WHY I LOVELONDON
Culture clash - London is the global capital, every country and culture is here. Street art and bankers. The quotes of London being a collection of villages is also true, old money lives in suburbs abutting deprived estates.
Summer - We don’t get much of it here, but when it comes no city in the world gets as stupidly excited.
Humour - London doesn’t take itself seriously. It thrives in teasing itself. This can be seen in the street art, the news papers or even in the names we give our latest monuments: The skyscrapers have names like the Gherkin, Walkie Talkie and Cheesegrater, and bridges named the Wobbly Bridge…
48 HRS IN LONDONSEE, EAT & DO
48 HRS IN LONDONSEE, EAT & DO
Borough market for breakfast on the go. A great food market with a heap of places to pick and go. Plus, it’s where Bridget Jones was filmed (ex-girlfriend tells me).
Then a walk up to the Tate Modern. It’s a great standing collection not the greatest in the world but it’s up there. The setting is stunning the massive Victorian era power station refitted for purpose sits upon the Thames. As an aside if you are there in the evening the bar grants amazing views of the sun setting across the city. Cross the Millenium Bridge, or wobbly bridge as it’s called locally. Designed by Foster & Partners when this bridge opened in 2000, it was prone to wobbling.
St Pauls Cathederal: Sir Christopher Wren designed this and everything surrounding it including the layout of all the surrounding streets following the fire of London completely razing the location to the ground. The Cathedral is breath-taking and be sure to climb the dome for an amazing view. Walk past Big Ben and Houses of Parliament for the iconic photos.
Okay, definitely time to take a break. Gordons Wine Bar is the oldest wine bar in London. Full of nooks and crannies to hide away in and taste some amazing wine. A great place to hangout outside too in summer.
Wander up through Trafalgar Square and through Soho up Carnaby St (home to the swinging 60s) to the Court House Hotel. The Court House Hotel has a little bar in it which was once a jail cell, where Oscar Wilde once sat awaiting trial for gross indecency. Too creepy however to stay in for more than one or two drinks…
British Museum. If there’s enough time… just nip in to see one of the worlds greatest collections. You can easily spend a day here, but given the long day, just a quick look through the Egyptian and Greek sections.
Back to Highgate for pre-dinner drinks at The Flask, a historical, reputedly haunted pub with a variety of areas to eat and drink and an excellent outdoor dining area which heaves in summer. Many of the dinners will be completely oblivious to the fact that one of the rooms was once the location for autopsies!
Dinner at The Red Lion and Sun. My local, my favourite restaurant/pub and hasn’t lost sight of the fact it’s a pub. Low key, understated and with a little open fire.
If you can still move after such a long day it’s over to the Wrestlers which has a late license to 2am. Be sure to read the plaque about the “swearing on the horns” ceremony.
Down the road we go to Kalendar for breakfast. Outdoor dining and a good full English – you’ll need the energy! A quick walk up to Highgate Cemetery where you will really start to get an appreciation of just how diverse London is. Karl Marx, Douglas Adams, Islamic Journalists, Israeli Freedom fighters, 1930’s artists, jazz musicians and Malcom McClaren are just a few of the people buried here.
Walk across Hampstead – you will never believe you are in the middle of the city. Hampstead Heath are the lungs of London and you can walk Hampstead for weeks and constantly be discovering new things. Not at all manicured, this has the feel of the English countryside.
Emerging from Hampstead Heath go for coffee at Ginger & White at a cute little cafe which, while they do an amazing breakfast, it isn’t as much fun as La Creperie a little stall on Hampstead High St with some traditional French crepes… it’s a Hampstead institution.
Quick drink at Holly Bush. The only down side of the pub is the Americans exclaiming out loud “How quaint!” frustratingly, they’re right…
Now down to Camden Markets and a wander through what is reputedly London’s most visited tourist location! And hunt down Chin Chin Laboratories where the scientists will create icecream on the spot in the most theatrical and elaborate spectacle. The icecream is amazing too. From here, wander into House of Guadeloupe where Mexican folk art is on sale. Test my patience by shopping for tourist tat, and shitty t-shirts which exclaim no-one knows I’m a lesbian.. hilarious. Hopefully it’s on the weekend when the food market is open an you can get some superb street food from Turkey, Colombia, Brazil, Poland… all amazing.
Then continue to walk up to the High St and grab bottle of wine to enjoy sunset on Primrose Hill. From here you can see the city, regents park, London Zoo right over to the London Eye in the distance.
Head into Soho to Randall and Aubin. Stylish, ridiculously gay (it is Soho), cheap, no booking required, shared tables, amazing seafood and French (and yet not fine dining!). One of my favourites in London ‘cause it’s so easy, the foods so good and it is undeniably cool – although they only just manage to keep it from looking like Elton Johns’ kitchen…
Shoreditch for drinks: Too many places to mention…
THE TOP SPOTS
- Coq d’ Argent: The real drawcard is the rooftop location with views across London. Located in the heart of the city you’ll not be surprised that the wine list is superb, you will be surprised at how good the cheap ones are though. Food is over-rated, only go there when the sun is shining.
- Duck and Waffle: Some of the most amazing views over London, great for breakfast. Cheaper than Sushi Samba, less bankers, easier to get a booking yet with the same breathtaking views from Hampstead, to the Olympic park to Tower Bridge. Highly recommended for watching the sun set.
- Archipelago: Serves Zebra, Crocodile, Scorpion etc and they cook it so well! It’s not formal enough for business unless you really want to completely break down any formality but for pleasure it is truly unforgettable.
- Ace Café: Legendary location for all things motoring in the UK. This is where the cafe racer was born, pilgrims flock here from all over the world to pay homage and most nights it will have a different motoring related event meeting there.
- Fino: Great Spanish food in charming Charlotte St. A changing daily menu we just could not stop ordering food and we have yet to find a bad plate.
- Bleeding Heart: The restaurant takes its name from the yard where it is located, where reputedly Lady Hatton, who was found murdered there in the 17th Century. The building is quirky, reflecting it’s curious history and the restaurant serves great french food.
- St Johns Bread and Wine: You will find dishes here which you will not find anywhere else, dishes dropped from the English menus with rationing and WWII.
- Roka: It took me forever to find a Japanese robota restaurant but when I did find one… it was worth the wait.
- Ceviche: I love ceviche and to find a place that specialises in the wide variety of this Peruvian speciality, was a joy. This is opposite Ronnie Scotts so you can enjoy great jazz before or after.
- Sabor – 108 Essex Rd in Angel. Sth American restaurant. Interesting non-traditional takes on cerviche and other Sth American classics…
- Mestizo: Recently there has been a slew of Mexican joints opening up in London, most of it grab and go burritos but if you want a wider selection of Mexican food try Mestizo.
- Maze: A Gordon Ramsey restaurant but the head chef is good – the degustation is very nice.
- Asia De Cuba: Mixing Asia and Cuban! Why? Why not? Especially as it works, the restaurant is aesthetically amazing too.
- The Modern Pantry: NZ chef, recently won a global award.
- Randall and Aubin: Stylish, ridiculously gay (it is Soho), cheap, no booking required, shared tables, amazing seafood and French (and yet not fine dining!). One of my favourites in London ‘cause it’s so easy, the foods so good and it is undeniably cool – although they only just manage to keep it from looking like Elton Johns’ kitchen…
- The Breakfast Club: Excellent breakfasts, lovingly adorned like an 80’s teenage girls school book with pictures of Wham and other pop idols. But in the evening ask to see the Mayor of Scaredy Cat town and you’ll be taken to the speakeasy…. Brilliant, just hope its not full of bankers which will happen sometimes.
- Lounge Lovers: Brilliant cocktails, quite often need to book in advance…
- Experimental Cocktail Club: Some crazy cocktail in a speakeasy.
- Purl: Another basement speakeasy bar with great drinks, it’s just a shame they have to refer to the bar staff as Mixologist. It’s only their amazing drinks that allow them to get away with such wank language…
- Ronnie Scots, Soho: Jazz and Blues, usually need to book on a Thurs-Sat or if a big act is playing. But sometimes you can blag it and even if there’s not a big act, you know whoever is playing is going to be good… REALLY GOOD.
- Kick Bar: Just fun for the hundreds of foosball tables which create a great social and lively atmosphere.
- Hoxton Square: Just do the walk round the bars and pubs on this square…
- The Book Club: Shoreditch…
- Bounce: A bar dedicated to ping pong, reputedly in the same location where ping pong was invented or as Boris calls it Wiff Waff.
- Roxy Bar and Screen: A bar/restaurant/cinema located close to Borough market you can have a beer and watch a unique selection of often overlooked movies.
- The Gun: Unlikely you’ll end up here as a tourist, but the views from this pub, right on the Thames over to the millennium dome are pretty damn cool.
- The Stag: Great little pub with a huge garden bar just off Hampstead Heath.
- The Wells: Gastro pub. More Gastro than pub. Great food and located off the high st, it’s a hidden local gem in Hampstead.
- The Bull and Last: Spend a Sunday strolling across Hampstead Heath then in for probably the best Sunday roast in London.
- Box Park: A response to planning constraints and a demonstration of East London’s ingenuity. Made entirely of shipping containers this small shopping centre is located on a small site in Shoreditch with a constantly changing line up of pop up store and great little restaurants. It’s a great place to stop, eat and drink while checking out East London’s street art scene.
- Selfridges: Constantly evolving and a massive selection, if you’ve only got limited time for shopping Selfridges is your choice
- Up Market: Most markets in London sell the same imported tat. Upmarket is different being full of small start ups and artisans. From there you can continue through the markets on Brick Lane.
- Colombia Rd Flower market: Lively Sunday morning with a heap of great little unique boutique cafes and retailers. The street bursts with colour and smells on a Sunday morning.
Be prepared to blow it. If you stick to the tourist haunts London is expensive. Thankfully, London is undergoing a revolution in terms of food… all of a sudden all the best food is cheap street food. Simply go one street over from the main tourist haunts, the food and drinks gets better and cheaper too.
Tate Modern. Great art, on the Thames, brilliant architecture and the bar gives an amazing view of the city especially at sunset.
Tube. Quickest, safest, simple to navigate…
Covent Garden and Leicester Square. I have no idea why anyone goes there. Unless you have a thing for seeing other tourists.
Most tourists and to an extent locals haven’t heard of these gems.
- Highgate and Queens Wood: A slice of wild woods in North London.
- Parkland Walk: Previously a railway the line has been reclaimed as a park stretching from Finsbury Park through to Alexander Palace via Highgate. It includes some great street art and is a great Sunday stroll.
- Wellcome Museum: The core of the collection comes from Henry Wellcome’s personal collection of medical oddities, at times gruesome always illuminating. And while small, the exhibitions here are often superb, a little left field they clearly have an excellent curator.
- Wiltons Music Hall: The last remaining music hall in London the hall has had a tough life and the theatre is still run down but has just the right patina to transport you to the past. Truly magical, truly special – you will not forget this place.
SEE DAN’S TOP EATS IN LONDON MAPPED OUT HERE