Once summer hits, enjoying your cocktail with a view has to be one of the loveliest things to do in the capital, and this year is no exception, with high-rise rooftop bars reopening across London after the coronavirus lockdown.
With new safety measures introduced, including social distancing between tables, bigger outdoor areas, staff kitted out in gloves and face masks and most operating at half capacity, settling in for an evening of drinking and dining with friends has never been more appealing. Whether you’re looking for a tranquil al fresco hideaway or a late-night hot spot with impressive views, we’ve rounded up the finest rooftop bars in the city.
Boutique eco hotel Treehouse London opened just before lockdown hit, so most won’t have experienced its rooftop restaurant and bar yet, which boasts some of the finest views in the capital. Filled with hanging foliage and featuring floor-to-ceiling windows taking in the city’s skyline, the food at Madera is an elevated take on Mexican cuisine, so you can expect dishes like tequila prawn flatbread, halibut ceviche and shrimp tacos. Afterwards, head upstairs to the cosy Nest wraparound terrace, where you can sink into a lounger and order a round of Whisky Coladas, made with Glasshouse whisky, pineapple, coconut and citrus.
14-15 Langham Place, Marylebone, London W1B 2QS
Tucked away at the top of the Hoxton hotel in Southwark, Seabird is one of the city’s most stylish new rooftop offerings, all potted palms, bleached wooden floors and rattan furniture. With both indoor and outdoor seating areas, the restaurant really capitalises on its riverside location, making the most of expansive Thames views. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the menu here revolves around seafood and is home to the longest oyster list in London, as well as an impressive marble raw bar dishing up chilled whelks, cockles and razor clams. The charcoal grill also offers plenty of delights, including whole lobsters and John Dory. Cocktails are fun and fruity, with the Toucan Do It, made with Tapatio Blanco Tequila, mango, cinnamon and aji pepper, served in a whimsical bird-shaped glass.
40 Blackfriars Road, Southwark, London SE1 8NY
Set among the livery halls and guilds of London’s Vintry Ward, and set on top of the chic Vintry & Mercer hotel, this is a hidden gem in the heart of the city. Offering panoramic vistas over the capital, including a close-up look at St Paul’s Cathedral and the Shard, there’s a beautiful outdoor terrace complete with a handsome olive tree as well as an airy indoor restaurant. Helmed by executive chef Chris Golding, who cut his teeth at Nobu and Zuma, this is British cuisine at its best, with dishes like Devonshire crab with pink peppercorn toast and smoked ham hock terrine with Quail’s egg on the menu. Their cocktails are no less inspiring, made using a range of house-infused spirits.
20 Garlick Hill, City of London EC4V 2AU
Despite being right in the middle of Oxford Circus, heading up to Aqua Kyoto on Argyll Street is like entering an oasis of calm that couldn’t feel further removed from the hustle and bustle below. The smart terraces, which flank either side of the building, are filled with well-dressed locals and make the ideal spot for a post-shopping sundowner, with the Golden Hour, made with Roe & Co whiskey, Plum sake, Becherowska and lime, the perfect tipple. Don’t forget to order some of their Japanese-inspired snacks, which take a nod from the main restaurant inside – their rock shrimp tempura and mushroom and pancetta yakitori are particularly moreish.
240 Regent Street, Soho, London W1B 3BR
This popular Shoreditch spot is an east London go-to whatever the weather, thanks to its heated rooftop orangery, which sits alongside its outdoor terrace. With its trellised canopy, strewn with ivy and fairy lights, and cosy sofas to sink into by the outdoor fire pit, this is the place for lazy lunches that somehow stretch into even longer, lazier dinners. Graze on Mediterranean-inspired dishes like spiced cod brochettes, zucchini fritti and rosemary and sea salt focaccia while sampling their wide range of seasonal cocktails, which include gin and tonic cups mixed with botanicals and herbs from their garden and punchy Icelandic Mules, made with Reyka vodka, ginger beer, lime, ginger and shiso leaf.
2-4 Boundary Street, Hackney, London E2 7DD
Situated on the 14th floor of the Dorsett City Hotel in Aldgate and nestled among skyscrapers, Jin Bo Law boasts ones of the finest views in the City, with the Gherkin so close you could almost touch it and the Shard looming impressively behind. The interiors are no less eye-catching, with its sleek, geometric bar, and the spot has become famous for the giant golden pineapple that adorns the walls and spreads across the ceiling. Their inventive cocktail list is all Asian-inspired, with offerings like the Jin Bo Lada, a mix of Mount gay dark rum, Kalani Coconut rum, punch purée, rice milk and pineapple juice.
Dorsett City, 9 Aldgate High Street, City of London, EC3N 1AH
This bar on the banks of Little Venice, which has stellar views over Notting Hill, Hyde Park and the neighbourhood’s dreamy canals, swiftly became a favourite with west Londoners when it opened last year. This summer they’ve teamed up with Veuve Clicquot to serve some of the finest fizz alongside their sourdough pizzas and light, summery dishes like Cornish crab salad and stone bass ceviche. Their signature cocktails go down very well too on a sunny afternoon, especially the Hibiscus Daiquiri, which can be served straight up of frozen. The best bit? You can book lavish day beds, all the better for lounging on.
4 Kingdom Street, Paddington, W2 6BD
While most of us won’t be able to make it to the Med this summer, a trip to the Radio Rooftop bar might just be the next best thing. With its excellent tapas sharing platters, chic decor and stylish crowd, squint and you could almost pretend you’re in Barcelona (though the terrace is open year-round and is just as lovely in the winter, when you can cosy up in a cute cable car). Order a round of pan con tomate and grilled octopus before sampling one of their CBD cocktails, like the Herbal Ambition, made with Oto CBD bitters, Seedlip Garden, Everleaf non-alcoholic elderflower cordial and soda – designed to put you in a seriously relaxed frame of mind.
336-337 Strand, Westminster, WC2R 1HA
This iconic tower on the South Bank has long been a fixture on London’s sky-high drinking and dining scene, with the landmark’s prominent OXO logo visible from miles around. Housed in a beautiful wharfside building that dates back to 1900, this is where the famous OXO beef cube was made during the Twenties. Now it’s home to an award-winning restaurant and bar, perched on the eighth floor and serving up seasonal British food with a side of breath-taking views over the river. Reopening on 15 July, their extensive cocktail list is full of gems, like the South Bank gin cocktail, which is described as a “love letter to the neighbourhood”.
Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, South Bank, SE1 9PH
From the outside, The Culpeper looks like a normal British pub, but don’t be fooled – squirreled away upstairs is one of the city’s most charming terraces. Filled with plants, this isn’t just a prime drinking spot – it’s also a herb and vegetable garden, complete with mint patches and tomato vines. Come to try delicious dishes served from the grill and work your way through the excellent wine list, which has a strong focus on English wines, with bottles cherry-picked from vineyards in east Sussex and Kent. Ever resourceful, the staff keep the corks from every bottle for a number of creative purposes, including grinding them down to sprinkle on their plants to help them retain water.
40 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, E1 6LP
Perched 10 floors up above Finsbury Square’s Montcalm hotel, bordering the City and Shoreditch, this spacious terrace offers stunning panoramic views. City boys and girls flock here for post-work drinks before ordering plates of beef tartare and triple cooked chips from the thoroughly British menu – the restaurant sources its produce from small British livestock farmers and the fish is responsibly sourced from south coast day boats wherever possible. It’s all washed down with a few cocktails from the bird-themed drinks list, where highlights include the Peacock Fizz, made with Chase Rhubarb Vodka, grapefruit and rhubarb cordial, and the Cuckoo’s Nest, with Pisco, charred pineapple and lemon. This summer they’ve extended their booking period for their private igloos, offering a seriously smart way to socially distance.
Royal London House, 10th Floor Montcalm, 22-25 Finsbury Square, Finsbury, EC2A 1DX
This award-winning rooftop is one of the most popular spots in the capital, with locals heading there on weekends (and weekdays – the City never sleeps) to soak up the jaw-dropping views – you’ve never seen St Paul’s this close up. Situated in the penthouse of One New Change, diners start their night at the celebrated Manhattan-style restaurant, which serves grills and burgers from the wood fired oven, before settling in for a night on one of the venue’s many terraces. As soon as the sun goes down it’s time for the music to crank up a notch, whether it’s the renowned in-house DJs or one of the live acoustic trios.
Rooftop Terrace, One New Change, EC4M 9AF
Coq d’Argent has become one of the city’s most legendary drinking and dining spots since opening at the top of No 1 Poultry over 20 years ago. It has an award-winning garden in the sky and a private lift that whizzes you up to the very top of the building, with a Willy Wonka-esque, see-through ceiling to boot. As impressive as the views up here are, they’re nowhere near as impressive as their extensive wine list, which runs to 54 pages in total. This summer they’ve partnered with Provencal favourite M de Minuty to offer a ‘Rosé on the Roof’ Saturday brunch – drawing inspiration from the French Riviera, the terrace has been transformed into a botanical retreat, filled with lavender, lemon trees and orange blossom.
1 Poultry, City of London, EC2R 8EJ
Split into two separate areas – the outdoor Gallery, which offers jaw-dropping views over Trafalgar Square and beyond, and the Deck, a sun-drenched conservatory – this spacious terrace perched at the top of a smart hotel has something for everyone. The Italian-inspired menu serves delicious morsels of Parmesan and truffle arrancini, while the cocktail list offers a playful nod to its famous location, with the Bye Bye Ben a mix of Plymouth Gin, Grand Marnier, Lillet Blanc and grapefruit bitters.
2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, St. James’s, SW1A 2TS
You know it’s summer when Pergola returns to Paddington. The colourful spot, with its turquoise walls and pretty, creeping vines, is spread across two floors, with two huge bars serving up al fresco drinks and a rotating roster of cocktails on tap, and some of the capital’s finest street-food stalls – this year you can expect Babek Brothers’ charcoal fire-cooked kebabs and fresh sushi rolls and bowls from Temaki Bros. On the weekends you’ll find bottomless brunches and some of London’s finest DJs.
4 Kingdom Street, Paddington, W2 6PY
Rooftop bars are rare in Soho, making this spot extra special. Tucked away at the top of the Courthouse hotel, a former Magistrates’ Court, the building is steeped in history, counting Mick Jagger, Bob Marley and John Lennon as former inmates and Charles Dickens as an early court reporter. The bar offers peaceful respite from the bustling streets below, with panoramic views over the West End, chilled music and barbecues on hot days. Kick back with a Green Hornet – Hendrik’s gin, vanilla, lychee and cucumber – and watch the sun set over some of London’s most famous rooftops.
19 – 21 Great Marlborough Street, Soho, W1F 7HL