Searcy’s The Gherkin30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP
Instantly recognisable, The Gherkin is the world’s most famous pickle and a short stroll from Aldgate tube station in London’s financial district. Book a table at Searcy’s, located on the 39th floor beneath The Gherkin’s domed top, and enjoy romantic views through its triangular windows over the City of London, Tower Bridge and across to the Shard. You might find that the food isn’t quite as imaginative as the building itself: expect finely executed modern British dishes such as crispy pork belly and Gressingham duck breast on the three-course set menu (£45 per person). Ask the sommelier to match wines to what you order, he has some bold choices that are sure to prove an education to even the most knowledgeable oenophile. In case you quaff too much vino, [we’ve got the best budget sleeps in London for you to check out](http://www.skyscanner.net/news/6-best-budget-sleeps-london).
Duck and WaffleHeron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY
Where do you find the poshest 3am drunk food? It’s never too late (or too early) for Duck and Waffle, one of London’s few 24/7 restaurants. The dining room is on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, which makes it the highest (just) in the UK, with sweeping views across the City of London. Ideally you’re after a table by the window, rather than one of the larger ones in the centre, and most of these tend to be set for two. Chef Daniel Doherty has put together an eclectic, creative menu – try a selection of the small plates, which range from heritage tomatoes (£9*) to Dorset crab (£15) or go all out and order the whole roasted chicken, served with truffles (£35 for two people). The eponymous duck and waffle, a crispy duck leg confit served on a waffle with fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup, is available all day but perhaps best suited to brunch.
Aqua ShardLevel 31, The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, SE1 9RY
The Shard’s restaurants are not at the top of the building (so you will have to pay the £25.95 entry fee to [View from the Shard](http://www.theviewfromtheshard.com/) and get up there) but Aqua Shard remains well worth a visit for its views northwards across the city. Because you’re not in among the rest of the skyscrapers, you can actually see them all, as well as St Paul’s Cathedral, the BT Tower and Tower Bridge. A better view would be hard to find, and the interior is sleek and understated. The grub isn’t half bad either, from roasted black cod with Welsh rock samphire and pink grapefruit (£36) to twice-roasted Blythburgh belly of free range pork (£28). Aqua Shard also serves afternoon tea from Monday-Friday for £42 and breakfast from £9, making it a great place for birthday treats or just general splurging.
Craft London1 Green Pl, SE10 0PE
The City isn’t the only part of London to have fantastic, stylish restaurants with a view. This brand new restaurant and cocktail bar, out east on the Greenwich peninsula, was built with the view in mind and is entirely made of glass for a 360-degree view. Settle in on the first floor for panoramas over the river, The 02 and Canary Wharf and order from the thoroughly contemporary menu – the product of a kitchen garden, plenty of fish smoking, bee keeping and meat curing. Dishes are creative, with starters including a scallop, mussel and clam porridge (£14) and charred cabbage sprouts (£8), while mains run the gamut from ash roasted squash (£18) to clay baked duck with honey, broad bean and barley miso and brine-picked carrots and cabbage (£75).< > >
Babylon99 Kensington High St, London W8 5SA
Kensington’s worst kept secret is the gorgeous Kensington Roof Gardens on top of Art Deco 99 Kensington High Street. Wander the Spanish Garden, its Moorish design based on the Alhambra, and the Tudor Garden, before settling in at Babylon for dinner overlooking the English woodland, and the city skyline beyond. You’re only on the seventh floor but you’ll easily make out the Royal Albert Hall and the top of the London Eye as you dine on contemporary British dishes, such as treacle cured Loch Duart salmon and Cornish crab pasta. Friday and Saturday dinner is £41.50 for two courses, Monday-Thursday you’ll pay à la carte prices, which means £8.50–14 for a starter, £18-33 for a main course.
Strada2 Tower Bridge House, St Katharine’s Way, E1W 1AA
Ok, it’s technically not in a skyscraper, but this place proves that dinner with a view needn’t come with a hefty price tag; one of the best views from any London restaurant is from Italian chain restaurant Strada at Tower Bridge. Here, the famous river crossing practically shoulders its way cinto the restaurant, catching your eye each time you turn your head and reflected back by large mirrors along the interior wall. Sit outside if it’s warm enough and order Italian classics such as caprese salad (£4.95) followed by a seafood risotto (£13.50) or veal Milanese (£14.95). At weekends you can eat here for under a tenner: the chargrilled chicken and seafood linguine are just £9.95 from 12-6pm Saturdays and all day on Sundays.
Obvious choices include the Tower of London, Harrods and Buckingham Palace, but there are hundreds of amazing experiences to be had away from these well-trodden tourist routes.
Parks, palaces and pelicans: take a tour of London’s famous royal sights and discover a few surprises along the way.
*Published March 2017. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.