Did Sir Christopher Wren adroitly combine the traditional gothic style of church-building with the grace and ambition of Renaissance design, or was his cathedral too decorative for a seat of English ecclesiastical power and a dangerous transgression towards the old faith?
There’s no better place to consider the points of debate circling around St Paul’s than this new rooftop terrace bar in Jean Nouvel’s One New Change shopping complex. The name of the bar is meaningless – a vague attempt at Manhattan glamour. The looks are unimportant, as the whole mall is in thrall to its neighbour. Madison seems to exist largely as a viewing platform.
But what a view it is. A glass lift takes gawpers from the ground floor, sweeping up parallel with St Pauls’ east elevation. Once in the bar or its generous outdoor space, an unrivalled close-up is offered of the drum, peristyle, upper balustrade, upper drum, dome and lantern of the cathedral – all the godliest bits – with the ball and cross silhouetted perfectly against the sky.
You can of course drink in more than the views: cocktails range from standards (mojitos and whatnot) to concoctions with names ripe for being cackled at by hen parties (Pornstar Martini, Hot Bitch Martini). There’s a good range of spirits, and Heineken is offered by the ‘schooner’ (a two-thirds of a pint measure).
There are snacks, some of which may cause puzzlement if piled on small plates in Spain, but called tapas here nonetheless: the likes of Welsh rarebit fritters and ‘Old Spot turnovers’. A more formal brasserie menu is served in the restaurant area.
If you don’t work in the City, you might prefer a daytime or weekend visit, as Madison is, understandably, a post-5pm hotspot. Whether you’re entertaining clients or contemplating the physical manifestation of God’s glory, both will be easier with a drink – here’s just the spot to do it.