Years ago in London the only place to get a meal with a view was the revolving restaurant at the top of the BT Tower in the West End. To celebrate 50 years of the tower the restaurant is briefly reopening for two weeks from July 25. If you haven’t been lucky enough to secure a ticket by the open ballot, don’t worry, because these days London is full of options for dining with a panoramic view.
If height is of paramount importance, then you can’t do much better than Darwin brasserie in Sky Garden, which occupies the top few floors of the ‘walkie talkie’ building (20 Fenchurch Street). This is the more casual restaurant on Level 36 (there’s a ‘refined dining’ place above called the Fenchurch, which I thought might not appreciate my young children).
You can take your time over a leisurely lunch – served 11.30pm to 4pm – while admiring the phenomenal views west to the houses of parliament and London Eye and east to the Tower of London and Thames barrier. The food here is very good, and this is not a tourist trap, despite it being one of the easiest ways to get into Sky Garden, which operates a timed ticketing system (if you have booked at the restaurant you can spend as long as you like in the ‘garden’ afterwards – basically a big hall with planting and an outdoor balcony to enjoy the view). British classics on the menu include fish and chips and pork belly with bubble and squeak.
For a slightly different view of the city, Sky Lounge on top of the DoubleTree by Hilton at Tower Hill has converted its north terrace into a ‘Nantucket beach club’ complete with a ten-pin bowling alley. From a table on the terrace here you can look up to Sky Garden and the Gherkin while you sip on a vodka slush and tuck into a lobster mac and cheese.
Alternatively, you could opt for a more postmodern view and head to the new Street Feast venture, Dinerama on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch. From one of the upstairs bars you can actually look into people’s offices as well as over the rooftops of Hoxton. You are spoilt for choice for food here with succulent grilled meats, spicy tacos, aromatic Japanese salads and yum buns, among other delicious treats. The atmosphere is buzzing like a beach resort without the beach.
One of London’s best views is of the river and what better place to enjoy it than on the deck of a boat? From a table on the permanently moored Hispaniola you will get uninterrupted views of the London Eye, County Hall and the South Bank, while exploring the menu of seasonal modern British cuisine.
Opt for a pre-dinner drink on deck before heading inside to enjoy dishes such as baked crab with parmesan and brandy cream with triple-cooked chips. The river is long, and the view changes dramatically as you head east. You will get a unique view of the towers of Canary Wharf from the Land’s End restaurant on board the Sunborn Yacht hotel, a super yacht moored at Victoria dock, just beside London’s Excel exhibition centre.
I had seen the impressive flank of the boat before, but had never thought there was a restaurant on board. It’s one of those places you need to be told about otherwise you would walk straight past (you can’t see the diners from the dock). A lift takes you up to reception from where a sweeping glass staircase leads up to the fourth-deck restaurant. From a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows, you can enjoy fresh scallops while watching the Emirates airline cable cars going back and forth across the river framed by the iconic dome of the O2 Centre.
London looks so different depending on where you are looking from.