Going alfresco: London’s best rooftop gardens this summer


Like it or not, London has something of a drizzly reputation – yes, whatever the time of year. Yet, should you be arranging a short-stay at one of the fine hotels in the centre of the city this summer (such as, say, the Park hotel Hyde Park), you’ll doubtless be aware that when the sun shines in the UK capital, the place has a habit of truly coming alive; colour, vibrancy and, above all, fun oozing gloriously from its every pore.

So, should June, July and/ or August bring with them a heatwave (or two) this year, you’ll want to make the absolute most of the good weather – and your good luck – by doing what the natives do: seek out an excellent rooftop garden and while away the long, lazy hours of a warm afternoon and a balmy evening doing, well, nothing at all, thank you very much.

But which, this summer season, are the best recommendations on the rooftop scene? Well, when it comes to alfresco dining and imbibing you won’t be able to go far wrong with any of these offerings, for sure…

Pergola Paddington

(5 Kingdom Street W2 6PY)

Ideal should you choose to make your base at any of the 4 star hotels in Paddington, this place’ll be right on your doorstep and what a boon that’ll be. For, returning for the second consecutive year, this rooftop delight offers up self-service food stalls in the form of Patty & Bun, duck-based restaurateurs Canard and the Vietnamese barbecue specialists MAM. Moreover, it straddles two levels, ensuring it can accommodate up to 850 people (roomy!) and comes complete with a cornucopia of hanging plants. It even has, yes, a roof – in case any of that annoying wet stuff drops from the sky.

Tom’s Kitchen at HMS Belfast

(Queen Walk, Tooley Street SE1 2JH)

Just across from the rather stunning HMS Belfast (a ship that dates back to the Second World War and is now something of a Royal Navy Museum) and located on the South Bank is this rooftop delight, which sits atop the restaurant devised by top chef Tom Aiken. Owing to its esteemed location, it offers up marvellous views along the central stretch of the River Thames, such as Tower Bridge, City Hall, the Square Mile skyscrapers, the Tate Britain and in the distance Waterloo Bridge and the Palace of Westminster. In addition to the fine wines and further beverages available, the food menu’s made up of great seasonal sharing boards.

The Culpeper Rooftop Garden (Shoreditch)

(40 Commercial Street E1 6LP)

The big appeal of this rooftop garden is that all the food on offer is made up of dishes created from produce grown on-site and derived from nowhere else (sustainability should be this place’s middle name, or at least shoehorned into its name somewhere). It also possesses a playful pickle-based pop-up (the nattily titled Piculpeper), while the place’s spring menu – just about still available – features 13 variations of cucumber (count ’em!). Great views of The City await here; don’t doubt it.

Alto (Selfridges)

(400 Oxford Street W1A 1AB)

Finally, perfect if you’ve chosen for yourself very centrally-located accommodation (such as one of the hotels in Hyde Park), the world-famous Selfridges store on Oxford Street is renowned – among those in the know – for its spring-and-summer-opening rooftop garden; and for good reason. This year, it’s turned to Italian dining as its focus, in the shape of the dining spot that’s Alto, which is serving up hearty and delicious southern Italian cuisine; expect the likes of fillet of seabass (cooked in black volcanic salt from Mount Etna) as well as Sicily-roasted shellfish. If that’s got your taste buds going, you know where to head!