Rooftop restaurants in London
A smart bar/restaurant perched ten floors up at Finsbury Square’s Montcalm Hotel, Aviary’s got city views to die for. You can drink in the skyscraping panorama all year round – there are fire pits and heat lamps a-go-go to keep you warm in winter months (though you could just work through the cocktail list). The restaurant’s better set up for eating, but you can still snaffle the short bar menu alfresco if you prefer – think padrón peppers, Lindisfarne oysters, shorthorn cheeseburgers, duck-fat chips and so on.
Although there are only a few floors between the frenetic Shoreditch streets and Boundary’s inviting 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 all 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.
Swanky enough to draw in City types by the Jaguar-load, Bird of Smithfield is also hip enough to welcome Shoreditch strays. The summer-only Roof Terrace & Bar is its crowning glory, with a verdant living wall, orange trees and an ingenious glass-fronted counter that allows you to gaze out over Smithfield Market and the City as you tuck into dishes from the fixed-price lunch menu – anything from salt cod bavarois with smoked eel and cucumber to scotch beef fillet with tropea onion, sautéed girolles, wild garlic and almond pesto. Pick from the bar menu in the evening.
Open in summer months.
As a one-storey Islington gastropub, the Castle 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 Gin Gems Bar, Burger Shack and table service when the warm days begin. You must book a table here – and that’s not as easy as you might think.
Open year-round (weather dependent).
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 dover sole or roast rack of lamb. Otherwise, keep the bills in check by snacking on a cheeky miniature croque monsieur or some garlicky escargots from the bar menu on the garden terraces. There’s also an alfresco lunchtime grill – all the better for emptying your wallet and filling up on steak in the open air.
Terrace open year-round.
‘Street food, booze and panoramic City views’ is the deal at this big shiny box on a low-rise Canary Wharf rooftop – a seven-days-a-week fun-time arena from the team behind Dinerama. Like a cross between an airport lounge and a nightclub, Giant Robot is home to four traders, so buy your food then head to the adjoining terraces for some grazing and gazing. Punters also have access to the Wharf’s ‘rooftopia’ – a landscaped tropical garden under a semi-domed cover with enough panels to keep out the fiercest wind and rain, but enough space to allow for a gentle breeze and the odd visit from a stray bird or two.
Open year-round from 11am.
The famous rooftop garden/bar attached to this excellent City gastropub-with-rooms has been reborn as Piculpeper – an enterprise dedicated to seasonal pickling and preservation, complete with an eight-foot gherkin installation and a growing cast of veg destined for the jar. While the cooks do wondrous things with cucumbers and the like, visitors can sip herb-laden cocktails and graze from a menu of sharply seasonal pickle-themed ideas. You can now book tables throughout the summer months, while the space is available for private hire during the winter. Look out for special events and ‘urban gardening’ workshops too.
Open in summer months.
Sat on the corner of Granary Square (a foodie hotspot that’s also home to Caravan, Dishoom, Kerb and so on), The Lighterman is an airy bar/gastropub with an even airier first-floor wraparound terrace overlooking the plaza and bordering the canal. It’s not technically on the roof, but it’s as good as – and an ideal place to hack through a lovely-sounding menu of modern British plates. Expect anything from pea and mint croquettes, flatbreads and salads to beer-battered fish and hunks of charred flesh sizzling from the wood-fired grill.
The Lyric theatre’s atmospheric roof garden 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-show dining, but also with in-the-know locals, thanks to its oasis-like feel, friendly staff and express weekday lunches. The full-on grill-led menu majors in herb-marinated skewers, flame-grilled fish and gastro burgers, plus salads, sharing boards and gooey desserts. The best bit? You can book tables on the terrace.
A spruced-up roof terrace on the first floor of this cherished Hackney gastropub entices drinkers from its cosy interior out into the sun. On bright days, there’s space for around 20 on a first-come, first-served basis. Those lucky enough to bag a spot can enjoy booze and bar snacks or a full Marksman meal – try one of the much-lauded savoury buns, mussels with kohlrabi and wild fennel or a chicken, leek and tarragon pie (to share). Then watch those envious eyes glaring from the top of the number 55 bus as it rolls past.
Open year-round (weather-dependent).
No 32’s first-floor terrace (or ‘honorary rooftop’, as we like to think of it) has a relaxed, social feel thanks to its communal tables, tranquil views of Clapham Common and an indulgent menu that sees courgette crostini and crispy polenta squid lining up alongside burgers and kimchi fried rice. Bookings are only taken for the dining room, so it’s pot luck on the terrace – try to time your visit for a bloody mary-fuelled breakfast, lazy Sunday roast or sundowner cocktails with sharing platters.
Terrace open early March-late November.
Here’s some good news for anyone partial to a central London rooftop: Orrery’s chic, sleek terrace, hidden from Marylebone’s madding crowds, is an all-weather zone. The long, narrow alfresco space with its bright yellow awnings offers a lunchtime carte full of delicate modern European dishes, featuring dishes such as seafood ravioli or Jerusalem artichoke risotto. Not hungry? Just enjoy a cocktail or two as the sun goes down.
Eight floors above the South Bank, Oxo might not dish up rooftop dining per se, but it offers more height, fresh air and feelings of space than many of the capital’s rooftop terraces. It’s first-come, first-served here for terrace tables, so arrive on the dot for lunch and take your pick – there are corking views of the Thames and its landmark buildings, plus modern European food. There’s no heating out there, however, so time your visit carefully.
Open year-round (weather-permitting).
Three floors of fun and games in the City, Smiths of Smithfield has been given a bit of a freshen-up by its current owners Youngs Brewery – and it looks tickety-boo. Those hankering after that singular rooftop experience should bypass the sweaty ground-floor bar and head up to the Number 3 restaurant on the Top Floor, with its lovely outdoor terrace and views of London’s towering landmarks. Eat from a menu of well-crafted modern Brit dishes featuring plenty of prime red meat from the nearby market and gussied-up ideas such as lemon sole with cockles, preserved lemon and charred romanesco.
Open in fine weather (we’re talking warm, sunny days without high winds), Sushisamba’s main dining terrace is a sought-after spot running along the glass sides of the sky-high restaurant – needless to say, the views are incredible. The terrace can’t be booked directly; however, if you happen to have a restaurant reservation on a scorcher, and enough of the outdoor seats are free, you can move outside. Sushi in the sun with views of one the world’s greatest cities: that’s about as good as it gets.
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