The recent royal nuptials were a reminder of England’s pomp and circumstance. But our tried and true traveler Susan brings us insights we can really use from her annual London trip …
Back from an annual London trip, and wanting to update snoety on new discoveries and some old favorites, a visit to the city continues to be an urbane, civilized and stimulating experience — leaving one wanting for more upon departure.
Once again, stayed at The Knightsbridge Hotel (www.firmdalehotels.com) – all of the properties within this group’s stable are welcoming, handsomely decorated (by Kit Kemp) and immaculately run; but this one wins for me on location as well. On a quiet cul-de-sac steps from Harrods, the Knightsbridge tube station and with both Belgravia and Chelsea at your door, it can’t be beat. Fiona Milne manages the property superbly.
FOOD + ART:
Many restaurants listed below are attached to museums/galleries and some also work well for dining before or after the theater.
Daniel Boulud’s Bar Boulud (interior by Adam Tihany) has a not-to-be missed bistro menu that could only be imagined by Mr. Boulud (homemade charcuterie platters, and much, much more). Surprisingly well priced, it’s more than good value and is accessed via a side door at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, just opposite the Knightsbridge Tube Station (www.barboulud.com). You New Yorkers will be familiar with Boulud’s fare.
Terroirs in the West End (aka the theater district) is a French-style small plates bar and caf©, great for pre-theater dining (www.terroirswinebar.com).
The National Portrait Gallery“ a wonderful place to visit (and free to the public)“ sits squarely in the West End and hosts the Portrait Restaurant with great views over London, lunch or brunch every day and pre-theater dining (and later dining as well) on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays (www.npg.org.uk/visit/restaurant.php)
Both the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain have good places to have lunch (or dinner)“ the former providing fabulous views over all of London, and the latter a mural lined room plus adjacent patio; with chef Rex Whistler presiding (www.tate.org.uk).
At the gorgeously maintained Somerset House (check out their exhibitions, both permanent and temporary ranging from traditional painting to edgy fashion) are several Tom Aiken’s outpost’s including a terrace bar/caf© (www.somersethouse.org.uk).
Gallery Mess, in the old officer’s mess hall on the grounds of the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea has excellent food in a casual, hip setting. Very edgy art in the gallery, always (www.sasstchi-gallery.co.uk/gallerymess).
The Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park is a new find, hosting very interesting exhibits and with an adjacent caf©, allowing you to dine in the park (www.serpentinegallery.org for the gallery; www.serpentinebarandkitchen.com for the cafe).
The River Caf© continues to be a great place to eat fabulous contemporary Italian food in a lovely setting designed by Sir Richard Rogers, husband of one of the restaurant’s founder’s Ruth Rogers (www.rivercafe.co.uk).
Restaurant Bookings: Note that OpenTable’s London site lists many of the above (www.uk.opentable.com), and if already a member you log in with your U.S. name and password. Also with listings, often including 50% off deals, is www.toptable.com).
Going to the theatre in London is always an excellent experience, an essential part of any visit to the city, and also unique. (What other country has servers with ice cream cups in the aisles at intermission?) The half price tickets booth in Leicester Square is a great option for last minute seats (www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk.tkts). I have had great success booking ahead via Lashmars London Theatre Tickets, www.londontheatre.co.uk/lashmars) – full price but commissions are reasonable. Note that you can book tickets for the Old Vic (Kevin Spacey, artistic director) directly online (www.oldvictheatre.com), as you can for the National Theatre (www.nationaltheatre.org.uk), which also has several food and drink venues, with Mezzanine particularly recommended for pre or post-theatre meals.
Hoxton and Shoreditch are the emerging neighborhoods for galleries, shops, restaurants (and also some hotel properties); all being developed from older industrial buildings. (New Yorkers will find this reminiscent of Soho/Tribeca.) Still a long way from gentrification (a decided grittiness around), and a much longer tube ride to the center for main sights and theater, there are some good dining options including the Hoxton Grill (www.grillrestaurants.com), the Great Eastern Dining Room (www.rickerrestaurants.com), the Rivington Grill (www.rivingtonshoreditch.co), and a new Terrence Conran outpost (www.theboundary.co.uk/restaurant).
Unless it’s late at night, the Tube is easy to use, faster than automobile transport and a relatively inexpensive option if an Oyster Card or 7 day pass is purchased. Have a person at a tube ticket office explain the numerous, complex options to decide what is best for you, and you can study ahead at www.tfl.gov.uk. London Cabs are fabulous but very expensive. A great option which costs about half, is to use a car service for which pick-ups have to be arranged in advance and paid on a cash basis (www.addisonlee.com). To be avoided are mini-cabs which roam the streets -never use one of these! In case of doubt, spring for a registered London Black Cab or computer cab – the most knowledgeable and courteous drivers in the world!
TIP: Always check out www.timeout.com/london as their online site provides great updates on everything London“ restaurants, theater, art and much, much more.
Enjoy London and send us your finds at snoety.com.
PS:Â from Snoety and Susan: Our good friend in London sent us a note saying: “By the way have you ever been to Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields? It is totally wonderful and you should add it to your list!” We agree!