These days London seems to be all about its rooftop bars and restaurants. Which is totally understandable considering London’s amazing sky line, which is constantly changing, with brand new sky scraper landmarks popping up like daisies. Now is the best time to go, with summer well on its way and the weather finally showing its kind side.
This week I was lucky enough to visit three, which had been high on my list (no pun intended):
Radio Bar, ME Hotel, the Strand
The press went mad when the ME Hotel, part of the famous Melia brand, opened on the Strand at the end of 2012. And you can see why. The ME’s real ‘wow factor’, the Radio Bar, photographs exceptionally well. From the slick design to the wide terrace with 360 degree views, you can’t not be tempted by the photo below.
So what did I think of it?
The View: Well, the view is as good as it can possibly get. Everything in London worth seeing is visible from up here. It covers all the London landmarks. And it makes you feel just a little bit proud to be a Londoner.
Drinks: A bitter disappointment. I thought I’d treat myself to an (expensive) cocktail. They are all £12.50 – just about doable. But then they add an astronomical service charge of 15% to it (and the service is definitely average). So that quickly adds up to £14.30. That better mean a very good cocktail. Which it wasn’t. I ordered a Grapefruit Cooler, which sounded good – Bombay Sapphire, ginger, lemon grass, grapefruit. Except it turned out to just be Gin with a grapefruit sparkling mixer which tasted similar to Fanta Lemon. Nicht cool.
The Vibe: It’s a super busy, even on weekdays. If you come here spontaneously (like we did), be prepared to stand. Big spenders come here to flash their cash and make a lot of noise. Girls are tarted up to the maximum. If you want to book a table there is a (high) minimum spend, so it’s hard to come here with a group of friends unless you want to spend a fair bit. There is loud music and on the weekend it’s open until 3am, so you can party till early in the morning with views of a beautifully lit up London.
Verdict: Go for a drink (steer clear of the cocktails and just go for a beer or a glass of wine), because despite the high prices, it is totally worth it for the view.
336 – 337 The Strand
Coq D’Argent, City of London
A little green oasis in a hectic city, which also tends to be a famous bankers hangout (but don’t let that put you off!) – mainly due to it’s location (a minute walk from Bank Underground).
So what did I think of it?
The View: City-based means City heavy views (i.e lots of glass sky scrapers, and quite a few cranes). I love it. You can literally see East London transforming if you go every couple of months. The ‘garden’ (not to be taken to literally) means there is a bit more space to stand and have drinks, though the grass can be quite muddy if it’s busy (which it tends to be).
Drinks: They have a very reasonably priced cocktail menu for £10 a pop, and they don’t automatically add service charge, which I like. Great thing is, if you’re broke you can just go for a glass of their house white, which at £4.50 is a bargain for the City, let alone a rooftop bar in the City.
The Vibe: While predominantly banker heavy, a real mix of people hang out here. Most people come post work, though it’s busy for breakfast and lunch too. Most men are suited, the women all look pretty stylish. There are plenty of tables/benches/places to sit or stand, so it does not feel jam packed, but reserve if you want a guaranteed seat. The restaurant is meant to be really good, though fairly pricy. If you want to eat, definitely book a table.
The Verdict: Go! Perfect for an after-work drink, the earlier in the week you go, the less busy. Prices are reasonable considering high drinks prices in the city. And the views are cool.
No 1 Poultry
London EC2R 8EJ
Skylounge Bar, Hilton Double Tree Hotel, Tower Hill
I only recently heard of this bar, situated on the roof of the Hilton Double Tree Hotel, right by Tower Hill (and, more importantly, Tower Bridge). Since I am a West London girl I rarely get to see Tower Bridge, which remains one of London’s true icons and a reminder of its interesting (if a little gory) history. So for the best views of Tower Bridge, this is the place to come.
So what did I think of it?
The View: As above, the view of Tower Bridge is breathtaking. For the best views of this, opt for the smaller terrace with a long narrow table and stools in a row which look right out at it. Not great for a group, but perfect for a couple. For general views of the City of London and its glorious skyscrapers, the other terraces work perfectly, with lots of tables big enough for large groups. You could probably also see Tower Bridge from here but there was a lot of scaffolding up which blocked our view.
The Drinks: The drinks are not cheap in any way or form, but it is a hotel bar after all. The cheapest bottle of Rosé (which we drank all evening) was £30, which is doable. But it was a good Rosé. They also serve excellent sharing platters for £20 – £25, which complement the drinks nicely. For more of a bargain, there is a summer pop up on one of the terraces at the back (which has the less good views and no evening sun) called Cuervo’s Cantina, where they serve jugs of Mojito’s for £20, as well as some classic Mexican nibbles. We wanted to go there to try it out too, but at 8pm they said they were shutting, which was a disappointment.
The Vibe: I liked it. There is a huge amount of space for a roof terrace, and while it was busy we never felt cramped. There is music but it’s in no way loud enough to drown out your conversation. Yes, there were a few drunken groups of friends towards the end of the evening, but it was Saturday evening (and the end of a beautifully sunny day). The bar shuts at 11pm, so it’s not really a late night party place, but a fantastic place to start the night and a good base from which to head to Shoreditch or other East London areas.
The Verdict: Surprised how much I liked it considering it doesn’t have the name that the other two have. Great location (which was new for me too) and just loved seeing the sun set and Tower Bridge turn pink. Plus you don’t have to book but you should still get a table (we did at 7pm on a Saturday).
Double Tree Tower of London Hotel
+44 20 7709 1043 ·
7 Pepys Street
Tower of London