For decades we lagged behind other cities when it came to taking our drinking to the next level. But with a load of top-floor bars and parties now looking out over the city, we’ve hit the heady heights in time for summer. Jan Fuscoe and Tristan Parker round up the highlights.
Best for city views: Vista
Cut through the Trafalgar Hotel’s Rockwell Bar and take the lift up to the sixth floor where a compact and bijou bar offers stunning sightlines to some of London’s most popular visitor attractions: Nelson’s Column, the London Eye and Big Ben. Trafalgar Square might as well be the Bermuda Triangle in terms of its appeal to Londoners, but this bar’s far too good to leave to the tourists: you’ll fall in love with the city’s landmarks afresh when you see them from up here.
Trafalgar Hotel, 2 Spring Gardens, SW1A 2TS. Charing Cross.
Best for quirky events: Dalston Roof Park
A mere fiver gets you membership to one of Hackney’s busiest hangouts. Along with the manicured flowerbeds, DJs and cocktail shack, there are lots of summer events, including appropriately quirky food festivals (it recently hosted a ‘White Men Can’t Jerk’ chicken night), DJ sets from the likes of 2 Bears, plus the regular Tuesday Film Club, Fat Buddha Yoga (a confusing name for a class apparently aimed at people who want to ‘look good naked’) and Swing Patrol (less keys and bowls, more jitterbug and charleston).
Print House, 18 Ashwin St, E8 3DL. Dalston Junction Overground.
Best for birthdays: Sushisamba
Take the express lift to the top of one of the City’s tallest buildings, where Sushisamba, home of fusion Japanese- Brazilian-Peruvian sushi, will deliver breathtaking views over the Square Mile and beyond. A well-heeled crowd squeeze into two small bars and a terrace with an orange tree centre stage (it’s painted orange; it doesn’t bear the fruit). Choose from the short cocktail menu and extensive wine and sake list; the attitude-free staff are happy to help decipher the sushi menu. Just don’t forget to take a Gherkin selfie.
Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY. Liverpool St.
Best for laidback vibes: Frank’s Café
Due to reopen again in July until September, Frank’s has been welcoming crusties, trusties, international tourists and all their kids and dogs since 2007. The bar/café bit of the Bold Tendencies Sculpture Project occupies the tenth floor of the multistorey car park in Peckham. You can take the suitably ‘gritty’ lift, but walk and enjoy the large-scale sculptural creations on the way up. Once there you’ll find simple-butstrong cocktails and barbecued treats like grilled sweetcorn with paprika.
Tenth floor, Peckham Multistorey Car Park, 95a Rye Lane, SE15 4ST. Peckham Rye Overground.
Best for weather protection: Boundary Rooftop
Prepare to queue to get up to this Terence Conran-designed rooftop bar and grill. It’s part of the multi-faceted Boundary Project – a boutique hotel, restaurant, café and deli – and is ideal for what we’ll politely call London’s ‘inclement’ weather. Blankies are provided, along with an open woodburning fireplace, heaters and a stylish weatherproof pergola. It has a glass roof, which actually makes it more of a rain shelter – but, hey, it gives the same summery vibe. On hotter days, there are barbecues, pitchers of cocktails and lots of Shoreditch styler skin on show. The panoramic views of London, however, are available all year round.
2-4 Boundary St, E2 7JE. Shoreditch High St Overground.
Best for greenery: Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden Bar & Café
For unforgettable riverside views, follow the yellow-brick stairwell to the top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and its Eden Projectdesigned roof garden. A café-bar nestles among the wild flowers (including 100 British species) serving a few choice cocktails along with homemade lemonade and coffee, from 10am to 10pm every day. It’s the third year for this project and the gardening team have successfully created a woodland oasis full of plants and trees, along with artificial glades and woodland-inspired murals created by London schools. Your mum would love it.
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX. Waterloo.
Best for dressing-up: Radio Rooftop Bar
The newest kid on top of the block is the Radio Rooftop bar, right next to the grand art deco building from which the BBC made its first broadcast in 1922. Radio’s at the apex of the impossibly swish ME London Hotel: on the lofty tenth floor glam types queue to pose against views of Somerset House and downriver to the Shard. It’s open till 3am Thursday to Saturday (though we’re sure drinking at the Beeb would have carried on much later).
ME London Hotel, 336 Strand, WC2R 1HA. Temple.
Best for river views: Sky Lounge
Zip up to the twelfth-floor rooftop lounge of the DoubleTree by Hilton for awesome views of the Thames, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Last year’s highly successful Rum Shack has been superseded by a Tequila Canteen, with cocktails based on the spirit, Mexican food and mariachi music. Sombreros are not provided (or recommended).
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 7 Pepys St, EC3N 4AF. Tower Hill.
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