Oh, to be in England in the summertime. This year there isn’t much alternative for a lot of people, given the plethora of Covid-related rules and restrictions that make travelling overseas such a nightmare right now. So, if you are resigned to staying at home this summer, here are a few ideas for some new (and newly renovated) venues in the capital with terraces or rooftops where you can recreate that decadent holiday vibe. For these hot spots, the airport paperback and suntan lotion are optional, but designer sunglasses are a must!
1. For those missing their sophisticated city break in Paris:
Originally founded in Paris in 1854 by two brothers, Edouard and Henri Mariages, this gourmet tea emporium, with luxurious salons in upscale locations all over the world, now boasts a full service restaurant with cocktail bar and a large pavement terrace in the middle of Covent Garden.
Just a short walk from the Royal Opera House as well as most of the West End’s major theatres, Mariages Freres makes the ideal spot for an elegant pre-show supper or even just a post-shopping cocktail. Waiters in immaculately pressed white linen suits and dresses will have you thinking you’re on the Rive Gauche as you sip your Opera Sunrise, made with green tea flavoured with red fruits and berries, lemon, basil, ginger and tequila, served in an ornate china teapot.
Main courses include such delectations as lamb infused with Casablanca tea, carrot mousseline and ginger. Or opt, as I did, for salmon glazed with soy and gelée de thé Earl Grey Imperial, served with a ginger and sweet potato mousseline and squid ink tuile. Their Menu des Voyageurs is exceptional value at £19 and includes one of their exceptionally delicious bao burgers (there are four varieties but go for the deliciously tender beef tataki Parisien flavoured with Lune Rouge tea), a pot of tea of your choice from the list of literally hundreds on the menu, and two petits gateaux per person.
Venture inside afterwards to discover their Comptoir and Museum of Tea, featuring over a thousand varieties from 36 countries, on the galleried upper floors of this beautiful Georgian townhouse. Thé trés chic!
Address: 38 King Street, London WC2E 8JS
Telephone: 0207 836 1854
2. For those missing ‘La Dolce Vita’:
Mercante Spritz Terrace at Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Situated opposite Green Park, where Piccadilly meets Park Lane, this smart cosmopolitan terrace at the front of the venerable Sheraton Grand hotel is decked with bright lemons, fresh greenery and a vibrant yellow and blue Positano-print décor that, despite the distinctly Mayfair location, brings to mind long summer days spent on the Amalfi coast. The spritzes come courtesy of Malfy Gin, made with handpicked juniper at the Torino Distillati distillery in Northern Italy, and include the Mayfair Amore, featuring rhubarb infused Malfy Gin, sparkling San Pellegrino water, frozen grapes and ginger, all topped with chilled prosecco.
The small plates – called cicchetti (pronounced with a hard ‘K’) – are classed as light bites but work in plenty of good hearty Italian ingredients; my personal favourites being the Parma ham and taleggio croquettes, as well as the zucchini and mascarpone arancini served with a refreshing salsa verde. More substantial dishes are also available from the Mercante Restaurant inside which has just reopened.
Address: Sheraton Grand, Piccadilly, London W1J 7BX
Telephone: 0207 499 6321
3. For the globe-trotting glitterati:
This more casual sister restaurant to Endo Kazutoshi’s Michelin-starred Endo at Rotunda in White City is where the beautiful people of Notting Hill come to get their sushi kicks. Whilst the interior is a minimalist temple to blonde wood and manicured houseplants, the outside terrace on this smart residential street is where you really want to be – and not just because it can get a little ‘toasty’ inside.
I sat at a pavement table underneath the kitchen window watching Sumi’s highly skilled team of itamae and shokunin deftly doing their thing with tuna and salmon sourced from some of the finest suppliers known to West London. The attentive waiters will direct you to dishes featuring the highly prized, and highly priced, otoro (fatty tuna) but, to my taste, even the less rarefied options such as salmon temaki (like a taco but wrapped in a piece of dried seaweed rather than a tortilla) are total perfection.
Even for a Japanese restaurant in this postcode though, it’s not exactly cheap – in the same kind of way that Mount Fuji isn’t exactly flat – but this is seriously good sushi done extremely well, or rather, not done well, as it’s actually raw, of course – unless you ask for your nigiri or sashimi to be served aburi, meaning it will be lightly blowtorched to give it that delicately smoky flavour which some diners prefer. Whatever your taste, there’s an excellent range of sake and Japanese whiskies to choose from as well as a wide variety of cocktails, wines and beers. For my money, a bottle of ice cold Sapporo with a plate of their delicious toru-taku temakis is a match made in heaven – or Notting Hill, at least.
Address: 157 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2RS
Telephone: 0204 524 0880
4. For the high rollers looking for a sure bet:
The Rooftop at The Hippodrome Casino
Leicester Square wouldn’t usually be the first choice for a quiet drink away from the crowds but pick your timing right and The Rooftop, a leafy all-day and late-night al fresco terrace bar spread across the three top floors of the historic Hippodrome Casino, can be an oasis of calm and welcoming fresh air in the eye of the storm. The view is surprisingly serene as you gaze out beyond the grade two listed Victorian cupola to the rooftops of the West End.
Perfect for an after-work aperitif, the bar serves their own takes on classic cocktails such as the Hippo Cosmo and a seriously spicy Chilli Martini. Mains and snacks feature USDA beef in sumptuous burgers and meatballs, plus there’s chilli prawn tempura and some rather good steamed dumplings with pork and prawn on offer as well. It’s all very keenly priced for this part of town – the excellent roast salmon fillet served with Chinese cabbage, soya and ginger, for example, is just £12. There’s also a wide choice of wines and champagnes, including Krug and Cristal, in case you want to celebrate a big win on one of the gaming tables below.
Address: Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square, London WC2H 7JH
Telephone: 0207 769 8888