A multi-ethnic English eccentric, the British capital invites you to eat and shop your way around the globe, sending you home sated and educated. Amid gloriously groomed parks and gritty secret side streets, England’s capital effortlessly edifies with monuments and museums galore, galleries both soothing and surprising, and a food and drink scene as popular for its classics as its contemporary stars.
Check out a few of our favorite suggestions for where to get the complete experience and really live it up, London-style.
It’s not just New York that loves a speakeasy. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town in Spitalfields promises the usual wacky doorway trick; here it’s a Smeg fridge that lets you know you’re not far from quirky infusions. The only pity here is that the Basil No-Faulty (vodka, elderflower liqueur, fresh basil, and lime) doesn’t come served by John Cleese. If you whiz over to Worship Street Whistling Shop in Shoreditch, sister to Marylebone’s Purl, the mixologists here will wow you with their liquid wizardry.
The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, 12-16 Artillery Lane (near Sandy's Lane); 020 7078 9639.
Worship Street Whistling Shop, 63 Worship Street (near Paul Street); 020 7247 0015.
Love whisky? The Connaught Hotel’s Coburg Bar in Mayfair has the wood-panelled charm of a gentlemen’s club, along with the thrill that you might be sitting next to one of the members of Kings of Leon. The Experimental Cocktail Club in Chinatown promises some seriously inventive concoctions, as does Hawksmoor Air Street where their Full-Fat Old Fashioned has won us over thanks to the homemade-butter-infused bourbon. A cult joint for beef lovers, this is the brand-new outpost of the steakhouse and cocktail lounge, just off Piccadilly Street.
Coburg Bar, Carlos Place (near Adam's Row), Mayfair; 020 7499 7070.
Experimental Cocktail Club, 13A Gerrard Street (near Dean Street); 020 7434 3559.
Hawksmoor, 5A Air Street (near Regent Street); 020 7406 3980.
Photo: Courtesy of Worship Street Whistling Shop; Courtesy of The Hawksmoor; Courtesy of Coburg Bar; Courtesy of The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
Juliet Kinsman is the editor-in-chief of Mr & Mrs Smith. For more recommendations for London hotels, or to book your trip, call Mr & Mrs Smith’s Travel Team on 800-464-2040.
An artery-clogging English breakfast is the traditional taste of Blighty. Start your day with a full fry-up at an authentic greasy-spoon cafeteria, or seek out the Breakfast Club in Hoxton, Spitalfields, or Cargo (also known as a venue for cutting-edge DJs) in Shoreditch. For a posher nosh-up, the New Zealand cuisine at Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell is beloved. You can also keep it low-key with a bowl of muesli at cyclists’ favorite, Towpath Café along Regent’s Canal. To eat as the Cockneys do, go for jellied eels or pie and mash at F Cooke on Broadway Market, E8. Take the elevator to the 38th floor of Heron Tower and let the Japanese-Brazilian delights at SushiSamba vie for your attention with the jaw-dropping lookout over the entire city – London views don’t get more exciting.
Breakfast Club, 2-4 Rufus Street (near Charlotte Road); 020 7729 5252.
Cargo, 83 Rivington Street (near Shoreditch High Street), Shoreditch; 020 7739 3440.
Modern Pantry, 47-48 St John's Square (near Albemarle Way), Clerkenwell; 030 7553 9210.
Towpath Cafe, 36 De Beauvoir Crescent (near De Beauvoir Road), Hackney; 020 7254 7606.
F Cooke, 150 Hoxton Street (near Homefield Street); 020 7729 7718.
SushiSamba, 110 Bishopsgate (near Brushfield Street); 020 3640 7330.
For old-fashioned glamour, brunch at the Wolseley on Piccadilly where service is unfalteringly excellent and the clientele is A-list. Russell Norman’s restaurants are still the toast of London’s diners, so pop into Polpo, Polpetto, or Spuntino in Soho for the restaurateur’s unique tapas-y take on Italian flavors. Or, in Covent Garden, taste his new Jewish-deli-style cuisine at Mishkins. They don’t do reservations; standing on line and chatting to some of the local characters is part of the fun. Take high tea at Manchester Square’s Wallace Collection’s restaurant after ogling centuries-old oil paintings. Art lovers will enjoy a French-themed spread after a tour around the Continental furniture and porcelain.
Wolsely, 160 Piccadilly (near Arlington Street); 020 7499 6996.
Polpo, 41 Beak Street (near Sherwood Street); 020 7734 4479.
Polpetto, 49 Dean Street (near Old Compton Street); 020 7437 2477.
Spuntino, 61 Rupert Street (near Brewer Street), Soho.
Mishkin's, 25 Catherine Street (near Tavistock Street); 020 7240 2078.
The Wallace Restaurant, Hertford House, Manchester Square (near George Street); 020 7563 9505.
Photo: Courtesy of Sushi Samba; Courtesy of Polpo; Courtesy of Modern Pantry; Courtesy of The Wolesly
You’ll need an appointment to admire the hot new designers at the Late Night Chameleon Café in Dalston. LN-CC consists of three concept rooms, where the exhibits of designer men and womenswear for sale are laced with music and cultural thrills. Shrunken heads, elk’s horns, and tattered drawings signal that The Last Tuesday Society isn’t your average Hackney retailer. This curiosity-shop-cum-lecture-theatre-cum-bar was inspired by 17th-century wunderkabinetts.
Late Night Chameleon Cafe, 18 Shacklewell Lane (near St. Mark's Rise); 020 7275 7265.
The Last Tuesday Society, 11 Mare Street (near Andrews Road); 020 7998 3617.
Designer-label zones are Sloane Street and Knightsbridge, and Bond Street and South Molton Street, but it’s Rei Kawakubo’s concept store in Mayfair that’s remained the go-to for the fash pack. What do you expect when Comme des Garçons’ creates a directional gallery-cum-retail space where creatives would mingle amid "beautiful chaos?" For iconic midcentury furniture, original Victorian-lace gloves, or pristine flapper dresses, peruse Alfie's Antiques in Marylebone. Definitely seek out the "caff" at the top for a mug of "builders tea" — it’s also one of London’s best-kept secrets for a gulp of the city's century-spanning skyline.
Dover Street Market, 17-18 Dover Street (near Stafford Street); 020 7518 0680.
Alfie's Antiques, 13-25 Church Street (near Lisson Grove), Marylebone; 020 7723 6066.
Photo: Courtesy of LN-CC; Courtesy of Dover Street Market
Private club Shoreditch House not only has killer views for this side of town (and 26 bedrooms to roll into) but lots of mover/shaker members who like to give the celebrities and supermodels a run for their look-at-me money, in the ever-so-sceney rooftop pool, bar and garden. Double room prices start from $293, including tax. Other options include the Town Hall Hotel & Apartments which stands very grandly in this gritty stretch of Bethnal Green. You’re unlikely to meet true locals propping up its Michelin-starred Viajante restaurant and cocktail bar. If you're in the mood for more action, you can fight die-hard foodies for a seat in Nuño Mendes, a fine-dining restaurant, or Corner Bar, a more-casual eatery. These double rooms start from $275, including tax.
Shoreditch House, Ebor Street (near Redchurch Street), Shoreditch; 020 7739 5040.
Town Hall Hotel & Apartments, Patriot Square (near Peel Grove), Bethnal Green; 020 7871 0460.
Spread over three historic houses in Soho’s heart, Hazlitt’s is a refined 30-room retreat named after 18th-century essayist and ex-resident William Hazlitt. The Duke of Monmouth Suite even has an outdoor terrace with a retractable roof, which is more than other hotels in this ’hood can boast. Doubles run for $418, including tax. For a more modern media haunt, swerve off Wardour Street and head for the Soho Hotel’s twinkly-lit porch in this quiet cul-de-sac. The 10-foot porcelain Botero cat sculpture in the lobby should convince you that you’re in the right place. If you're not all about ogling Kit and Kemp’s pretty, bright, color-clashing décor or mingling in the buzzy bar, the hotel has a screening room that hosts a fab film club every Sunday. Make your reservation for a double room starting at $467, including tax.
Hazlitt's, 6 Frith Street (near Charing Cross Road), Soho Square; 020 7434 1771.
Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews (near Dean Street); 020 7559 3000.
Photo: Courtesy of Hazlitt; Courtesy of The Hawksmoor; Courtesy of Shoreditch House; Courtesy of Town Hall Hotel; Courtesy of Soho Hotel