With great power comes great responsibility, and with multiple floors comes limp pizza with multiple £ signs. That’s the way things tend to go with rooftops in London. But not every view of ‘the greatest city in the world’* is matched with overpriced lager and bish bash bosh food. We’re not saying there are a tonne of great rooftop options, but there are a few worth knowing about.
* If you think this is incorrect, we’re happy to debate it, just email us.
The Rooftop Spots
If you take umbrage with the word ‘vacay’ then we can only apologise for the next sentence. Seabird is a sunny vacay masquerading as a Southwark rooftop, serving the kind of huge lobster dishes you would eat on vacay, alongside BIG VACAY ENERGY cocktails. Don’t worry, we’re going to stop using the word vacay but you should know that there is something so gloriously escapist about the foliage, cushions, and oil-loaded seafood dishes. It also happens to be one of our all time favourite places to eat oysters in London, especially if you’re getting involved in the Louët-Feissers.
Generally speaking, it’s quite hard to find a rooftop that feels ‘intimate’. The roof garden at Pantechnicon actually manages to pull that off. From the scandi blankets hanging on the back of the chairs to the leafy planters over the date-ready, two-person tables, it’s relaxed and cosy without ever teetering into snooze fest. Excitement comes in the form of the Japanese-meets-Nordic menu, and if you’re wondering what that entails, think trout tartare with yuzu, a buckwheat chicken katsu, and aquavit and shiso cocktail creations.
Forza Wine is up on Rye Lane and it leans more restaurant than bar. Once you see a couple happily sharing an oil-drenched panzanella in the sun, you’ll understand why. It’s all sharing plates: cauliflower fritti with aioli, a cheesestring-like fontina toastie with hot sauce. And, as the name suggests, there’s a solid and natural-filled wine list too. You can sit inside or out, just be sure to specify when you book.
We see your sad cheesy fries and we raise you a pistachio choux, blood pudding muffins, and pollack ceviche. In case your overdraft senses are tingling, yes, the dishes at Allegra are expensive but they really do ace that whole refined modern European thing. Everything from the chairs to the tall decorative trees look straight out of an aspirational holiday campaign and the views across Stratford definitely don’t hurt either.
Frank's Café & Campari Bar
Due to abandoned car parks and a little concept known as ‘gentrification’, Peckham is London’s hub for rooftops. That may sound flippant, but it isn’t meant to be. Frank’s is the original rooftop spot in SE15 and it’s a place everyone wants to be. The views are fantastic, the food—khobez flatbreads served with braised chicken or miso aubergine, alongside bulgar wheat, pickled red onion, and a pineapple salsa—is homemade, and the drinks are decently priced.
The rooftop at The Culpeper is a serene garden 10 minutes away from Liverpool Street. Trust us, that exists, we’ve seen it. The pub downstairs is usually heaving but we’d still recommend booking ahead for the rooftop. No one wants to be denied alfresco pints. The menu is tasty, gastropub stuff, so start with a whopper merguez sausage roll and then a pâté, or baguette with Jersey Royals.