Big Smoke resident September Withers takes us on a jaunt around her favourite hangouts, revealing how the natives spend their weekends in the capital.
With limited time in such a big place, our guide to the best brunches, cocktails, live music bars and more will help you avoid all the usual tourist traps and get straight down to the serious business of having fun – without so much as a Beefeater in sight!
London loves to brunch and Pomona’s in Notting Hill (Nearest tube station: Notting Hill Gate) is a gorgeous, bright and laid-back restaurant with a Californian-style brunch menu not to be missed. Forget your smashed avocado and smoked salmon, Pomona’s has moved on. Their British crab on sourdough with mango, lime, radishes and peas is a must-try, as is their Portobello Rarebit.
Walk off your belly full of brunch with a stroll through an urban nature reserve in King’s Cross. Camley Street Natural Park (Nearest tube station: King’s Cross St. Pancras) is one of the capital’s most unexpected wild green spaces, situated on the banks of Regent’s Canal. With plenty of plants, birds, butterflies and wildlife, you won’t believe you’re in central London. The park has been temporarily closed to make room for a new visitor and learning centre and is due to fully reopen this spring.
You don’t need to dine at The Ritz to experience a quintessentially British afternoon tea. A new London Landmarks Afternoon Tea has launched at Town House (Nearest tube station: South Kensington), a beautiful and elegant restaurant in The Kensington Hotel.
Diners can tuck into a chocolate Gherkin, a carrot cake Shard, a lemon curd Big Ben and many other irresistible delights, all presented on a London Eye-inspired tea stand. Prices start from £42 per person or £54.50 with a glass of champagne. Reservations are a must.
Stepping into the foyer of The Ned (Nearest tube station: Bank) is about as Gatsby as it gets in London. Vintage glamour oozes from every inch of the lavish decor, from the black and white tiled floors and the emerald green and marble pillars, to the art deco lights and impressive stage, which hosts daily live music performances.
This area in particular is known as the Nickel Bar and serves up American and classic cocktails until the wee hours of the morning. Give the Outlaw Old Fashioned a whirl and you’ll fit right in – Wild Turkey 101, pecan, chocolate and aromatic bitters.
London caters for every diet and the food scene in the capital is seriously good. Vegetarians should pull up a pew at Mildreds in Soho (Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus), a legendary restaurant that’s been serving up delicious plant-based meals since 1988 and now has branches in Camden, King’s Cross and Dalston. Dig into salad soul bowls, vegetable curries, mushroom pies or one of the many vegan dishes on the menu. You can’t book a table at Mildreds, so you’ll need to join the queue – but it’s worth it.
With so many live music venues to choose from in London it’s tricky to know where to start, but Soho’s Ain’t Nothin’ But… The Blues Bar (Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus) is a great post-dinner hangout. Always packed out, lively and never dull, Ain’t Nothin’ But… is the home of the blues in the capital.