London is more than 1,000 years old. You can still see bits of the wall the Romans put around the capital to keep Boudicca out. Londoners kept on building: there’s 700-year-old medieval churches and courtyards and the brooding shape of the Tower of London. There’s delicate Elizabethan shops and streets, soaring St Paul’s Cathedral, elegant Regency arcades and proud Victorian museums and institutions. You’ll find post-war Brutalism and soaring contemporary towers. Here’s the thing about London: all these buildings all jostle side by side in a vivid, rich tapestry of eras and styles, reminding you of all the lives and stories held within this most powerful city. It is one of the best places in the world for viewing. Just to cap it all off (and in case it’s raining), why not nibble on some delicious food and wine to wash it all down? Here are five of our favourite London restaurants with a view.
Located on the 40th floor of Heron Tower, this British European restaurant manages to combine mouth-watering food with spectacular, off-the wall views past the Gherkin to the river, beyond to Canary Wharf and across the whole panoply of South London. It’s open 24 hours a day and you can indeed order the actual duck and waffle: waffles, duck confit, a fried duck egg and maple syrup (though there are many other dishes that won’t give you an instant heart attack). If you can’t get in, on the next floor down you’ll find Sushisamba, a funky Peruvian/Japanese fusion restaurant (but we do recommend Duck & Waffle).
110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY
T: 020 3640 7310
The Shard stunned the world when it opened in 2009: a 95-storey skyscraper rearing out of London’s Southbank, one made apparently entirely out of glass with its jagged peak virtually lost in the clouds. It’s such a huge building it boasts offices, hotels, a very popular viewing platform and no less than four restaurants: Oblix, Hutong, Ting and our favourite, Aqua. Serving contemporary British cuisine, this 31st floor eatery offers phenomenal 200˚ views across London, accessorised by the breathtaking three-storey-high Atrium Bar. The menu (and cocktails) is excellent, but prepare your wallet...
32 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9SG
T: 020 3011 1256
The Oxo Tower is a London institution. The iconic illuminated tower came about because when the company that owned OXO gravy cubes was refused permission to put up advertising, mysteriously the tower windows formed a pattern saying OXO...! Nowadays it’s just pretty Art Deco lighting – but with a great restaurant nestled just below the tower. This uncluttered, elegant space offers wonderful river views across to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The restaurant is run by Harvey Nichols and is fresh, clever and never less than excellent – do try their innovative new vegetarian menu. If you come in summer, it’s worth speculatively booking a terrace table (and praying for no rain) – it’s a full sensorial experience.
2 Barge House Street, London SE1 9GY
T: 020 7021 1686
Sometimes views don’t have to be lofty – they just need to be utterly iconic, in which case The Portrait Restaurant absolutely corners the market. Situated inside the National Portrait Gallery, its generous windows offer up Nelson’s Column, down Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye. It’s high enough for distance while being close enough to Trafalgar Square to people watch. And the food is quietly excellent too: generous, carefully considered dishes based on British and European traditions, using first-rate produce.
National Portrait Gallery, St. Martin's Place, London WC2H 0HE
T: 020 7312 2490
Not a restaurant in the most traditional sense, this stunning bar offers lights snacks and sandwiches during the day, switching to delicious sharing boards by early evening. This newly opened bar sits snuggly among the magnificent surrounds of Sky Garden, the city’s highest garden at 37 floors above ground level. Fittingly, for the coming summer months, the bar has launched a bespoke pop-up Belvedere Spritz bar serving an exclusive botanically-inspired summer cocktail selection. And to complete the cool summer vibe you can relax to the sounds of live music and up-and-coming guest performers in the Summer Sessions, running to September.
1 Sky Garden Walk, London EC3M 8AF
T: 0333 772 0020
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• CITY INSIDER: London, Soho