By Euan Ferguson
The name Radio derives from the location – a grand art deco edifice once known as Marconi House, but now the fancy ME London hotel. From here, the first BBC programming was broadcast in 1922. Radio is on the roof, ten floors up, where the transmission aerials once stood.
Ignore the ME hotel’s official statement, which undersells it somewhat by saying this is ‘the only rooftop bar, lounge and terrace in the Strand and Aldwych area to be open throughout the day till late.’ It’s better than that – if only because of the view. What you can’t see from up here isn’t worth its place on the London skyline.
The terrace is equipped with big sofas and space heaters, and mainly faces south: there’s the Oxo Tower and the Palace of Westminster Elizabeth Tower (the new official name for what most people still call Big Ben). Straight ahead is a side-on view of the Eye, over to the east is St Paul’s, the Gherkin, One Canada Square. And, of course, the Shard – but that doesn’t count, because you can probably see that everywhere from Carshalton to High Barnet.
The bar attached to this view is great too – if you ignore the last ten years’ worth of bar craft, bar design and innovation in beverages. It’s as if speakeasies, craft beer, cocktails in jam jars and the down-and-dirty Brooklyn thing never happened. Instead, this is a sleek, glammed-up, ‘Sex and the City’ destination for long-legged model types and ski-holiday-brochure chaps with unseasonal tans. A man with a clipboard decides where you can sit; a DJ keeps it upbeat.
This is a scene, but even if you don’t feel part of it, a visit here may be worthwhile for the view. But you are likely to have to queue. And the numerous negative comments about the behaviour of the staff are a cause for concern.