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Portobello Road is a colorful stretch of shops and stalls selling bric-a-brac and antiques. Part trendy neighborhood, part flea market. On Saturdays, thousands of people flock there for bargains. I recommend going on a weekday. You can have the place practically to yourself to mill around. Grab fish-n-chips to go and find an authentic souvenir.
Upstairs from Soho's pub, Coach and Horses, lies a wonderful cheeky little tea room, Soho's Secret Tea Room. You have to ask the bartender to be let upstairs. He will call the tea room to let them know you are about to make your way through the wandering back staircase behind the bar. Once there, you have your choice of homemade scones, tea sandwiches, and a lovely selection of English teas all served on mismatched floral china. The feeling is quite like an old English grandmother's living room, but there is a playful hip twist to the experience, with tattooed servers providing you with some of the best afternoon tea selections!
This independent bookshop resembles the libraries of a bibliophile's dreams. The Edwardian exterior is beautiful and befitting of the elegant High Street, but the interior took my breath away: long oak shelves, stained glass, and skylights. Specializing in travel, Daunt Books has two floors with books, maps, and atlases artfully displayed and arranged by continent. Hand pick a book, sit, and dream of your next trip...
A new friend I had just met told me that I simply must have afternoon tea in the top-floor restaurant at the National Portrait Gallery, and to sit by the window! I had have scones and jam before, nothing special about that... but these scones—called Devon scones—paired with a hearty smear of clotted cream and a dollop of jam were an absolute revelation. The view, looking straight down into Trafalgar Square with Big Ben in the distance, along with this quintessential British tradition, made for the most perfect London afternoon! This is one of my favorite pics from my recent trip to London I quickly snapped with my phone.
A store that may not be too familiar with the average tourist is Liberty, which is a classic emporium that sells clothing and household items. The magnificent historical Tudor building with wooden interiors has been serving customers since the 1920's. Go there to buy fabric (Liberty is famous for its British designs), have a bite at its restaurant, or simply to take pictures.
Looking for delicious home-cooked comfort food, and a great breakfast served in the hip and funky Soho? Then look no further. The Breakfast Club is so good you will want to go every day. Some egg dishes you must try with a big cup of great coffee—this is the place to be. Cool tunes are always playing in the no-frills atmosphere. There are three other locations in other parts of London.
Culinary Superstar, Yotam Ottolenghi's eponymous spots are scattered around London's poshest neighborhoods. Most are takeaway shops with minimal seating. So load up a to go box with a few excellent salads. Like batons of roasted butternut squash dressed in garlicky yogurt and sunflower seeds or a medley of israeli couscous and roasted cauliflower, studded with bursting pomegranate kernels. But absolutely do not skip dessert. One of the best things I ate in London was a wedge of plum cake from Ottolenghi. I was greatly tempted by the dreamy s'mores displayed in the shop window, but the buttery plum cake won out in the end. My travelling companion chose an equally good but less decadent option, a light lemon pistachio polenta cake. Prices are calculated by weight, so the heavier your box of food, the lighter your wallet will be when you leave. The Kensington Ottolenghi location is just blocks from Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. Pick up a spread then head over for a picnic. http://eatrepeat.blogspot.com/2013/02/london-ottolenghi.html
Monmouth in Borough Market has the most divine coffee. The coffee is so sweet and smooth you don't need to add sugar. They also serve fresh breads and jams on long communal tables inside.
The famous Westminster Abbey is a must-go place in London. It's where the recent Royal wedding taking place in 2011. As their own website described: "Kings, queens, statesmen and soldiers; poets, priests, heroes and villains - the Abbey is a must-see living pageant of British history."
Whether you're in need of a quick snack or trying to grocery shop for a week, Borough Market has everything a London gourmand needs. The capital's oldest food market, Borough is open year-round and features dozens of stalls hawking everything from fresh produce to cured meats, pressed ciders to just-baked bread. Just imagine the smells—if you weren't hungry when you got here, you will be soon. The market is divided into four main areas: Crown Square, Green Market, Jubilee Market (where the annual Christmas market is held), and the shops and restaurants that surround the market on Stoney Street, Park Street, and Bedale Street. Leave enough time to wander through them all. Borough is open just for lunch Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The full market is open on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from noon to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's an easy walk from the London Bridge tube station, and once you're that far into southeast London, you might as well stop by the Tate Modern when you've finished at the market. If you're not too full, that is.
An artsy bar in Soho’s Golden Square, Graphic serves punch in paint cans and swaps artistic themes through its menu and décor every six months. (At this writing, the focus is on 3-D art, complete with 3-D glasses to enhance the drinking experience.) Gin is the true motif at Graphic: The bar has a 182-entry gin bible, and a gin club, the Juniper Society, which holds free tastings, workshops, and discussions with different gin makers every two weeks. 44/20-7287-9241. Read "London Distilled," about the first new gin distillery to be built in London in nearly 200 years.
Columbia Road is London’s main flower market. On Sundays, it’s totally filled with flowers. It’s an amazing place. —Sophie Howarth Columbia Road Sundays, 8 a.m.–3 p.m. This story appeared in the Premier 2009 issue. Photo by Graham Marks. See all of Sophie Howarth’s favorite places in Shoreditch.
On weekend nights, The Palm Court at the Langham Hotel, London’s classic spot for afternoon tea, transforms into a speakeasy-style gin bar. Sipsmith’s Jared Brown (featured in the October 2012 issue) worked with the Langham’s mixologist, Alex Kratena, to devise a menu that gives drinkers a quirky history lesson and showcases the complexity of Sipsmith Gin. The journey begins with the story of how gin was invented to save the citizens of London from their contaminated water supply, fizzes through Jean Jacob Schweppes’s invention of carbonation (five different levels for different digestive ailments), and ends with modern mixology. Those who don’t care for history lessons might be swayed simply by the menu’s drink descriptions. The Gineveristic, for example, made with Langham tea-infused syrup, tastes of “Genever sexy citrus tea bubbles.” 1c Portland Place, 44/(20) 7636-000. Open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 7pm-midnight.
I know that's a bold statement to make, as there are hundreds of fish shops throughout London, but they all are typically heavy and very greasy. My sister and I wandered into Golden Hind in Marylebone after nixing other fine-dining options. There was a crowd, and Zagat, TripAdvisor, and TimeOut stickers on the door, so it couldn't be too bad. It turns out that the place has been around since 1918 and has had only a few owners in that time, mostly Greek and Italian immigrants. The cod had a nice thin layer of breading, extra crispy, that didn't come off in layers as you see at some restaurants. The portions were massive and I ate every last salty bite.
The National Gallery in London holds art works of the masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, and Rembrandt. Most importantly, entry is free!
“Daunt Books really is special. Even if you are not a big reader, it is well worth a visit because the space is so beautiful and filled with exceptionally well-chosen books. Daunt is the ultimate antidote to the Amazon generation and connects you to the books and their authors in a very traditional way. Although Daunt is only 20 years old, it is located in an original Edwardian bookshop, with long oak galleries, graceful skylights, and William Morris prints. Try to persuade the staff to let you into the walk-in safe, where the expensive volumes were once stored.” —Jasper Conran 83 Marylebone High St., 44/(0)20-7224-2295. Photo courtesy of Daunt Books
Whisky connoisseurs can sample more than 40 single-malt scotches as their vintage carriages slice through the Scottish Highlands. The veranda of the Edwardian-style observation car offers a relaxing retreat after such activities as private distillery tours, clay pigeon shooting, and fishing during the four-night journey. From $6,800. (800) 524-2420. Photo courtesy of Matt Hind, Orient-Express Hotels, Ltd. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
Lots of people don’t know that there’s a canal, Regent’s Canal, that winds through the middle of London. Hire a bike at Broadway Market, and you can carry on down the canal to Olympic Park. I want to get everyone rambling around London on back roads on bikes. —Sophie Howarth This story appeared in the Premier 2009 issue. Photo by Graham Marks. See all of Sophie Howarth’s favorite places in Shoreditch.
I had a 12-hour layover in London, strategically chosen around three things I wanted to accomplish - lunch with a friend @ Canteen Spitalfields, taking in the Damien Hirst exhibit at the Tate Modern, and Alternative London's free East End street art walking tour. Banksy, Stik, Toast and many others were on display in this 2.5 hour, awesomely informative tour in a neighborhood that fosters and attracts an amazing creative spirit - colorful, large, original.
London is famous all over the world for its thousands of pubs. In fact, there are so many of them, it can be hard to pick out the lousy ones from the ones that are absolutely fantastic. The Harp is the latter. It's small, it's intimate, it's beautifully decorated, and its focus is "real ale, real cider and real conversation." It won the London Cider Pub last year. Don't be fooled by its tiny size. Here, quality far outweighs quantity. If the ground floor appears to be full, go have a look upstairs, grab a seat, and enjoy your drink.
One of my favorite things about London is the mix of old and new architecture. Take this view (from the Tate Modern Museum) of the Millennium Bridge and St. Paul's Cathedral. If you're an architecture buff, a walking tour (or two...or three!) will help you get to know the iconic buildings' nicknames, like the Gherkin, the Can of Ham, and the Cheesegrater. And pack an umbrella!
At the Arch Bar and Wellington Lounge in London's Park Lane Intercontinental Hotel, high tea is served without the tea. Order the Poor Man's Punch if you fancy gin and you may find you can never go back to drinking alcohol from a tumbler. Arriving in its own teapot and with a proper cup and saucer, the first indication that it's no normal concoction is the white smoke that pours from the lidless rim of the pot. (Dry ice imparts the theatrics.) Pink and fizzing when it's poured into the waiting cup, it's almost off-putting to drink—at first. However, the cold mixture of Hendrick's gin, fresh lemonade, cucumber, orange, mint, and strawberries, plus the magical effervescence, is delightfully refreshing on a hot summer day and hardly less fun even in winter. The drink owes its name to the period in London's history when gin was indeed a poor man's beverage, distilled in basements and consumed like water. These days, at upwards of £16 a serving, it's decidedly more highbrow than low. Still, Poor Man's Punch is worth a bit of a dent in the wallet for the way it's served and the taste you'll remember long after you've consumed the last drop. Proper pinky salute optional.
Brick Lane Market has everything from bric-a-brac to high-end design. Brick Lane between Bethnal Green Road and Wentworth Street Sundays, 8 a.m.–3 p.m. This story appeared in the Premier 2009 issue. Photo by Graham Marks. See all of Sophie Howarth’s favorite places in Shoreditch.
Victorian, Edwardian, and period pieces from the 1920s through the 1950s are the specialty of this vintage shop off Brick Lane. We love their lace, and they always have a cool selection of gloves and hats. There is a cute café upstairs where bands play live music. 44/(0) 20-7739-0799. For the September, 2012 issue, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Opening Ceremony shared with us their favorite places in Argentina and around the world.
I watch as yellow-and-white Eurostar trains snake in and out of London’s St. Pancras train shed, a vaulted Victorian masterpiece of glass panels and iron arches. My room at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel has this floor-to-ceiling view: Passengers board the high-speed carriers headed for France or Belgium. Then, in an instant, they’re whisked out of sight. Are they off to work? Leaving a loved one? I wonder as I listen to the hum of the tracks. After a six-year, $240 million renovation, the Renaissance hotel opened in 2011, occupying sections of the former Midland Grand Hotel, which was built adjacent to the station 138 years ago. The building is a Gothic fantasy of red brick arches and turrets, crowned with a clock tower that rivals Big Ben. The main staircase, its crimson walls handpainted with 2,300 gold fleurs-de-lis, adheres to designer Gilbert Scott’s original vision. It spills out under a gilded ceiling, and the sinuous banisters evoke the curves of the tracks. I imagine Commodore Vanderbilt roaming the lobby; it was the St. Pancras that inspired him to commission New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. At the Booking Office—a bar fashioned from the station’s former ticket office—guests nibble on charcuterie and anchovy salad with quail eggs as they gaze out over the tracks. Although electric trains have replaced the old locomotives, the bar takes visitors back to the Age of Steam with punch concocted from Victorian recipes and served from a handmade copper bowl. When I retreat to my room in the Chambers wing, where 38 rooms branch off majestic arched hallways, I forgo the blackout curtains. I want to check on my Eurostars as they rumble quietly through the evening. St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London 44/(0) 20-7841-3540. stpancrasrenaissance.com, from $436. This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue. Photo courtesy of St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. More railway hotels: La Posada Hotel, Winslow, Arizona Riffelalp Resort, Zermatt, Switzerland Fairmont Château Laurier, Ottawa, CanadaMount Lavinia Hotel, Sri LankaThe Balmoral, Edinburgh, Scotland
These are the museums that all British children within schooltrip distance of London have visited at some point, and they're just as much fun for adults. The Natural History museum, Science Museum, and Victoria & Albert museum are clustered around the bottom of Exhibition Road where it meets Cromwell Road. Taking in all three in a day is possible, if daunting. Covering everything from prehistoric creatures to the latest space missions—via the art and design of Britain and her erstwhile empire—these three museums are Britain's answer to the Smithsonian, and a half day in them is enough to blow your mind with things you never knew. The Science Museum specializes in hands-on exhibits that are great for kids, and the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum are a must.
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