An insider's guide to London
The English writer Samuel Johnson once famously said that "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life," and in my books, nothing could be more true. As a relocated Londoner, the one thing I can be sure of each time I return — aside from a guaranteed few millimetres of rain — is that there will always be somewhere new to indulge my senses. With that in mind, I've compiled a list of new and noteworthy additions to the London scene as well as some old favourites that you just can't afford to miss.
53 Lexington Street
What started as a tiny street food stall in North-East London selling modern variations of gua bao has recently upgraded to a proper shop front and Soho location. In the process of doing so, they've also become one of London's hottest culinary destinations with constant swathes of eager epicureans happy to queue for hours on end to get their hands on Bao's fluffy pillows of happiness. With fillings ranging from the traditional braised pork to lamb shoulder and even Horlicks ice cream, it's more than worth the wait (even if I did have to start queuing for lunch at 11am.)
Dover Street Market
17-18 Dover Street
Don't let its name deceive you, this ain't any plain market. Instead you'll find five floors of pure designer heaven, conceived by Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garçons, and all as perfectly presented and curated as you would expect from the Japanese fashion house. With staple brands such as Givenchy and Saint Laurent alongside a whole host of independent and emerging designers, you'll never have need to step into the human blender that is Harrods again. And once you've shopped up an appetite, there's an organic cafe on the top floor serving a delectable range of quiches, soups, and killer coffee that beats an overpriced tea and scone any day.
20 Sherwood Street
I thought long and hard about whether or not to include this French brasserie on my list, purely because it's one of my favourite restaurants in all of London and it's already hard enough to get a table as it is. Yet for the sake of journalism, I shall let you in on my little secret. Nestled in a side street just off Piccadilly Circus, but in all other ways a million miles away from central London, descend the three flights of stairs into the basement and you'll be transported into turn of the century Paris, and perhaps even more remarkably, with prices to match a bygone era. With two courses for under £10, a live jazz band and the feeling that you may bump into Fitzgerald or Hemingway at any point, Zedel really is a must visit. Just please leave a table for me.
The Photographer's Gallery
16-18 Ramillies Street, London
London isn't exactly a city that's short on art galleries, but The Photographer's Gallery holds its own, not only as the first independent gallery in Britain entirely devoted to photography, but also for the sheer diversity and breadth of its offerings. On one particularly memorable afternoon last year, I found myself meandering through the photographs of Warhol, Lynch, and more peculiarly William S. Burroughs — a classic example of how the gallery's choice of exhibits enables you to see not only the artist's life, but also your own, through, well, a different lens.
Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street
Now this one's more of a novelty, but it's currently the talk of the town and it's too fantastic not to include in this list. Introducing the new way of consuming alcohol that you didn't even know was a thing until now: the "cocktail cloud", which has arrived like a breath of not-so-fresh air onto the London bar scene courtesy of food scientists Bompas and Parr. Comprising one part alcohol and three parts mixer, the vapourised concoction is pumped into the air through heavy-duty humidifiers, ready for guests to close their eyes, take a deep breath and then take a few more. By avoiding the oh-so-lengthy and unnecessary process of liver metabolisation, the inhalation process claims to deliver you to cloud nine 40% quicker and with 40% fewer calories, which sounds like a pretty perfect cocktail to me. It's only a temporary pop-up that's around until early next year, so make sure you stop and smell the roses (and juniper) before it's too late. Just as long as you ensure that you breathe responsibly.
- Image: Main image by Dave Burt; photo of The Photographer's Gallery is courtesy of Dennis Gilbert
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