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Britain's best rooftop restaurants

Britain's best rooftop restaurants

There are no shortage of beautiful views in this country, so why not combine them with good-quality dining? We’ve selected a few establishments that offer the best of both

The Roof Terrace


The Roof Terrace Cambridge

This restaurant at The Varsity hotel, Cambridge, takes in one of Britain’s most impressive and historic skylines. The city’s combination of Gothic spires and contemporary architecture makes for a spectacular view over a landscape that’s nurtured many of this country’s greatest minds, including Samuel Pepys, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking. 

You can look down to the punts gliding on the River Cam, out to the horizon—or, on a clear night, up to the stars. The Roof Terrace recently joined forces with the Cambridge Astronom-ical Association to hold astronomy masterclasses for space enthusiasts looking to combine stargazing with dinner. Guests last year were treated to a fine celestial performance as they watched a Perseid meteor shower in the company of esteemed astronomer Paul Fellows, who guides diners through deep space with the aid of lasers and telescopes. More astronomy masterclasses are expected this month, with mulled wine and hot-water bottles on hand for chilly nights.

The Roof Terrace has also run a series of other events, including an open-air cinema showing classic films. This year saw a run of plays curated by the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival—and, of course, performed in full Elizabethian regalia.Visit The Varsity Hotel for details.



Peckham, South London   

Frank's Peckham London

The summit of a multi-storey car park might not be top of your wish list for an afternoon bite, but think again. Frank’s pop-up cafe and Campari bar, which boasts stunning views over the capital, has been a huge hit with locals and has helped raise Peckham’s profile further afield.

Open June to September, Frank’s was originally constructed in 2009 to accompany artist Hannah Barry’s summer exhibition Bold Tendencies. Both have returned every summer since, with bigger, bolder installations and performance art. “The craziest
show I’ve seen here involved two men throwing electricity at each other in the dark,” says local resident Becky Williams. “It had everyone captivated.” This was Lords of Lightning, in which metal-clad performers conduct forks of electricity between one another, an act that’s since become a success on the festival circuit.

Perch on a scaffold plank-stool and take time to spot London’s architectural icons, from Wembley’s arch in the west to the Olympic stadium in the east—or wander, drink in hand, across the exhibition space to admire the work of talented local artists. Visit Franks for details.


The Bridge Café

Avon, Bristol

The Bridge Cafe Bristol

This aptly named cafe overlooks the beautiful Avon Gorge, home to plentiful wildlife, fauna and one of Britain’s most recognisable structures—the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Though Brunel’s magnificent structure can be seen from far and wide, you may still find yourself swapping seats with your dining partner throughout your meal to ensure a fair share of the views.  

The cafe’s terrace and backdrop tend to attract some well-known guests. Last year, it welcomed one of Bristol’s most famous exports when a giant sculpture of Gromit (of Wallace and Gromit fame) was installed for the summer as part of a fundraising event led by Bristol-based Aardman Animations.

The bridge marks its 150th birthday this year, with a selection of events taking place until December. Take a free guided tour, embark on a poetry walk or visit on Open Doors Day. Visit Clifton Bridge and The Avon Gorge for details 


The Treehouse


The Treehouse Belfast

This quirky bar and restaurant in the centre of Belfast captures the opulence of the Roaring Twenties and hosts a variety of shows—think top hats and long tails. Watch burlesque dancers twirl, catch a run of Bugsy Malone from the Treehouse terrace, or dine on Irish/French cuisine in the speakeasy-style restaurant to get up close.

Owner Eamon McCusker bought the ground-floor restaurant 12 years ago, adding the first-floor Supper Club and finally the top-floor Treehouse terrace just three years ago. There are daily performances, with new shows added regularly.

“We like anything that’s leftfield, anything that makes for a surprising night out,” says Eamon. But though the staff do get involved in the show, you won’t catch the owner in song. “I’m not a performer myself—more the glue that keeps it all together,” he points out. Visit Cabaret Belfast for details.


Roof Garden Playground


Roof Garden Playground Manchester

This former Victorian schoolhouse is now home to an urban playground for adults—and the hammocks and hot tub are a far cry from the hoops and sticks of its school-day incarnation.

The red-brick building started life as an educational establishment for children of the travelling-barge community, and the terrace was the site of the playground. Nowadays, the south-facing restaurant, with views over Deansgate, is popular with locals who come to enjoy relaxed al-fresco drinks and barbecues. Visit Eclectic Hotels for details.


Sky Bar


Sky Bar Edinburgh

Enjoy drinks and snacks while looking out over Edinburgh Castle, and ponder the noble knights and horrible histories that helped shaped the site—parts of which date back to the 12th century. 

The Sky Bar sits at the top of the former 1930s Old St Cuthbert’s Co-op building, which was transformed into the Point Hotel (now Double Tree) by renowned architect Andrew Doolan. The bar opens its doors on the first Thursday of each month, to allow visitors to gaze out from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

“The first time you see the view, you feel somewhat overwhelmed,” says bars manager Jaume Beato. “Some people have even cried! Personally, I love the rising lights in the city and castle at dusk.” Visit doubletree3.hilton.com for details.


Knock Castle


Knock Castle Perthshire

The grand sweep of the Scottish hills as seen from the restaurant at Knock Castle proves the point that Britain really does specialise in breathtaking countryside. Fresh air abounds for diners at the imposing 19th-century hotel nestled in the Strathearn Valleys in Crieff, an hour north of Glasgow. 

The family-run business is helmed by Jason Henderson, head chef and manager, who bought the castle with his father seven years ago.

“We like to offer luxury without any pretence,” says Jason. “If you want me to arrange something lavish—like book a helicopter—I happily will, but overall it’s about creating a home from home.”

Activities in the local area include golf, skydiving and white-water rafting, which count as relaxing pursuits for some. For others, just taking in the views should do the trick. “When I’m having a bad day, I sit on the terrace, have a coffee and think, Life’s not so bad,” says Jason.

If the surroundings aren’t enough to soothe you, enjoy a treatment in the spa and a drink on the terrace in your fluffy white dressing gown. Visit Knock Castle for details


RSC Rooftop Restaurant & Bar

Stratford Upon Avon 

RSC Rooftop Restaurant and Bar

The views from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s restaurant may give diners an idea of what inspired The Bard to craft his many works. RSC Stratford houses three theatres, including one open-air, which receive over a million visitors combined each year. And the RSC’s reputation for innovation carries over to the Rooftop’s kitchen—locally sourced ingredients help make up the contemporary British menu.

“We’ve got to match what’s going on at the company,” says head chef Nick Funnell. “The food has to be as good as what’s happening on stage.” Visit RSC Rooftop Restaurant for details

Read more articles by Laura Dean-Osgood here

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