There’s always a wait for a stool at the marble-topped 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 brunch 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 one- and two-week residencies in this art-filled space near Selfridges department store. Book ahead for a two-hour lunchtime workshop in pasta-making or barbecuing (dining on the results, obviously), or come for the single-seating dinners. The chef makes the rounds of the dining room before dessert.
Explore the cobbled back roads of Spitalfields before seeking refuge in this modern Italian restaurant on a skinny lane. Veal meatballs and sirloins please the peckish, while mussel orecchiette and carbonara with pig’s head and black truffle sate more serious eaters.
Skip the over-sauced tikka masala on Brick Lane and walk five blocks east to this Punjabi 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, though you can BYOB, or head to nearby Pride of Spitalfields for a pint of ale.
A Jamie Oliver protégé outdoes his mentor with this sunny brasserie, serving sensuous pâtés and fish tartares with frothy sauces and inventive veg. Prices are steep, with a single pig’s head croquette at £2.50, but the masterful list of French and New World wines starts at a reasonable £5.50 a glass.
The “tarts” in question are gorgeous wonder-chefs who get everything so right: light yet satisfying sharing plates with Middle Eastern spices, wood-fired aromas and colourful presentation. The experience extends beyond the lofty plant-filled restaurant to the adjacent concept shop and café.
City-wide java supplier Monmouth buys its beans in small batches from family farms, so the offerings rotate constantly. Devotees line up outside this original branch outside Borough Market (worth a visit with your takeout cup) for the roast du jour.
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 theatre with a raucous bar and basement cabaret. Better-known American acts often workshop new material here – you could catch one for roughly £12.
The museum’s new 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 narrow boat. 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. Start in Little Venice, a quaint enclave on the water, or in Camden, the hangout for goths, punks and music fanatics.
Artists on the cusp of greatness become superstars after showing in this tiny villa in the rolling green of Kensington Gardens. Exploring the gallery’s annual summer pavilion, designed by a new, innovative architect every year, is an event in itself.
A steady influx of conceptual retailers has polished up this graffitied six-block stretch of East London. Get aesthetic inspiration from boutiques like Toogood, showcasing deconstructed fashion and furnishings; Blue Mountain School, purveyor of singular off-beat menswear with galleries for collectible design; and Monologue, where homewares are displayed like high art. On Sundays, shimmy up to Columbia Road for the weekly flea and flower markets.
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.
Folk was at the vanguard of London’s current romance with minimalist, eco-friendly men’s fashion, and also at the vanguard of Lamb’s Conduit Street’s gradual rebranding as a destination for responsible, distinctive casual wear. Florists, bookshops and homeware stores have followed suit, making this Georgian lane a wise stop after wandering through the nearby British Museum.
'Curation' is an overused word, but Eagle truly has a gallerist’s eye for stocking her Soho boutique. What cashmere and silk pieces she hasn’t designed herself she buys from small avant-garde makers, mixing in vintage furniture and striking sculpture throughout the bright space.
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. Berners Tavern, captained by celebrity chef Jason Atherton, dishes up haute fish through midnight.
When lit up at night, this former shipping HQ looks like a luxury cruise liner against the postwar architecture of South Bank. And, thanks to Tom Dixon’s modernist interiors, it has the opulence of one. Monochrome bedrooms draw from Dixon’s catalogue, but you will only have eyes for the City St. Paul’s Cathedral view.
In a shop-filled courtyard just off busy Piccadilly, this colourful Kit Kemp-designed property houses a bowling alley, a specialized gym and day spa, plus so much art it’s practically a gallery. Afternoon tea is served in the drawing room, complete with scones with clotted cream and jam. Later, enjoy the country-house calm of the members’ library and curl up in a plush armchair with a nightcap from the honesty bar.
At this luxury hotel in Mayfair, Roaring Twenties glamour meets contemporary amenities. Find an open-till-late bar serving bourbon and rye whiskey cocktails, a hammam-style spa and 24-hour gym, and even a chauffeur-driven house car for local rides.
At this cosmopolitan take on the traditional pub-inn – though no more expensive, with rates around £100 – you will find a boogie-woogie Mondrian design scheme, clever space-saving storage, and conceptual art by local artisans. Drop by the downstairs pub for elevated comfort food and south-coast shellfish, and don’t miss the white-hot Whitechapel Gallery at your doorstep.
King’s Cross is looking groovy, now that all its neglected architecture has been rediscovered. This 1970s refurb makes London’s new Standard even sexier than the New York original, with curved leather banquettes and wood panelling everywhere. Mod tilework and shag wall hangings give the lounge and 10th-floor restaurant a fashionably louche air.
Info about getting from the airport, public transportation and more.
Getting from the Airport
Heathrow Airport is about 50 minutes from central London by Tube or taxi. But you can get there from Paddington in 15 minutes, thanks to the Heathrow Express, leaving Paddington station every 15 minutes with a similar service in the return direction. When the Crossrail (Elizabeth line) underground system launches, expected in 2021, direct trains will connect East London, too. Express trains run from Gatwick Airport to Victoria station.
Buy an Oyster Card or use a chip-equipped credit card to travel London’s nine zones on public transit. Fares for each zone depend on peak and off-peak hours. The price of a single journey starts at £1.50 by bus (£2.40 by Tube) and is typically capped at around £13. More information about Tube and bus services can be found at the Transport for London website.
Black cabs can be hailed from the street or from designated stands. There is a minimum charge of about £3.20 and fares are metered. Minicabs – Toyota Prius or other civilian makes – can be ordered ahead from various neighbourhood sources and are generally less expensive. Uber’s future in the city is uncertain (check your app to see if the carshare service is operating during your visit).
My job as co-founder of Frank & Oak requires that I understand not only where the fashion industry is going, but also how global culture, style and technology are evolving. So I typically travel to London twice a year because it’s a great place to discover trends. It’s a vibrant city culturally, and Shoreditch is at the forefront of that – it’s a mix of the past and the future. Once a working-class neighbourhood of factories and workshops, it’s now the best place to stay if you’re into music, art or fashion. It has an independent, creative spirit, and many immigrants and young people from all over have moved here, which makes for interesting cultural exchanges. Here are some of my go-to spots in the neighbourhood.
Goodhood has been in Shoreditch longer than many of the other shops, and it’s a trendsetter. You can find high-end fashion, such as Comme des Garçons, but also skateboard-scene stuff and casual clothing. They have a real eye for choosing the right products, and I’m also inspired by the creative community around the shop.
The Hoxton is a beautiful, high-end hotel with modern British touches: big leather chairs, rustic chandeliers, clean details. It also has a really happening lobby bar. On a Saturday night, when it’s full, you’re immersed in the energy of London as soon as you walk in.
London Shuffle Club looks like hipster heaven, with street-art murals surrounding the rooftop bar. It’s part of the comeback of social clubs – you can play shuffleboard with a date or friends – and they serve a variety of local craft brews.
The Cocktail Trading Co. has a 1920s Prohibition feel, with a dreamy Wes Anderson vibe. It’s highly designed, from the wood panelling to the eclectic glassware. I’m a classic type of guy, so I order a negroni – they do a great one.
Beigel Bake is an institution. This bagel shop on Brick Lane, one of the coolest streets in East London, is open 24/7. I personally think Montreal bagels are better, but it’s not just about the food – you will find the most interesting characters there at 4 a.m.