Even with London’s reliably drizzly winter weather, there are rooftop bars and alfresco terraces to ride out the coldest month with a hot toddy in hand and a herringbone blanket on your lap. Read on for seven of our favorites, including a gin-themed secret garden in Central London and a rooftop bar with a dedicated menu of “hot-tails.” Bottoms up.
Scarfes Bar London at Rosewood London
Behind an imposing Edwardian facade off busy Holborn High Street, the Rosewood London is a time warp of neoclassical design and Old World grandeur. And this is nowhere more so than in the hotel's low-lit Scarfes Bar, with its imposing wraparound bar, leather stools and well-stocked library. In winter, snag one of the velvet armchairs beside the fire and mull over the cocktail menu with creative concoctions named after pop-culture icons including Mary Poppins, Maggie Thatcher and the Rolling Stones.
The Rooftop Orangery at the Boundary
A year-round rooftop bar that smells like a Mediterranean garden and has knockout views across the ever-changing East London skyline — the Rooftop at the Boundary is a standout in any season. We love it during the winter months for the dining room’s collection of citrus fruit trees that brighten even the grayest days and for the shareable fruits de mer platter and lavender sour cocktails that make you forget how cold it is outside. For heartier bites, the seasonal menu includes raclette, fondue, and hot cocktails — best enjoyed by the firepit in the winter garden.
In the heart of London’s Bloomsbury, the Dalloway Terrace is a year-round indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant within the elegant Bloomsbury Hotel. Come December, the heaters go on and herringbone throws appear on the back of chairs so diners can enjoy a boozy Afternoon Tea spread and ttraditional British fare (think Dover sole and Dorset crab) overlooking the manicured gardens. For late night drinks, head inside to brand new sister bar and restaurant, the Coral Room, a ‘20s inspired salon designed by Martin Brudnizki in his signature riot of color and pattern.
Rooftop at the Trafalgar St. James
Fresh from a top to toe revamp, the Trafalgar St. James hotel feels brand new but for one stand out feature: the timeless views across Trafalgar Square from its rooftop bar. Open until one a.m. throughout the week, and until three a.m. from Thursday to Saturday, Rooftop encourages late nights with its signature cocktails (the Lords, Ladies & Commoners is a heady mix of pistachio vodka and cream), eclectic gin collection and Asian tapas bar menu. The canopies come out during rainy weather and there are outdoor heaters and a collection of blankets for colder nights. Our tip: beat the after-work crowd and go in the early afternoon for a balcony-side seat and winning photos of Trafalgar Square, Nelson’s Column and the cityscape at twilight.
After an afternoon stalking the racks of one of London’s best department stores, Selfridge’s, head up to its rooftop bar and restaurant for some authentic Italian fare and a “hot-tail” prepared by award-winning mixologist, Ryan Chetiyawardana. Winter winners include a spiked hot cocoa, Vin Santo with rhubarb, and oolong tea with amaretto, all served in the glass-enclosed bar and dining room, or in private dining huts with seating for up to 12. The more traditional cocktail menu includes six specialty negronis (and a virgin no-groni) and house cocktails like the sbagliato with campari, vermouth, prosecco and orange. Saluti!
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The Windmill Mayfair
A good pub within walking distance of Oxford Street is a rare find, so don’t miss a pint at this classic London boozer in the heart of Mayfair. There’s no roaring fire, but the pub grub is standard--and delicious--winter comfort food, from the pork and pickle platter to the award-winning steak and kidney pie with mash and gravy. For beer lovers, there are eight cask ales on tap, or head up to the Secret Terrace where local gin maker Sipsmit runs the winter garden, with its heaters, cozy blankets and specialty hot gin cocktails like mulled sloe gin with vanilla and hot gin and tonic with orange.
Mr. Fogg’s Residence
A sibling to the theatrical, gin-focused Mr. Fogg’s Tavern in Covent Garden, the Mayfair outpost has a Victorian-era design, with a pennyfarthing bike centerpiece, and an 80-strong cocktail menu divided by spirit. Book in advance to secure one of just 20 seats in the alfresco Hendrick’s Botanical Garden space, a wee terrace strung with fairy lights and filled with cafe-style tables and warm throws. Or go for Tipsy Tea on Saturdays and Sundays, a two-hour bottomless boozy tea time, with Champagne, spirits, sandwiches, cakes and live music.