The other day I had to go out on the roof to clear a dead pigeon out of the guttering. The glamour of lockdown life. Like many Londoners we’ve not got a garden or outdoor space in our flat, and being up on the roof, the sun beating down and with an incredible view, I couldn’t help wonder which rooftop I’d be up on if it wasn’t lockdown? SUSHISAMBA in the city? Or maybe sipping a cocktail at 12th Knot at Seacontainers. Certainly not scraping three inches of pigeon guano off my roof and holding a deceased bird.
So I decided to list our favourite rooftops, and fully intend to tick them all off once quarantine allows…
‘Radio ga ga’ indeed: one lift we can’t wait to ride is the one at ME London. The hotel’s rooftop bar is one of London’s most popular come Friday night over summer, and it’s easy to see why a table here is such a hot booking.
Relax with a cocktail while the sun gently sets over London, turning The Strand orange as you look toward Trafalgar Square and bouncing off the river as you glance down. The moment Boris gives bars the thumbs up, all the waiting will have been worth it at Radio Rooftop.
Where: ME London, 336-337 Strand, WC2R 1HA
N0.3 Restaurant & Terrace
Smiths of Smithfield is a multi-storey restaurant that just gets better the further up it you travel. Starting on the ground floor with a grungey cafe and bar, full of city workers knocking back pints in the evening and salads during the day, followed by Death + Victory on the first floor, this time full of city workers sipping cocktails. Ascend to the second floor it’s city workers eating meat at The Grill.
But on the top floor, if you can keep going a little further, it all becomes worth it as N0.3 Restaurant & Terrace opens out across Smithfield Market.
Apparently the Beef Wellington is incredible, though when I went they’d temporarily stopped serving it. I hope it’s back as soon as I hope I am.
Where: 67-77 Charterhouse Street, Clerkenwell, EC1M 6HJ
Sure, Aqua Shard takes the prize for restaurant called Aqua with the most view: but quantity isn’t always quality, and while you might not be able to see all the way to the South Downs on a sunny day, at Aqua Nueva you can see in detail what’s going on on Regent Street below. And, on balance, perhaps that’s more interesting?
As are the cocktails and drinks on what it the West End’s busiest bar come Thursdays and Fridays. The restaurant itself would make an ideal stop off too, it really is rather good, but a seat outside, seconds from Oxford Circus and yet above all the hubbub, bliss!
Where: 30 Argyll Street, ‘Carnaby’, W1F 7EB
The artist formerly known as Rumpus Room has now been re-christened 12th Knot for over a year, but is no less the place for a rumpus.
Part of the endlessly cool Sea Containers, the terrace boasts some of the best views in London, with a bird’s eye view over St Paul’s and the Thames.
Live DJs, cocktails and fun make it a post-lockdown must.
Where: 20 Upper Ground, London, UK
The Rooftop St James
There are only two people with a view this good, and the other’s made of stone and only has one arm.
It’s a view that screams ‘Instagram’, and yet put your phone away and just enjoy the view for what it is, not to mention the drinks.
They used to charge a cheeky fee to head to the rooftop and their buy expensive drinks, thankfully they’ve stopped that (funny how these outrages stick in the memory long after!) but do be sure to book ahead as it can be tricky to get the best tables.
Where: 2 Spring Gardens, St. James’s, SW1A 2TS
Queen of Hoxton
Normally around this time of year we start to get excited about what Queen of Hoxton will be doing with their rooftop this summer. This year it’s different, for obvious reasons,
From Emerald City to Vegas to Morocco, the makeovers are just part of the fun. Downstairs there’s dancing and general nightclubbery, but on the roof it’s drinks, live music, installations and the stars.
Short of growing a three-foot beard and doing nitrous oxide while riding a penny farthing, it’s the ultimate Shoreditch experience.
Where: 1 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, EC2A 3JX
The Century Club
You’ll need to lobby a Century Club member to enjoy this one, but it’ll be worth whatever you bribed them with.
Billed as London’s ‘best kept secret’ (presumably along with how many children Boris has and how to navigate King’s Cross tube station), The Century Club sports one of our favourite rooftop terraces. With views over Soho and the West End and incredibly attentive staff it’s probably worth the membership fee just to be able to sit out and eat, drink or work on the club’s rooftop.
Where:61-63 Shaftesbury Avenue, Westminster, W1D 6LQ
If you suffer from vertigo this mightb’t be for you. Not only is the rooftop bar 37 storeys high but you arrive via a glass elevator! And it’s totally worth it.
The view is, of course, as good as it was always going to be given the height, but the unexpected tree, fabulous design and one of London’s most enjoyable restaurants inside make SUSHISAMBA a firm favourite.
Where: Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY
East London’s carpark rooftop does an annual spring flip from being one of the best places to head for ice stating and curling, to a whole new summer vibe. And, of course, we’re missing it right now more than ever.
Last May we welcomed a summer of rooftop croquet and pétanque as well as day beds and garden booths not to mention the screening of summer events.
We’ll just have to wait and see what post-quarantine brings, but we’ve still got high hopes.
Where: Tobacco Dock, Pennington Street entrance, St Katharine’s and Wapping, E1W 2SF
The Berkeley, a hotel that’s no stranger to a superlative, sets a high bar with its rooftop open air pool and secret garden.
Available to guests and spa-goers, it’s worth doing everything possible to find a way up there this summer. Lounge around, take a swim, grab a treatment or order in food and drinks. Best paired with a night at the hotel and an excellent meal at Michelin starred hotel restaurant Marcus.
WHERE: Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X 7RL
Aviary, dictionary definition ‘a bird house’, is an apt description. Not because there’s seed on the ground or bars on the windows (don’t worry, there’s neither), but it is up in bird-high territory and it’s worth crowing about.
Located on Finsbury Square, it’s got boast-worthy views, but is also great for city dining and cocktails, an advantage point that proves it’s more than just vantage point.
Savage Garden, not the 90’s Aussie band or a reference to your lockdown bikini line but rather the 12th floor restaurant and bar at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London.
The London Bridge 12th floor hangout has a large north facing terrace and is just out-and-out made for post-work drinks and rooftop fun.
Last summer brought a pink gin terrace, we can’t wait to hear what we’ll be enjoying this time round!
Where: 7 Pepys Street, Tower Hill EC3N 4AF
Angler, the Michelin starred fishy restaurant atop the South Place Hotel has rather a beautiful interior, in my opinion, but it’s nevertheless complimented by it’s own terrace, and it really does come into its own on a hot day.
Usually themed around a drinks brand in summer, last year it was the Cambridge Distillery, we’re waiting to hear what collaboration they’ll bring out after lockdown ends.
Where: South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, EC2M 2AF
Hotel Café Royal
Hotel Café Royal’s summer terrace is a retreat from the craziness of Picadilly Circus (so much crazy that it’s literally used as a byword for chaos) and enter tranquility at the terrace of Hotel Café Royal.
The covered terrace on the second floor of the Grade II listed Pompadour ballroom overlooks Regent Street, making for an idyllic spot to take in the energetic Soho scene.
Recline with a cocktail from the team behind Ziggy’s cocktail bar, or feast on light bite dishes and mezzah. There’s also a cigar and shisha menu available, set to take relaxation to a whole new level.
Ham Yard Hotel
The bar at Soho’s Ham Yard Hotel is always packed throughout the year. You’re probably yearning for crowds this year, but you’ll quickly tire especially when you discover one of Soho’s best kept secrets is also one of it’s most sought-after spots.
The roof terrace at the hotel is strictly guests-only, but there is a workaround. Use the spa. Far cheaper than taking a room, spa guests can use the rooftop bar and enjoy a real oasis amid tranquil perfection yet above the heaving streets below.
Where: 1 Ham Yard, Soho, W1D 7DT