Rooftops and outdoor dining in London

Posted on September 18, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

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Dalston's Street Feast


This blog entry was meant to be published in the summer but somehow I got distracted and left it unfinished. Now that the sun has returned after the awful rainy and cold August, perhaps we can still take advantage of the rooftops and outdoor dining venues during our last days of Indian summer!

For those who don't live in London or UK, they would never understand why sun-derived Londoners get so excited when the sun is out. We are indeed a sad bunch of people who are obsessed with our weather and the sun because our annual encounters with the sun is so brief, hence every minute spent with it is precious to us.

This summer, rooftops are THE place to hang out, from Selfridges to John Lewis to Roundhouse's beach, the choices are endless. And thanks to the extra long heat wave in June and July (which seems like a distant memory now), all the parks, gardens, rooftops, beer gardens and outdoor dining venues were full of sun-seekers!


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Top & 2nd row: Dalston's Street Feast; 3rd row: Granary Square in Kings Cross


Besides rooftops, the most happening outdoor dining venue is no doubt Dalston's Street Feast (final week this weekend). Launched in 2012, the night market opens only on Fridays and Saturdays, from May until the end of September. There are 16 traders selling drinks and a variety of street food like burgers, jerk chicken, pizzas and tacos etc. The party vibe reminds you of summers in Spain rather than the slightly dodgy part of North London. I went there twice with different groups ( it's definitely more fun to come in groups) and had a fun time even though it did get quite busy and noisy later on. The food quality is good ( esp. the pizzas from Pizza Pilgrims) but don't expect dirt cheap street food prices. My friend and I shared a lobster roll from B.O.B's lobster and that set us back £7 each!

A new street food destination is Kerb at Granary Square, located in the regenerated part of Kings Cross. There are more than 5 vendors selling street food at lunchtimes from Tuesdays to Fridays, and with more vendors on Saturdays (last one this weekend).


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Top & 2nd row: The Old Truman Brewery's Elys Yard and Venezuelan ceviche Arepas; Bottom row: Camden beach at Roundhouse


Another venue that oozed an European party vibe was Camden beach on the 900 sq metres terrace at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm. With 150 tonnes of the sand, end-of-the-pier amusements, bars, pop-up fish restaurant, beach huts, ping pong and live music, again you could pretend that you were sunbathing on the beach of Brighton!


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Top left: Outddoor dining in Kingley court; the rest: John Lewis' rooftop


Both Selfridges and John Lewis opened their rooftops to the public this summer. John Lewis had pop up cafes and film screenings, while Selfridges launched ‘On the Roof With Q’, which will end at the end of this month. Normally I would avoid going to Oxford Street as much as possible, but it was interesting viewing it from the top, seeing how long it is and the architecture around the area.


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Top & 2nd row right: South bank's Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden; 2nd row left & 3rd row: Barbican's outdoor dining area; Bottom: Somerset house & their summer pop up stand: Churn2 liquid nitrogen ice cream laboratory


I discovered South bank's Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden a few years ago, and since then, more people have discovered it, so it was heaving the last time I tried to go there. Without the crowds, this woodland garden designed by Eden project's landscape architect is lovely and tranquil. With so much concrete around, the greenery here is much appreciated.


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Kensington roof garden and its Babylon restaurant


For years, I have wanted to visit the famous Kensington roof garden, and although I have been to their Babylon restaurant before, I never made it to the garden! Finally this summer, a friend invited me to a private event there and I agreed just to check out the garden.

The gardens were laid out between 1936 and 1938 by a landscape architect Ralph Hancock for the Derry and Toms department store (now own by Virgin). The garden is a Grade II listed site, and there are three themed gardens sprawling over 1.5 acres. Although it is free and open to public, it is often being booked for private events, so it is best to check in advance before going there. I especially like the Moorish garden based on the Alhambra in Granada, because it really makes you feel like you are on holiday in Spain. However, the drinks here are definitely NOT Spanish prices, a beer would cost around £6 and more for wine... I did not enjoy the event nor the people I met, so even the beautiful garden and lovely summer weather could not keep me there any longer. I would probably have to visit it again during a weekday to fully appreciate the historical roof garden.


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Top row: The Spaniard Inn in Hampstead; 2nd row left: Camden arts centre; 2rd row middle: Buttery cafe; 2nd row right & bottom right: Cafe at the Horniman museum and garden; Bottom left: The Driver in Kings Cross






This post was posted in London, Food & dining, Gardens & parks and was tagged with London, Food & dining, roof gardens