Back in May the 2 mousketeers managed a quick getaway to Londontown where we were greeted by some mighty fine weather and our missing mouse friend. It was marvelous, such a wonderful time to be there! All of London was getting ready for the Jubilee (the week after we left. boo), the weather was gorgeous (when the week before it had been hailing), and we three friends were finally reunited for more than oh you know, 72 hours. We managed to pop into Paris for a day, we ate till we were fat, slept till we were rested, shopped till we damn near dropped and reveled in the fact that we were together! At long last. I’ve known these two for almost two decades now, and let me tell you, there is nothing that beats having a group of gUrL.fWEns.4.lYfE (yes, exactly like that).
Anyhoos, our little get together has yielded some perks for the rest of you – namely that we ate, shopped, and saw just about everything London has to offer that would be of interest to a bunch of twentysomethingsletloose. So click on for what to eat, where to shop, and who to see in jolly old Londontown.
What to eat.
By far my favorite thing about London is the absolute ABUNDANCE of good food. Not cheap food. But very, very good food. This is the land of Milk and Honey (literally, there’s a speakeasy named just that which you have to pay a visit to for some killer, prohibition era cocktails – but first you’ll have to find it of course, and then find a way in, as with any good speakeasy they make it rather hard ).
It is also the land of Lobster. Now I bet you didn’t know that. Burger & LOBSTER to be more precise, but honestly, you can ignore the first part and go straight to the second.
An establishment that serves that, and only that, though they’ve made one concession for the folks who cannot decide between the two – the Lobster Po. Basically, a lobster on a roll of bread. Delicious succulent buttery lobster served (still steaming, and gleaming red) to your table. Tie the bib around your neck (you’ll need it), and get cracking. It’s so, so, soooo unbelievably good.
They don’t take reservations so don’t be a noob and queue at noon, wait till 2 when the crowd dies down and head in for a late lunch. You’re sure to love it.
Also good? The cocktails. Ask the waitress for the one with gin and elderflower foam.
So what else is there to eat in London? The list is endless! But I’ve decided to showcase a select few that made it to my favourites the week I was there:
The Modern Pantry for Brunch – lovely space, lots of white, lots of light, charming service housed in a quaint brick walk up with excellent food. Try the sugar-cured prawn omelette with sambal, it will surprise and delight you. For something a little more traditional, go for the savoury waffles. It’s made up of spring onion, feta, polenta & curry leaf, and served with a generous side of streaky bacon, slow roasted tomatoes, avocado, and yuzu salsa. It’s just brilliant. Pseudo-asian but so awesome.
Quo Vadis for cocktails and a very English dinner – I ordered the rack of lamb, it was one of the better decisions I’ve made in the last year, perhaps in life, and I’m not even a fan of lamb. I’m not sure how Chef Jeremy Lee did it, but the edges were crisp (kind of like crackling) while the meat stayed tender, juicy and perfectly pink. On the side there was some char grilled asparagus dressed up with mint which provided the perfect balance to the meat.
Min and Drea had the skate with capers and brown butter – also heavenly. You can never go wrong with fish in butter (or batter for that matter). The food is refreshingly robust, and they don’t care much for fancy plating and stuff like that, just good, honest, and unbearably tasty food. It doesn’t make for pretty pictures so if you’re known to instagram your food instead of eat it, then this is not the place for you.
Dinner by Heston is for those who can’t afford, or can’t afford to make the trek out of London. The Fat Duck’s little sister has earned its own stripes with a space on the list of 50 best restaurants. But acclamations aside, what makes this place truly great is the way Heston and his head chef have managed to rework traditional English dishes (some dating back to the 14th century), and made them not just palatable, but down right delicious. No mean feat given the dismal reputation that English food has suffered over the decades, nay, centuries. And in true Blumenthal style – he does it with a fair bit of panache.
Case in point, you see that orange? It’s made of meat. Tadah! Mind blown.
The desserts were of course a complete delight (if you have to pick go with the Tipsy cake and the Poached Rhubarb – but try not to have to pick, we went with everything on the dessert menu), but oddly enough, my favourite dish that afternoon was a very unassuming saffron risotto (with the rather un-enticing name of “Rice and Flesh”). Do not be fooled by its ordinary appearance as I was, the risotto is done to perfection (slightly al dente with a bit of bite), it is velvety smooth and the tender morsels of oxtail give it so much flavour.
Other places you should pop into for a meal and then some – Kensington for Crepes (Kensington Creperie) and Cupcakes (Hummingbird Bakery), the Arts Club for an attempt to spot celebs like Gwen Paltrow (who owns the place), and Hawksmoor for steak.
Summer’s also a good time to picnic in one of London’s many parks.
Where to shop.
If you’re here to shop you’ll be glad to know there’s lots of it in London. Oxford Circus, High Street Kensington, Knightsbridge and so on… If you’re already well-acquainted with these plebian hangouts, I’m sure you’ll appreciate these gems:
1. Dover Street Market – it’s more of a “giant art installation” than a multi-brand boutique, and it certainly isn’t a market in any sense of the word. They’re at the forefront of everything cutting edge and cool, like the Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton collection. Somewhat akin to Colette, but edgier. They’ve also got lots and lots of lovely Lanvin, and an entire area for Ah-Ah-Alaia!
2. Spitafields & Brick Lane – an actual market. Good food, better fashion, and fabulous for people watching.
3. Harrods homeware – it’s beeeoootiful in there.
4. Rous Iland – Private shopping. Co-founder, Kara, has an incredible ability to pick out items that suit you to a Tee. Prices aren’t low, but the experience is fabulous, and you’re likely to walk away with something you’ll love for years. I’m super excited to see what they’ll be bringing in next!
Who to see.
If you go to London and don’t pay pilgrimage to one of the many amazing cultural institutions, then they should subject you to the age old and now illegal tradition of chopping off your head and putting it on a pike near Tower Bridge. Seriously, shame on you.
One of the best things about London is that a lot of this art, culture and amazingness is absolutely free, or accessed at a very minimal fee. While we were there, Yayoi (Kasuma) and Damien (Hirst) were competing for our attention at The Tate, we perused some of Louboutin’s most beautiful creations (and some terrifyingly torturous ones) at The Design Museum, the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum were oh so happy to see me again, and I spent hours back at the British Museum (which will never lose its charm).
Shopping and eating aside, what makes London great is its galleries and museums and the homage it pays to history and culture from all over the world.
But if you want to see something a little less intense on the eyes/ you have kids or a husband who has no patience for these things, then off to Borough Market you should go with the brood. For lots, and lots, and lots of really good food. Monmouth serves up the best coffee in this town (and it’s got a queue to prove it). But be clever, skip the queue, duck into Rabot Estate (a chocolatier across the road from it) – these lovely people also serve up Monmouth coffee in the cosy confines of their little chocolate shop. The chocolate is also good.
And that my friends, brings me to the end of our gallivant through Londontown. I absolutely cannot wait till the mouseketeers are reunited once again! We’re celebrating our 20th year of friendship sometime next summer, and we’ve got all sorts of crazy ideas in store for the week. We’ll be sure to care and share of course :)