The Jubilee spirit arrived early last night on a rooftop in Kensington as the terrace of Babylon restaurant at Kensington Roof Gardens was unveiled after a spruce up and re-launch. It was also an evening where the 'B's were the ones who were really having a ball. Richard Branson, Princess Beatrice and Richard Balfour formed the Babylon Trio for the night.
Gin and tonic sorbets made with a liquid nitrogen kick started the evening, and English sparkling Balfour Brut rosé looked pretty in pink, one of the wines which has been leading the charge for world class English sparkling - delicate salmon-pink, finely balanced with elegant strawberry and raspberry fruit, and a classy dry finish. No wonder the Champenois are quaking in their boots. The revamped terrace was shown off to good effect on a balmy evening in W8, and we didn't even need Champagne to celebrate.
The Roof Gardens and Babylon restaurant are part of Richard Branson's Virgin Limited Edition, a portfolio of retreats and resorts which includes his private island of Necker, and he made an appearance before dashing off to catch a flight to Madagascar. Princess Beatrice was in attendance to bring a sheen of real royalty to the rooftop as the Jubilee weekend celebrations started gearing up.
Guests at the relaunch were treated to an ice sculpture heaped high with juicy sweet prawns, a proper gutsy yellow mayonnaise on the side for dipping. Canapés included shot glasses filled with lobster and mango, some seared scallops, oysters, and spoonfuls of salmon tartare with a quail's egg perched on top - one bite bombs of flavour.
The views from the terrace are quite spectacular. Perching on a stool it's easy to pick out a procession of London landmarks; Centre Point; St Paul's; London Eye; The Shard; Royal Albert Hall; Houses of Parliament; Natural History Museum and Battersea Power Station. The English Woodland Garden below the restaurant has its own charms too, with a bridge over running water, a plethora of trees and fauna, and a pond with the famed flamingoes called Bill, Ben, Splosh and Pecks: I'm not making those names up. Oh yes, and say hello to Virginia the Cow who fixes you with an icy stare, a model designed by artist Will Barras. It's a transporting experience with more than a touch of magic and smoke and mirrors. A bohemian atmosphere was provided by the band The London Essentials, who gleefully slung themselves amongst the crowd with a massive cello and guitars - no barriers between audience and band here.
If you can convince your boss to splash the cash and book an office party here, you may achieve hero status amongst your workmates. There are summer BBQ's on selected club nights and after cavorting and drinking in the Tudor Garden, you can slip smoothly onto the dance floor in the private members club. Summer is certainly when this venue really starts motoring, and it all feels a little surreal, one hundred feet above Kensington High Street and yet you feel like you're in a swish holiday playground. It's believed to be the largest roof garden in Europe.
Time it right and be rewarded with a pristine blue sky and blazing sunshine when you make your way up seven floors to reach the Roof Gardens - it will feel like one of the best outdoor venues in town.
Babylon at the Roof Gardens
The Roof Gardens, 99 Kensington High Street, London, W8 5SA
Online booking available here
Lunch: Monday - Sunday: 12:00 - 14:30
Dinner: Monday - Saturday: 19:00 - 22:30
- Set lunch menu - 2 courses at £20 and 3 courses at £23
- Complimentary glass of fizz on arrival for all adult diners
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