Sunday, 26 June 2016

London, Baby!


MOST RECENTLY updated on 9.12.2017

ORIGINAL POST (26.06.2017)

It is, of course, a somewhat weird timing because of BREXIT for this particular post to be ready, but here's my illustrated (work-in-progress) list of cool places to visit in the capital of Great Britain (or how it sometimes is addressed to now: "Little Britain" now?)
It's not so much a blog post, but rather a bullet list of stuff I liked personally or that was recommended to me by the locals. Any further additions are very welcome! In comments, SVP!

Restaurants (by AREA):

Breakfast (around Marble Arch):

Daisy Green of Portman Village (20 Seymour Street | London, W1H 7HX) - that's here because our offices are in that area & I wanted to keep track of the places to get breakfast around there.

Shoreditch & Hackney:

Meat Mission (15 Hoxton Market, London N1 6HG) - very sinful burgers...My vegetarian friends, look away :-P
Dark Sugars (41 Brick Ln, London E1 6SB) - a dangerously great chocolatier, if you order a hot chocolate, they'll actually shave chocolate chips off huge bricks of white, dark & milk chocolate into it - it's divine!

Temple of Seitan (10 Morning Ln, London E9 6NA) - London's entirely vegan fried chicken shop - deliciously fast-foody :-) And don't be alarmed seitan is not what it sounds like, it's a meat substitute made from wheat gluten.

The Last Tuesday Society & The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities (11 Mare St, Dalston, London E8 4RP)- if you want to have a drink surrounded by all kinds of natural history curious (unicorn skulls, snake skeletons & toads :) Beware, as it's more of a museum than a bar, it closes a bit early (22:3-23:00, depending on the day).

Covent Garden

The Circus (27-29 Endell St, London WC2H 9BA) - an opulent cabaret-meets-restaurant-meets-bar, a great choice if you want more than just a dinner: high-quality circus-like performances are keeping the crowd entertained. Reservation required and you MUST take either starter+main or main+dessert per person, so be prepared to leave at least £50 per person (with drinks). In a "typical" dinner sitting you'll see about 4-5 performances. Food is quite decent, but don't expect Michelin-star decent :-) Good value-for-money tip: take sharer cocktails: served in an oversized martini glass with a sparkler, they're fun & will not leave anyone thirsty. Tube: Holborn / Leicester Square

Sticks N Sushi (11 Henrietta St, London WC2E 8PY) - Japanese restaurant based on a renowned Danish concept, offering sushi and grilled yakitori skewers; tube: Leicester Square / Covent Garden
Dirty Martini bar (10C Hanover Square, 4:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. tube: Oxford Circus) – chain, but quirky & contemporary cocktail bar
Abeno Too (17-18 Great Newport St, London WC2H 7JE) - if you like to watch your food being prepared in front of your eyes, try okonomiyaki at Abeno. If you're more peckish than just a pancake (but bear in mind that there're two sizes & even the smaller one is quite enough for two people to share if you're not starving), order spectacular gyoza with avocado & tofu - worth coming back to London just for another serving!
Hawksmoor (Hawksmoor, 11 Langley St, London WC2H 9JG) - great steak place, tube: Covent Garden
Cafe Pacifico (5 Langley St, London WC2H 9JA) - Mexican restaurant, open 12:00-23:45, tube: Covent Garden

SOHO

Quirky Sketch (9 conduit street, London W1S 2XG) – pretty cool outlandish interior, toilets are a must-see :-)
Barrafina (in SOHO - 54 Frith St, London W1D 4SL, 12:00 – 3:00 p.m., 5:00 – 11:00 p.m.) - modern, Spanish tapas bar
Copita (27 D'Arblay St, London W1F 8EP) and Polpo (41 Beak St, London W1F 9SB) – both amazing for tapas & small plates
Cork and Bottle (44-46 Cranbourn Alley, London WC2H 7AN) – casual, cosy and rustic wine bar by Leicester Square
The Kensington Wine Rooms (127-129 Kensington Church St, London W8 7LP) – great food and wine, unpretentious
Randall and Aubin (14- 16 Brewer St, Soho, London W1F 0SG) - a quant little tiled dining room known for seafood, oysters, with some creative Modern British dishes. It's pretty small and you can't make reservations, so be prepared to queue outside during peak hours. But the staff make the wait pleasurable by taking your drinks order already while you wait and bringing it to you outside :)
The Langham Hotel - Burnt (2015) with Bradley Cooper was filmed there; upscale, great bar & restaurant
Ottolenghi (13 Motcomb St, London SW1X 8LB) - expensive, but amazing meat – in Knightsbridge
Tibits (12-14 Heddon St, Mayfair, London W1B 4DA) - just like its Swiss counterpart, Tibit London in Mayfair follows the same concept: it's a (99% vegetarian) self-service buffet, where you pay per amount of food on your plate. According to the restaurant's own estimate, an average plate costs 10 pounds. I can confirm that it's a pretty full plate, definitely enough to satisfy an even pretty hungry belly.
Itsu  (all over the city) – sushi (50% discount offer before closing: from 20:30 onward)

FITZROVIA

Kin (22 Foley St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 6DT) - lovely tiny cafe with a seasonal approach to breakfasts and lunches: their full vegan/vegetarian breakfast will leave you healthily satisfied, but if you're feeling naughty, their cakes menu will provide ample opportunity for some dessert sin.

Islington

  • Seviche (2 Baldwin St, EC1V 9NU) -  best Peruvian restaurant in town according to Evening Standard & I would definitely echo that sentiment! Their creative interpretation o seviche (including a delicate vegetarian option). You WILL need a reservation (unless sitting at the bar is your thing) and note that kitchen at Seviche Old street is closed between 4-5pm. There's also a Seviche Soho (17 Frith St. W1D 4RG).

Marylebone

  • Ohisama Sushi (39 Paddington St, W1U 4HH) - quite impressively delicious sushi, but hugely overpriced & staff aren't very well trained (but to be fair: they do their best in their own awckward way :-) ).

Camden/Chalk Farm (& beyond)

  • Manna (4 Erskine Rd, Primrose Hill, NW3 3AJ) - mid-range vegan/vegetarian restaurant close to Chalk Farm. Among the 6 of us we tried most of the menu sharing & there was not a single dish that was anyhow not delicious. I want tocome back. Like usually in London, reservation advisable (can be done on the website).

If it's summer, the weather is nice & you happen to find yourself open to venturing a little bit further away from the center, you'll be wise to come prepared & bring a picnic to Parliament Hill/Hampstead Heath (whichever name you prefer, the views of London skyline are pretty and the chilled out atmosphere (especially toward the end of the day) is a guaranteed hit!

Highgate Cemetery (Swain's Ln, Highgate, London N6 6PJ) - I do encourage anyone who's staying in London for a decent amount of time to spend a Gothic afternoon at the amazing Victorian Highgate Cemetery. Do take a guided tour of the Western Cemetery (the only way to see it), you'll visit the Circle of Lebanon & Egyptian Avenue alongside with other amazing sights. The East Cemetery you ca roam around freely (as long as you buy the ticket, you can buy it separately, but it'll be included in your West Cemetery guided tour ticket) to pay respect to the communist comrade Karl Marx & lots of artists, poets & intellectuals of the 19-20th centuries.

Cooking classes at the London School of Cookery (296 Holloway Rd, London N7 6NJ) - a fun way to learn new culinary skills and get the satisfaction of making your own food. When we did it, there was quite a good deal on Groupon, which allowed to save over 50% on the initial price. 

Little Venice,  Warwick Avenue and Maida Vale


Clifton Nurseries (5A Clifton Villas, London W9 2PH) - a place where you can get a new pet in form of a plant, cactus or succulent, or a spot where you can shop for stylish outdoor stuff or simply get yourself a solar powered light-bulb. Its QUINCE TREE CAFE is extremely well-visited (especially on the weekend), but that doesn't prevent me from thinking that it's my secret spot in the middle of Little Venice.

Paddington

KuPP (53, 5 Merchant Square, London W2 1AS) - Scandinavian-style brunch place (bottomless on the weekend from 12:00. 

Museums: 

National Portrait Gallery – café with views over the city (tube: Westminster, Embankment, Piccadilly, Leicester Square, Charing Cross)
Occupying the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, this slender beauty is a skeleton of a horse by a German artist Hans Haacke with a a London Stock Exchange ticker fixed to its leg. For those of you wondering: yes, it is a "contemporary comment on history, power & money" ;-)

Gordon's Wine Bar (47 Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NE) - quaint little wine bar just next to the Embankment station. London's oldest (est. 1890) it has a charming atmosphere (reminded me strongly of the cool cellars of Porto). Rich wine selection, cheese/snack platters & one can conveniently get 1/2 bottles! They've got charming outdoor sitting as well as an indoor "cave" - see what floats your boat!

Saatchi gallery (Duke Of York's HQ, King's Rd, London SW3 4RY; tube: Sloane Square)
Tanya’s cafe (35 Ixworth Pl, London SW3 3QX) - tasty raw food restaurant, tube: Sloane Square - nicely combinable with the Saatchi Gallery or the V&A.
Farmacy (74 Westbourne Grove, London W2 5SH) - that was - without any doubt - best vegan brunch of my life. Interior is exactly what you'd expect from a place that has such a name. You'll get your healthy shots in a surgical syringe (we got a "fire starter" with ginger, turmeric, cayenne You & lemon & "Melt Away" with ginko, turmeric, gotu kola, gardenia, milk thistle & cucumber juice - both were delicious!)
V&A- Victoria & Albert Museum (Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL tube: South Kensington)
Science museum (South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD) & Natural history museums (Cromwell Rd, London SW7 5BD; tube: South Kensington)
Transport Museum (Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB), Covent Garden area.
Wellcome Collection - (183 Euston Rd, Kings Cross, London NW1 2BE) - Henry Wellcome's museum full of cool, weird & sometime even morbid curios (Euston Square), usually hosts a permanent exhibition on Medicine & a temporary one on some unusual topic (when I was there, the spotlight was on "Bedlam" (from British Royal Hospital of Bethlehem) - an infamous asylum that was founded in the 13th century & has later on passed on its name to all mental institutions.
Sherlock Holmes Museum (221b Baker Street, London) - a must for any detective buff

• Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret (9a St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY) -  - one of the oldest surviving operating theatres, it'll be a treat if you're anyhow interested in medicine or just like weird stuff.

Places to go / activitites:

Southbank – (tube: Westminster, Embankment or Waterloo) - get to Southbank, or St.Paul’s and walk along the Themes to Tate Modern
A quick dialog I had with my friend in front of "Swinging" by Kandinsky in Tate Modern:
Me: "Wassily Kandinsky is known for his unique ability to convey music though his paintings..."
My friend: "Nah, I'm not hearing anything" :-)
OXO Tower (Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London SE1 9PH; tube: Blackfriars) - for a drink, food is also great, but very expensive.
“Climb the O2 arena” (tube: North Greenwich) - a fun experience that will leave you feeling accomplished (it's not a workout, but you've actually climbed something and seen the city from quite a unique perspective!). Be mindful of the weather (non-surprisingly, wind & rain can ruin this magical outdoor experience). The views are great and we were lucky with the timing and got to see the 'daylight', but it was also perfect timing for the 'dusk version' as the city has just turned on its lights as we were at the top. 
Walk from St.Catherine's docks or Westminster to Greenwich -> Greenwich meridian. Optional extention: Canary Wharf.
Shoreditch – graffiti, restaurants, clubs & bars
A really cool way to see it is by joining one of the countless guided tours that'll give you a bit more context & insight into the stories behind some pieces and their meaning. I did Strawberry Tours' Free Street Art & Graffiti Tour (with Jon, 29.04.2017) & absolutely loved it!
Another way to discover the city through more specialized and thematical walks is with Discover Medical London - but don't be alarmed by the name: one really doesn't need to be a doctor or a medical student to enjoy these are still offering a view of London, just through a medicine-related prism (dealing with topics like plague, medicine in the movies, alcohol, red lights districts, etc.). The walking tour I did was coordinated by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and connected to a special event Women in medicine: a celebration, which is a free exhibition of specially commissioned photographic portraits honoring contemporary and historical women in medicine. It showcases a number of today’s leading female clinicians, pictured with the women from the history of medicine who have inspired them.

The Shard – tallest building in EU, cocktails for ca. 17-20 pounds.
• Roof Gardens London – alternative to Shard, by invite only (register for the guest list well in advance).
Sky Garden (1 Sky Garden Walk, London EC3M 8AF) - if you want to dine in a tropical jungle on the rooftop in London with a breathtaking view of London's cityscape, consider making a reservation at one of the Sky Garden's restaurants. If you just want a sneak peak of the view, there's also an option of just buying a ticket (which gives you access to the garden) & having a drink at one of the "open" bars at the top or bottom decks of the garden. We chose "Darwin Brasserie" & had an amazing dining experience. Do consider mentioning, though that you'd like a window table while making a reservation & upon arrival. You might happen to "accidentally" get it anyway if they have a table available, but if it matters to you, try prepping in advance.
Cable Road Greenwitch

Bars, Pubs / Cocktails:
Nightjar (129 City Rd, London EC1V 1JB) - one of the most awesome (but also the most bizarre) cocktail experiences I've ever had! My drink of the night was The "Inca Cocktail": Jose Cuervo 1800 Silver, tomatillo, hazelnut oil, lime, chilli wine, epazote, Fine Cherry & Agave, served with Buffalo worms on the side (yep, Buffallo worms are exactly what you think they are: huge worms!). Check out the menu online in advance in order to decide what bizarre work of alcoholic are you want to order!
Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown (3a Gerrard St, Chinatown, London W1D 5PS; 6pm-3am) - speakeasy-style cocktail bar, often with live music
The Churchill Arms (119 Kensington Church St, London W8 7LN) - very nice gastro pub.
Bradley's Spanish Bar (42-44 Hanway St, London W1T 1UT) - Snug, upbeat, late-night spot with worn banquette, picture-laden walls and vinyl jukebox soundtrack
Walk around Dean & Wardour Street – lots of cool places.

Markets: 

Portobello Road – antiquities – tube: Notting Hill Gate, walk up to Portobello Rd
Borough market (by London Bridge tube) – famous market, end of Southbank – probably a good idea for Saturday morning (get a glimpse of the Tower Bridge). Pop into the Southwark Cathedral (The Oldest Cathedral in London).
Camden Market – cool hip designer stuff (depending on where you are, a great way to get there is by the “Little Venice” canal.
Btw, if you're already in Camden, check out the Cyberdog store (Stables Market, Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AH) for futuristic fashion & bizzare souvenirs.

Comedy:

  • The Comedy Store (1a Oxendon St, London SW1Y 4EE) - a guaranteed night of fun & great improv. they usually have a couple of shorter newbie comedy acts, all pretty high quality. Students and NHS professionals get a discount. If you want to eat, it would make sense to get the meal & drinks packages.

Souvenirs:
We Built This City (56 Carnaby St, London W1F 9QF) – creative approach towards British souvenirs

Tours:

  • Free London walking tours with Strawberry Tours (street art, fleet street, white chapel, graffiti), I did several tour with that company: the graffiti tour (see above) & the Ghost Tour (runs on Tue, Thu & Sat at 20.00 from M&M's World in Leicester Square). The ghost tour is pretty fun & informative, it provides a new perspective on the well-known spots in the city & leaves an eerie feeling that maybe (just maybe) ghosts 
  • Skip the tourist bus & get on “normal” city bus: # 9, 14 & 15 – they take you around central London & those are the best ways to see the city!
The Ghost Bus (departure: just off Trafalgar Square on on Northumberland Avenue, in front of The Grand Hotel opposite to The Sherlock Holm Pub; tube: Charing Cross or Embankment) - another great way to see London if you're a fan of all things "beyond the grave" :) It's an informative (mostly fact-based, but - naturally - with some fictional elements thrown in) comedy tour, which takes you around the city and bombards you with all kinds of geeky and humorous facts about ghost, violent deaths, murders, executions, and other tragic events like The Great Fire of London.
It's not just "lecture", there's also an interactive part of the performance and I can tell you that the kids sitting next to us were squeaking with delight :)
Musicals:
Book of Mormon @ Prince of Wales Theatre (31 Coventry Street, London W1D 6AS) - an extremely entertaining musical evening guaranteed
Phantom of the Opera @ Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket
Lion King @ Lyceum Theatre (21 Wellington St, London WC2E 7RQ)
Wicked @ Apollo Victoria Theatre (17 Wilton Rd, Pimlico, London SW1V 1LG)

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