Sky-high dining destinations in London

Helen Alexander

Senior Contributor

As skyscrapers become an increasingly common sight in the city, locals and visitors alike are enjoying the opportunity to dine from a different perspective. With panoramic views, these restaurants don’t only overlook London’s famous landmarks, they are housed in some of the capital’s most impressive buildings. From the sparkling Shard to an early-1900s architectural icon, these restaurants stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Glittering grandeur: World-class feasting in Heron Tower

From City workers in sharp suits to the too-cool-for-school Shoreditch set, Heron Tower quickly made a name for itself among those in the know when two of London’s hippest restaurants opened on the 38th and 39th floors. The hype starts the second you step into the lift, as the glass elevator rockets up the side of the building giving passengers a dizzying view of the pavement disappearing into the distance. Once that thrill’s over, head to Duck & Waffle with its graffiti-meets-glitzy décor, innovative cocktails and addictive bar snacks.

Open 24 hours a day, it’s the ultimate spot from sunrise to sunset and everything in between, but it’s the all-day brunch menu that seems to create the most buzz thanks to the restaurant’s namesake – crispy leg confit and fried duck egg, served on a chunky waffle and drizzled with sticky mustard maple syrup.

The second option in Heron Tower is Sushisamba Bar, which serves Japanese-South American fusion flavours on a terrace that has views of the 30 St Mary Axe, which is more commonly known as the Gherkin. The Samba set lunch skips from wagyu gyoza to scallop ceviche, while the more extensive Taste of Samba menu gives diners a taste of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. 

Sushi Samba

Plant power: Get closer to nature at 20 Fenchurch Street

When you are tired of London’s traffic, recharge your batteries at the urban oasis on the 36th and 37th floors of 20 Fenchurch Street. Nicknamed the ‘walkie-talkie’, this white building looms large over the historic City of London so, before heading inside, take a moment to explore the centuries-old streets that lead to The Monument to the Great Fire of London and the Bank of England.

On stepping out of the lift you’ll immediately see why this soaring space is called the Sky Garden, because it’s filled with tropical trees and exotic plants. Wander the walkways for 360-degree views and step onto the balcony to instantly cross off your checklist of must-see London attractions – from Canary Wharf to the Tate Modern art gallery and St Paul’s Cathedral. When it comes to feasting from an elevated position, Darwin Brasserie serves classic British dishes against a backdrop of views of The Shard, while above it an exclusive mezzanine level is home to Fenchurch Restaurant. Opt for a la carte or reserve a table for a lunch or dinner tasting menu that’s matched with wines. 

Rhubarb at Sky Garden

Central chic: Wave to Nelson from The Trafalgar St. James

It’s certainly not the highest restaurant on our list, but sitting on the seventh floor of the recently revamped Trafalgar Hotel does mean that the rooftop at The Trafalgar St. James allows people to come face-to-face with Admiral Nelson. Overlooking the square’s historic cultural attractions, including the National Gallery and St Martin’s in the Field church, there are no shortage of good-looking buildings in this part of town. It’s even possible to see Westminster, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye, all looking particularly attractive when they are silhouetted against an evening sunset.

This outside-inside destination is ready whatever the weather might bring and is kitted out with canopies and oversized parasols in the summer months and cosy heaters and blankets for when temperatures drop during winter. Cocktails are the main focus, but small tapas-style sharing plates are served all day while the breakfast promises to get a day’s sightseeing off to a delicious start. 

The Trafalgar St. James

Architectural attraction: Thame-side tipples at the OXO Tower

This attractive brick building was originally built as a power station around 1900 and once supplied electricity to the Royal Mail Post Office before becoming the home of Britain’s famous stock cube company, OXO. Today, the gravy continues to flow but within the confines of the elegant OXO Tower Restaurant on the eighth floor.

Seasonal British produce is the order of the day on the a la carte menu, while the six-course tasting menu that’s served at dinner is the perfect opportunity to really revel in the restaurant’s riverside views. By day, the afternoon tea is a sweet and savoury showstopper – think Lancashire cheese and orchard chutney sandwiches on tomato bread followed by elderflower and strawberry mousse. Vegans rejoice – there’s also a plant-based afternoon tea option. 

OXO Tower

Modern marvel: Sightseeing from The Shard

Soaring above Borough Market and London Bridge station, acclaimed architect Renzo Piano’s creation comprises 11,000 glass-panels and is home to a hotel and several bars and restaurants. Serving beautifully presented dim sum and classic northern Chinese dishes, Hutong on level 33 is easily the most handsome with its red lanterns and dark wooden furniture. For a spectacle that’s almost as impressive as the views, order the Peking duck that’s carved at the table and work your way through the cocktail list that’s inspired by ancient Chinese medicine.

A couple of levels higher, the Asian odyssey continues at Ting, where an east-meets-west afternoon tea is served featuring sandwiches, scones and the Shangri-La hotel’s signature blend of white and jasmine tea that’s blended with apricot. If you sit there long enough, you might just see Tower Bridge open to let a boat continue its journey down the Thames. 

Ting at The Shard

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