Fun in the sun means taking things al fresco and, ideally, up on the roof. It is, after all, warmer that much closer to the sun.
Well, perhaps not, but at least the view tends to be better. Whereas once rooftops to dine on where reasonably few and far between, now near enough every flat spot with a building beneath it is game for cocktail hour. Below is a non-exhaustive list of our favourite rooftop bars, listed in no particular order. Helicopter landing pads have never been so out of style.
USP: Not the film
Dinerama is dead, but its Shoreditch home has been hauled back from the brink. Taking over the 25,000 square foot site is Lalaland, set to be brimming full: 11 street food traders offering everything from Texas barbecue to Trinidadian classics, four bars, a karaoke spot (al fresco embarrassment, anyone?), DJs and live music promised and, er, a waterfall and palm trees to boot. There’s also a rooftop terrace that will no doubt be Lalaland’s big hit. It opens on May 13 and, mercifully, won’t have anything to do with dancing on cars or stealing Oscars.
19 Great Eastern St, EC2A 3EJ, lalalandlondon.com
Lord Napier Star
USP: Sh*thouse to public house
Next to the canal, Hackney Wick practically jingles with the sound of pints clinking at the Crate Brewery (cratebrewery.com), with the Alfred Le Roy cocktail barge especially enchanting when its roof is pulled back. But around the corner is the revived Lord Napier Star, the pub once famous for its dilapidation. Now restored, the graffiti covered boozer, most famous for its “Shithouse to Penthouse” tag, is still crumbling outside but all shiny and new inside. The newly opened rooftop is one for pints galore and cheap margs.
25 White Post Lane, E9 5EN, lordnapierstar.co.uk
Laurel’s On The Roof
USP: Joni Mitchell chic
Named for LA’s Laurel Canyon — the Hollywood Hills neighbourhood where the likes of Carole King and Jim Morrison would party — this Seventies throwback opens next Thursday on top of the glossy Mondrian Shoreditch. Under make-up mirror lights, it gazes over the shining glass skyscrapers. All wicker and rattan, it feels faintly Californian, decidedly glamorous, and is open all day serving small plates for sharing (think: Malibu Shrimp Cocktail) and cocktails the Beach Boys might have knocked back: frozen margaritas, cobblers, gibsons. DJs will play every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, when it’ll stay open into the night.
45 Curtain Road, EC2A 3PT, sbe.com
USP: An oldie but a goodie
Little tops a pint in the sun: the Culpeper’s rooftop is built for it. Ever popular, the garden vibe here is made by the produce growing around the tables, much of which is harvested for the pub’s restaurant two floors below — though a set lunch is on up here, at £35 for six courses. The rooftop opened this Monday, and while bright sparks will book, space is kept for thirsty walk-ins wanting a beer from the regularly-changing pumps on the ground floor.
40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP, theculpeper.com
USP: Omnipresent Negronis
Out of all the Peckham rooftops repurposed for pale ale at sundown, two outshine their siblings. One is Forza Wine (forzawine.com), where Eighties bangers bang and spritzes comes three ways. It is as good as you imagine. The other is Frank’s, which, if you believe the stories, invented negronis, rooftops and Peckham itself. It’s back on May 20 and the views are ace, its drinks are decent and while its a basic affair, it has this strange pulling power: you may well lose unintended hours to Frank’s. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.
7th-10th Floor Multi Storey Car Park, 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST, boldtendencies.com/franks-cafe
Kitchen at Holmes
USP: A Sherlock-worthy secret
Roof terraces have two foes: rain and overcrowding. Avoid the latter with a careful choice early on, which is to say: go somewhere no one else has heard of. Marylebone’s Holmes Hotel may be Sherlock-themed inside, but upstairs the detective schtick has been left behind: it is simply a quiet spot tucked away with beautiful townhouses for company; come for chilled white and food that would fit the Italian shoreline. Otherwise, though admittedly on the ground, nearby is the pretty, leaf-covered terrace at entirely al-fresco Tel Avivian restaurant Chameleon (chameleon.london), which sits outside Sir John Soane’s neo-classical church, now known as One Marylebone. A few minutes away in Covent Garden is another secret hiding in plain site: tucked beside Drury Lane theatre is the Garden (thelane.co.uk), a beautiful spot under a canopy of greenery; seasonal classics and cocktails are their forte.
108 Baker Street, W1U 6LJ, kitchenatholmes.co.uk
Jin Bo Law
USP: All about views
Sometimes nothing matters but the skyline. Attached to Aldgate’s Dorsett City Hotel, Jin Bo Law sits 14 floors up, with views out over Tower Bridge, the Shard, the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie, the Cheesegrater and all the other totemic towers of capitalism with silly nicknames. The yellow-and-brass chic, as well as its Japanese-leaning cocktail list, draws a fun-loving, scrubbed-up set who don’t mind flashing the cash: more than a few bottles are in the £000s, but luckily glasses of wine are poured from £10.50.
14th floor, 9 Aldgate High Street, EC3N 1AH, jinbolaw.co.uk
USP: Local beers, and plenty of ‘em
Situated right at the heart of Hackney, Netil 360 is a no-fuss, no-frills east London hideaway. The indoor constituent of the bar appears to be made largely of chipboard, but beyond that is a seriously relaxed suntrap of an al fresco terrace. The drinks menu touts largely local breweries and distilleries: beer comes courtesy of Truman’s and Five Points, while East London Liquor Company provides the spirits.
1 Westgate Street, E8 3RL, netil360.com
USP: Unwieldy moniker
Perhaps the only major disadvantage of the rooftop at Pantechnicon, aside from its clumsy name, is that while up there, one can’t see the truly handsome building it sits upon. The roof garden looks out over west London; inside, it’s perhaps more of a restaurant than a bar. It’s one for a cool glass of crisp wine, but food is too tempting to ignore: the short rib sando, for instance, or the Cornish crab freshened with wild herbs. It’s open near enough all day, as good for morning cappuccino as the nightcap cocktail.
19 Motcomb Street, SW1X 8LB, pantechnicon.com
USP: Oysters in a mad-hatter of a building
It’s not only Patrick Powell’s food that impresses at Allegra — it’s home at Manhattan Loft Gardens in Stratford is a bit of an architectural marvel in itself. The restaurant sits in the 465ft skyscraper’s gravity-defying cut-out; it looks as if someone has removed a Jenga block halfway up. The outdoor terrace, which includes a sky garden, is an enormous 11,290 sq ft, with views across east London. One time Chiltern Firehouse man Powell serves up oysters and fried chicken, while the restaurant’s bar team will be mixing up old favourites and new potions alike.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 20 International Way, E20 1FD, allegra-restaurant.com
USP: Petanque for days
Wapping’s Tobacco Dock hosts all sorts of entertainment throughout the year, but Skylight is where the fun goes through the roof. In the summer, day-beds and garden booths are set up for cocktail-fuelled relaxation against the City skyline, while the more competitive can get involved in croquet, peÌtanque and table tennis. In winter, the terrace transforms into the only rooftop ice rink in Europe. Get your skates on — or else, head to its sister site in Peckham.
Tobacco Dock, Pennington Street entrance, E1W 2SF, skylightlondon.com
USP: It’s just bloody good fun
A summer favourite since it first topped a White City car park way back in 2016, Pergola on the Roof returns to Paddington this year for more sky high fun. The covered pergola will again be florally bedecked and pastel-painted, with food courtesy of Tacos Dos Mas, Burger Shack and Crudo Cevicheria, and a fully stocked bar on hand with frosé and the like.
4 Kingdom Street, W2 6PY, pergolalondon.com
USP: The Amalfi Coast comes to town
A little bit of the Amalfi Coast on Oxford Street. You’ll find it on top of Selfridges, an oasis of Italian chic ready to rescue shoppers from the crowds below. The restaurant boasts a fully retractable roof, while the beams of its al fresco terrace are festooned with lemon-laden branches and hanging lanterns. Guests underneath can tuck into plates of pasta and cicchetti or simply kick back with a spritz.
Selfridges, Oxford Street, W1A 1AB, sancarloalto.co.uk