Summer is here! Enjoy the sunshine at one of the best rooftop bars in London. Check out the best bars to watch the sunset, from Shoreditch to Peckham. We’ve also rounded up our favourite restaurants with outdoor seating to enjoy for an al fresco lunch or to make the most out of a summery evening. Rooftop bars, outdoor terraces, pergolas and hidden gardens, drink and dine outdoors this summer…
Boundary Rooftop, Shoreditch
In fast-changing Shoreditch, Boundary is virtually prehistoric. Which is a compliment. Opened in 2009, the fact that this hotel – part of the Prescott & Conran empire – is still buzzing means it got its recipe for classy but unpretentious food, wine and bedrooms right from the off.
A former Victorian printworks, its neat but graceful red brick surroundings are latticed with large windows and topped by a bold but unshowy glass, steel and copper extension that’s home both to its duplex suites and to its rooftop bar and restaurant.
In summer the Boundary Rooftop is the ideal spot to rise above the streetside hustle and sip cocktails as the sun sets over a slightly hushed, 360-degree view of London. Shelter under the pergola and a string of fairy lights with a seasonal cocktail and a sharing plate of octopus and chorizo skewers, or fish or meat dishes cooked on a Robata grill. Or just head up after dinner and sit by the outdoor fireplace nursing a digestive glass of vielle prune.
Click here to read our full review of Boundary hotel and restaurant
Bussey Beer Garden, Peckham
Peckham’s new rooftop bar has come to town this summer, converting an area of Bussey Buildings rooftop into a craft beer and kebab haven with sunset-perfect views of the city.
The London Beer Factory has set up 15 kegs of craft beer to choose from. Work your way through tropical flavoured Summer Session IPA, hoppy, American-style Paxton IPA and collaborations with Brewdog Clapham and French brewery Docteur Gabs.
On the food front, Babek Brothers, Elliot and Sam, rustle up gourmet kebabs with tongue-in-cheek names (Nigel Fromage, anyone?!) using charred meats from their parents’ farm in the South West and freshly made Indian-style bread.
Try Kim Koftashian lamb kofta with garlic yogurt and smoky relish, or classic Indian Tikka Turner filled with spicy tikka chicken breast, mint yogurt and coriander. There’s also an umami vegetarian option combining Cypriot halloumi with garlic yogurt and sticky fig jam.
Fridays and Saturdays until 26 August, The Bussey Building, Peckham
Pergola on the Roof, Shepherd’s Bush
It’s not just the East End that’s turning its car parks into foodie hot spots. Shepherd’s Bush is getting in on the action with Pergola on the Roof on top of the multi-storey at Television Centre. With whitewashed woods, fairy lights and a giant pergola covered in blossoming vines you’ll feel like you’re on holiday. The food is great, too, with pop-ups from 8 Hoxton Square, Bonnie Gull, Patty & Bun and Breddos Tacos.
The Culpeper, Spitalfields
There are scant opportunities to escape the concrete and grime in London, which makes the rooftop garden at this handsome Spitalfields boozer all the more precious. Its raised beds and greenhouse (which doubles as a private dining room), provide herbs, salad leaves, tomatoes and aubergines for chef Sandy Jarvis’s dishes, such as crispy lamb’s breast with green beans, salsa verde and new potatoes, or his home-grown salads with edible flowers.
In good weather you can eat on the roof, where, in summer, a wood-fired grill knocks out great plates of, say, garlicky Landaise chicken or sardines with grilled lettuce. Don’t miss the Culpeper’s herbal, seasonal cocktails or its classic rosemary Sazerac.
Frank’s Café, Peckham
This rooftop bar is about as trendy and hipster as you get, but in the best possible way. On top of a multi-story car park in Peckham, Campari is the drink of choice here (try it in a sbagliato if you find it too bitter), but there are also other cocktails and the obligatory Pimm’s and lemonade. Snacks are pretty good, too, so get some smoked paprika sweetcorn or sardines with tomatoes and oregano to have alongside your negroni.
Pergola Paddington Central
The guys behind Pergola on the Roof have collated some of London’s best street food folk under one pretty roof in urban Paddington Central.
Decatur, Birmingham-born Tom Browne’s ode to his time spent in Louisiana, is our stall of choice. Try New Orleans chargrilled Maldon oysters with spicy and buttery sauce, toasted brioche buns piled high with deep-fried soft shell crab, and crunchy buttermilk fried chicken burgers. For vibrant Mexican food, go for D/F Mexico’s crisp tortilla chips loaded with avocado salsa, cheese sauce, sour cream and pink pickled onions, pulled pork pibil tacos with crunchy slaw and salsa, and cheesy fries. There are also legendary burgers from Patty & Bun, healthy vegan salads and juices from Raw Press, and dumplings and the like from Mama Lans.
Order an Aperol spritz or a Pimms from the bar and take a seat at one of the long brushed wood tables laid out beneath the pretty pergola while you listen to some great guest DJs. There are blankets in case it gets a bit chilly, and an open air bar upstairs with plenty of day beds for lounging on during summery evenings.
The Mondrian Summer Terrace, Southbank
Mondrian hotel and its American-inspired Sea Containers restaurant have spilled out beside the Thames with a Riviera-style summer terrace, lined with a white picket fence and bay trees. Wrapped around the side of the Sea Containers building, the heated terrace is a great place to watch the world go by and enjoy views of St Paul’s while tucking into American and British dishes such as giant ceviche tacos and grilled lobster with garlic chive butter.
Grey Goose is on cocktail duty; try a La Poire Espresso Martini pick-me-up with the freshness of French Anjou pear, or stick to the transatlantic vibe with the citrusy Transatlantic Travel cocktail. You can even enjoy your drinks on the private Grey Goose Boat for something a bit more special and intimate.
Rail House Café, Victoria
All-day brasserie The Rail House Café makes the most of its floor-to-ceiling glass front to create a dining space that brings the outdoors in, and vice versa.
Wicker chairs and benches with comfy pastel-striped cushions spill onto the outdoor terrace, creating the ideal spot to enjoy a leisurely al fresco brunch. Go for hot smoked salmon and avocado on toast lifted by refreshing dill salsa and punchy dukkah, and one of the colour-coordinated juices (the ‘gold’ was particularly uplifting, made with coconut water, carrot and turmeric).
The Rail House Café uses the space round the side of the glass building to create an outdoor bar area with huge wooden tables on wheels inspired by Victorian carts. Get your mates together to enjoy drinks in this smart setting from morning (the Rail Mary vodka, tomato, Tabasco and spice blend is enough to wake anyone up!) to night (try one of the craft beers, we loved ‘Salty Kiss’, a German style Gose brewed by Magic Rock in Yorkshire with sea buckthorn and sea salt).
No.16, South Kensington
As soon as you step through the door of this pristinely manicured mid-Victorian white townhouse, hidden just minutes from South Kensington tube station, co-owner Kit Kemp’s bold statements make themselves known. Textiles in the suite of drawing rooms range in colour from pistachio and pink to stylish yellow and purple, with unique artwork throughout – a huge wall-mounted birdcage marks the entranceway, books line the walls, and hand painted puppets guard the honesty bar stocked with spirits, wines and bubbles.
Continue through to The Orangery for afternoon tea in a terracotta-walled room with tribal statement vases and artwork, brightened by sunshine bursting through floor-to-ceiling French windows.
If it’s a nice day, make the most of No.16’s hidden garden oasis and enjoy a glass of wine in a thick-cut glass goblet, or afternoon tea perched on pale green garden furniture under elegant white parasols. Vases of white flowers dress the tables and Kit Kemp’s personalised Wedgewood crockery adds a bit of fun, with dancing mythical creatures from her favourite Indian fabric that literally look like they have been stitched on to teacups and saucers.
If you’re lucky enough to bag the tiny gazebo, you can look back on the garden, complete with stone fountain bubbling away in the rectangular fish pond.
Click here to read our review of afternoon tea at No.16, South Kensington.
Petersham Nurseries Café, Richmond
Skye Gyngell first put this gorgeous greenhouse lunch spot on the map (it’s in an upmarket plant nursery and homewares store), and under chef Damian Clisby it’s a destination once again. His brightly seasonal, Italian-inspired dishes, such as nettle and ricotta ravioli with sweet marjoram, or wood-roasted monkfish with morels, Evesham asparagus, sea aster and wild garlic are spring on a plate.
Many ingredients come from Petersham itself, and, among others, you’ll find herbs, cherries and salsify growing along its walls. Supplementary produce comes from a tight-knit network of small producers such as Haye Farm, run by Harry Boglione, a son of Petersham’s founders. In summer, you can dine outside under a canopy of wisteria surrounded by roses.
Visit one of our favourite outdoor restaurants in the UK, here’s our top list.