During summer, the best place to go to escape the sweaty throngs in London is up of the roof. And London is blessed with many rooftop restaurants that come complete with roof gardens, roof terraces and romantic picturesque views across London's major landmarks. The stress of living in the capital eases away on those sunny afternoons and balmy evenings whilst at high altitude, soaking up the sunshine and London’s jaw dropping skyline. This guide provides the best of roof garden restaurant dining in London, and seeks out those summer sanctuaries positioned high above London's heated smog. All you need to do is decide which cooling cocktail to sip whilst pitying those densely packed dots below.
Soho / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Spanish
Soho rooftop restaurant - London's largest Cava Bar with 3-flute 'flights': check. Cognac and Cigar Terrace (the menu for which includes, amongst others, a 45-year old Rignaud Soubourin Floriege cognac and the Cohiba Siglo VI Cuban cigar): check. Impeccable Spanish cuisine: check. Haha, look at those poor, depressing shoppers down below on Regent Street struggling with their consumerism. Hey you down there, coo-ee; can you move along please. We're trying to bliss out up here on this cosy roof terrace and you're rather distracting. Toodle-pip!
City of London / Restaurant / Cuisine: International
Liverpool Street rooftop restaurant - vertigo sufferers look away now. There aren't many restaurants in the UK much higher than this (we believe there is only one) so impressive views across London's skyline are assured. Plus, this Japanese-Peruvian-Brazilian restaurant on the 38th and 39th floors of the Heron Tower in the City of London boasts not one but TWO alfresco roof terraces (one pictured above). Any restaurant that requires diners to take a lift and has its own indoor tree must be worth splashing out for. Truly remarkable views.
Soho / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Japanese
One of the downsides of eating truly spectacular Japanese food in London is that the places it's served in tend to take themselves terribly seriously, creating a dining experience akin to eating in a particularly strict library. Not so at aqua kyoto, where New Zealand-born chef Paul Greening's sensational modern Japanese cuisine is served in a sleek black-and-red dining room by young, friendly staff to a DJ soundtrack. An open sushi counter and sumibiyaki charcoal grill add a sense of theatre. Don't miss the Datterini tomato, edamame and seaweed salad or pork belly, eel and root vegetables in miso, and the terrace overlooking Regent Street, of course.
Babylon at The Roof Gardens
Kensington / Restaurant / Cuisine: British
High Street Kensington rooftop restaurant - I want one-and-a-half acres of Spanish and English woodland up on a roof and I want it now! Luckily, Sir Richard Branson pampers to my every whim and so has given me the Kensington Roof Gardens. Taking a lift up to the sixth floor, I found a secret world of scenic gardens with flamingos, winding pathways, and burbling fountains. The hectic London city below my feet was forgotten as I sipped on a flute of champagne and mingled with people of the beautiful description. It really is quite remarkable to see this living breathing garden 100ft above west London's busy streets
Marylebone / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: French
Marylebone rooftop restaurant - The alfresco roof terrace at this French restaurant in central London can accommodate 20 seated guests or 70 for a standing reception; cosy, just the way we like it. Head chef Igor Tymchsyshyn has created an alfresco menu featuring dishes such as Scottish smoked salmon with melba toast, chicken liver parfait with apple chutney and onion & goats cheese tarts. All very summery. There's also a series of monthly Champagne tasting events on the roof to enjoy during the warmer months. Loving life up here.
The Dock Kitchen
Ladbroke Grove & Kensal / Restaurant / Cuisine: International
Rooftop restaurant next to the canal - The view of the Grand Union Canal in from the Portobello Docks is probably one of the more calming rooftop restaurant experiences in London. The restaurant is not directly on a main road either, so quieter times are assured (although the restaurant is also child-friendly, so that could swing the other way). The sunshine peak hours on this 50-seater terrace are 12-5pm (long lunches!) and in the unlikely event of the British sun becoming too unbearably hot, umbrellas provide shade at every table. Visit on a Sunday and you might get lucky because, occasionally, live music is also provided. Chillax to the max!
City of London / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: French
Bank rooftop restaurant - A French restaurant to impress, a leafy roof terrace with its immaculate lawns, and bistro-style tables - the perfect place to spend those balmy summer evenings in the City of London, with views out across St Paul's Cathedral, Mansion House, Monument and the Bank of England. The atmosphere is relaxed and although I was looking at some of London's most impressive views, the feeling was more continental than Cockney. Client entertaining, business meetings, and networking should always been done from up here, thinks I.
The Rooftop Cafe
London Bridge & Bermondsey / Restaurant / Cuisine: Cafe
London Bridge rooftop restaurant - The Shard isn't the only building next to London Bridge station with a restaurant in the clouds. Admittedly, the Rooftop Café is only six floors up, but the views are still excellent. Open weekdays for breakfast and lunch until 3pm and coffee and cake until 5pm, the restaurant serves dinner on Thursday and Friday nights. The simple, daily changing menu, courtesy of Australian chef Magnus Reid, might feature the likes of onglet steak with avocado salsa or chicken and pancetta croquettes followed by blackberry and passionfruit fool. The large outdoor terrace can be hired for events and functions too. Pah, who needs the Shard!
City of London / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: European
St Paul's rooftop restaurant - the floor to ceiling angled glass window of this restaurant gives the appearance of dining alfresco, but without the blustery winds. There is still a roof terrace though, on which you can start and end your evening with a cocktail and romantic views across to the Cathedral, or the London Eye. The stylish interior and impressively rich views have proved Madison popular from early morning until beyond dinner with City folk conducting informal meetings and client entertaining. A tapas menu is provided at the cocktail bar and the main restaurant boasts its own Josper grill. Alternatively, there is a decent sized starter menu with some intriguing additions.
Shoreditch / Bar / Cuisine: International
Shoreditch rooftop restaurant - If you're ever in the Shoreditch area (and let's face it, so many of us are drawn regularly to the East London hipster spot) then you should take a trip to the Boundary Rooftop. Not only do you get to enjoy panoramic views of London from the comfort of the restaurant's cosy wicker chairs surrounded by shrubbery, you also get to dine al fresco from a menu including grilled meats and fish. The Boundary Rooftop was recently remodelled to include a weatherproof pergola - perfect for the unpredictable English summertime.
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