There can be few greater pleasures than wandering amongst the flowers at Kensington Roof Gardens, peering around pretty plant fronds (and the odd flamingo) to find an oasis of colour hiding within the grey metropolis. From the chilled, Ibiza-style vibes at the Spanish Gardens to the delightfully quaint English Woodland, the rooftop offers surprises around every corner, to a backdrop of London's most famous landmarks.
For a relaxed evening, step onto the terrace at Babylon, grab a Derry & Tom’s Julep at Babylon bar (with Johnnie Walker whiskey, Boudier Pomme liqueur, lemon juice and fresh parsley from the herb garden) then choose your supper from the gloriously fresh seafood stand, newly installed for the summer.
From huge shell-on shrimp to Cornish crab and gargantuan lobsters, the food is remarkably well prepared and beautifully presented. As the evening wears on, the atmosphere shifts a gear as guests begin to let their hair down. When appetites are satisfied, we suggest wandering downstairs to The Club to join in the festivities.
99 Kensington High Street, W8 5SA; 020 7368 3993;
Built on the site of the medieval Crutched Friars Monastery, Samuel Pepys House and the 18th-century Naval College, the unassuming Hilton Doubletree boasts the Skylounge, offering fantastic views of the Tower Of London, Tower Bridge, the Gherkin, The Shard and the River Thames.
Balmy summer evenings should be spent at the brand new Cuervo's Cantina, Jose Cuervo Tequila’s summer pop up. Mexican Mules, Palomas, Tequila Sangrias, Diablos, Frozen Margaritas - it's all here, best served with taquitos and nachos, bean burritos and fajitas.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London, EC3N 4AF; 020 7709 1043;
For wild cocktails, riverside sunsets and foraged feasts, you can’t beat Midnight Apothecary. Taking up residence at Brunel Museum every Saturday night and Sunday, the offbeat pop-up hosts cocktail parties above the Thames Tunnel, serving very reasonable drinks garnished with ingredients from the roof garden.
It’s worth a visit for the clientele alone – local opera singers and jazz musicians often pop by to perform an impromptu set, as chief gardener Lottie Muir stokes the firepit and leads the marshmallow toasting.
Expect every cocktail to be something you've never tried before - think raspberry mint martinis, honey and basil daquiris and lavender gin fizz, with lavender sprigs as swizzle sticks.
Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue, Rotherhithe, SE16 4LF; 020 7231 3840;
Home to an open pool surrounded by plants, details of the sixth floor of East London's Shoreditch House read like a holiday destination. A doorway at one end of the pool area leads through to the Secret Garden, a secluded area of natural sitting rooms with open fires, a herb garden, comfortable seating and a fully-retractable roof, so sky high cocktails are a possibility come rain or shine.
Once you've finished exploring the garden, head to the Lazy Lawn where adept waiters will bring food and drinks to your very own daybed. Best for a searing hot day, this achingly hip private members club does exclusivity at its very best.
Ebor Street, Shoreditch, E1 6AW;
With open fires, soft blue and copper hues and a show-stopping bar as the centrepiece, the sky terrace at the Crowne Plaza London is set to be London's latest rooftop gem.
In the middle of London's best tourists attractions, like The Tate Britain and Houses of Parliament, Albert's Embankment is a haven away from the crowds with a low-key buzz and views across the city. This latest branch of the opens in May, meaning that you can enjoy a rooftop drink (or even dinner) before bedding down for the night just a few floors below.
There’s no doubt that Vista boasts one of the very best views of London, given its central location on top of the Trafalgar Hotel. Calm amongst the chaos of the capital, the smooth monochrome furnishings and soft music woo visitors before they've even had a chance to drink in their surroundings. Nelson’s Column spears the skyline directly ahead, while the London Eye and the Palace of Westminster Clocktower stand proud amid the concrete jungle. Looming over Traflagar Square, the bar is a great place to watch tourists as they climb the monumental bronze lions and splash in the fountains.
Simple, fresh food is paired perfectly with delicate cocktails and Pommery champagne, from thick slabs of seared tuna, to melt in the mouth Caipirinha pork. The inventive Savoury Cocktail Menu offers the likes of a Pina Colada Kofta (vegetable kofta, cauliflower, carrot, red peppern an broccoli with a creamy Malibu dip), Mojito Chicken and The Lobster Cosmopolitan to tempt hungry guests, but the nibbles are a great option when it’s too hot for a heavy meal.
2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, SW1A 2TS; 020 7870 2900;
Aqua might sit in the holy grail of London locations (a minute from bustling Oxford Circus and tourist-laden Carnaby Street) but this classy watering hole is surprisingly quiet. With two main roof terraces that afford unexpectedly expansive views across trendy Soho and upmarket Mayfair, it’s an excellent spot for people-watching.
Pick an afternoon with unpredicted good weather and go early to bag a seat and catch the sunset, then prepare for an evening of top-class rooftop revelry. Alternatively, move around for great views of Liberty, the London Eye and the happy chaos of Regent Street.
Fifth floor, 240 Regent Street, W1; 020 7478 0540; .
With a climate as erratic as ours, the people at Boundary decided it was time to allow their guests to have a drink outside, regardless of surprise showers. A new weatherproof bar and dining area allows the rooftop to remain constantly open, so diners can enjoy Habanos cigars and pitchers of Planters Punch in the open air.
For those wanting a bite to eat, too, the summery menu betrays a distinct European influence, offering Mediterranean tapas and meats cooked on the grill ‘en brochette’. Don’t forget to try the Boundary Pan Bagnat, the establishment’s very own version of the humble burger, crammed with goat’s cheese, salad and succulent roast vegetables.
Redchurch Street, 2-4 Boundary Street, Shoreditch, E2 7DD; 020 7729 1051;
Tucked away in the historic area of Smithfields, this unassuming rooftop bar above a gorgeous Georgian townhouse offers pleasant views of the busy market and surrounding area.
Chef-proprietor Alan Bird has led kitchens at The Ivy and Soho House Group, so it’s little surprise that his menu champions traditional British produce made effortlessly modern. The cocktail menu is equally no-nonsense, consisting of seven original drinks that add flair to classic concoctions, a little tweak here, a little foam there. Grab a drink and head to the sun-drenched vista for a blissful afternoon by all means, but don’t forget, you can always retreat to The Birdcage if the weather turns. A cool underground space run by popular cocktail collaborators Fluid Movement, this bar is protected from the elements but is by no means dry.
26 Smithfield Street, EC1A 9LB; 020 7559 5100;
Open until 3am every night of the week, Radio Bar is perfect for hazy post-dinner drinks that happily go on for hours longer than expected. A wide terrace scattered with gleaming white furniture wraps around the entire exterior, from which you can spot Tower Bridge, the Shard, London Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Modern, Somerset House, the Southbank and the Houses of Parliament. Face inward, and you’ll detect more than a hint of Ibiza cool, as beautiful people recline on slick furniture listening to chilled out beats.
Coming in at around £10, the cocktails (we recommend the Radio-Active, combining Grey Goose, lime, basil and jalapeno) are rather expensive but consistently well made and served up by invariably great looking staff. The food’s excellent, too.
337 The Strand, WC2 1HA;
Tucked away in a nifty hidden location in Finsbury Park, The Faltering Fullback is more than just a watering hole. It's a venue that does its very best to cater for everyone, offering a front room with screens for match days, a spacious pub garden spread across several levels up on the roof, and a serene, music-free central area ideal for those already nursing a sore head.
The tree levels of outdoor seating ensure that the pub remains busy but not crowded, with a fair share of sun traps and shaded areas to beat the heat (we should be so lucky). We’d go so far as to say that if it’s not the best pub in North London, at the very least it's not far off.
19 Perth Rd, N4 3HB; 020 7272 583;