Savage Garden LDN, Tower Hill

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Rooftop
Damage: £££
Ideal for: ViewFoodDateSmall Groups, Large GroupsAfter Work

Overlooking the Tower of London and the gorgeous Trinity House, the Sky Lounge of the Doubletree Hilton has been revamped into the wildly beautiful Savage Garden.


From the sweeping view of old London to the stunningly modern decor, the bar evokes a sense of expanse and clashing beauties that gives clout to the bar’s name.

From the dining room, to the hall and main bar, to the two terraces hosting carnivorous counters for seafood and meats, to the Beefeater (We’re next to the Tower, so) gin terrace and Jägermeister bar, the enormous venue attempts to cater to all eagerly making the most of the sun by sunset – which is met with a live band in the main bar area overlooking Tower Bridge.


We were immediately welcomed with citrus buttermilk chicken sliders, crisp and brought to life with kimchi slaw and Korean gochujang-inspired ketchup, and soon after moreish beef sliders served in threes on a bone. Our time on the sunset terrace was accompanied by crispy prawn toast with a delightfully smokey bacon jam. The venue wants to make something very clear: they know their proteins.

Worry not for vegetarian options! Not far away we found the honey miso aubergine burgers served with fried green tomatoes, mozzarella and basil in their glorious red brioche.


Well, we did say savage.

Not that we’ve forgotten about the cocktails!

Opening we have the Devil’s Advocate: Olmeca Blanco tequila meets pink grapefruit and lemon, blackcurrant and sage. Outside the deceptive name and the threatening chilli garnish, this drink is incredibly tame for the light drinker – though I suspect it might sneak up on you.

This vegetal tequila mingles smoothly with the sage, that adds a pleasant contrast to the sweet blackcurrant and bright grapefruit.


Now if you’re looking for something slightly punchier, you wanna check out the Flambard Colada, inspired by the infamous Ranulf Flambard – first prisoner in the Tower of London, and the first to escape it – Havana Club 3YO rum mixes with pineapple, cucumber, topped up with Ayala champagne and a hint of absinthe. I found toning down the cucumber and upping the absinthe did wonders for this cocktail as a less creamy alternative to the tiki classic.

The marzipan of the rum stands out on the nose, and the cocktail itself packs a punch though it might seem innocent at first glance. The initial cucumber fades to a subtler pineapple that accompanies the champagne, waiting for the absinthe to cut through. Should probably relax on the garnish though, visually speaking.


The Wild Poison makes a great long drink to relax with. Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, Merlet apricot brandy, cloudy apple juice, smoked pine syrup, Campari, with the garnish of ‘poison apple’.

The simplicity of the visuals is refreshing, while maintaining a solid theme, which I like. And though it is one of the sweeter drinks tried that evening, it isn’t offensively so (we are all aware by now of my struggle with sweet cocktails). You might take your time with the heaviness of this cocktail, but the mix is wonderful.

The USA has seen several renditions of the Apple Bourbon with a hint of sweet, so here Savage Garden takes a well-loved homemade goodie and give it a London up-do. This summery take on an Autumn cocktail uses Merlet apricot brandy in place of the oft-used honey or maple, while balancing out some of the excess sweetness with smoked pine and bitter Campari – making it accessible to a wide range of palates.


Our last two cocktails were possibly our favourites of the evening, and two very different cocktails indeed.

One certainly counts as dessert: the Horny Beast comes inspired from the savage gardens of the Red Riding Hood tale in a mix of Beefeater pink gin, Aluna coconut rum, almond, lime, green strawberry, smoke and oak bitters, apple, rhubarb, and cinnamon soda, served with a strawberry, lime, and black pepper cracker.

Okay. So. Let’s discuss that cracker.

This cocktail is worth getting for that cracker.

The cocktail is a swirl of flavours that settles on ‘grown up cotton candy bubblegum’ which is bizarre, and yet… works. Well. I never thought I’d find myself saying that about something I’d describe as cotton candy bubblegum, yet here we are. A surprisingly fun drink that embraces itself.

Also that cracker.


Finally, probably my favourite drink of the evening shouldn’t have surprised me from the moment I read the first ingredient.

Hey, we all have favourites.

The Lady Grey mixes Freya birch spirit, Seedlip Spice 94, apple and Earl Grey liqueur, oak and aromatic spices, topped up with Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic.

Clear, composed, with a certain nobility in flavour, the Lady Grey has a running  undernote of the earthy birch spirit all the way through the cocktail, as the woody and spicy Seedlip’s cardamom finds itself comfortable in the spice mix. The Earl Grey liqueur soon comes to the fore as the cocktail soon settles on the floral tonic.


If there was one thing I would add to this cocktail menu, it would be short cocktails. A lot of what we had seen was primarily topped up with juices, sodas, champagnes and tonics – and though each drink was carefully designed with a distinct personality that worked well with their length, those of us who enjoy our short drinks will have a smaller choice.


Savage Garden is a strange beast. With its sprawling square footage and variety of bars and food counters and terraces it feels like more of a touring experience than a singular bar.

One thing is for certain, with the retractable ceilings and immense view, it will always be a summer draw, so expect late night parties under this wild city’s sky.

Drinks: ***
Atmosphere: *****
Service: ****

Savage Garden LDN @ The Doubletree Hilton,

7 Pepys St,
London EC3N 4AF


Bussey Rooftop Bar, Peckham Rye

Type of Bar: Rooftop
Damage£ – ££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, View, Live Music

Finally, a good summer rooftop bar.

There have been quite a few summer bars around this June, but so far, the Bussey Rooftop Bar is rocketing to the Hoodooist’s top.

Bussey Rooftop Bar Cocktails Summer

Built to chill with live music, only 6 floors up, but with stunning views of the hills to the South and of the City to the North. Serving up film-themed drinks with Pizza Pilgrims baking up a storm, chilled out covers of Eurythmics sail through the air as the similarly relaxed cocktail list helps you relax far, far away from the noise of the city. And quality drinks for 7 quid? Winning.

Walking up 6 flights of stairs is rather worth it.

However, I’d add some, or at least store away emergency, umbrellas/shades somewhere. The British summer can be deceptive, and the last thing you need is a sudden shower while sipping on your Jerk Daiquiri (although, would be hilarious to watch the rooftop-yoga group next door get soaked).

Bussey Rooftop Bar Cocktails Summer

The Jerk Daiquiri

Speaking of the Jerk Daiquiri: Appleton V/X rum, Jerk Syrup, lime juice – simple, elegant, does the job. Appleton V/X is a much lighter rum than its popular Estate 12yr brother, and is a good choice for the cocktail. You’re first hit with the jerk syrup – the allspice, and bite of the Scotch Bonnet, the myriad of warm spices – followed by the fruit entry of the rum. Orange followed by the pepper, finally resting on the lime juice. Relaxed, summery, beachy. Simplicity works.

Bussey Rooftop Bar Cocktails Summer

The Negrita

The Negrita is an attempt at mixing some of the Hoodooist’s favourite cocktails: San Cosme Mezcal, Campari, Cocchi Torino (here substituted with Martini Rosso and extra orange). The substitution of Martini Rosso and orange works well, regardless. The most powerful flavour coming from the Campari, but once that fades, from the Campari and vermouth haze the mezcal emerges. Complex and smokey, with a caramelly finish. A great twist on a classic.

Bussey Rooftop Bar Cocktails Summer

The Thai Punch

Being summer, the Hoodooist decided to go with a long drink. Well, not really. He just read the word ‘chilli’ and was sold. The Thai Punch takes the coconut rum Koko Kanu and infuses it with kaffir lime leaf, chilli, ginger, and lemongrass tail – finally adding pineapple, lime and palm sugar to top off the drink. Cold and spicy, the Thai Punch leaves palate dancing between the spices, most notably the lemongrass tail and ginger, lengthened by the pineapple, ending with the sweetness of the coconut and a chilli strike at the back of the throat. Long it might be, but this drink takes a while to finish.

Bussey Rooftop Bar Cocktails Summer

Memento of a great bar team

Finally, the Memento is…. Anything you’d want it to be. Anything using 50 Pounds Gin, that is. Called Memento since the drink comes with a Polaroid snapshot of the night. In this case, a Polaroid of our fabulous bartenders and a Martinez. So the usual gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino and bitters, a good ole classic.

The team, run by the wonderful Joe of El Nivel (Click HERE for Review!) fame, are incredibly talented, bringing their skills from around the world, and a barrel of laughs. Smooth and swift cocktail preparation.

And don’t forget the food! Enjoy the setting sun with Pizza Pilgrims cooking up personal Margherita, Nduja, or Portobello mushroom pizzas – or roll it up into a calzone. It’s a personal pizza, you can do it, we believe in you.

Bussey Rooftop Bar Cocktails Summer Pizza Pilgrims

The pretention that tends to fester around rooftop bars (or the clientele they attract) is absent at the Bussey Rooftop, instead presenting us with a spacious, chilled out venue to lie back and relax in, with a Negrita in hand to enjoy what the much ignored side of South East London has to offer.

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: *** – **** (you really, really don’t want it to rain here)
Service: *****

Bussey Rooftop Bar

133 Rye Lane, Peckham Rye,
London SE15 4ST

Atrium Bar @ Aqua Shard, London Bridge

Type of Bar: High-Rise
Damage£££ – ££££
Ideal for: Date, View, Existential Crisis

I’ve avoided writing this one up for a while. But here goes.

The sensible will have made up their mind immediately after the following anecdote.
If one continues reading it really means one’s mind can’t be changed regarding visiting Aqua.

After putting bags through scans and metal detectors, and being sent in the wrong direction, whilst being bothered by several employees en route asking “Are you going to Aqua?”, we finally make it there in all its hotel-lobby-designed glory. A massive space that really needs a bit more lighting at night, utterly packed with people that leave their jackets littering the floor.

Snatching the nearest available table, we observe our bartender, whipping out a pair of coconuts, chopped in half, to prepare his drink.

In the four halves, he pours his ingredients, and hands the coconuts to the punters. Except, two of the coconuts are empty.
Baffled, he refills them and hands them over.
Again, they are empty.
And yes, a third time he tests his quantum coconuts.
A third time they are empty.

Because unbeknownst to him, but very visible to us, we see his arms soaked in the cocktail pouring out of HOLES CUT INTO THE COCONUT SHELL.

This ludicrous display of wasted spirits was interrupted by a stereotype of Aqua frequenter: an annoyed looking young person wielding McQueen, and a collection of massive bags from her shopping trip, repeatedly exiting and entering the bar (all the way up the stairs, out, and then back and down again), but not seemingly doing anything. In a huff, she does this a record 5 times, whilst hitting several punters’ heads with her bags and not caring that she did. And the staff not caring either.

If you must insist on a drink review after that fiasco, then here it is:

The Skyline Cooler: Ketel One Citroen Vodka, Cinzano, absinthe, apple juice, lemon juice, elderflower cordial and fennel seeds – the fennel is mostly drowned out, even the Cinzano, normally a very detectable flavour, is half lost in the juice/cordial overdose. And a volatile ingredient like absinthe probably should not be left in the hands of the coconut fellow above – evident with the overpowering sourness of the drink.

A second tequila and gin drink wielded similar lemon-juice-abused results.

A foul citrus nothing for 13-16 pounds?
London is far too wide and full of treasures for these shenanigans.

Aqua suffers a similar problem as ME London’s Radio Rooftop, where a spoilt 20-something feels they deserve a pat on the back for standing a few floors higher up. Much like that recent London real estate ad that has caused such controversy recently, “Having the world at your feet”.

A destination for fans of Ayn Rand who don’t know what Objectivism actually is, the Aqua Shard becomes a testament to the tasteless.

So I looked out the window at the view, hoping to god the histrionics behind me weren’t real and I wasn’t actually here.

Drinks: ** for quality, but considering value for money: *
Atmosphere: *, but once you add view: **
Service: What service? The staff is all queued outside giving directions.

Atrium Bar @ Aqua Shard

31 Saint Thomas Street,
London, SE1 9RY

City Social @ Tower 42, Bank

Type of Bar: High Rise, Art Deco
Damage££  £££
Ideal for: View, Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, Food

It’s been open only a couple of weeks, but City Social by Jason Atherton has garnered quite a bit of attention. Rightfully so, bar manager and 2013 UK World Class champion Gareth Evans (of The Blind Pig, Berners Tavern, and Pollen Street Social fame) brings his trademark style 24 floors up. If one hasn’t tried his work yet, think of it being what Steam and Rye *tries* to be, but can’t.

Anyway, City Social is an Art Deco gem. Black and gold, and understated without trying its hardest to rub it in your face (cough certain Mayfair bar cough) – and still has a typically Atherton feel to it. A friend called it ‘mature’, but in the best of ways: relaxed and besuited. The atmosphere changes drastically at night when the crowd picks up – but arriving in time for the sunset is glorious for the view.


Right, the cocktails. As aforementioned: Typically Evans. Adventurous, quirky, addicted to puns and garnishes. Although I’m fairly sure is completely different from the menus at his other bars which tend to share majority of the same drinks. I was enthusiastic since his ‘Dill or No Dill’ and ‘Piscotheque’ were rather impressive.

We began with the Kammaraderie: Kamm & Sons ginseng spirit, Garriguette strawberries, Maraschino, lemon juice, and strawberry paper (ie, a chewy strawberry stripe). It’s a strawberry assault with a subtle spice to it. The Robin Hood brings Somerset 5 year apple brandy, quince liqueur, honey mead, lemon juice and a ‘mini-apple bullseye’ (a tiny unripe apple, bright and citrus). Not quite sure what to say about this one, it was definitely still a good drink, but you can’t really say what the exact flavours were – which, with such powerfully flavoured ingredients, you’d think would be more prominent. If I had to describe it, I’d definitely say the quince and honey mead, with its texture thinned by the brandy.

The Robin Hood does fall prey to trying to mix too much of a good thing, but it doesn’t take away from the overall experience as a bright and light drink.


Robin Hood (L); Kammaraderie (R)

We decided, to suit the venue, to order a pair of classics, which the bartenders actually seemed rather excited by. A Perfect Manhattan (Buffalo Trace bourbon) came out perfectly and worthy of applause. The Sazerac (Hine cognac, Bulleit Rye blend) was commendable, though perhaps with a smidge more absinthe than necessary (though that is up to taste).

I will also point out the number of people ordering The Root of All Evil. Probably the quirkiest of the drinks: walnut rum, bramley apply syrup, Poire William, root beer, lime juice, with a garnish of USD.


Sazerac (foreground); and Manhattan

Service at the bar was excellent, bartenders Omar and Wayne were professional and approachable. Table service was incredibly attentive, almost to a fault. Bar snacks were spectacular. Fried baby Cornish squid with chilli and lime salt were generously portioned; but the goat’s cheese churros with truffle honey stole the show as a savoury bite for the sweet tooth.

All in all, City Social is a welcome arrival amongst the lacklustre high-rise bars in London, blowing them out of the water.  And whereas I generally would recommend classic cocktails here in this exquisitely designed space, it does not take away from the house cocktails still being pleasant and original. Not to mention the food!

The Hoodooist looks forward to return to City Social for a meal with a few Old Fashioneds.

Drinks: ***
Atmosphere: *****
Service: ****

City Social @ Tower 42,

25 Old Broad Street, City of London,
London EC2N 1HQ

ME London’s Marconi Lounge and Radio Rooftop, The Strand

Type of Bar: HotelMarconi: Lounge; Radio: Rooftop
Ideal for: DateSmall Groups, View

Every press call this hotel has made (in re: the Marconi and Radio) has been about how it was the place to “see and be seen”.

I’d rather not be.

The Marconi Lounge comes with the minimalist New York gloss of silver and monochrome. It isn’t uncomfortable, but its effort for chicness somehow robs the lounge of it. Keeno, I believe the kids call it. The most memorable aspect of this visit was that the service was utterly, unshakably, unforgivably appalling. Slow, rude, miserable – and the place was practically empty. A bartender who obviously wasn’t, conjured up this mess of a cocktail after which we absconded to the rooftop expecting something perhaps a bit better with a view.



Marconi Lounge, ME London

Service on the roof was swifter, but just as cold.  The terrace comes equipped with couches and several tables and heating lamps, the works. What really sells (probably all that sells) the Radio Rooftop is the incredible view. The OXO, Somerset House, the Southbank in its glory, all the way East to the Shard. After a game of ‘I can see my house from here’, we finally settled onto the deep beds and had a whisk through the menu.

I do have a natural prejudice against rooftop bars – the aloof attitude of paying far less attention to service, cocktails or clientele simply because they are offering a terrace where visitors can pretend to be self-important for a moment.  Perhaps this is exciting the first couple of times, maybe it’s because I grew up in a city made of high-rises, but I’m not so grabbed anymore, and am less desperate to forgive the misgivings.  I will give it this, of the various rooftop bars around London, this provides one of the best vantages.

The Sex and the City atmosphere is reflected in the whimsical drinks that came off more as juices than cocktails. If you can imagine four actresses on a terribly unfunny HBO show clinking Cosmos together, you are getting a drift about the cocktail list. I settled for the MY Cherry (their all-caps) – a whiskey and cherry affair. The scent wasn’t masked, so was harsh on the nose, peculiar considering the drink tasted essentially of a cherry/lemon juice. I was really wondering what that 10 pounds was worth. It feels like the cocktails are trying to impress, but aren’t. There is no sense of it being aware that it isn’t spectacular, there is a genuine belief that it is. Not much different from the clientele.


Radio Rooftop, ME London

You know that trope that states that if you look in the modern day, or really far back – nothing looks uncanny. But somewhere in between, things get strange. This stereotypically 90s venue is essentially that. Avoid the Marconi Lounge at all costs, and come up to the Radio Rooftop for the view. Not as an escape from the bustling streets though, because it’s crowded up here, too.

I did always say avoid velvet ropes.

PS: They usually forget to cover the sofas, so if it rains 3 days before, all the sofas will be stinking wet. Who has bets on mould?


Drinks: Marconi: *; Radio: **
Atmosphere: **
Service: **

ME Hotel London,
336-337 The Strand,
London WC2R 1HA