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.
Hungry for more? Check out London’s best restaurants with a view here…
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.
Click here to read our full review of Boundary hotel and restaurant
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 dishes, such as heritage tomato, peach and cucumber salad, or courgette risotto with goat’s curd and mint.
In good weather you can eat on the roof, and, for 2019, there’ll be a strong emphasis on English wine, with bottles on offer from Davenport Vineyards and Tillingham, both based in East Sussex.
Skylight at Tobacco Dock
Head to Skylight Rooftop for some of the best views of London along with street food, croquet and seasonal cocktails. Split over three levels, there are plenty of seating areas to gather with friends. Street food outfit YIRO serves grilled halloumi and chicken souvlaki with mustard sauce, while Flipside offers juicy burgers in soft brioche buns with moreish skin-on-fries.
If you want to feel like you’re in the country, book out the croquet 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. 2019 sees the Las Mexicanas takeover, with Monkey Colada (that’s a mix of Monkey Shoulder risky, lime, pineapple and coconut on tap). Sharing platters will include chicken satay skewers, mini chorizo sausages, sweet potato wedges and falafels.
Fancy something to keep you cool? Order a fizzy watermelon paloma or a fruity pineapple margarita.
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, cocktails are the tipple of choice, from white negronis to moscow mules.
Snacks are pretty good, too, so get some smoked aubergine with sumac and pitta to have alongside your margarita.
Somerset House Terrace with San Miguel
This summer, San Miguel are transforming the Somerset House terrace into a summer escape. Tuck into stone baked flatbreads, tapas (think patatas braves, tortillas and padron peppers). And to wash it down? A Piscolinho cocktail, a mix of pisco, Cointreau, agave syrup, lime and San Miguel Especial.
Vinegar Yard, London Bridge
From the folks behind London Bridge’s popular foodie destination Flat Iron Square, this amalgamation of drinking terraces, bars and street-food trucks is a great al fresco hangout. Sip on a gin and tonic or a botanical spritz under the greenery-wrapped pergola of the Tanqueray terrace, choose an Atlantic IPA from the bar that shares a space with artist Joe Rush’s workshop (check out his installations made from scrap metal scattered around the space), or order a glass of fizz from the pastel-pink prosecco van.
Take your drink of choice to the grassy area of benches and tuck into street food from Baba G’s (chicken tikka burgers, loaded masala fries and poppadom nachos slathered in Indian salsa and fresh mint raita), Up in My Grill (perfectly pink flame-grilled bavette or picanha steak on beef dripping fries with chimichurri) or Nanny Bill’s (burgers and croquettes galore).
GIANT STEPS, Hackney Wick
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 sees Dhaba cooking up fiery Rajasthani stews, fluffy Biriyanis and tandoor grilled meats. There’s a selection of natural wines and summery cocktails including white port and tonic 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
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.
Try juicy burgers topped with smoked streaky bacon from Smash Patty, lamb kofta kebabs with chilli relish and garlic yoghurt at Babek Brothers, or keep things light with vibrant salmon bowls at Honi Poke.
Order an Aperol spritz or a frozen pina colada 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.
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 smashed 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
Seasonal, Italian-inspired dishes are the focus at this charming café set within a glasshouse. Try risotto with peas, garden mint and Parmesan or spiced chickpeas with broccoli, courgette and nigella seed flat bread. 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.
The Red Lion & Sun, Highgate
This dog-friendly neighbourhood pub, moments away from Hampstead Heath in leafy Highgate, is the perfect spot to spend a summer’s day sipping on local ales and fine wines. There’s a popular beer garden out front, but this summer sees another area to bask in the sunshine. Red Lion & Sun’s hidden back garden has been transformed into a Mediterranean pocket by the folks at Gin Mare – a pretty white pergola, blue-and-white-tiled picnic tables and plenty of plants put the brand’s breezy, summery stamp on the place.
Gin Mare is infused into refreshing concoctions (peach and basil spritz, Med twists on the bloody mary and herbaceous gin and tonics). Proper pub food sits alongside twists from across the world – pan-fried sea trout comes with pak choi, sticky rice and a chilli-garlic oyster sauce; while chargrilled jerk chicken is served with rice’n’peas, mango and papaya salad and fried plantain. Go classic with a burger, and a very good one at that – a thick, juicy patty is served in a floury grilled bap with large juicy gherkins and hand-cut, skin-on chips.