Best for… an exotic oasis
What? An intimate haven moments away from Oxford Street, Dalloway Terrace (named after the eponymous protagonist of Virginia Woolf’s novel) is set in an elegant yet cosy atrium at the entrance of the Bloomsbury Hotel. The interiors transform with the seasons, from a Narnia-like winter theme to the current tropical setting inspired by Woolf’s husband, Leonard Woolf’s Sri Lankan-set book The Village in the Jungle. There are palms, hibiscus flowers and pink orchids hanging from the walls and ceiling, all adding to the sense that you’re dining in a secret garden in the heart of London.
Menu The restaurant’s impressive attention to detail runs throughout, from the native flora creating the beautiful canopy and table decorations, to the botanical cocktails – make sure you try the tropical negroni with pineapple gin and a unique Ceylon punch with mango-infused arrack. Sri Lankan curries, banana-leaf-wrapped sea bass and some more subtle fusion dishes grace the menu. The classic afternoon tea has also been given an exotic twist, with delicious additions including mango and coriander tarts and lychee coconut cake, naturally paired with an impressive selection of Sri Lankan teas. Even the bill is artfully presented in a copy of Woolf’s novel.
Dalloway Terrace, 16-22 Great Russell Street, WC1; +44 20 7347 1221
Best for… river views
What? Talk about power couples: one of London’s swankiest design hotels (check out the Tom Dixon-created copper-clad lobby) has teamed up with venerable champagne house Laurent-Perrier and the result is the South Bank’s hottest summer pop-up. Proving you don’t need to go up a tower block for a standout view, this terrace is right beside the Thames, wrapping around the restaurant, so you can look across to St Paul’s while sipping your fizz. Bordered by a coral-coloured picket fence, the tropical plants and rainbow-bright cushions bring a summery feel even on inevitable cloudy days. The terrace is open until late September for lunch and dinner.
Menu Take your champagne “straight up”, with four Laurent-Perrier Cuvées to choose from, or try a cocktail like the French Connexion (Crème de Violette, gin and Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé). The short-but-sweet food menu excels at refreshing, summery flavours – think watermelon, cucumber and feta salad or berry tartare with mint lemon sorbet. But seafood is the star of the show, especially the mouth-watering platter of ceviche, oysters, prawns, crab and octopus served with a shallot and Bloody Mary dressing, and the scallop carpaccio with spring onion and chilli dressing.
20 Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1; +44 20 3747 1000
Best for… a hipster hangout
What? Only the coolest rooftop terrace south of the Thames, this Peckham plaza attracts the cool crowd and celebrates its 10th birthday this year. The huge space takes up the entire top floor of a South London multi-storey car park, with a shocking-pink stairwell leading up to the rooftop scattered with contemporary-art sculptures and even a vintage car to sit in for photo ops. From the top you can see all the London big-hitters in the distance, from the Houses of Parliament to The Shard. Entry to the rooftop is free, although you may have to queue a bit to get up there (this place is no secret spot). But it’s the biggest summer terrace on the list, meaning the queue moves fast. Other floors of the car park have been transformed into Peckham Levels, a cultural hub with street-food vendors, art galleries, community spaces and gig venues with events every night of the week. The nearby Bussey Building also has a smaller rooftop if you’re looking to terrace hop.
Menu Cocktails come courtesy of bartender Frank Boxer, and chef Michael Davies serves up finger food of smoked aubergine in pitta, charred Padrón peppers and plates heaped with brown-sugar hot wings.
Bold Tendencies, 7th-10th Floor, Multi-Storey Car Park, 95A Rye Lane, SE15
Best for… a secret garden
What? Ever since this well-loved Richmond restaurant opened a sprawling courtyard branch in Covent Garden last year, Londoners have had a taste of the countryside without having to go all the way out west. This central London outpost encompasses a shop, café, florist and two restaurants, all taking over aptly named Floral Court. The restaurant has launched a summer tasting menu which you can enjoy outside in the plant-draped courtyard with its glittering chandeliers, jam jars full of wild flowers and stripped-back floorboards.
Menu Many restaurants claim to be seasonal, but with The Petersham, as much as possible comes from the family’s Devon farm. The tasting menu comprises dishes like trout, yellow beans and Jersey royals; smoked cod’s roe with fennel, radishes, asparagus and hen’s egg; and olive oil ice cream, all garnished with pea shoots and edible blossoms. Eating the pretty plates in a courtyard garden just adds to their freshness.
2 Floral Court, Covent Garden, WC2; +44 20 7305 7676
Best for… an Indian summer
What? Fresh from the success of its first outpost in Spitalfields, cult Indian restaurant Gunpowder has opened another restaurant south of the river, in Tower Bridge. This is perhaps the most newly buzzy part of London right now, with the Bridge Theatre and new boutique hotel The Dixon both creating a stir. Gunpowder’s industrial-themed terrace is squeezed in the shade of the bridge and features iron girders, exposed metal beams and heavy-duty patio furniture that mirror the towering structure’s Victorian engineering. Compact, with just 15 seats, the terrace provides respite from the summer heat as well as a killer photo op.
Menu There’s a small but perfectly formed all-day terrace menu featuring fusion dishes that update British classics with punches of Indian spice. Make a beeline for the oysters in curry leaf butter with fish roe; Scottish rainbow trout ceviche; and chutney cheese sandwich. For a summery drink, try the Bow Barracks Gimlet, a mix of gin, lime juice, honey and ginger.
4 Duchess Walk, SE1; +44 20 3598 7946
Best for… bird’s-eye people watching
What? While Sushisamba’s original London restaurant in Bishopsgate offers sky-high city views, its little sister displays a different kind of rooftop magic in a cobbled corner of Covent Garden’s famed Market Building. As you enter beneath the lush greenery of a “living” feature ceiling, monochrome tiled flooring stretches past a cocktail bar offering up Japanese Americanos, through to a buzzing central dining area with an open kitchen and sushi bar. A terrace runs the length of the venue overlooking the Piazza and flooding the venue in sunlight, and staff offer suggestions with polished expertise and warmth.
Menu Lobster taquitos are the perfect introduction to a menu bursting with vibrant combinations and simple dishes with cunning twists. The green bean tempura with black truffle aioli is not to be missed, while a tuna ceviche with pomegranate leche de tigre is a sharp and colourful shot to the senses.
The aroma of fresh ingredients being prepared over a robata charcoal grill announces the headline dishes, including kobe churrasco ribeye, which almost melts in your mouth. The Covent Garden samba roll of soft shell crab, asparagus and yuzu miso keeps the Japanese-Latin textures in balance, but the surprising highlight is the chocolate banana cake with maple butter and plantain chip.
35 The Market Building, WC2; +44 20 3053 0000