, the rooftop restaurant in Southwark, is better. How can anything compete with an establishment that boasts the longest oyster list in London? Or its array of sea-to-table offerings with Spanish and Portuguese influences?
14th Floor, 40 Blackfriars Road, SE1 8NY
As if going to The Dorchester itself wasn’t appealing enough, you can now go to The Dorchester Rooftop to feel even grander. There are certainly worse places to eat delicious food (from a series of culinary pop-ups that celebrate British, French and Mediterranean cuisine) and watch the sun set over Hyde Park.
53 Park Lane, W1K 1QA
If you’re looking for an oasis which is both in The City and seemingly light-years away from it, we recommend Sabine. If you have a particular penchant for gin, even better: Botanist Gin has a pop-up there running until September.
10 Godliman Street, EC4V 5AJ
Merely going up in the lift to Madison is impressive enough, but once you're there it's like you're not even in London – until you see the skyline, that is. This summer, however, that's sort of its intention: the bar and restaurant is partnering with CÎROC to create a 'luxury Ibiza beach club' without the hassle of actually leaving the country. We'll be there with a champagne colada in one hand and a cod taco in the other.
One New Change, St Paul’s, EC4M 9AF