Sipping Champagne six stories up on Kensington High Street doesn’t lose its charm, and partying in a nook of a beautiful rooftop garden is an unparalleled experience. Just don’t come expecting not to spend a buck or two at Sir Richard Branson’s Roof Gardens.
Down a side street you’ll find the lobby entrance up to the famous Roof Gardens, Richard Branson’s posh, plush venue 100ft above High Street Kensington. If the heights don’t have you excited then the lush gardens by the dark of night should pique your interest, with a large terrace filled with exotic, perennial plants and overlooked by an Hispanic-looking clock tower. To one side sits a veranda with cute seat alcoves and overhead patio heaters, which brings a touch of Spanish warmth to the Roof Gardens, and a barbecue down a side passage also outdoors brings extra heat as well as satisfying eats to hungry punters.
Back indoors is a large semi-circle of a bar lit up in glitzy purple neon, and despite the steep prices and the size, you’ll still have to muscle your way in for a spot to get served at this popular bar. Further into the room is a shiny dance floor and raised DJ platform and behind this, segregated off with beaded curtains, is an area of VIP seating for the most lavish of guests. Roof Gardens has also recently introduced live music to Friday nights and off to the side of the terrace is a makeshift container where events are housed, known as the Tudor Marquee. They’ve tried to bring the exotic outdoor aesthetic into this plastic-roofed part of the club, but it doesn’t feel anywhere near as seamless with dazzlingly bright lighting, fake foliage and a low stage structure that makes it hard to see the main attraction.
‘No effort, no entry’ is the maxim bashed about at Roof Gardens, so its unsurprising to find yourself rubbing up against gents who are unafraid to embrace the fake tan, or in a queue for the mirrors in the bathrooms as girls in teetering heels paint on another layer of mascara. The effort is most certainly made, to varying effect. It’s an odd mix of people at Roof Gardens, with older, classy couples from Kensington and Chelsea found enjoying the finer things in life while up-for-it youngsters come along in packs for one night only to see what all the fuss is about. Luckily an over-21s policy keeps things from ever getting too out of hand.
Indoors is all about getting down on the dance floor or singing along to live music in the marquee – don’t expect any sort of inhibitions, despite the sophisticated setting – while the beautiful outdoor gardens see all kinds of action but remain the classiest setting of all. If you can bag yourself a Bedouin-style seat overlooking the rich foliage, you’re in for a very good night indeed.
Commercial RnB and gentle, funky house beats are played out by resident DJs, while the biggest chart dance hits are never far from the decks – you’ll be sure to hear Rudimental and Disclosure before the night is out. A live music line-up has also been announced for the Roof Gardens this winter. XFactor’s Matt Cardle kicked off the live sessions with just his guitar, but you can expect full band set-ups from up-and-coming pop groups and solo artists as well as acoustic performances.
They fire up the barbecue at Roof Gardens in the warmer months, but don’t expect down and dirty, finger-licking food. It’s one of the more civilised barbecues you’ll see, with perfectly seasoned meat cooked over searing hot flames. You can choose from beef, chicken, fish and veggie burger options, all served with salad and deliciously fat and fluffy chips. Beef burgers are cooked pink, seasoned with real sleight of hand and covered with a good helping of strong mature cheese.
Come expecting to pay a premium when partying just off High Street Kensington - a gin and tonic comes to £10.50, and even though drinks measures are put to one side, it’s still a steep price to pay for a straight-forward mixed drink. Cocktails are also available and include a particularly sweet and fruity strawberry option that will certainly fuel you on the dance floor. But you’ll likely see Champagne doing the best trade here, with bottles being passed around with gay abandon. And Belvedere Vodka bottles often find a place at VIP tables for groups to get stuck into.
The Last Word
While live music has been added to the agenda, it’s the eponymous gardens that remain the main attraction at this Kensington party spot. And while some parts of the club could be just a little bit slicker, the leafy foliage up above the High Street is just the ticket. If you are prepared to max out the credit card, Roof Gardens will definitely take care of the rest.