Feast your eyes: at these London bars and restaurants, it’s the views of the capital that steal the show
London’s newest rooftop bar, Sabine, offers something special: a spectacular close-up view of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. This lofty oasis is seven floors up, giving a prime view of the iconic dome on one side and of the glittering Shard on the other. The breezy botanical theme that runs through the decor is picked up in the excellent cocktails, such as Whizz Fizz, a mix of Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb & Ginger, elderflower cordial, crème de cassis and lemon juice. The food is deliciously summery, with moreish sharing plates and mains such as Lebanese chicken flatbread with ezme, tamarind yoghurt and picked red onions. A retractable roof means that you can eat alfresco even when it rains, and the ‘bongs’ from the clocktower of St Paul’s as you dine add a certain frisson in all weathers.
You can enjoy a picture-postcard view of Tower Bridge from the sun-trap terrace of Butlers Wharf Chop House. The restaurant’s menu is a celebration of meaty British cuisine, with five cuts of Aberdeen Angus beef steak and a choice of six different sauces to accompany it. Crispy triple-cooked chips are an obligatory accompaniment, and the desserts are equally tempting: sticky toffee pudding, maybe, or banana cheesecake. Come hungry.
The Shard, the glittering glass spike that towers over Southwark, has a whole host of eating and drinking options within its sleek confines. Aqua Shard is an elegant, dimly lit space where a smart crowd tucks into contemporary British cuisine as they gaze out through enormous windows at the London skyline – breathtaking after dark. The food is excellent, but it’s hard not to be distracted by this fascinating, rarely seen view of London: minuscule pedestrians, dinky buses and toytown trains snaking into London Bridge station far below.
Right next door to the famous theatre, Swan, Shakespeare’s Globe benefits from stunning views of the Thames and St Paul’s. A seat facing the window is a must; book one of the tables with prime views of the cathedral, beautifully illuminated at night. The chic, airy room is full of the chatter of diners enjoying beautifully presented modern British food: Romney Marsh lamb with curly kale and caramelised shallots, perhaps, followed by rhubarb crumble tart. Shakespeare would have approved, we’re sure.
The Royal Festival Hall’s chic third-floor restaurant overlooks one of central London’s prettiest stretch of river: the South Bank. The modern British cuisine is excellent – the likes of 18-hour gin-cured salmon followed by Suffolk pork chop, piccalilli and apple. Though a large space, the restaurant feels buzzy and intimate thanks to cleverly zoned areas – a few little tables clustered round the bar here, some cosy booths there. Book a window-side table to make the most of the romantic views.
A familiar landmark on London’s bustling South Bank, the Oxo Tower was originally built as a power station to supply electricity for the Royal Mail, and was later bought by the manufacturers of Oxo beef stock cubes. These days, there’s a restaurant, brasserie and bar here, all eight floors up; the brasserie is our favourite for its modern British menu, open kitchen and live jazz in the evenings. On fine days, try to bag a table on the sunny terrace to enjoy sweeping views of the Thames with a cocktail in hand.
Duck & Waffle was many Londoners’ first taste of sky-high dining, pioneering the trend that has seen several more of the capital’s skyscrapers dedicate an upper floor to a restaurant with vertiginous, wraparound views of some of London’s most iconic sights. On the 40th floor of the Heron Tower in the City, this buzzy restaurant serves rib-sticking British cuisine 24 hours a day, so you can tuck in as you watch the sun rise. Our tip? Book one of the tables nearest the Gherkin skyscraper.