Where will you find any self-respecting Londoner in summer? Up on the roof, that’s where. Here’s our guide to outdoor dining at height, including smart summertime rooftop restaurants in London, year-round rooftop dining and the odd wild card.
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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 – lobster sub, longhorn cheeseburger, snacky yakitori skewers, tuna tartare and so on – alfresco if you prefer.
Open year-round. Monday-Sunday, 11.30am-10pm. Bar food all day from 12pm-9.30pm.
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.
Open year-round. Open daily from 11.30am. Food served noon-9pm.
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, for example. If you’re in this for the sunshine, opt for lunch on the faux-turfed terrace, which serves a seafood menu on late weekday lunchtimes, and across the week for dinner. Diners get access to the roof gardens, provided it’s not booked for a private function. There are deckchairs, exotic flowers, giant lawn games – and free-range flamingos.
Restaurant open Monday-Saturday, noon-midnight; Sunday, noon-7pm. Gardens open year-round, Monday-Sunday, 9am-5pm (unless hired for a private function).
This Smithfield restaurant 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 a full lunch, or dishes from the substantial bar menu – from crispy Kentucky buttermilk chicken with sriracha sauce to crab mayonnaise on toast and spruced-up burgers.
Open in summer months. Monday-Friday, noon-10pm; Saturday, 5pm-10pm. Lunch served Monday-Saturday, noon-3pm. Bar snacks are available in the evening.
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 crispy pigs' ears, beetroot with fried milk and ramson berries, fried chicken wings with banana ketchup, or sweet cardamom cheesecake, you’ll suddenly feel possessive. The best bit? Two words: Sunday. Barbecues.
Open year-round. Food served Wednesday-Friday, 6pm-10pm; Saturday, 2pm-6pm (free bar snacks) and 6pm-10pm (dinner); Sunday, noon-7pm (barbecue).
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 Monday-Saturday, noon-10pm; Sunday, noon-9.30pm.
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 black truffle and ricotta tortellini. Otherwise, for cheaper dining, snack on a cheeky miniature croque monsieur or garlic-butter-smothered 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. The grill serves Monday-Friday, 11.30am-3pm; Saturday, noon-1am; Sunday, noon-4pm. The bar and terrace are open Monday-Thursday, 11.30am-midnight; Friday, 11.30am-1am; Saturday, noon-1am; Sunday, noon-4pm. Bar snacks are served 5pm-11pm.
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 in summer months. Tuesday, 5pm-10.30pm; Wednesday-Saturday, noon-10.30pm; Sunday, noon-9.30pm.
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 Monday-Saturday, noon-2.30pm and 7pm-9.30pm; Sunday, noon-3pm.
This laid-back terrace probably wins the prize for the lowest rooftop terrace in London, but technically it qualifies – if you count Pop Brixton’s shipping containers as having roofs, that is. The fairy-lit alfresco part of this rough and ready bar, which serves lip-smacking tapas (shout-out to the stuffed piquillo peppers), good wines and Spanish-style (ie. gigantic) G&Ts, is a lovely spot on warm evenings – you (and your food) are separated from the crush of Pop proper, below, but you can still enjoy its buzzy vibe.
Open year-round (weather permitting). Food served Monday-Saturday, noon-10pm; Sunday, noon-6pm.
Find more alfresco options
Rotunda Bar & Restaurant
This King's Cross bar and restaurant has a cracking location when sunshine hits in summer. Sure, it's address says traffic-heavy York Way but Rotunda's real plus comes from its view out back, of the bobbing barges and boats of Regent's Canal. There's usually a cute little garden set up on the terrace, too. The food is focused on British produce, but with influence from across Europe. Expect dishes such as mushroom and truffle arancini, duck fritters with gin and juniper mayonnaise, Josper-grilled steaks and pan-fried sea bass with a saffron, mussel and langoustine risotto and sauce vierge. The drinks list includes seasonal cocktails, beers from Camden Town Brewery, Pressure Drop, Beavertown, Five Points and Brewdog, and a wine list with an old world slant.
Venue says: “Spring lamb dinner & showcase – butchery demonstration – 5-course tasting menu – 26th June – £49.50”