Mike samples the high life at Millbank Tower’s Altitude London.
It’s always fun to eat or drink at the top of a tall structure with a splendid view, but the Millbank tower, while prominent at 118 metres, is a fairly dreary 60’s tower block, so will it be all about the panorama, or will the space itself impress people enough to hire it? Armed with my ‘Passport to the Sky’ invite, I aim to find out.
Approaching, I realize there’s nothing else as tall anywhere around it, so I wonder how it got planning permission being so close to Tate Britain and Westminster. However, having since been home to both the Conservative and more famously the Labour party, it has gained notoriety and even a grade II listing.
The tower’s events space Altitude London is under new ownership managed by event industry veteran Alan Turtill, who has worked with Kensington Roof Gardens, Paramount and Century Member’s Club. The first thing he’s done is to reinstate tonight’s annual summer party, so I take my figurative hat off to him.
I meet my former colleague Kelly, my guest for the night, shortly after passing through airport style security with a fake door frame to walk through and a uniformed security man with a lump of plastic resembling a hand held detector.
Every person who passes through the portal raises their arms instinctively as security has become such a part of life. For each person he then has to explain he is fake and squeeze out a chuckle that you fell for it. Poor guy, I hope he gets equity rates.
Kelly and I have attended a fair few corporate shin digs in our time and we are both skeptical of themed outfits like this but we’ll see how we go. Once’Checked in’ with wristbands, we move into the’departures hall’ where there’s a wall-mounted information board showing’flights’ to the top – hmm.
Thankfully, apart from this, the resemblance to an airport is nil because a long bar churns out trays of refreshing Mojitos and Pimms which are handed out, along with nibbles such as juicy mini burgers, chicken sticks, little spring rolls or delicious spoons of beetroot salmon which are distributed by Altitude Airways’crew’ in abundance.
The assembled crowd of corporate bookers/testers are gently herded into the first event space, the Millbank Media Centre, a 270 seat cinema where after a brief intro, a 1940’s style female vocal harmony trio perform a few numbers for us with some aplomb. Something Ryan air would be highly unlikely to lay on.
It’s time for our’flight’ which obviously turns out to be in a lift. At the 29th floor we emerge into a vast white floor and walled space with huge windows full of skyline. It wraps almost 360 degrees around the tower and after the obligatory snap of the stunning views reaching from the Houses of Parliament to the London Eye below, we grab glasses of wine and amble around.
Mini activities are dotted about including photo booth experiences, games and shot tastings, but Kelly makes a b-line for the candyfloss making man who twizzles you up his fluffy flavoured nonsense-on-a-stick while you wait.
After that unusual starter the main courses take the form of bowl food wheeled out by trolley dollies. Strip steak with two fat triple cooked chips goes down a treat. It’s tasty grub and it keeps coming; Sea Bream with samphire and then baby potatoes and chickpea. Airline food it is not.
As the sun sets we suddenly notice the staff are clearing and our corporate event alarm bells ring just in time to grab two fresh glasses of wine and be the last to get ushered out, only to be informed it’s not the end, merely the move one floor down to the final event space.
The 28th floor is the’Skyloft’ and with it’s brick walls and timber flooring has a contrasting vibe to upstairs. After a photobooth opportunity with, you guessed it, an airport backdrop, Kelly is drawn to craft activities and is taught how to fashion herself a garland, while I clock the spectacular sunset over London and listen to a Stetson wearing songstress.
Yet more food is on offer, this time set out in stalls of meat or veg skewers with rice and trays of help yourself mac’n’cheese. We sample bits of everything and it’s all of a fine standard.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœAltitude Airways’ is a slick operation with different offerings to keep diverse corporates happy, well fed and watered, oh yes and that view does make it a bit special.
We agree the only way to improve the experience would be to get access to the actual rooftop and install a sky-terrace called’The Runway’. That’s unlikely but there is talk of a pop-up restaurant led by a celebrity chef, so even non-corporate Joe public may get to eat and enjoy the sights.
Having completed taxi-ing, we bid our farewells and take off into the night.