There are some things which, in retrospect, are obviously a good idea. Democracy, organic food, tightening up your privacy settings on Facebook – once you try them, you can’t believe you ever did things differently. Adding to this list of things that make you go, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ is Skylodge, a rooftop ski chalet in Hackney. Of course! It seems so obvious now.
Within this single, sprawling log cabin, there’s enough room for a well stocked bar, a kitchen surrounded by picnic tables of diners, a row of cubby-holes to relax in with a drink, and plenty more. In less skilled hands this place could quickly turn into a pantomime of Christmas clichés, but happily everything works well together, everything is balanced just right.
There’s a festive feel to the decoration inside – an enormous cuddly moose head towers over the bar, for starters – but they’ve avoided the cheesy option of Christmas classics and gone for some well chosen acoustic and lo-fi (as in The Shins) on the stereo, giving the place a chilled-out, fireside glow. You kind of feel like you’re in Garden State. Electric heaters fill the hall with warmth, so that despite the wood panelled walls you won’t feel the cold. And there are little sheds lined up like Wendy houses to retreat into with a drink or two. Best of all, you can step outside onto the rooftop itself to roast some marshmallows or take a swig under the stars.
The drinks menu is just as hearty and festive as you’d imagine: hot toddies, mulled wine, cider as hot as a steaming mug of tea. If Father Christmas exists, then this is the only bar he needs to visit in London before getting back on his sleigh. He would feel right at home. Warm cider is especially recommended on a cold winters’ evening – although, at £6 a cup, you’d best savour each mouthful.
The food fits in, too. There’s smoked salmon, crimson on the edges and peachy in the middle, served on a heap of baby leaf spinach, delivering an appetising volley of crisp tartness. Beyond that there are various barbequed and slow-roasted meats on offer, principally the pulled pork, which in a welcome twist rides atop a waffle. The combination works very well – I’ve not always welcomed the brioche baps that pulled pork seems to be served in these days, but whereas that combination is too doughy, the waffle proves a less demanding and altogether a more fitting partner. Besides, you’re eating a waffle, so you’re basically getting a dessert served underneath your dinner like buried treasure.
Christmas provides an excellent excuse for this kind of occasion, and let’s face it, we all occasionally wish we were actually in a hearty, booze filled log cabin of festivity rather than another Wetherspoons. Open until 29 December, I’d recommend the Skylodge as a holiday treat – and, like all good ideas, you’ll be glad you tried it.
274 Richmond Road (public entrance under the railway arch on Martello Street)