Nothing says summer like sitting outside on a scorching hot day with an ice-cold tipple. Lizzie Frainier finds spectacular spots across the UK where you can drink in the view
1 CARPATHIA CHAMPAGNE BAR LIVERPOOL
Liverpool’s first rooftop bar sits proudly atop the Grade II-listed White Star Line building, once home to the shipbuilders of the Titanic. Keep the structural jokes to a minimum and the icebergs in your glass as you sip cocktails on the eighth floor, overlooking the city’s Three Graces: the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building. Drinks are beautifully curated and have a maritime theme. Drop anchor and order a Heart of the Ocean: mango vodka and peach schnapps shaken with orange and pineapple juice. The cognaclaced Lifesaver with crème de cassis is excellent too, and even makes a donation to the RNLI to help continue rescuing people from sea, if thoughts drift to Leo and Kate.
2 CHRISTCHURCH HARBOUR HOTEL DORSET
This hotel brings not one excellent terrace to the south-west coast party, but two. Both have sprawling sea views and serve excellent food. The Upper Deck looks out over the harbour with a crustacea-heavy menu fresh from Mudeford Quay. Think Poole Bay rock oysters, potted shrimps and fresh crab. The Jetty offers a slightly more formal experience, with a five-course tasting menu and experimental dishes such as seared scallops with bacon jam and waffles. You won’t be disappointed with either. Just order up a bottle of the excellent-value Puertas Antiguas viognier, watch the boats bob in the distance and pick which colourful beach hut you’d like to own.
3 THE CONSERVATORY ISLE OF WIGHT
With 40km of shoreline and nine hours of sunlight in July, the Isle of Wight is officially the sunniest place in the UK and cries out for inclusion in our top terraces. While there are a few excellent options on the island, The George Hotel wins out with a terrace worthy of its surrounds. A large garden and terrace roll down to the Solent, with the Conservatory restaurant celebrating the island’s natural larder. Accompany sea-gazing with locally caught fish: dressed crab with orange purée is delicious, while the house fish pie is served with salty focaccia.
4 SUSHISAMBA LONDON
The great glass lifts on the outside of the City’s Heron Tower could give Road Dahl’s iconic elevator a run for its money, but instead of bursting through the roof, you’ll scream up 38 floors in 30 seconds to find the highest rooftop bar in Europe and the winner of Food and Travel Bar of the Year 2015. Prices here aren’t cheap (no glass ceiling jokes, please) but the two terraces, with views across to The Shard and the Gherkin, are worth every penny. The centrepiece is a glowing copper tree adorned with lights (we’re informed the architects spent weeks figuring out how to get it in place) and a sweeping dark wood bar. Drinks are whimsical and inventive, try the Kobe (an old fashioned washed with Kobe beef fat) while you drink in that view.
5 DALLOWAY TERRACE LONDON
Tottenham Court Road is possibly the last place in London you’d expect to find a secret garden but we’re not complaining. The latest entry to open in our list is named after Virginia Woolf’s iconic character and is a true urban oasis, with an elegant courtyard, buxus hedging and marble tables that leave you feeling a million miles from one of the city’s busiest (and dirtiest) thoroughfares. Fairy lights illuminate the space, notes from a pianist fill the air and as you take the first sip from a Mrs Dalloway champagne cocktail, you’re transported right back to the Roaring Twenties. An excellent charcuterie platter with Guinness bread and a quality burrata bring you right up to date in terms of cuisine.
6 ABBEY HOTEL BATH
This beautiful spa town is custom-built for summer. Its golden-hued local stone shines amber in brilliant daylight, the grass grows lush and suntraps spring up in every hotel and beer garden. The Abbey Hotel on the North Parade is case in point. As good a spot for people-watching as it is for dinner and drinks, order up some small plates as you watch the city’s well-heeled residents clip past. The terrace is a temple to the gin and tonic, with 64 combinations to try. Our order? A Williams Chase gin with Fever Tree elderflower tonic, please barkeep.
7 VARSITY HOTEL AND SPA CAMBRIDGE
As dusk sets, you’ll want to be on the top of this hotel in the Quayside area to watch the sky turn a dusty pink. Swerve the walking tour; you can see almost every college in this historic town from your seat (with a locally produced gin in hand). The spires of St John’s pierce the sky and if you peer over the walls you’ll spot punters floating down the River Cam. The rooftop bar makes our pick of terraces on its own, but this summer also sees the launch of restaurant Six. Skip starters; there’s a dedicated ice cream menu with sundaes and scoops, which – let’s be honest – is all you’re really looking for in a summer terrace. Indulge in coffee and chocolate ice cream drizzled with butterscotch sauce.
8 LOUNGE ON 12 MANCHESTER
The owners of this bar know Mancunian summertime too well. Each of the four outdoor terraces are heated with retractable roofs, meaning you can enjoy them whatever the weather. Visit as the sun sets to watch Manchester’s financial district light up and get a twinkling view of this one-time industrial powerhouse. The setting is sleek and modern with supersized wicker chairs and statement lamps. Classic cocktails are where it really excels, so order a mojito or a Manhattan made from Woodford Reserve’s Double Oaked bourbon. An afternoon visit calls for a colonial-themed afternoon tea, designed by head chef Aiden Byrne of Manchester House downstairs, complete with cakes, sandwiches and pastries.
9 RADIO ROOFTOP BAR LONDON
In the mid-Nineties, you would most likely have spotted Robbie Williams canoodling with one of the Spice Girls, or Liam fighting with Noel on top of the ME hotel on a Saturday night. But as Britpop’s star faded, Radio Rooftop maintained its cool, serving up quality drinks with a view of the capital that’s hard to beat. Perhaps fittingly, it’s one of the only rooftop bars with a late licence, so it’s the ideal spot to keep a party going into the early hours if you’re that way inclined. Sleek white leather couches are the hot spots on a summer afternoon but if you’re booking for supper, ask for one of the covered tables on the edge of the terrace. You’ll be the envy of all the wannabe pop stars pouting on the perimeter.
10 COQ D’ARGENT LONDON
With a full-on verdant lawn overlooking the business district of London, this well-established restaurant would be up there in the world’s top terraces, let alone the UK. The restaurant has Arabella Lennox-Boyd – winner of numerous gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show – to thank for its lush grass and hedges, which give you the feel of a classically designed Capability Brown garden in the sky. While Wimbledon is on, expect picnic blankets, flutes of Moët & Chandon and tennis themed desserts such as a French Gariguette strawberry Eton mess with mint meringue. When it’s not, make do with assured French cooking, an excellent wine list and some potent cocktails to take you through those long summer nights.
This article was published on 30th June 2016 so certain details may not be up to date.