There’s always a wait for a stool at the zinc-edged bar, so let the staff ply you with sherry and salchichon to ease your impatience. Once seated, watch chefs expertly plate an oozy croqueta and a milk-fed lamb’s kidneys. Or choose from basic tortillas and vegetable dishes that are charred at the edges and infused with fruity flavours to balance the salt.
Enjoy the ricotta hotcakes as you rub elbows with London locavores versed in the virtues of acai and chia at this brass-accented breakfast institution. Bring the whole family to the buzzing Clerkenwell branch, where they take reservations, for homemade muesli and organic sourdough.
World-renowned chefs descend for two-week residencies in this art-filled townhouse near Selfridges department store. At lunchtime chef Ollie Templeton serves up a menu that swings between fresh seafood with locally grown vegetables and British revival fare, like venison tartare. All that for a tenner – less than a burger at most pubs.
Explore the cobbled back roads of Spitalfields before seeking refuge in this modern Italian restaurant on a skinny lane. The menu is short and sweet, with more dolci items than any other category. Seafood sharing plates please the peckish while ox cheek, tail and heart tagliatelle and chicken-liver tortelli sate more serious eaters.
Skip the over-sauced tikka masala on Brick Lane and walk five blocks east to this Pakistani institution. Start with the tender grilled lamb chops, followed by garlic chicken, king prawns and the surprise-hit: cumin-dusted okra. They don’t serve alcohol, so if you’re looking for a drink, head to Pride of Spitalfields for a pint of Cornish ale.
Get your bearings atop the ArcelorMittal Orbit, an Anish Kapoor sculpture with the world’s longest and tallest tunnel-slide. Explore the network of playgrounds, rock pools and climbing walls en route to the VeloPark, where you can book an hour-long track session (bike and helmet included), or test the waters at Zaha Hadid’s London Aquatics Centre.
The first port of call for up-and-coming comics is this 150-seat fringe theatre with a raucous bar and basement cabaret. Better-known American acts often workshop new material here – you could catch one for roughly £12.
A pyramidal extension at the back of the Tate’s converted power station has doubled the exhibition space and added a 10th-floor viewing platform over the Thames, with sightlines to St Paul’s Cathedral. The permanent collection, rich in 20th-century European wunderkinds, is free to view, as are the subterranean “tanks,” prowled by performance artists.
The museum’s second location opened in 2016 in a mid-century building outfitted by London minimalist John Pawson. It’s an exciting development for design buffs and anyone interested in the future of technology, globalism, media and the environment.
The London Waterbus Company navigates the Victorian-era Regent’s Canal on its traditional narrowboat. Board at Camden Lock Market after a lunch of gourmet burgers at Haché. There’s no booking required for the one-hour, one-way voyage, which takes you past weeping willows, Regency manors and the London Zoo’s chirpy aviary. Alight in Little Venice, a community perched at the canal’s widest point, for cocktails on the terrace at the Waterway.
Six graffiti-splayed blocks in this retail hub attract conceptual fashion brands and such small-batch delicacies like tea-purveyor T2, whose tasting bar features its vibrantly packaged loose leafs. Canadian cobbler Tracey Neuls displays her sculptural footwear, Labour and Wait makes utilitarian feather dusters, while at Monologue, home design is curated like high art but priced for middle incomes.
For the literary experience
Start with apple-crumble cake from the sunny café on the fifth floor, then make your way down the wood staircases all the way to the basement Travel section. The second-level music department has an unrivalled collection of jazz and blues albums. For souvenirs, find classic fiction titles in jacket designs available only in the UK.
Canadian design firm Yabu Pushelberg applied textural flair throughout this refurbished hotel, from the walnut desks and oatmeal-upholstered George Smith lounge chairs to silk area rugs and gold-leaf-framed Hendrik Kerstens photographs. The Berners Tavern, captained by celebrity chef Jason Atherton, dishes up haute fish and game favourites through midnight.
Set atop the antique-brick Culpeper pub amid Spitalfields’ restaurant scene and Georgian speakeasies, this 5-room hotel is furnished with the greatest hits of neighbourhood boutiques: Donna Wilson poufs, Acapulco chairs, Tolomeo sconces, hand-knit Welsh blankets. Don’t forget to grab a pint at the pub downstairs after you settled in.
Perched between Hyde Park, Green Park and Buckingham Palace Gardens, you’re just as likely to spot the Queen from one of the upper windows as you are to see Mick Jagger strutting through the lobby of this luxury hotel. The chintz-lined rooms beyond the classical pillared threshold of the Lanesborough come with their own butler.
When lit up at night, this former shipping HQ looks like a luxury cruise liner against the postwar architecture of the Southbank. And, thanks to Tom Dixon’s modernist makeover, it now has the opulence of one. Monochrome bedrooms draw from Dixon’s catalogue, but you’ll only have eyes for the City views.
In a shop-filled courtyard just off busy Piccadilly, this colourful property houses a bowling alley, a specialized gym and day spa, plus so much art it’s practically a gallery. All-day afternoon tea is served in the drawing room, complete with scones with clotted cream and jam. Later, enjoy the charcoal-coloured calm of the Kit Kemp-designed members’ library and curl up in a plush armchair with a nightcap from the honesty bar.
Originally built as a fire station in 1889, this Marylebone hotel is a destination for rock stars and supermodels. Take a stool at the Nuno Mendes brasserie for panoramic people watching or sip a vermouth cocktail by the fire among VIP clientele.
The Mayfair property is the brainchild of restaurant veterans Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, who are famous for transforming a 1921 car showroom into The Wolseley, one of the area’s most renowned upscale cafés. They’re aiming for similar success with The Beaumont, which continues their esthetic of 1920s glamour underpinned by contemporary amenities.
Info about getting from the airport, public transportation and more.
Getting from the Airport
Heathrow Airport is about 25 kilometres west of central London, but you can get to Paddington Station in 15 minutes, thanks to the Heathrow Express. This express train departs from Paddington station every 15 minutes with a similar service in the return direction.
Transport for London has divided the city into nine zones. Fares for each zone depend on peak and off-peak hours. The price of a single journey starts at about £2.40 and is typically capped at around £12. More information about the Tube and bus services can be found at the Transport for London website. tfl.gov.uk
Black cabs can be hailed from the street or from designated stands. There is a minimum charge of £2.60 and fares are metered. An extra charge of £2.80 applies to journeys leaving from Heathrow Airport. Minicabs – Toyota Prius or other civilian makes – can be ordered ahead from various neighbourhood sources and are generally less expensive.
In London, our writer discovers a series of brunch spots celebrating the English-Indian connection.
By Caitlin Stall-Paquet
Hunger and jet lag make for a “hangry” mix as my husband and I power-walk along buzzing Regent Street in search of a late breakfast. We landed in London just a few hours ago and desperately need a morning cuppa. Around a corner, Dishoom Carnaby is a shadowy oasis of bamboo shades and psychedelic prints. We sink into a leather booth under photos of 1970s Indian rocker Asha Puthli and snapshots of the owners’ family. Bottomless chai quickly arrives in short, narrow glasses that my grandmother might have used to serve me milk, and soon the mix of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise and ginger in a base of strong black tea starts reviving me.
In a city where curry houses have long shared streets with pubs and kebab-eries, breakfast may be the next frontier for culinary and cultural fusion. Ordering the Big Bombay brings me a prime example of how to update the full English for a multicultural reality: Parsi-style eggs scrambled with chopped tomato and onion come with sausage, bacon, grilled tomato, mushrooms and pau buns. The side of masala beans steals the show: spiced white beans baked with onion and coriander – miles from the English sugar-and-molasses original but still comfortingly familiar to my palate. My red-eye daze clears even more with a bite of a morning naan roll, an Indian remix of the bacon butty, a British breakfast sandwich of rashers typically served on buttered toast. In this version, soft naan hides smoky dry-cured bacon, cream cheese and fresh coriander, with sweet, spicy, ginger- and garlic-packed green chili jam subbing for HP.
Cousins and co-owners Kavi and Shamil Thakrar co-founded the first Dishoom in Covent Garden in 2010 and soon expanded to four locations. Theirs is not the only England-meets-India brunch in town – posh Westminster restaurants like Cinnamon Club and Chutney Mary are also spicing things up – but this Carnaby address offers plenty of food for thought. The retro jukebox was sourced from Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar, the blue-and-white-patterned dishware from Churchill China. The textured-glass room dividers and bentwood chairs, Shamil explains, emulate the type of establishments opened by Iranian Zoroastrian immigrants to India: an homage to Bombay’s socially inclusive Irani cafés that have largely disappeared.
Dishoom Carnaby also plays on the neighbourhood’s central role in Swinging London’s music revolution. With blood sugar steadied and caffeine kicking in, I tune into the soundtrack. Like the food on the table, it celebrates the English-Indian connection: Vintage Hindi pop is intercut with British psych-rock covers by Indian artists. The restaurateurs partnered with Music Concierge to compile a tribute album called Slip-Disc after uncovering the 1960s London-influenced Bombay rock scene that brought together the Beatles and Ravi Shankar. Before leaving, I spot some Hindi text painted on the back walls, a translation of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” according to our server. I step back on the streets of Carnaby with lingering spice on my tongue, wondering what past generations of London-Bombay cousins must have thought of Cellophane flowers and marmalade skies.