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Rooftop bars in central London offer escapism, especially on Oxford Street, where it’s more about getting high above the crowds than seeing the gleaming London skyline. Lucky for Roofnic, then, as the only view from here is of tourists trundling past Topshop. Roofnic is part of the Park Lane Marriott hotel occupying its fourth floor terrace. But it’s not hotel-stuffy – since the bar is new for summer 2015, door staff ushered us in with open arms on our weeknight visit, keen to drum up some custom. A slick white canopy makes the bar look like a festival tent, casting its shadow over most of the area. This makes the spot by the terrace’s edge where the sun creeps in all the more coveted. Fulfilling the festival feel, there’s AstroTurf, sparkly light bulbs, cushions scattered on the floor and the likes of Grimes and James Blake on the stereo. But that’s just one side to Roofnic – it doubles as a daytime hangout for freelancers and hot deskers, with laptops still open on benches as the evening crowd arrives. Costs are just as relaxed as the door policy. Despite the trend being done to death, cocktails are served in jam jars – but at £7 (nearly half the price of drinks at some more established London rooftops), who cares? Only a few are served each day, announced up on the board. The Roofnic Swizzle is a sour grapefruit concoction tempered with honey, while the Gin Al Fresco is a long gin and tonic with an enjoyable rosemary and thyme twist. Food in the evening isn’t as accompliRead more
Originally dammed-off clay pits, the ponds are run by the City of London Corporation. It is consulting with local residents about essential works to protect against flooding, which – though unlikely – could be catastrophic if a large quantity of rain fell over an extended period. In the meantime, the three pools remain open to ladies, men and mixed groups (including accompanied children aged eight-15, at the lifeguards’ discretion) respectively. The Men’s and Ladies’ Ponds are open all year round but to use the Mixed Pond in the winter season you must join the Hampstead Heath Winter Swimming Club. Even in the summer the water is chilly. Take a dip at more of London's lidos and public swimming poolsRead more
Early mornings and the winter months are the preserve of the Serpentine Swimming Club, but from May to September there’s a warm welcome for everyone in this section of the Serpentine lake – although the water is not heated. It’s not chlorinated either, a boon for swimmers who prefer to avoid the stuff, as well as to the wildlife (you may find yourself sharing a dip with the local ducks and swans). The gated family area with a (chlorinated) paddling pool, sandpit and swings means parents can relax while their children play. There's a private sunbathing area and sun loungers for hire and a kiosk within the lido grounds makes it possible to order from the popular Lido Café next door.Read more
Since first opening in 2013, Radio Rooftop Bar high above the Strand has secured its status as one of central London’s prime rooftop drinking destinations. But it’s also drawn its fair share of negative attention from customers stuck in queues or turned away at the door, by staff described in very unflattering terms across social media. Timing is key. On a Monday evening, we were up on the terrace faster than a raincloud could appear. Service once we found a seat wasn’t quite so pacey, but that only buys you more time to absorb those extraordinary 360-degree views of every star of the London skyline. The terrace is much like a slick Ibiza sun lounge – although you probably won’t find such plush blankets and patio heaters in the Balearic Islands. There’s a soundtrack to match, with background house beats a hit with the inevitable flashy Essex boys in town for a knees-up. (It’s worth noting that same-sex groups of more than five are barred.) It can be a strange mix of people here, spanning the aforementioned lad crew, older American tourists, fashionistas in floppy hats and work colleagues on awkward outings all rubbing shoulders. Expect the usual rooftop prices, but if you’re just stopping in for a one-off drink with a view, wine (fizzy and still) is served by the glass. For summer sipping, G&T comes in fifteen forms, with different brands of gin, flavoured tonics and fruit infusions in the mix. With each costing £14, you’re paying for the altitude.Read more
Most central London rooftop bars rely on their views – put a price on them, even – neglecting their booze offering rather than reaching for new heights. Aqua Spirit has things the other way around. It serves quality cocktails that (almost) justify the price tag, but in a sky-high setting that’s a little lacklustre. A few classic yet unpredictable concoctions are executed well – try the Clover Club for a refreshing gin-based drink - but order from the list of cocktails inspired by Japan (from £12.50) to sample this bar at its best. The Yuzuana Bellini is particularly original, and despite its banana flavour, is balanced by dry citrus (yuzu) saké. The rooftop bar terraces are set awkwardly at the opposite end of the room to the lift entrance and can only be accessed by sashaying through the slick Japanese restaurant. It’s a shame the terrace doesn’t have the same chic international style as the dark, sexy interior bar, circular in shape and ideal for perching and people watching. A few late-night daters drift up to the inside bar for a nightcap – for example hot young couples, some older men with toy boys in tow – but don’t venture out to the rooftop at all. Meanwhile, out on the terrace, City boys, Mayfair lawyers and a handful of tall blondes keep warm by chain-smoking around patio heaters. It’s decked in dark colours and works so well for a moody sunset, but by the time evening sets in, the terrace is poorly lit and uninviting from behind glass doors. Like us, you may choRead more
Built in 1938 and refurbished in 2005, the Grade II-listed Parliament Hill Lido measures a generous 60 metres by 28 metres. It has a stainless steel pool liner (the only one in an outdoor pool in the UK) which gives the water a metallic shimmer – not that you'll be able to tell when it's packed full of people on a sunny day. The lido is unheated, but wetsuits are permitted at the lifeguard’s discretion. There are two sessions a day (7-9am and 10am-6pm) with an additional adults-only evening session on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. There's a paddling pool for under-fives and a cafe.Read more
A mere hop, skip and ladylike stumble from Dalston Kingsland station is the Print House, a four-storey former factory which is home to the innovative Bootstrap Company and the annual outing of the Dalston Roof Park. This summertime the Dalston institution has reopened with new decking, garden and a bar. There are going to be gigs, parties (including a residency from The 2 Bears), weekly film screenings, supper clubs and yoga. Worth the climb.Read more
‘The UK’s first dedicated tank bar’, says the inscription on the wall. Beer geeks, prepare to get excited by the row of big gleaming steel vats in the taproom of this Hackney Wick brewery. Everyone else, all we need to know is that by cutting out the bottles, cans, pipes or kegs of traditional dispense, we can drink the freshest beer possible. A couple of other brands have given us tank beer in pubs before (Pilsner Urquell, Meantime), but no one has done it with such a statement of intent. Hops were originally put in beer partly for bittering and flavouring, partly because of their antibacterial properties. Howling Hops uses these dried flowers in great abundance, which means the quicker they can be drunk after production the better. So the American Pale XX explodes with the characteristics of the classic US hops Centennial, Cascade, Columbus and Citra; Riding Ale (Columbus, Cascade, Galena and Nugget, if you’re interested) is a 3 percent pale ale that also comes with a ton of hop flavours (and, without condoning drunken cycling, is probably light enough to have a half of then ride home). It’s all great, from the Victorian stout to the rye IPA; and, in groovy new label and container designs, it’s also now being bottled here, so look out for it in a fridge near you. Howling Hops was until recently made in the bowels of the Cock Tavern, a Mare Street sister pub to the estimable Southampton Arms, so it has a great pedigree. There’s food too – simple stuff like sausage baps, roaRead more