Mike Parks himself at the latest rooftop venue.
The sun comes out right on cue for our arrival at Skylight, London’s New Rooftop destination at Tobacco Dock. It’s an impressive brick built grade one listed warehouse from the early 1800’s primarily used to store imported, you guessed it, tobacco.
I explain to my old friend and companion for the night, Rachel, that the theme is a British urban lawn club, with croquet lawns, petanque courts and street food stalls.
Through black steel doors in the old faÃƒÂ§ade we discover a standard concrete car park ramp with a gaggle of rooftop bar types being checked in.Once through the dark undecorated space we ascend the stairs wondering why the lifts were out of use.
At the 7th floor Ray ponders Ã¢â‚¬Å“It’s a good job I’m not in a wheelchairÃ¢â‚¬Â. Emerging into the blinking sun we’re knackered and need a sit down. Gasping up a few more steps we reach the highest Sky Terrace level which looks over the main astroturfed rooftop space to the views beyond.
After Mina the bar lady has mixed Absolut Lime, elderflower cordial and Fever Tree Soda water into a pair of Swedish Summer cocktails, we take a seat and take stock. Overhead a large timber sun shade roof frames colour tinted plastic panels held up by clunky timber members that look like they were knocked up by Tommy Walsh and Handy Andy. It’s cheap looking but it’s cheerful enough and we bask in the low sun and take in the impressive view; The city cluster of Gherkin, Grater, Walkie Ugly and The Shard off to the left.
Deciding the cocktail is, although refreshing, a bit one dimensional we switch to red for me and a GÃ¢â‚¬Ëœn’T for Ray. We agree that you wouldn’t think of Shadwell or Wapping as a place to go out, but the younger generation are here in force. They don’t quite look like the’creative Londoners’ the venture aspires to attract though, being 10% TOWIE. Or is this a prejudice driven by the’Now That’s What I Call Ibiza’ background music pumping out of various speakers?
I encourage Rachel back onto her pins to take a look around. People are playing Croquet on the astro-lawn. Everyone’s dressed up for summer and they look like they’re having fun despite not knowing or respecting the rules. I see one laughing girl kicking her ball repeatedly to force it through the hoop as we head for the bar on the lower roof level.Rows of drinkers sit at chunky timber tables and benches, all scorched black as if Andy and Tommy went batshit crazy with a pair of flamethrowers when they’d finished the sun shade roof.
A good range of beers are on offer here so I switch again for a refreshing pint and we get talking to Anthony and Dom in the bar throng. They’re nice guys so we move to chat more by the parapet underlining the city view. The sun is beginning to set, it’s a nice vibe.We ramp down one level in search of food to be confronted by two large queues in the low ceiling shady space below. Resigned to the wait, we split up to see which queue moves quickest.
There were three pop up street food outlets here, but We Serve Humans, have sold out of their famous Chairman burger already and have put a sold out sign up, obviously so famous most humans chose it.Ray and Dom stand in line for Thai Street food specialists Kra Pow while myself and Anthony wait fairly patiently for Greek Street food brand, Yiro to serve up Chicken Souvlaki and chips. I hope more food options will fill this level making for shorter queues, but for now several units are empty and so are we.
We discuss the missed potential of some queue entertainment, discussions of which half entertain us until we are dished up our punnets of food. The Souvlaki seems to be an elongated cousin of the chicken nugget with slightly soggy chips so we’re jealous of Dom and Ray’s noises of pleasure as they tuck in to Kra Pow’s signature namesake dish. We pinch some of theirs and it’s delicious; spicy pork mince with basil, chillies, ginger, onion and garlic, served on brown jasmine rice and finished with a perfectly poached oozy quails egg.
After the food we feel somewhat obliged to try some games, but ten minutes into a game of Croquet I find myself employing the girl’s kicking technique. We give up and swap to that other quintessentially’British lawn game’ (?) Petanque. Apparently the sand is a bit too soft, but it seems just fine to four rank amateurs. We spend a pleasant hour chucking metal balls at a little plastic ball.
It’s time to go home but on the way out I chat to Johnny the general manager and he’s incredibly enthusiastic about the whole venture. He tells me the car park couldn’t even be used as a car park because it was built with such a low head height modern SUV’s don’t fit.
He’s excited about more and different food pop ups coming soon and is sure people will come.He’s right, I think people will come too, a totally dead space has become a place of fun and that has to be a good thing.
If they get a sunny summer, get the food right and maybe get a DJ, people will relax into the vibe of an astro-carpeted booze filled car park. As we head away into the night Rachel sums it up as a’Shoreditch house for the people’ and she’s right too.