Spare a thought for all those restaurants with stunning interiors, with impressive art or beautiful design. Martin Brudnizki stylings be gone: all I want is a patio heater and a blanket. Rooftops used to be the mainstay of summer, before we all crowded back inside at the first goosebumps of autumn. But now it’s all different.
Thanks to government guidelines and London plunging into ‘Tier 2’ measures, inside dining is restricted to eating within households. But outside remains only governed by only rule-of-six. And where better to meet five friends but a rooftop? Here are some of London’s finest…
‘Radio ga ga’ indeed: one lift we’re always happy to ride is the one at ME London. The hotel’s rooftop bar is one of London’s most popular come Friday, and it’s easy to see why a table here is such a hot booking even when it’s cold.
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.
Note that despite the rule of six, Radio Rooftop is currently only taking bookings within households (if you’re more than 3, they might check)
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. Everything’s orderable via the Youngs On Tap app to promote COVID safety.
Where: 67-77 Charterhouse Street, Clerkenwell, EC1M 6HJ
Aqua Nueva and Aqua Kyoto
One of London’s best terraces, overlooking Regent Street and perfect for outdoorsy dining, Aqua Nueva and Aqua Kyoto’s terrace is perfect for rule-of-six dining.
The rooftop, open for lunches and dinner, is a great spot for outdoor dining and general rooftopery, all seconds from Oxford Circus. What’s more, if the weather turns inclement, they’ll seat different households on adjacent tables. You could’t say fairer than that.
Where: 30 Argyll Street, ‘Carnaby’ (are we seriously calling it ‘Carnaby’, ffs?), W1F 7EB
Queen of Hoxton
As the seasons turn, so does Queen of Hoxton’s rooftop.
From Emerald City to Vegas to Morocco, the makeovers are part of the fun and the next instalment is an Apres Ski theme in time for winter. If the reminder that you’re almost definitely not going skiing this year isn’t rubbing it in too much, then grab a hot buttered rum and hit Queen of Hoxton.
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
Skylight is doing its bi-annual (is that twice a year? or is that biennial? I mean the twice a year one) metamorphosis from summer to winter mode.
This means that the igloos are back (hurrah), though note that according to Tower Hamlets council, igloos are counted as indoors (less hurrah) so household rules abide. But with plenty of heated outdoor seating all is not lost.
The East London carpark rooftop is perfect for its skating, curling and nobody does outdoors wintering better.
Where: Tobacco Dock, Pennington Street entrance, St Katharine’s and Wapping, E1W 2SF
Aviary: dictionary definition ‘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 certainly 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.
Where: 10th Floor Montcalm Royal London House Hotel, 22-25 Finsbury Square, The City, EC2A 1DX
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. In winter Savage Schloss, an Apres Ski themed rooftop bar, makes an appearance.
Where: 7 Pepys Street, Tower Hill, The City, EC3N 4AF
Ham Yard Hotel
The roof terrace at Soho’s Ham Yard Hotel is, and please excuse the cliché (but it really is), one of the best kept secrets in Soho.
The hotel’s terrace is normally strictly guests-only, but for this autumn only they are offering guests the chance to buy tickets (a relative snip at £15 given it includes a “Tipsy Bee cocktail”). Woollen bankets are, of course, provided.
Oh yes, and they’ve got bees…
Where: 1 Ham Yard, Soho, W1D 7DT
How about perching in a nest overlooking Oxford Street? What, you’re not a pigeon? Don’t worry! Treehouse London have got you.
The Nest, the bar at the fifteenth floor hotel, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and has reopened with staff in Liberty print face masks and covid secure seating. Or pop indoors to the Mexican restaurant Madera, with a terrace looking out across London’s most iconic landmarks.
Where: 14-15 Langham Place, Marylebone, W1B 2QS
London’s longest oyster list vies with one of London’s longest views at Seabird. The Southwark seafood restaurant, close to the Tate Modern and Blackfriar’s Bridge, comes with palms and wicker and cocktails. What more could you want?
Where: 14th Floor, 40 Blackfriar’s Road, South Bank, SE1 8NY
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.
And lockdown was used efficiently, with an additional rooftop terrace added to the already formidable roofline while they were closed, not to mention a makeover to the terraces and smoking area.
Where:61-63 Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho, W1D 6LQ
Camden’s FEST is the home of brunche, and despite everything manages to rock the back-to-normal-ness vibe. The converted stables includes a great roof terrace starring resident artists, pizzas and cocktails.
Pastel colours and life-sized cocktail umbrellas combine with a new summer menu for a weekend afternoon of socially distanced fun.
Where: The Horse Hospital, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, Camden, NW1 8AH
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 in times of Covid!
Where: South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, EC2M 2AF
There are only two people with a view this good, and the other’s made of stone and only has one arm.
The vantage point overlooking Trafalgar Square screams ‘Instagram’, and yet put your phone away and just enjoy the view for what it is, not to mention the drinks.
Reopen for winter with a new al fresco menu.
Where: 2 Spring Gardens, St. James’s, SW1A 2TS
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 some good rumpusing.
While it likely won’t be reopening until 2021, we can’t wait for the moment that London lightens up a little further as this knot of Gordian proportions reopens to the world. Part of the endlessly cool Sea Containers with a terrace boasting some of the best views in London, the bar offers 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, Borough, UK
Hotel Café Royal
Hotel Café Royal boast a semi-rooftop outdoor area, known only to a few but worth a visit.
A retreat from the craziness of Picadilly Circus (so much crazy that it’s literally used as a byword for chaos), pass through the hotel’s doors and enter tranquility with a perch on the terrace.
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 one of London’s most energetic scenes.
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.
Where: 68 Regent Street, Piccadilly, W1B 4DY
If you suffer from vertigo this mightn’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