London Travel Guide

London Travel Guide

Matt Bramford

London: capital city; birthplace of Keats, Woolf, Hitchcock, Bowie, McQueen and Beckham. From the Gothic Revival at the Palace of Westminster to the 1930s modernism of Hampstead, and everything in between, what is there to say about the world’s greatest city that hasn’t been written about before?

A (big) room with a view

Wondering what to do in London? A good place to start, even for the most seasoned of London visitors, is the Sky Garden atop the Walkie Talkie, the latest addition to the London skyline. There’s no finer way to absorb the atmosphere of the capital than up Rafael Viñoly’s glass phallus. The building has divided Londoners, heralded as a ‘thuggish villain of a building’ and even winning the accolade of Carbuncle Cup, the prize for worst British building in 2015. Well, screw them. The structure accommodates an enormous expanse at its highest point, with an airport terminal like space that affords stunning 360° of the city, with a bar and restaurant serving fresh British food and cocktails.

Sky Garden | Photo: Matt Bramford

Sky Garden | Photo: Matt Bramford

Where to eat in London

Some of the world’s major cities fail to accommodate the quantity of culture and design that a single suburb of London can offer. A whole weekend’s pleasures or vices can be satisfied within a two-mile radius of London points of interest, so it’s easy to forgo cross-city travelling. The East is, and has been for decades, the region to find the latest trends in food, drink, art and fashion. A visit to Bistrotheque always pays off: a restaurant whose owners Pablo Flack and David Waddington can pat themselves on the back for launching a vibrant dining scene this side of the Gherkin. It has recently enjoyed a remodel, with a vast New York loft interior theme providing a more social feel. Despite innumerable openings nearby, Bistrotheque is still high on London’s best restaurant lists, and its fashionable clientele still makes way there for a Camp ‘Arry cocktail or fine selection of meats. The boys behind Bistrotheque have extended their London reign with Hoi Polloi, a 100-cover restaurant in the belly of the Ace Hotel. Visitors now need not even leave their accommodation, as these two purveyors of comfort and style are bedfellows on Shoreditch High Street. Hoi Polloi offers a relaxed brasserie feel with delicious Anglo dishes and a cocktail list catering for all tastes. And, just as Bistrotheque has Xavier playing pop hits on a piano, Hoi Polloi has a string quartet that makes even the cheesiest of pop princesses sound like unearthed Elgars.

The best hotels in London

If the Ace Hotel doesn’t cut it, there are, of course, hundreds of hotels to suit various needs. For an intimate experience, the Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell is an eccentric 13 bedroom award-winning Georgian townhouse in the heart of the city.

The Town Hall Hotel is an architectural masterpiece in Bethnal Green with elaborate Art Deco interiors. Like the marriage of Hoi Polloi and Ace Hotel, the Town Hall Hotel boasts two high-end restaurants: the formal Typing Room offering five or seven-course tasting menus and the less formal Corner Room, ideal for casual meals and relaxed drinks.

Ham Yard Hotel, the latest addition to the impressive portfolio of the British hospitality success story that is Firmdale Hotels, has an enviable location in the midst of Soho. It boasts 91 individually designed rooms and suites, as well as 24 apartments, a roof terrace, a screening room, and even a 1950s-style bowling alley.

Typing Room at Town Hall Hotel

Typing Room at Town Hall Hotel

Things to see in London

London is the capital of world-class art and you don’t need Mr Hudson to tell you to visit the greats. The V&A, the National Gallery and the Tate house some of the greatest works of art ever created. For contemporary alternatives, we recommend Damien Hirst‘s new home, Newport Street Gallery. Hirst launched the gallery this year to house both his ego and his art collection, providing the first major new space for art for London to open in years. The White Cube is always high on our list, as are independents like Flowers, Hauser and Wirth, and Maureen Paley.

Shopping in London

London caters for every sartorial aesthetic and it can be a daunting task finding the right clothes. For British heritage brands, Burberry and Aquascutum are well stocked across the city. For something more curated, try the individual store flagships on Lambs Conduit Street in Bloomsbury or Redchurch Street in Shoreditch. Folk offer laid-back threads, and a visit to Darkroom, one of London’s best interiors shops, is a must. Redchurch Street caters for the modern gentleman with a Murdock Barbers, A.P.C and many design shops. Liberty will always be home to a diverse range of menswear and you can find London’s finest menswear brands like Christopher Raeburn and Oliver Spencer there and at Rei Kawakubo’s Dover Street Market.

Photo: Matt Bramford

Photo: Matt Bramford

Things to do in London

Markets remain at the heart of London life. Borough Market, once fictional home to Bridget Jones, houses the greatest produce produced within the M25, as well as endless imported goods. Restaurants like Brindisa, Elliot’s and Arabica serve world cuisine. Broadway market in Hackney bustles on a Saturday with stalls that sell food and craft goods. The street itself is a good spot seven days a week with pubs (The Cat & Mutton), cocktail bars (Off Broadway) and a diverse range of restaurants (Buen Ayre) to satisfy the most distinct tastes.

London nightlife

While London has ample hotspots that cater for bar lovers, a visit to the city would not be complete with a craft beer in a good old-fashioned pub. Options are plenty, but choose well: avoid chains, Wetherspoons or anything with a suspicious Irish name above the door. If the venue sells posh scotch eggs, the menu reads like haute cuisine and there is no mention of a curry club or a free pint with a burger, we’re almost sure you’re in for a marvellous time. We like the Old George on Bethnal Green Road, The Clapton Hart on Lea Bridge roundabout and the Talbot in Dalston. Enjoy the selection of craft beer and real ales at the Talbot after sampling the range of food Kingsland Road has to offer, from Vietnamese at Song Que to Italian tapas at Rotorino. Finish off with a dance in Johnny Woo’s The Glory, the city’s most interesting gay venue and the home of London drag, or Dalston Superstore, where you can find a mix of disco and house nights with a fun, fashionable crowd.

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