We all want to go al fresco this summer – being cooped up for four months under government direction will do that – but why not go alto too?
Restaurants are taking it to the top all over the city, with plenty serving food on their open-air rooftop terraces. It’s a little tricky to get away from it all right now, but thankfully London is home to some elevated oases that at least put a little distance between you and the capital’s streets – and many of them serve up cracking food, too.
If drinks are the priority, check out our guide to the biggest and best rooftop bars in the capital, and if you’re not keen on heights but fancy the fresh air, have a look at our guide to London’s best al fresco restaurants.
Whether you’re after tip top tapas in the West End, or a steak with a view of the City skyline, here are the best rooftop restaurants going sky-high in the capital.
From the bottom of the ocean to the top of the Hoxton hotel in Southwark, Seabird embraces both the skies and the seas. A whole 14 floors up, this seafood restaurant is home to an enviable outdoor terrace with a stonking view of Blackfriars’ “Boomerang” building, and glass walls allow indoor diners to eat alongside the Shard and the Houses of Parliament. On the menu you’ll find London’s largest selection of oysters, an octopus roll (like a tentacle hot dog) and a delectable manchego cheesecake.
14th Floor, 40 Blackfriars Road, SE1 8NY, seabirdlondon.com
If it’s the picturesque side of Peckham you’re after, you’ll find it at Forza Wine. A sibling spot to nearby Italian hit Forza Win, the team here swap warehouse chic for panoramic views at the top of a former multi-storey car park. As you can guess from the name, things are a little more drinks-focused here – an almost entirely Italian wine list is accompanied by spritzes and digestivos – but the snacks menu is more solid than your average bar food. Enjoy braised rabbit with rosemary and thyme, chicken Milanese with spaghetti and roasted tomato sauce, and grilled flatbreads with pickled fennel and taleggio cheese.
133 Rye Lane, SE15 4BQ, forzawine.com
There’s no need to raise the roof at Madison – most of the partying happens on top of it. This City restaurant and bar is no stranger to a DJ set, with nights of food, drink and music boasting St Paul’s Cathedral as a backdrop. While the main menu is just for indoors, the terrace menu includes a selection of summery crowd pleasers including saffron and sundried tomato arancini, a selection of burgers, and fried topped with truffle and parmesan.
Rooftop Terrace, One New Change, EC4M 9AF, madisonlondon.net
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 basically looks as if someone has removed a Jenga block halfway up. The result is an outdoor terrace – including a sky garden – and an outdoor home for Allegra, where ex-Chiltern Firehouse man Powell serves up small plates of mackerel with kohlrabi, orange and smoked bonito dressing, fried chicken with garlic alioli and Pistachio choux with liver parfait and preserved kumquat.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 20 International Way, E20 1FD, allegra-restaurant.com
If you’re longing for a summer break in the south of France, there’s a tiny slice of that bucolic idyll to be found in Marylebone. When indoors at Orrery, the table to nab is the one by its stunning circular window – but on the rooftop terrace, any table is a good’un. In summer, there’s a whiff of Provence in the air thanks to lavish lavender planting, while on the menu, French cuisine flirts with international flavours, with dishes including beetroot tartare with Agen prunes and Seabass Provencal with aubergine puree and stuffed courgette flower.
55 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5RB, orrery-restaurant.co.uk
Anyone who’s strolled up Commercial Street on a sunny Friday evening will know The Culpeper. Pub patrons may spill out to enjoy their pavements, but there’s another al fresco opportunity worth investigating upstairs. An enthusiastically planted roof terrace on the top of the popular Spitalfields spot offers tables for drinks and dinner, with grub a notch above your standard pub food: handkerchief pasta with shellfish and brown crab butter sauce, roast pork with olive oil mash, and pate made from rooftop-smoked mackerel.
40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP, theculpeper.com
At the ME London hotel in the Strand, Radio Rooftop’s 10th floor spot allows for views across the West End and over to the east’s skyscraper central. The largely outdoor venue is equipped with Ibiza-style lounge sofas and a menu with a similarly summery menu: nibble on crispy calamari with red pepper marmalade, tuck into grilled ribeye with parmesan chips or a lobster sandwich with sweet potato fries and wasabi sauce.
336-337 Strand, WC2R 1HA, radiorooftop.com
Sushisamba, Covent Garden and Heron Tower
Some might call it a rooftop, others will call it a balcony: either way, an open-air spot looking down on Covent Garden’s famed market square is a sought-after one. The Covent Garden iteration of the Brazilian-Peruvian-Japanese restaurant boasts a menu of sushi rolls, ceviches and anticuchos skewers prepared on a robata grill, served either inside its rainforest-inspired dining room or out on the rooftop terrace that runs the length of the restaurant. The City location of the restaurant has also just reopened its terrace for dining with an even better view and a spectacular golden tree as decor, although the main restaurant remains closed.
WC2, E1, sushisamba.com
Boundary Rooftop Bar & Grill
While Shoreditch tempts many a foodie into its midst, it’s not known for greenery. If you’re looking for a route to escape the cacophony of its busy streets, head to The Boundary hotel, where a short lift ride takes you to its popular Rooftop Bar & Grill. Its orangery – a glass-walled dining room – is open all year round to serve chargrilled bavette steak, chicken and chorizo brochettes, smoked duck salad and more, while summer sees the food and drink offering spill out onto its generously planted outdoor terrace. Bear in mind that you won't be able to book outdoors, only indoors, so be prepared to wait a bit to nab a table.
2-4 Boundary Street, E2 7DD, boundary.london
City slickers aren’t short of a glamorous rooftop or two, but this French restaurant has a trick up its sleeve. As well as a rooftop dining area decked out with cream parasols, matching sofas and plenty of cascading greenery, the venue is also home to ever-so-slightly surreal garden with a perfectly manicured lawn, views of the spectacular City skyline, and a DJ set on Friday nights. For earlier visitors, dishes on the menu include duck liver ballotine, slow cooked chicken with truffled artichoke puree and a cote de boeuf to share.
1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ, coqdargent.co.uk
London may not quite be the Costa del Sol, but enjoying tapas on a sunny rooftop in the West End is a fine way to try and kid yourself. Spanish restaurant Aqua Nueva offers a menu of small plates on its open-air terrace, with bites including grilled octopus skewers with mojo verde, jamon croquetas, pan con tomate, lamb empanadas and padron peppers. Sibling restaurant Aqua Kyoto offers the same next door – but with sushi et al – on its almost identical terrace.
240 Regent Street, W1B 3BR, aquanueva.co.uk
Diners and drinkers can fly like a bird all year round at Aviary, where an open-air, sun-catching rooftop is prepped with a selection of stylish glass “igloos” for when the elements get a little bit too much. Either way, guests are treated to tip-top views of the City skyline from the restaurant’s perch in Finsbury Square. You’ll need to head indoors for the full menu at the moment, but terrace-ready treats include a Longhorn double beef burger with cheddar and smoked back, and a roast chicken Caesar salad.
Royal London House, 10th Floor Montcalm, 22-25 Finsbury Square, EC2A 1DX, aviarylondon.com
We’d never suggest taking a date for dinner in a public toilet – unless it’s at Chiringuito. This Spanish restaurant has taken over a building formerly used for a less glamorous purposes on the corner of Museum Gardens in Bethnal Green, and now serves food and drink on its rooftop. You’ll find the tapas dishes inside, while the relaxed terrace offers a selection of sandwich-style dishes (mozzarella and tomato ciabattas, beef burritos and the like), salads and Mediterranean snacks, alongside Spanish wines and its own-brand lager.
Museum Gardens, E2 9PA, chiringuito.co.uk