I remember not too long ago, not even twenty years ago, when it was nearly impossible to find a place where you could have a drink or food al fresco in London. Seriously, there where hardly any restaurants or cafés with outdoor seating and pubs with beer gardens were few and far between.
I first thought that this was because of the British weather for which London is kind of famous around the world, but after moving here over 30 years ago I discovered that the weather wasn’t all that bad after all. Still, the outdoor living bug, to mirror life in Italy, Spain or France had not arrived yet, until I noticed the first tables and chairs appearing on pavements, spreading first slowly, then quite rapidly to everywhere where a few square feet could be turned into extra seating space. The indoor smoking ban was probably another factor, but I like to think that people realised that after sitting in an office all day or standing in a shop, it might be a brilliant idea to spend some time in the sunshine before going home and sitting indoors on a sofa (unless you are lucky to have a garden or at least a balcony that is bigger than a postage stamp).
The next thing that happened were roof top bars and restaurants – literally the pinnacle of outdoor eating and drinking, with the bonus of not having to breathe in exhaust fumes. Again, first they were a rarity and usually quite exclusive, but meanwhile you can find rooftop bars to suit every taste and pocket, from East to West London and everywhere in between. And you can find them all year round, with many venues offering something extra, like skating in the winter or mini golf, croquet or movie shows in the summer.
Let us tell you about three of them:
Queen of Hoxton
A perennial favourite of ours Queen of Hoxton Rooftop, just around the corner from Liverpool Street or Old Street Stations. Every summer and winter there is a new theme and the one for summer 2019 is ‘Las Mexicanas’. Entry is free, apart from ticketed events and it will run until October.
(click on images to enlarge)
Inspired by the colourful Mexican town of San Cristóbal, territory of Lola Gonzalez, the rebel Queen of the Lucha Libre movement, you’ll find tequila and frozen margaritas & palomas flowing, a back-street bar serving tasty tacos, nachos and burgers to soak up the alcohol and the famous Luchadoras, the baddest bitches in Mexican female wrestling.
As the legendary hero of a million Luchadoras fights; Lola and her band of Luchadoras are teaching a new generation of young women to kick-ass.
As always there are some wonderful events planned to fit in with the Mexican theme, curated by Paola Feregrino-Rodriguez, a proud Mexican and Londoner, who works with the Mexican community on authentic events ranging from Trump Pinata making to feminist embroidery and mezcal and insect tasting.
Here’s a selection of events.
May 23 – Summer of Mexico: Insect, Mezcal & Tequila Tasting
June 21 – Aztec Summer Solstice Sunrise Celebration
June 23 – Mexican Food for Dummies
Every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Rooftop Film Club, the ultimate open-air film experience.
For details, tickets, more events, as well as opening times, visit queenofhoxton.com
In the far east of London, opposite Stratford tube station, is Roof East, going strong since 2014 and offers not only food & drink and sunsets, but a variety of games if you want to do a bit more than sitting in the sunshine and sipping a cocktail. It is open Tuesday to Sunday until the end of September, entrance is free, but the games cost extra and should be pre-booked.
Joining SFG Club is The House of Foos, London’s first VR foosball experience, and returning are Birdies Crazy Golf, the batting cages of Sluggers and the Lanes where you can try your hand on curling, bowling or shuffling. Or, if you prefer life at a slower pace, there are Vinyasa Flow Yoga classes for all levels. Please check the website www.sfgclub.com for prices and tickets.
There are even free games available: Cornhole, giant Jenga, Table Tennis, Foosball or Table-top Curling.
Street food comes from ‘Eat Chay’, serving Vegan Vietnamese and Korean delicacies, North Indian inspired Kati rolls by ‘Kolkati’ and “The Burger Shack” run by the King of Pop Ups, Jimmy Garcia. 3 bars are serving drinks, including the ‘Knickerbocker Royale’, a cocktail made with rum and raspberry and the blue tequila ‘Electric Boogaloo’.
And let’s not forget Sky High Cinema, the open-air movie experience Rooftop Film Club
Last, but by no means least is Skylight, the biggest of the three venues with plenty of space to eat, drink and play with beautiful views across the City on three levels atop Tobacco Docks. It is just a few minutes’ walk from the DLR (Shadwell) or Overground (Wapping).
We have told you about this one before, but just as a reminder, Skylight offers plenty of space to celebrate the weekend (Thursdays – Sundays) al fresco, with street food from YIRO and Flipside, excellent cocktails and other drinks, a game of croquet, pétanque or table tennis (prices and details can be found on the website below) and important sporting events on the big screen.
Special events include Hendricks Summer Solstice party (June 21), and themed events throughout the summer, like Gay Day at Skylight, Opera at Skylight and Dog Day.
And this summer you can reserve a day-bed or garden booth in the Panorama Bar, making the evening extra special.