Peckham led the way with utilising the wasted space in a multi-storey car park to create a cultural vibe that was a benefit to the whole community, and now Wapping has now followed the trend with street food, DJs, screens for sport and a rooftop bar on the Tobacco Dock car park. They have also added pétanque and croquet – which is an unexpected flourish – but there is still room for improvement, writes Michael Holland.
Skylight has been open for over a year now and has built up a good reputation going by the numbers it attracts to its three top levels of the car park. It ticks all the right boxes for the twenty-something crowd it targets but needs to cut down on the inordinate number of long queues dotted around the place; long queue for food, long queue for every bar – we almost upped and left rather than wait any longer, and would have done so if this visit wasn’t work. But it did explain why people queued, and then bought large pitchers of beer, or multi-bottles of wine to save on continually standing in a line for a single cocktail or pint.
And the food was far from fine dining. The choice was grilled meat in a wrap at Yiro, or grilled meat in a bun at Flip Side, and all served by a production line of Emos, almost silently throwing handfuls of prepped salad on to bread before criss-crossing the lot with chilli sauce, ketchup or mayo. Or all three. At Yiro (Pitta bread), ‘Go Greek’ means having chips in your wrap. And any attractive aromas of good cooking that might have lured customers to the shanty town-like, street food corner were overpowered by the smell of deep fat fryers all fired up and churning out chips by the box load. To me, the whole place looked like some kids had made a camp and was now being run by students who were never going to finish their next essay.
The cocktails, however, were excellent. My companion, Julia, had a Gin Jam which she deemed so nice she had another. But, in my world, if a drink is created with Bombay Sapphire, raspberry puree, rhubarb jam, lemon juice and soda, then it has every reason to be good. And she did go rather quiet as she ate her Halloumi wrap, so I guess that hit expectations too. And let it be said, the chicken in my souvlaki was very good.
To drink I had the Basil Beauty: Grey Goose Le Citron, pineapple juice, lime juice, sugar syrup, passionfruit pulp and basil leaves. It was quite exceptional, but not worth the 30 minute queueing up for. That’s why I had a pint of Staropramen the next time I went to the bar – I needed to rehydrate after being out in that hot sun for so long!
So, okay, Skylight is not for me but it was just the thing for many others who seemingly enjoyed the buzz of queueing – because the queues, I assume, had a ‘destination’ that gave people a purpose. Besides, there were no spare seats so standing in a line was better than merely standing because you haven’t got somewhere to sit. In all fairness, everyone at Skylight looked like they were having a good time. The ambient noise was the clamour of fun, a cacophony of enjoyment – On the rooftop the music was redundant because it was overwhelmed by excited conversation. The croquet and pétanque pitches were well used, although it didn’t look like any of those playing actually knew the rules of those games. But who does? And nobody was there for the views because the building isn’t really high enough; people were there to be with friends. If anything, Skylight has excellent views of taller buildings.
Peckham Levels took a while to settle into its successful format of providing food, drink, culture and community, and I fully expect Skylight to eventually do the same.
Skylight, Tobacco Dock, Pennington St entrance, Wapping, E1W 2SF
Thurs/Fri: 17.00 – 23.00; Sat/Sun: 12.00 – 23.00