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Flannels Insider: London's Best Rooftop Bars

Flannels Insider: London's Best Rooftop Bars

If New York is the ancestral home of the rootftop bar, then London is its more inventive counterpart, fine-tuning the winning drinking-at-altitude formula with some artistic license thrown in to boot. From sleek A-lister rooftop watering holes to pop-up community arts bars, London can’t get enough of imbibing at dizzying heights. It’s summer, the sun sets later each evening and a comforting warmth persists even after dark. There’s something about the magic of mid-summer that compels Londoners and visitors alike to climb out of the the urban fog in a bid for alcohol-aided freedom. Sit in the open air and enjoy beautifully crafted beverages with views befitting of their vigor at any one of our recommended inner city rooftop bars. Drinking with a view.

RADIO ROOFTOP

Soaring above the Strand, the historic Radio Rooftop offers its discerning clientele 10-storey-high panoramic views of London in all its dusky glory. So-called because the Art Deco building was the first place from which the BBC transmitted programming in 1922, the slick venue has quickly become one of the coolest establishments in the city. In prime location atop the boutique ME Hotel, it’s a firm fashion-circuit favourite, serving indecently moreish cocktails and bespoke Bloody Marys with brunch. Sample a taste of “La Dolce Vita” (a signature mix of gin, Campari, Limoncello and passion fruit) out on the terrace, where white-clad booths beckon and heated canopies shelter revellers whatever the weather. Sleek and achingly cool, the venue is one of London’s premier destinations for al fresco tipples throughout the spring and summer. Worth it for the views alone, the experience wouldn’t be complete without sampling the Spanish inspired Tapas menu “con vistas”. Sit back and enjoy the view.

FRANK'S CAFE

One of south London’s best loved institutions, Frank’s Café offers a relaxed alternative to the city’s more streamlined rooftop watering holes. Opened in conjunction with Bold Tendancies, a non-profit commissioning art project, you can expect an interesting mix of visuals and performances as the art world and trendy Londoners collide. The space, perched atop a multi storey car park in Peckham, was designed by Practice Architecture and exudes an overall vibe of laid back sundown lusciousness. Its grand reopening in May signals the start of the summer for many, with the bar serving up some of the best Negronis this side of the Arno. The venue is a welcome escape on humid summer days from the pounding of the pavement below, with a unique red-canopied marquee for shelter during those inevitable August downpours. Nothing beats a dish of their fresh, market price lamb kebabs and a cold Aperol Spritz to wash it down, all with stunning views across the London skyline.

PLAYGROUND AND PROOF

Overlooking London Fields, Playground & Proof Rooftop Bar is a verdant oasis nestled away from the concrete jungle of the city’s streets. The venue combines two of a Londoner’s favourite past times – day time drinking and a food market. Incorporating both indoor and outdoor areas, alongside foodie stalls from some of East London’s best vendors (look out for The Cheese Truck), Playground & Proof spent last summer plying the masses with the wares of London’s original Mezcal specialists, Quiquirqui. Through winter, the agenda changes, with mulled gin and juice accompanying blankets and hot fires. Delightful as that sounds, summer sees the the egg-nog make way for flamingo croquet and frozen margaritas a la Mezcaleria. Split across floors and with pastoral views across the treetops, it’s East London’s answer to NYC’s Gallow Green.

AQUA SPIRIT

Gaze at the central London skyline from Aqua Spirit’s vantage point at the very heart of its famed shopping hub Regent Street. Having dined on the impeccably presented sushi and sashimi from the sumbiyaki charcoal grill at Aqua Kyoto, a move out onto the Spirit terrace is obligatory. We’re not aware of a better spot for a digestif in London. Theatrical and moody with dark exterior décor in-keeping with its West End location, the drinks menu features cocktails inspired by Japan alongside perfectly executed classics. You needn’t eat at the restaurant to enjoy this spectacular rooftop, with plenty of the sophisticated clientele arriving for pre and post dinner (and theatre) drinks. Relax, unwind, and enjoy the barman’s signature “Japanese Velvet”, a delicate and aromatic mix of pear-infused Ketel One Vodka shaken with nashi pear purée, fresh lemongrass, apple juice, lemon juice and honey liqueur. The perfect antidote for tired legs after a strenuous day of shopping.

SUSHISAMBA

Since opening their doors to New York City in 1999, Sushisamba has been at the heart of a cultural and culinary revolution sweeping the globe. Uniquely blending Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine, the London branch of this soulful and incredibly popular restaurant and bar occupies an unparalleled location on the 38th floor of 110 Bishopsgate. With a glass walled lift that propels visitors skywards, the year-round rooftop bar has as its focal point an orange-leaved tree sculpture, setting the tone for refined fun and magically enhancing the stunning views across London. A circular bar surrounds this centrepiece, and serves up an array of tempting cocktails and international lagers. Try the Green Tea-ni if you’re in the mood for something fun and refreshing, or the Coconut Seviche with coconut gin and dark chocolate liqueur for an after dinner treat. Arrive early and claim your seat around the sunken coal fire pit. Luxury with soul.