Summer in London is like Beauty and the Beast. Parks are awash with people who’ve panic bought flimsy mini-barbecues and all the cider, and who are determined to soak up all the rays. The days are long and warm, the nights are light and breezy. The perfection combination. It’s truly a thing of beauty.
But the beast. Oh, the beast. We’re getting dangerously into ‘it’s too hot for trains to run properly’ and ‘sorry to announce the service to Chelmsford this evening has been cancelled due to excessive heat’. That’s not even taking into consideration the HELL ON EARTH that is the central line at 5pm when it’s 30C outside.
On one of these Beauty and the Beast days, there’s only one thing for it; secure some prime real estate on one of London’s rooftop bars.
The Skylight Urban Garden Experience
Skylight is the newest addition to London’s rooftop bar options. Sure it’s in Tobacco Docks, which as we found out isn’t the most convenient of places to get to unless you live in Wapping, in which case ignore that bit and my sincere condolences, but there are few places that offer the sheer volume of rooftop slash sun-kissed real estate like Skylight. Entry is free, and it’s one of the strangest urban experiences London offers this summer, that’s for sure.
It’s actually three floors of a converted car park, which is so East London it brings tears of joy to my hipster heart. If you’ve used the stairs at Wapping station then you’ll also experience tears of pain (so. many. stairs. There is wheelchair access via ramps for those who need them), but it’s worth it. Friendly tip: use Shadwell station. It’s closer. The first deck opens out and provides a bit of shelter from the elements and has some pretty awesome street food vendors. We plumped for Thai food, and the spicy pork Krapow didn’t disappoint. Oh, and there’s a croquet pitch and a French Boules/petanque area (a booking fee of £15-25 applies). Obviously. I mean, what else would you expect in an old converted car park?
The upper floor is where you’ll find the majority of the bars and a sprawling seating area, so there’s something for every taste. Trust us, it’s worth it. The views over the city are stunning. We counted four bar areas dotted around the deck, so there are never any hugely long queues. There are a mix of benches and comfortable, more intimate seating, so a big tick for prime date and/or mate location.
For a rooftop bar with the quirkiness of a quintessential English lawn club, we were pleasantly surprised by the prices. It’s about a fiver for a bottled beer and the same for street food. Basically, there’s no rooftop premium which we have seen in other places, which gives it a big thumbs up. And given how big the space is, it’s a pretty good vibe. It’s not overly crowded, which is always a good thing. You can party away on the lower upper deck and chill out on the upper upper deck with a bit of croquet. I’ve never seen croquet mallets in a bar before, and I’m sure there’s a good reason for that, but it doesn’t seem like *that* type of place.
So if you’re reading this in an air-conditioned office while the sun cracks the flags outside, you know where to go. It’s what we’ll be doing when summer fully hits.
Thanks to the Skylight team and Steve Dunlop for the images.
Tobacco Dock // Pennington St. Car Park entrance, Wapping, London E1W 2SF // online