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Never played Pumpkin Draughts or ice skated on top of a car park? Now is your chance.
Autumn – my favourite time of year. Chilly walks in the country, kicking through piles of leaves like a big kid, finishing off the day in a cosy pub with a roaring log fire. All good old autumn things to look forward to.
But maybe this is the year to do something more adventurous? Something a bit different you certainly haven’t done before and something you will want to tell your friends about?
That something is Skylight, set on the edge of the hipster East End. It’s a place which since its opening in 2017 is steadily and deservedly growing in popularity as somewhere a bit out of the ordinary and a great place for an evening out.
Skylight has a permanent pop-up feel, set on the top three floors of the disused Penning Street multi-storey car park close by Tobacco Dock (well worth a look itself). You go in through the old car park entrance and walk up the concrete steps to the top floors – no lifts here*.
Skylight isn’t just a rooftop bar and eatery, it’s a destination. The top of the old car park has been jazzed up and decked out with several bars, street food, screens and live entertainment, but the big draw is that it offers great views of the City horizon.
And those views, from Shard to Gherkin, are best when night falls and the skyline, and Skylight, both really light up.
If you get tired of the great view, there’s some fun games to play. The summer season offers croquet and petanque (that’s boules!) but be quick – from later this month Skylight changes gear and season.
As autumn draws on, Skylight launches HarvestFest on 27 September, when it brings out the blankets, turns up the heaters and makes over its sunny terraces into warm and inviting spaces for the shorter days and cooler nights.
You will be able to try your hand at Horseshoes – where you chuck the shoe, trying to get a ‘’ringer’’ where it swings around a stake in the ground. Or there’s Hay Bale Skittles which come with an exciting twist. (Both cost £15 for 2 to 4 people, for 30 minutes play). Pumpkin Draughts is played with colourful gourds across a giant black and orange board.
As for food and drink, HarvestFest switches the summer focus to autumn, from mojitos and juleps to apple ciders and warming spiced cocktails. Ones to try include the Spiced Apple Crumble (based on Bacardi Oakheart rum) and the Cherry Spritz (Cherry Heering and apple liqueur).
The lower level has indoor booths and seating areas and is where you go to get hearty and tasty Greek food from Yiro while Flip Side cooks up classic burgers and fries. The Chicken Souvlaki from the summer menu was warming, succulent and filling with welcome garlic. Vegetarians are catered for with crowd-pleasing halloumi.
For the autumn season – and for all cheeseaholics – Raclette Brothers will bring alpine street food and lots of melted cheese.
Skylight attracts a younger crowd of couples and friends. Situated close to the City, it’s easy to get to using the DLR to Shadwell, so Skylight is also a fun, after-work place for company parties, with the uppermost level reserveable for big groups.
Looking further ahead to the chillier nights of winter, Skylight will also be changing seasons and wrapping itself in an extra woolly jumper to bring skating on its popular rooftop ice rink – the only one in western Europe. With the winter season comes festive food stalls and of course mulled wine to ward off the cold – or at least make you not care about it.
So this autumn, as the days darken and draw in, let Skylight light up your nights, then get your skates on for winter and a rooftop you will not forget in a hurry.
Skylight opening times:
Thursday & Friday: 17.00 – 23.00
Saturday & Sunday: 12.00 – 23.00
Pennington St. Car Park Entrance
London E1W 2SF
*Although there are no working lifts, wheelchair users can still use the car park ramps to get to the top levels.
Disclosure: Nick plus one were guests of Skylight.