A London Spring Fling

April 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

London Bridge, Photo: FreeFoto.com

London in springtime?  Absolutely lovely.  So here’ s the plan:

Stay:

I have a preference for smaller, boutique hotels which, in London, tend to be in converted townhouses.  That the hotel has comfortable beds, high thread count sheets, flat-screen televisions, luxurious toiletries, a mean breakfast, a nice little cocktail bar, and excellent service go without saying.

Dean Street Townhouse – Located in Soho.  Hip, busy, reasonably-priced, popular restaurant and bar.

myhotel Bloomsbury – Centrally located, near Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, and Soho.  “Stylish interior design from Conran & Partners.”  mysnug.  PINCHITOtapas.

myhotel Chelsea – Near Brompton Cross, one of the best Chelsea locations.  Comfortable, eclectic rooms.  mybar.

One Aldwych – This one breaks my “boutique” rule, but with good reason.  A fantastic location – in the heart of Covent Garden, between the West End and the City – a fabulous lobby bar, two great restaurants, exceptional service, Frette linens and down duvets, health club … need I go on?  It’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s worth it.

Portobello Hotel – “On a quiet street in Notting Hill, stands this converted neo-classical mansion. It hardly looks like a hotel, yet it enjoys a worldwide reputation as the most exclusive hideaway hotel in London.”

Sydney House Chelsea – Owned and operated by ABode Hotels, this Chelsea property is a find.  Boutique townhouse hotel.  Located near the King’s Road.   Great breakfast.

The Zetter – Located in Clerkenwell, a hip, fashionable London neighborhood on the edge of the City.   Loft-like, high tech rooms.  Bistrot Bruno Loubet and the  Atrium Bar.

Eat:

Amaya – If you like Indian food, you need to make a night of it in London.  Located in Knightsbridge, “Amaya focuses uniquely on sophisticated Indian grills, seasoned with subtle complex marinades using time honoured Indian grilling methods.”

E & O – “Set in the buzzing area of Notting Hill, a stone’s throw from Portobello market, its pan-Asian cuisine and vibrant bar are sure never to disappoint.”  The menu includes dim sum, salads, sushi and sashimi, a couple of curries, and some great sides (like green beans with xo sauce).  Add a happening bar.  Yes, it’s a hot spot.

Electric Brasserie – “Open daily with indoor and outdoor seating all year round. It is a place to meet your friends for a snack, a long lunch, a cozy dinner or just for a drink at the bar.”  This is another Notting Hill mainstay.  Great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Hix and Hix Oyster & Chop House – Both are from restauranteur Mark Hix.  Located in Soho, “The ground floor restaurant called HIX seats around 80 diners and serves Mark’s signature British food with a wide selection of meat and fish dishes. The basement bar, Mark’s, which has a clubby-type feel, has a more informal feel, serving small British dishes and cocktails by Nick Strangeway.”  Hix Oyster & Chop House is situated on Green Hill  Rents, near London’s Smithfield Meat Market.  “At the Oyster and Chop House we’ll always have an assortment of oysters on the menu and a range of chops, cutlets and steaks on the bone such as Porterhouse and Hanger steak with baked bone marrow. Fish dishes also feature, including whole grilled fish, and all the ingredients will be carefully sourced in the UK.”  Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan of both.

Locanda Locatelli – Giorgio Locatelli has been wowing diners with his superb Italian food and outstanding service.  Time Out gives the restaurant 5-out-of-5 stars, and says  of the experience, “The decadent, almost louche 1970s atmosphere, the softly lit dining room and the almost pampering service may be a draw. But it’s the spectacular cooking and astounding attention to detail that keep the booking lines busy here, and the dining room packed every day.”  It’s a splurge, but absolutely worth it.

Nobu – No matter the city, if you’re in the mood for Japanese food(sushi or a fabulous steak, for that matter) Nobu is the spot.  In London the restaurant is  located in tony Mayfair.  Like Locanda Locatelli, it’s a splurge, but consider it a “bucket list” item.  You won’t be disappointed.

Notting Hill Brasserie – “…you’d never find us by accident – a neighbourhood Restaurant nestling in the heart of Notting Hill.”  So true.  But now you know.  There’s live jazz each night in the cocktail bar (and during their Sunday lunch).  Their ingredients are seasonal and sourced locally, and are prepared in “Modern Mediterranean” cooking style.

Tate Modern Restaurant – If you’re visiting Tate Modern, which I highly recommend (see below), plan on having lunch or a drink.  Located on the 7th floor of the museum, it boasts one of the best views in London.  The “menu [is] based on fresh, seasonal produce together with an exciting wine list focusing on innovative producers.”  Book ahead.

The Anchor & Hope – One of the best gastropubs in London.  Located on The Cut, near the Southwark tube and not far from Waterloo station, it’s a great option if you’ve got tickets for the Old Vic Theatre.  Creative pub food served in a bustling atmosphere.  Note, they do not accept reservation Monday through Saturday, but do (and are advisable) on Sunday.

The Ivy – This is a West End institution.  Pre- or post-theater, book well in advance to secure a table.  Time Out gives it 4-out-of-5 stars and says, “For all its enduring popularity with celebrities and the music industry – and there are often paparazzi hovering outside – the Ivy isn’t the sort of place to go and be seen; it’s the kind of restaurant folk visit to enjoy their time off. The long menu is curiously old-school British, with globe-trotting recipes picked up along the way.”

A quick update … Daily Candy London announced the opening of The Summerhouse by The Waterway pop-up restaurant.  I’d heard of pop-up shops before and thought this looked interesting.  It’s open for six months – from April to October.  “Since 2002 The Waterway has established itself as one of Maida Vale’s best local restaurants and one of London’s greatest outdoor terraces with spectacular views overlooking the beautiful Grand Union Canal. Voted as the best terrace in London, this is the closest to Venice London has.”  They serve fresh seafood and even fresher cocktails.  Definitely part of the plan.

See:

Love Never Dies – Here it is at last … the long-awaited sequel to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.  Here’s the story: “Ten years after the mysterious disappearance of The Phantom from the Paris Opera House, Christine Daae accepts an offer to come to America and perform at New York’s fabulous new playground of the world – Coney Island.   Christine arrives in New York with her husband Raoul and their son Gustave.  She soon discovers the identity of the anonymous impresario who has lured her from France to sing.”  Currently running and booking through October 23.   Book tickets with Albemarle of London online or by phone at +44 207 3791357.

Mrs. Warren’s Profession – This latest production of a George Bernard Shaw classic has garnered rave reviews: ‘Felicity Kendal…superb, Lucy Briggs-Owen…brilliant. A witty and gripping production of one of Shaw’s greatest plays’ Daily Telegraph  The Ambassador Ticket webiste says that “Shaw’s ultimate test of a mother-daughter relationship is one of his most witty and provocative plays. Written in 1894 but banned from performance until the racy 1920s, Mrs Warren’s Profession lays bare the rampant hypocrisy of Victorian society and its constrained morals.”  The play is running from April 10 – June 19.  Order tickets online or call +44 844 871 7644.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical – “tells the heart-warming, uplifting adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus (Priscilla) to take their show to the middle of the Australian outback.” Albemarle-London  The Daily Telegraph hails the musical as “insanely euphoric – wildly contagious,” and The Times as “energy, fun … wisecracks galore.”  To book tickets online, visit Albemarle-London.com or call +44 207 3791357.  Booking though February 2011 at the Palace Theatre.

The Real Thing – A new drama by Tom Stoppard is pretty much always a reason to celebrate.  This time he’s written about love.  The play is produced by The Old Vic Theatre, who had this to say: “Deeply moving and startlingly funny, Tom Stoppard’s razor sharp drama brilliantly examines the complex nature of love, art and reality. Anna Mackmin directs an outstanding cast including Barnaby Kay, Hattie Morahan, Toby Stephens and Fenella Woolgar in this multi-award winning modern classic.”  The run is scheduled for April 10 – June 5.   Opening night is April 20.  Book online or by calling +44 844 8717628.

War Horse – This is one of the tougher tickets in town.  Produced by London’s National Theatre, this award-winning play has been wowing audiences for months.  “War Horse is a thrilling and spectacular production based on the celebrated novel by Michael Morpurgo.  The First World War is the backdrop for this tale of bravery, loyalty, and the extraordinary bond between a young recruit and his horse.  Actors, working with astonishing life-sized puppets by the internationally renowned Handspring Puppet Company, take audiences on an unforgettable journey through history.”  One friend who saw it recently said she was awestruck and unbelievably moved.  The play is running indefinitely at the Drury Lane Theatre in London’s West End.  Buy tickets online or by telephone at +44 844 7550017.

Visit:

It’s easy to overlook, but entry into all of the national museums is free.  However, even a couple of pounds donated at the collection box when you arrive makes a difference.

Borough Market – A short walk from the London Bridge train/tube station, the market is undoubtedly worth a visit, even if you’re staying at a hotel and won’t be able to cook.  The market is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Check with website for times and plan accordingly.  In other words, go hungry.

Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park – Go for a walk, a long walk … the gardens and park are a world unto their own.  And visit Kensington Palace while you’re there.  A new temporary exhibit, “The Enchanted Palace,” has just opened.  According to WWD, “the show combines art, fashion, performance and sound, and is based on the lives of princesses including Mary, Anne, Caroline, Charlotte, Victoria, Margaret, and Diana, all of whom lived within the estate from 1689 until today.”  British designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Norman Hartnell, and Bruce Oldfield are featured.  Much of the rest of the property is undergoing an extensive renovation.

National Portrait Gallery –   Located in Trafalgar Square, this is a favorite.  The Gallery Collection represents works from every major era and portrait artist.  The current exhibition is the Irving Penn Portraits, running through June 6.  If your spring fling happens to turn into a summer sojourn then make sure to visit during the BP Portrait Award exhibition (June 24 – September 19).  This annual event showcases up-and-coming artists, and I’ve never been disappointed by the variety and talent on display.

Tate Britain – The original Tate, it housed the entire collection until Tate Modern opened across the Thames.  Tate Britain houses the collection of international painting pre-1900 and includes works by Hogarth, Gainsborough, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, and Barbara Hepworth.  The Tate operates a boat between Tate Modern and Tate Britain (tickets can be purchased online or at either museum).  The current exhibition is of Henry Moore sculptures.  The museum hosts the annual Turner Prize competition.  A visit to Tate Britain is a must.  The Tate operates a boat between Tate Modern and Tate Britain (tickets can be purchased online or at either museum).

Tate Modern – “Created in the year 2000 from a disused power station in the heart of London, Tate Modern displays the national collection of international modern art. This is defined as art since 1900.”  The space itself is a work of art.  Their collection includes works by Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, Magritte, Rothko, and Warhol, to name a few.  Check the website for current exhibitions.  The Tate operates a boat between Tate Modern and Tate Britain (tickets can be purchased online or at either museum).

Victoria & Albert Museum – Located in South Kensington, “the V&A is the greatest museum of art and design, a world treasure house with collections of fabulous scope and diversity. The Museum holds over 3000 years worth of artefacts from many of the world’s richest cultures … including ceramics, fashion, furniture, glass, metalwork, paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture and textiles.”  Beginning April 17, the featured exhibition is “Grace Kelly: Style Icon.”

Shop:

Eco Age – “The Green Hub” … and happening.  “Eco is an exciting new retail concept and the first of its kind – a store, showroom, consultancy and green hub that offers inspiration, ideas and specific domestic solutions for all those who want to lead a greener and more energy efficient life.”  Add some star power to the ownership, Colin Firth, his wife Livia Giuggioli, and her brothers, Nicola and Alessandro, and some unique finds, and you’ve got an original shopping experience.

Harvey Nichols –  A Knightsbridge staple: the best designer clothing, shoes, handbags, cosmetics, not to mention the 5th Floor where you’ll find the Foodmarket, Restaurant, Bar, and Cafe and Roof Terrace.  Shop, eat, drink, be merry.

Liberty of London – Another London hip shopping experience.  The best labels, and central location near Oxford Circus.  If you’re in the buying mood, this is a must.

Portobello Market & Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill – Portobello Market is one of the world’s most famous street markets made famous by the movie of the same name.  Stretching roughly two miles from the Notting Hill Gate tube, you’ll find antiques, second-hand and new merchandise, and fruit and vegetable markets.  On or near Westbourne Grove, look for The Cross, Virginia, Dinny Hall, Emma Hope Shoes, Paul & Joe, Brora Cashmere, and Smythson.  Both are a great for a day’s walking and shopping.

Upper Street & Camden Passage, Islington – A bit off the beaten path, Islington’s Upper Street is lined with boutiques selling the cutting edge and the quaint.  Check out Neal’s Yard Remedies, Spice, Dinny Hall, SpaceNK, Diverse, Ghost, and Toast.  And don’t miss Camden Passage’s famed antique shops and market.   (Angel Tube Station)

Do:

Afternoon Tea at Claridges

Drinks at the Connaught or Claridges

Go for a walk along The River Thames

Take in some jazz at Ronny Scott’s

Check out ForbiddenLondon.com, if clubbing is your thing, and Time Out London for everything else that’s on.

Enjoy!!

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