Rooftop restaurants in London
Although there are only a few floors between the frenetic Shoreditch streets and Boundary’s inviting, vine-clad rooftop restaurant, the two seem worlds apart. Getting in was always a bun-fight when the restaurant opened only seasonally – now, with a clever removable glass roof and wall panels in the orangery-style dining room, it pulls in the punters year-round. The Mediterranean menu heightens the holiday vibes – order grilled lobster with aioli fries to accompany your sundowners in summer, or share a decadent raclette in winter.
Open: Year-round. Food served noon–10.30pm Mon–Fri, 10am–10.30pm Sat–Sun.
There are caveats to this rooftop experience, but if the stars align you’re in for a treat. You have to eat in the seventh floor dining room. If you’re in this for the sunshine, opt for lunch on the faux-turfed terrace, which serves a set menu or reduced lunch menu on warm days. Diners get access to the roof gardens, provided it’s not booked for a private function. There be deck chairs, exotic flowers, giant lawn games – and free-range flamingos.
Open: Food served in restaurant noon–3pm Mon–Sun, 6.30pm–11pm Mon–Sat (terrace bar open for food at management’s discretion, weather permitting). Gardens open year-round, 9am–4.30pm Mon–Sun (unless hired for a private function).
Chef Alan Bird’s post-Ivy venture is swanky enough to draw in City types by the Jaguar-load, but also hip enough to welcome Shoreditch strays. Its summer-only rooftop bar is its crowning glory, with a verdant living wall, orange trees and an ingenious glass-fronted counter – meaning you can gaze out over the City rooftops as you tuck into dishes from the substantial bar menu – from piping hot scampi and chips with homemade tartare sauce to an Ivy-style shepherd’s pie or spruced-up burgers.
Open: Late April–late summer. Food served noon–10pm Mon–Sat.
This former public lav went up in the world when it reinvented itself as a rooftop restaurant – one so popular that the owners have brought it under weatherproof canvas to continue serving during the colder months. The menu’s all about sharing, but when you taste the likes of deep-fried squid with heritage tomatoes and sumac, or sweetly poached Yorkshire rhubarb stems and scoops of tart yoghurt mousse sprinkled with biscuity almond crumbs, you’ll suddenly feel possessive. The best bit? Two words: Sunday. Barbecues.
Open: Year-round. Food served 6pm–10.30pm Tue–Fri, noon–4pm and 6pm–10.30pm Sat, 1pm–6.30pm Sun.
This one-storey Islington gastropub doesn’t boast the highest rooftop in London (views are limited to the other low-rise buildings flanking Pentonville Road), but that doesn’t stop locals competing for a place when the sun comes out. The partially covered terrace has everything that hardcore all-weather diners require: heaters and blankets for winter (place your order inside); a bar, barbecue and table service when the warm weather starts. You must book a table here – and that’s not as easy as you might think.
Open: Year-round (weather dependent). Rooftop barbecues from late April. Food served noon–10pm Mon–Sat, noon–9.30pm Sun.
Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to Coq d’Argent’s four view-tastic terraces – just like every other City slicker in town. Book lunch on the restaurant terrace for a side of sunshine with your truffle-topped Jerusalem artichoke velouté. Otherwise, for cheaper dining, snack on a cheeky croque monsieur with chips or veg-laden frittata from the evening-only bar menu on the garden terraces. There’s also a lunchtime grill on the covered, heated Lodge d’Argent terrace, which will become Blossom City Tanqueray Terrace for summer 2016.
Open: Blossom City Tanqueray Terrace open May 2–June 30. Winter pop-up Lodge d’Argent reopens November 2016–end February 2017. Bar food served 5pm–11pm Mon–Sat. Grill served 11.30am–3pm Mon–Fri. Restaurant à la carte served 11.30am–3pm Mon–Fri, noon–4pm Sat–Sun.
This excellent gastropub’s thang is that some ingredients on its short, sharply seasonal menus come direct from the raised beds on its charming rooftop garden. But the rooftop space is much more than a whimsical allotment – during winter, its greenhouse bar and dining area is available only for private hire, but in summer walk-ins are welcome, and you can fill up on wood-fired meats, sizzling Merguez sausages and sweetly grilled peppers from the grill, plus punchy, herb-laden cocktails.
Open: Mid-April–late September (lunch noon–3pm, dinner 6pm–10.30pm Mon–Sat, noon–7.30pm Sun).
Sitting atop Tom Dixon’s interiors boutique is this grown-up backpackers’ restaurant, with a globe-trotting menu, designer looks and a peaceful terrace with pleasant canal views. So it’s not on the restaurant’s roof – but when you’re in a spot this sweet, do you care? The à la carte menu is littered with WTF ingredients that jazz up the high-quality meats and seasonal vegetables; be warned that a main will cost more than the entire set lunch menu. You know what to do.
Open: Year-round, weather permitting. Food served noon–2.30pm, 7pm–9.30pm Mon–Sat, noon–3pm Sun.
Forest on the Roof’s spring renaissance has seen the twinkly winter woodland’s fairy-lit trees and snuggly plaid rugs replaced by a full-on English country garden, with colourful blooms, a living wall, and flower-decked potting sheds for hire on the terrace. The all-day menu serves clean-living weekday brunches and a lushly seasonal à la carte (think grilled cod with shaved asparagus, peas and lovage). For dessert, try the chocolate forest – an edible undergrowth complete with meringue funghi, honeycomb bark, and chocolate twigs.
Open: March 24–early October. Food served 11am–9.30pm Mon–Sat, noon–6pm Sun.
The Lyric’s atmospheric roof garden, run by Peyton & Byrne, serves a menu as eclectic in style as the productions on show in the theatre below. It’s a popular spot, not just for families and pre-theatre dining, but also with in-the-know locals, thanks to its oasis-like feel, friendly staff and express weekday lunches. The grill-led menu majors in herb-marinated skewers, flame-grilled fish and gastro-burgers, plus gooey desserts. The best bit? You can even book tables on this terrace.
Open: Year-round, noon–6.30pm Mon–Sat.
Find the best rooftop bars in London
As much as we love London's dark and dingy pubs, there are occasions when tatty banquettes and yellowed walls don't quite cut it. For a classier night of inebriation, get yourself to one of London's best rooftop bars. Here, you'll find swish cocktails, plush lounges and gourmet bar snacks galore, not to mention a front-row seat to the sexiest skyline on the planet.
Smiths of Smithfield
There are four different levels to this Smithfields spot, encompassing a ground floor cafe and bar, a first-floor bar dedicated to craft beer, a second-floor dining room and a third – and top – floor given over to food of a more fine-dining bent. There are private rooms to hire, too. Largely, the menus here focus on British produce and dishes. Expect bacon sandwiches, full English breakfasts and mushrooms on toast on the ground floor, steaks, burgers and seared scallops with black pudding, bacon and cauliflower purée in the second-floor dining room, and veal sirloin, cod with langoustine and roast monkfish with caramelised cauliflower, leeks, cockles and ham on the top floor. More than 60 craft beers feature in first-floor bar. Brewers include Five Points, the Canopy Beer Co., The Kernel, Camden Town and Hammerton. Cocktails, wines and an interesting selection of spirits also feature.