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.
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.
Bussey Beer Garden, Peckham
Peckham's rooftop bar is returning 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.
Re-opening in May 2018, The Bussey Building, Peckham
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.
Skylight at Tobacco Dock
Head to the sky for some of the best views of London along with street food, croquet and seasonal cocktails. Split over three levels, YIRO street food will be serving us chicken souvlaki and confit pork while bars will be pouring pitchers of cocktails and spritzes to sip in the sun.
If you want to feel like you’re in the country, book out the croquet and pétanque courts, or just sit back and watch Wimbledon on the big screen.
The Lost Vegas Rooftop at Queen of Hoxton
Queen of Hoxton are stepping into the future with their new summer pop-up. Inspired by Las Vegas (in the future), the roof is the place to sip on Nevada Colada cocktails and feast on a McVegan burger. Street food will include veggie hotdogs served with fried onions, green lemon and herb sauce as well as an Out N In burger topped with bacon salt, American cheese and dill pickles.
East London based Five Miles Brewery and Three Dots have worked on the drinks side of things, creating cocktails with homemade syrups (think cherry stem and rhubarb infused gin and tonic). Pre-bottled cocktails of grapefruit, sour cherry and mezcal paloma will also be served.
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.
Peroni Ambra Terrace at Somerset House
This summer, Peroni are transforming the Somerset House terrace into a Italian escape. Tuck into sourdough pizzas, sharing platters of Italian meats, and nibbles of olives, almonds and focaccia. And to wash it down? A glass of Peroni Ambra, an aperitivo of Peroni Nastro Azzurro mixed with Chinotto, a sot drink made from an Italian citrus fruit.
GIANT STEPS, Hackney Wick
New for 2018, GIANT STEPS is a food, drink and music residency in east London’s Hackney Wick. Set up by Brilliant Corners and Analogue Foundation, the al fresco waterside terrace will see Morito, Brawn and Brilliant Corners cooking BBQ feasts throughout the summer. There’ll be a selection of natural wines and summery cocktails including white negronis and mezcal margaritas to sip on sunny days.
CRATE Brewery, Hackney Wick
There are few more lovely places to spend a sunny afternoon than on the canal outside CRATE’s tap room in Hackney. Each week there’s a selection of guest bottles from a fruity brown ale to a dark Indian pale ale as well as regular casks and kegs of zingy lemon gose, velvety Crate stout and a crisp Crate cider.
They do great pizza, too, such as sage and truffle, middle eastern lamb and spicy salami. Click here to read more about the pizza at CRATE.
Untitled Moon Garden, Dalston
Pass through Untitled’s uber-cool concrete-clad bar, its sparse decor enhanced only with a few pieces of risqué artwork, and find yourself in the secret Moon Garden out back. Inspired by Japan’s temple gardens, there are plenty of exotic trees, sleek wooden benches and quirky pale grey stools that look like lunar toadstools.
The Moon Garden is a calming space to enjoy Japanese-style yakitori, moreish little boneless chicken wings, Asahi beers and Tony Conigliaro’s punchy cocktails (our favourite is Red, a short cocktail that combines sweet, fruity and bitter flavours with raspberry, robust Italian bitters and a splash of citrus).
Little skewers of all shapes and sizes make ideal alfresco nibbles to pair with your drinks – tender smoked chicken with spring onion and sesame, plump pickled shiitake mushroom with balsamic vinegar, frilly pieces of squid wrapped in smoked bacon. The Moon Garden will be hosting various guest chefs over the summer to take over the grill and put their signature stamp on the yakitori menu, including olive favourite Koya and Andrew Clarke from Brunswick House (15 July).
Bar Termini Centrale, Marylebone
Cocktail maestro Tony Conigliaro’s second branch of Italian café-bar, Bar Termini, spills out onto the pavement during the summer months.
There’s a dedicated Campari cocktail menu, with new twists on Italian aperitivi to try alongside Bar Termini’s punchy pre-bottled negronis served in tiny glasses. Shakerato is a short, bitter cocktail, with basil-y O’ndina gin, Campari and a twist of orange, and the Campari old fashioned is brightened with raspberry. There’s also an addition to Bar Termini’s negroni family, though this one is served in the traditional way, on the rocks, with Campari, Cinzano vermouth and gin.
Enjoy the al fresco Italian vibes with one of Fat Tony’s Italian dishes. Sautéed cylinders of tender octopus sit on soft potatoes with a herby paprika oil dressing, and springy worms of pici pasta are served with a rich cacio e pepe sauce of parmesan, black pepper and plenty of butter.
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.
MAM, the Vietnamese grill specialists from the guys behind Salvation in Noodles, is our stall of choice. Try super fluffy bao buns packed with pulled pork, fragrant skewers or the epic fish sauce wings. 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, and all sorts of duck snacks from new vendor Canard.
Order an Aperol spritz or a negroni 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 Waterway, Little Venice
This large canal-side terrace is an ideal suntrap for alfresco eating and drinking. The large dining deck is well-equipped with huge parasols and patio heaters so you can sit out until late at night, while the sun-soaked little garden is a lively place to gather for after-work drinks.
Huge goblets of gin are spruced up in perfect serves – Plymouth gin comes with refreshing lemon tonic, grapefruit peel and a stalk of lemongrass, while Fever Tree’s savoury Mediterranean tonic is added to unusual Ungava Canadian gin (containing botanicals of Nordic juniper, Arctic blend, cloudberry, crowberry and wild rose hips) along with strawberries, pink grapefruit and basil. Summer jugs of luxury Pimms, sangria and watermelon cooler are sloshed out between glasses, or stick to one of the many wines or craft beers.
Order a couple of sharing platters for your group – BBQ ribs, Atlantic prawns or quesadillas – or choose from the grill menu. Seared tuna fillet is perfectly pink with a tomato salsa, red peppers and artichoke, half rotisserie corn-fed chicken comes with French fries and slaw, and there are plenty of burgers to choose from, including the super deluxe beef burger with foie gras, crisp bacon and tomato chutney.
The Mondrian Summer Terrace, Southbank
Mondrian hotel and its American-inspired Sea Containers restaurant will spill out beside the Thames with a Midsummer terrace. Wrapped around the side of the Sea Containers building, the terrace is a great place to watch the world go by and enjoy views of St Paul's.
This year's terrace is a collaboration with Champagne Laurent-Perrier, so expect dusty pink furnishings and lots of flowers. Flutes of fizz will accompany dishes such as strawberry and Champagne cured seabass, and globe courgette stuffed with ricotta, pink pepper and baked lemon puree.
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.
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.