The underground heaves - it's an ongoing rush hour. Close and clammy, emerging into the East End is a breath of fresh air. I climb the steps of Bank tube station and tune in to the fact that they are gold. Steps paved with gold lead to streets paved with gold in the oldest financial district of London. Finding my bearings in EC3, I can't help but register a nod to Mary Poppins; pigeons peck on the steps of The Royal Exchange surrounded by big black umbrellas. In true British summer fashion, it hasn't stopped raining the entire day.
This part of London is bright and breathing and far from grey. Colourful, there's something to be found at every turn; it's sadly refreshing to witness art linked with crime in the Young British Artist, Damien Hirst's Charity statue, stood (somewhat pitifully) on the cobbled street beneath London's iconic Gherkin Building, a building synonymous with the 1990's run of wealth, whose shape gave way to its beloved nickname.
As Canary Wharf's skyline scraped its way above cloud in rectangle form, so this part of the City looked for other shapes to represent its growth and success. The Gherkin was the first. Others followed. The Walkie Talkie. The City Hall. More recently, the Shard. Buildings which on reflection are glass structures, leaving an architect's paradise in their wake; old juxtaposed with new. I love this part of town.
My destination is about as far removed from London's City as is possible, yet sits within its beating heart at 180 metres high - and with 360 degree vistas of it. I'm talking level 40 of Searcy's Gherkin - the very atrium itself, never before accessible to the public, but home to a Moroccan restaurant open to all, for seven weeks this summer.
Proving the perfect venue for the perfect pop up, the Moroccan Sky Riad experience is designed to create the ambience and character of traditional Marrakesh nightlife: souks and bazaars with the more chic, tranquil and serene style of Riads and retreats. Influences such as jewel coloured finishes and rich purple satins sit against simple and sophisticated hessian and distressed wood, fusing together to totally encapsulate the essence of Morocco, all against a backdrop that doesn't even have to try to fit in...
Initially thrown - from the moment you walk into the summit of the gherkin via a single storey spiral stair, it's sensory overload; a fully submersive experience at that - albeit one which leaves you wanting more. Fun and reasonably priced, with themed dishes of excellent food, and adventurous cocktails - I loved the calamari, harissa mayo and charred lemon, and the date infused rum. I never did get round to the saffron infused tea, perhaps I could return one afternoon for that (wink wink)? I mean, why ever would one bother with tea at the Ritz, when London is offering cocktails atop a pickled cucumber?
The Moroccan Sky Riad is open until September 5th 2015
Emma Oliver and LIFE AS IT IS experienced the bar on level 40 with mezzo dishes and cocktails, courtesy of GribonBerry, in exchange for a mention on the parenting/lifestyle blog LIFE AS IT IS. Please note, a restaurant and full dining experience is available on level 39.
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