With the first glimpses of summer on the horizon, it’s time to start seeking out London’s outdoor drinking spots. The stakes are high; it can’t be too crowded, rooftop terraces are awarded extra points, and not having to sell a kidney on the black market in order to be able to afford a drink helps. Step up Bōkan, the newly opened restaurant, bar and roof terrace on the 37th, 38th and 39th floors of Novotel in Canary Wharf.
Venue and Atmosphere
Apparently meaning 'lighthouse', Bōkan has taken over the top three floors of the world’s tallest Novotel, with a design that clashes light and dark. Black steel girders section off areas, exposed brick walls line the back of the restaurant and metal mesh is used to decorate the bar. If it sounds industrial, that’s because it’s meant to be; the three-floor venue is celebrating the history of Canary Wharf.
Despite the cool minimalist design, you might well forget the interiors with a view like Bōkan’s. Floor-to-ceiling windows face back towards the city with the entirety of London sprawled at your feet, from Tower Bridge along the river to The Walkie Talkie. If Canary Wharf is the land of broken bankers and swanky suits, Bōkan is the heavens above, full of tie-less young professionals and stylish hotel guests reclining on one of the deep armchairs.
Due to arctic winds showing up in April, we only scampered briefly to see the roof terrace, a wooden-clad space with the usual soft sofas and blankets, which will be jammed come summer. Floor 38 is reserved for the bar, while the lowest section - the restaurant - is the most European, with glass cases full of hanging charcuterie and unpolished wooden floors topped with antique-looking rugs.
Food and Drink
The kitchen at Bōkan is headed up by Aurelie Altemaire, who earnt her credentials as head chef at renowned Covent Garden spot L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Her menu at Bōkan is short and concise with punchy items given delicate twists. The starter of three seared scallops (£12) was padded out with a warm pearl barley salad and jelly-like blobs of wasabi and limoncello; while the tenderness of the Angus Aberdeen Beef Tartar (£12) was contrasted with a crunchy sesame crisp.
Mains are similarly big-hitting, with several choices of meat accompanied by British vegetables. The lamb cutlets (£28) come from the Rhug Estate in Wales and while seemingly small, any left-over stomach space was quickly filled with a dish of roasted garlic, chargrilled aubergine and a chimichurri. I don’t really like potato but at the waiter’s recommendation we ordered a mind-changing bowl of mash (£3) that was scooped onto plates with ice-cream thickness. Why the conversion from a single bowl of mash? It may have been something to do with the fact that it was 50% butter.
Beg, borrow or steal to bag a space in the bar for a cocktail at sunset. The menu is handily divided up by flavours and titled with the various trading areas, from The West India Docks (fresh, fruity & light) to Blackwell Levels (to share). Considering the location and view, you might expect pay-day-packet prices, but the menu is surprisingly affordable, starting at £8.50.
I’ve been up the Shard and round the London Eye but Bōkan in Canary Wharf whizzed me up to new heights with delicious views, mouth-watering food and three floors of industrial style to discover. If you’re looking for a rooftop in which to pass all summer, you will have to elbow me out of the way to get to Bōkan first.