Despite its grey and grizzly reputation, we’re here to defend the UK’s capital city and say London sees its fair share of sunshine come the summer months. Okay, it’s not Barcelona or Faro, but what it lacks in consistency it makes up for in all out surprise factor. When the weather heats up there’s nothing like kicking back at a rooftop restaurant in the capital, to enjoy food and drinks with friends in the heat of the day. If it’s not pizza and pals you’re after then we think rooftop restaurants in London also make the ideal place to enjoy a romantic sky-high date, because is there anything more Hollywood than soaking up the ambiance as the sun goes down.
With so many rooftop restaurants, Londoners really are spoilt for choice. But which are the best? When we eat out – no matter the location – first and foremost we’re interested in how good the food is. Each of our top picks below put the menu first, speedily followed by the views (because what’s a rooftop without some serious skyline action?). We’ve tried to include a range of options, so that whatever your mood you can take in the sights. From oyster bars and rooftop grill restaurants, the options range from casual to something a little fancier.
There really is no better way to make the most of our all too fleeting warm weather than by dining on a rooftop. Ideal for amazing views and catching a tan, you’ll want to be far above the ground to enjoy the stretch of summer and London’s gorgeous views. From South Bank terraces to City high-rises, we’ve rounded up eleven of the must-visit rooftop restaurants with outdoor space in the capital for you to enjoy this year. And we’d love to hear from you too, if you have a secret spot to share with other readers.
Why we like it: There's nothing not to love about Allegra, found on the seventh floor of the luxurious Straford hotel. Not only does the slickly designed restaurant serve an exciting modern European menu created by head chef Patrick Powell, but the dining room also leads out onto a stunning wrap-around rooftop terrace. Packed with the greenery, water features and more, Allegra's terrace also has heaters making it an al fresco dining destination all year round. Head here during April and May 2021 for a series of outdoor pop-ups from restaurants including Perilla and Mangal 2.
Where: The Stratford Hotel, 20 International Way, E20 1FD
Smiths of Smithfield, Farringdon
Why we like it: Things get smarter the higher up you go at Farringdon's Smith's of Smithfield. Head straight up to the top floor of the grade II-listed building for wonderful views of The City and the option to dine outside on the restaurant's wonderful terrace. Choose from a variety of big-flavoured British dishes with prime cuts of meat coming from local markets, or come here on Saturday's for a memorable free-flowing brunch.
Where: 67-77 Charterhouse Street, EC1M 6HJ
Aqua Kyoto, Soho
Why we like it: It would be easy to think that you'd been transported to another European capital when sitting on the rooftop terrace at Central London's Aqua Kyoto. That is, if you couldn't see the London Eye peaking over the buildings in the distance. There's a specific menu that you can order from when sat on the terrace which features a mixture of Japanese favourites including sushi, tataki, yakitori and more, while outdoor heaters mean that it doesn't need to be scorching weather for you to take advantage of this rooftop.
Where: 5th Floor, 240 Regent Street (Entrance 30 Argyll Street), W1B 3BR
The Castle, Angel
Why we like it: There aren't many traditional London pubs that can boast a rooftop terrace but The Castle in Angel certainly can. It may not be the high-up experience that some of the other restaurants in our guide offer, but The Castle's rooftop is intimate and charming. Head here for British pub classics such as bangers and mash, burgers or why not come on a Sunday to enjoy an al fresco roast dinner?
Where: 54 Pentonville Road, N1 9HF
Alto by San Carlo, Marylebone
Why we like it: For those that need a quick refresher on their Italian, ‘alto’ translates to high, and high up is exactly where you’ll be at Alto by San Carlo. Following a string of short popups, Selfridges’ rooftop is now home to this branch of the international Italian restaurant brand, which is currently signed up until May 2019. While drinking in the sunshine from its open-air location, dine on the likes of penne arrabbita or tiger prawns sautéed with garlic, white wine and chilli, before chasing it all with an Aperol Spritz or a glass of bubbly.
Where: Selfridges, Oxford Street, W1A 1AB
Why we like it: Seabird in Hoxton lives up to the Insta hype with picture-perfect interiors and some of the best cocktails in the city. While you’re quenching your thirst, you may as well treat yourself to some of the restaurant’s mix and match style plates. Our top picks are the moreish pan con tomate which is perfectly seasoned and hides the slightest hint of garlic, the octopus dog (which somehow manages to balance novelty factor with clean, fabulous flavours) and just about anything from the charcoal grill, which kindly gifts fish and meat with its wonderful hum of smoke. Views from the rooftop tick off some of London’s best skyline features, like The Shard and its equipped with heaters and blankets for all-year enjoyment.
Where: 40 Blackfriars Road, SE1 8NY
Boundary Rooftop Bar & Grill, Shoreditch
Why we like it: The change in mood as you step out of the lift that takes you up to Boundary’s rooftop is tangible: from the concrete jungle below to an inviting area complete with big, comfy settees, a garden abundant with vines and wild herbs, and great views of east London. On the menu you’ll find the likes of rock oysters and grilled lobster, and mains of confit duck leg or grilled halloumi with roasted vegetables. Take advantage of Boundary’s extensive drinks menu too by ordering a sweet cocktail, such as the Passion Mint with gin, passion fruit and mint.
Where: 2-4 Boundary Street, E2 7DD
Coq d’Argent, City
Why we like it: Going for the gold standard on a street called Poultry, Coq d’Argent is near the top of the City’s pecking order. We reckon its status as a favourite in business diaries is down to a considerable clutch of attractions including gorgeous roof gardens, a heavily diverting wine list and the good looks of a cruise liner in its pomp. Enjoy dishes such as escargots de Bourgogne or loup de mer (seared fillet of sea bass and mussels), before indulging in dessert such as the fondant au chocolat noir with pistachio ice cream.
Where: 1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ
The Culpeper, Whitechapel
Why we like it: The Culpeper is a stripped back, all-day venue dealing in patriotic grub with some Gallic overtones – think mackerel with pickled beetroot and lemon, or soft shell red prawn skewers. The real gem of this east London joint, however, is its rooftop. There, guests will discover a full-fledged vegetable farm which supplies ingredients for the kitchen, and a menu that satisfies any cravings, featuring confit pork belly, lamb kofta and more.
Where: 40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP
Madison, St Paul’s
Why we like it: Spectacular views of St Paul’s and the lure of alfresco drinks high above the City ensure that queues for the lift to Madison build early on summer afternoons. Soak up the sunshine of the few warm summer days that London has left while out on the restaurant’s rooftop terrace and lounge. While there, guests can order baby back ribs with rose harissa or buttermilk chicken with coriander yoghurt. Wash it all down with a refreshing El Peligroso cocktail, with rum and guanabana juice.
Where: One New Change, EC4M 9AF
OXO Tower Brasserie, South Bank
Why we like it: High up on the eighth floor of the OXO Tower, this fashion-conscious, brasserie-style eyrie offers great views of the South Bank from its rooftop terrace. Mixed with its convivial, easy-going surroundings, sun-seekers can indulge in a leisurely summer’s evening at OXO, while tucking into the likes of seared scallops or a sirloin steak for mains, before moving onto desserts such as a blueberry and lemon cheesecake. Expect an extra sparkle in the evening too, as the brasserie is home to live jazz and mellow piano music.
Where: OXO Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, SE1 9PH
Radio Rooftop Bar & Restaurant, Covent Garden
Why we like it: Impossibly glamorous, the exclusive rooftop bar at ME London piles on the wow factor with its minimalist monochrome décor and views over the City skyline. On warm days, the prime spots are the white leather sofas by the rooftop edge, ideal for lounging in the sunshine. For peckish visitors, day time eats include, linguini, burgers and salads, with dainty tapas on offer when the lights go down. Pair your meal with a drink from Radio Rooftop’s cocktail list, which features a Soundbyte made with limoncello, Galliano and prosecco, or a Pink One made with pink gin.
Where: ME London Hotel, 336-337 The Strand, WC2R 1HA
Roka, Canary Wharf
Why we like it: Serving up high glamour with bamboo and polished wood from a high-above-the-ground location, Roka is the antithesis of a modest Japanese restaurant. With an ambiance influenced by a boisterous, enthusiastic crowd and consistently top notch bites, Roka satisfies all rooftop and dining needs on a balmy summer’s evening. While there, guests can indulge in Roka’s decadent menu, which features padr?n pepper tempura, fresh water eel and baby back ribs with cashew nuts.
Where: 4 Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, E14 5FW
12th Knot at Mondrian London, South Bank
Why we like it: With a sexy mix of jewel-bright Mad Men-era furnishings and a tweaked Thames terrace with stunning views of the City, 12th Knot oozes decadence for those seeking a glamorous evening out. While out on the terrace, which offers a direct view of St Pauls and Blackfriars Bridge, indulge in the American-esque menu, which features buttermilk popcorn chicken, sloppy Joe sliders and a pimped-up hot dog topped with sriracha ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, bacon and crispy shallots.
Where: Mondrian London, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD
Why we like it: From the moment the lightning-quick glass elevator whisks you up to the 38th floor of Heron Tower, you know you can expect great views of the capital from Sushisamba. Once inside, you can’t miss the incredible rooftop terrace or the covens of young City types splashing serious amounts of cash at the bar. With a direct view of the Gherkin and the Shard off in the distance, nibble on dishes from the restaurant’s Japanese-Latino inspired cuisine, such as Kobe churrasco or tuna belly nigiri.
Where: Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate (38-39thfloor), EC2N 4AY
Forza Wine, Peckham
Why we like it: Sat atop Market Peckham directly opposite Peckham Rye station, Forza Wine is a bit of a hidden gem when it comes to rooftop restaurants. Shoot up to the top floor in a lift and you'll arrive in what is basically a glass cuboid bar-cum-dining room, which leads out onto a glorious terrace area. Offering up snacky Italian crowd-pleasers, you can order the full menu here to share as a group for a little over £100, while the wine list is well worth exploring too, as the restaurant's name suggests.
Where: Floor 5, 133A Rye Lane, SE15 4BQ
If you can’t get enough of eating outdoors, check out our full list of London’s best outside restaurants here.