Not much beats lounging in the sun with a cocktail in hand – except perhaps doing so while gazing across London’s skyline 30 floors up. Not that the capital is lacking for high-rise watering holes of course, plenty of bars make the most of their vertigo-inducing prime locations. For the discerning drinker however it’s a little more than just elevation that gets them heady.
For phenomenal views, delectable cocktails and if you’re lucky a bite to eat, these are the rooftop bars we recommend. Just don’t spill your drink; it’s a long, long way down.
1. Radio Rooftop Bar
It’s not often you get to lord it over Somerset House, especially when as literal as Radio Rooftop Bar allows. The crown jewel of the ultra-modern ME London, the view is enough that you can just name a landmark and see it at eye-level. The drinks are the usual mix of classics with a twist – all made to five star standards but nothing you’ll remember for the rest of your life. The food on the other hand really is standout. You might not go to Radio Rooftop for the bar snacks – more the energetic atmosphere and views – but when you get peckish after your third martini the tapas-inspired menu won’t leave you wanting; radiorooftop.com
2. The Rumpus Room
The Mondrian at Sea Containers has a jewel of cocktail culture in the form of the ground-floor Dandelyan bar, deservedly nestled right at the top of world’s 50 best bars. The Rumpus Room however is an entirely different animal. It’s one of the few bars I can say I’ve always had a good time at. It might be the glitzy interiors, the vibrant atmosphere or the excellent British-American drinks (not Dandelyan good but then not much is); whatever the reason, I find myself returning time and again to take in the view across the Thames. For summer there’s a bit of a rooftop garden theme, though once the DJs get going you probably won’t notice.
Nowadays the hubbub has died a little around Sushisamba meaning you may actually be able to just walk in… possibly. On a slow day at least. Even if you do need to book in advance, the view alone is worth it, the 38th floor of Heron Tower overlooking even the Gherkin. The view is spoiled only by the architectural travesty that is the ‘Cheesegrater’ and even that is made up for with the modern Japanese-influenced classic cocktails served. Think along the lines of Nergroni’s with plum wine and smoked ice. As for bar snacks… well, by this point I shouldn’t think I need to laud Sushisamba’s Peruvian-Brazilian-Japanese fusion sushi. In case I do: it’s absolutely delicious; sushisamba.com
4. Aqua Spirit
Like its culinary-focused sibling Aqua Kyoto, Aqua Spirit is glitzy to the extreme, more champagne bar than cocktail, and with the sophisticated interiors to match. Situated in the old Dickens and Jones building, it’s rooftop space offers some of the best views you’re likely to find on Regent Street and at five floors rather than fifty is a little kinder to vertigo suffers than its other sibling in the shard. Despite the looks the cocktails are superb, if a little more than comparable offerings. Still, the location, the view and live weekend DJs are more than enough to justify the inflation. If you really want to impress, this is the place to go; aquaspirit.co.uk
The City doesn’t exactly have a wealth of rooftop bars but even if it did Aviary would be very high on the list. Topping the Montcalm Hotel and holding court over Finsbury Square, the terrace bar is a master class in relaxed modernism. Comfortable sofas, heaters and flashes of colour make it the kind of place you can spend an entire afternoon and most of the evening. Champagne cocktails are top of the menu here, though the botanical twist to most of the classics mixes things up. If you get peckish head to the inside restaurant for traditional pub food with a very City feel. Just don’t speak aloud any distaste for the financial sector; www.aviarylondon.com