A penthouse terrace bar and lounge with a view to die for.

When waterfalls cascade down magnificent rock faces it’s beautiful. 
When water falls from the grey heavens just as you’re settling in to enjoy cocktails in a panoramic rooftop bar, chances are you’re in London.

It’s summer. It’s raining. It’s London. 

Madison has a prime location in central London, perched just yards from St Pauls Cathedral, on the fringe of the City and only five minutes walk from the Thames, on the roof of One New Change. The location is a 21st century bazaar, a modern souk satisfying old desires – clothes, gadgets, fast food, haute cuisine and of course fine wine and alcohol – adorned by this popular new addition to the London high-rise dining and rooftop terrace scene. One New Change is worth a visit for the view from the rooftop alone. And Madison is the icing on that London layer cake, with stunning views, laid-back vibes and chilling thrills.

There’s not a 90 degree corner to be seen in the angular roof space as I exit the scenic elevator. Edgy, sharp, a jagged little sill making best use of a convoluted development geometry. London was not built to a grid system. Streets in the City (there are no roads as the winding thoroughfares predate the word road itself) do not meet at neat 90 degree angles.

The rooftop splits three ways. 

Turn left then left again when exiting the lift and there is a relaxing public space. As central London boroughs require all developers to package in an element of community benefit to new developments, across this rhomboid roof space leisurely sandwich benches and milling tourists from all over the world can sometimes jostle for position. 


The view of the great dome of St Pauls Cathedral from here is unparalleled. So close, you can almost touch it.

Literally only yards away, Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece – still perhaps the most stunning architecture in the London skyscape – rises above the bleached wall and presents perfect photo opps to even the most weary traveller.

The history of London besieges Madison. Apart from those dragons, there is nothing in Game of Thrones that transcends the storied past of this city.

2,000 year old Roman City walls. The thousand year old White Keep centre-stage in the Tower of London. Medieval walls fringing city streets. The world’s most iconic  bridge vaulting the river down by City Hall. The Walkie-Talkie, the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater, the Shard – at time of writing still Europe’s tallest building – all punctuating the skyline. And, perhaps surprisingly, still dominating it all, that Great Dome of St Pauls. Given the German reputation for ruthless efficiency, it’s easy to wonder just how the hell did the Luftwaffe manage to miss it completely as they blitzed London for nine months with a carpet of high-intensity bombing in World War II.
It’s impossible to ignore the past here.

The bar stands sentry to the left of the elevator, offering the wide range of wine, spirits and killer cocktails you would expect of a high-end offer. It seems immune to the craft beer outbreak, so you’re unlikely to get a pint of Fisherman’s Jaggy Jaw IPA.

To the right of the scenic elevator, Madison the restaurant is a priced to attract the trendy lunch-meeting and early evening business crowd. The food is excellent – salads, burgers, slow-cooked classics, healthily mainstream with a Manhattan twist – the ambience is laid-back, the beats are muted and the tone is modern classic. The view towards the river over this low-rise end of the City is a pleasing backdrop to mull over between conversations.

I choose my table and order outside the restaurant, in the compact and cosy al fresco bar. This is a hidden gem, well-known to locals, so timing can be key. Evenings can fill fast as DJs, bands and ambient music pull out all the stops to chill under a gorgeous sunset in the long summer evenings.

Afternoons are a great time to visit, before thirsty workers escape the melange of surrounding offices. It’s a great way to reward yourself after a morning of soaking up the ‘culture’.

The cocktail list is succinct and the usual suspects all show a leg. For me, an old-fashioned matches my mood as I perch at a high table shaded by a diamond of sail cloth providing welcome respite from  the cool rain. 

My well-dressed drink arrives, an amber offering glinting in the occasional sun. A quaint dressmakers rectangle of serrated orange zest, looking rather like something my mother would have shaped with pinking shears to stitch onto a homespun Halloween costume back in the 60s, pops its head over the rim of the ice-block strewn glass.  A first sip confirms the cocktail is perfect for a muggy summer afternoon, fiery yet fresh, bitter and sweet. This drink is firing on all cylinders.

It’s a sad truth for a Scotsman, but the miserly EU 25ml is the standard spirit measure in UK hostelries these days. In my youth such a paltry pour would have been seen only in a hauf’n’hauf – a ‘one for the road combo’ of a half pint of heavy and a wee goldie. Being pragmatic, I choose to see small measures as a sign of our greater respect for our health rather than more politically-correct nanny-state pandering, but I welcome the double measure of Makers Mark as essential to the spirit of the cocktail. I’m sure the alternative of Woodford Reserve would have been equally worthy but today is a day for the no-rye, small batch, Kentucky bourbon.

The sailcloth diamonds in the rigging above keep the rain at bay as I unhurriedly sip my sour mash cocktail. Umbrellas shelter the couples and colleagues making the most of a grainy sky. On a sunny summers evening it can be almost impossible to get out the scenic elevator onto the roof terrace, so the rain is a blessing in disguise. It leaves me to savour my bourbon at my leisure. Sympathetically, the beats morph into something more ambient, almost trance, and highly appropriate to a wet summer afternoon. There’s no point railing against the weather, it’ll only stress  you out.

I check my glass.
It’s empty.
An old fashioned end to an old fashioned day.
It’s summer. Its raining. It’s London.

Bring a jacket.