London will always occupy a special place in my heart- I can never forget my first solo holiday in London in 2004- I immediately fell in love with its history, diversity, arts, culture, food and parks- so much so that I decided to live and work in London for a year. I lived in a small semi detached house in East Putney and have some of the best memories of South London( one that requires another blog!) I am lucky to still have friends living there, and am always keen to get their updates on ‘the places to eat & drink’ on FB
So last week I decided to try something new: Explore one of the greatest cities of the world through the locals that live there. I approached three friends, who live and work in London- they are unknown to each other, work in different industries & have different personalities. While reviewing their replies, I got three different perspectives of London. In the process we have unravelled hidden gems and great finds. So I hope you find this article interesting
Note: pictures used in this article have been collected through the internet and are not taken by me, photo credits have been provided where necessary ;)
POULOMI BASU is an award winning documentary photographer who is based in London and New Delhi. When not travelling on international assignments, Poulomi loves interacting with fellow photographers in London’s hip watering holes
SHEFALI GUPTA GERA, or ‘Shef” as she’s known to friends, was born in the UK and has lived in London for almost half of her life. A true ‘Londoner’ she works in strategy for an American investment bank. Shef enjoys exploring London’s gastronomic scene and travelling off to exotic destinations
NEHA GOENKA SMITH is a professional who’s lived in London for 6 years, Neha currently works with the UK Government to address GHG emission
1) YOUR FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOOD FOR BREAKFAST OR A FUN SUNDAY BRUNCH?
Poulomi: Dalston Superstore,( 117 Kingsland High SE8 2PB, London) Time Out London describes it as“a New York-styled ersatz dive bar upstairs (clad in cement, brick and steel vents) is the perfect place for a chat ‘n’ carouse”
Shefali: there are so many interesting places, but if I’d have to narrow it down my favourites are-
CLERKENWELL : Smith of Smithsfied or SOS (67-77 Charterhouse St, London EC1M 6HJ)
A reviewer in Squaremeal London calls it a “cavernous, sandblasted rocker starts the day quite quietly as a breakfast and brunch destination serving up posh bacon butties, porridge and French toast to Smithfield early birds”
and Modern Pantry(47-48 St John’s Square, London EC1V 4JJ) Time Out London says “chef Anna Hansen has form in creating enticing fusion dishes that make the most of unusual ingredients sourced from around the globe – we guarantee even the most devoted foodie will be bamboozled by a couple of items on the menu”
and Caravan, Emyr Thomas of Bon vivant says “Caravan offers a weekend brunch menu to rival any in London in a relaxed and effortlessly cool setting on Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell…The open plan layout and double facing glassed front make this an ideal location for enjoying a vibrant part of London”
MAIDA VALE: Raoul’s(13 Clifton Road, London W9 1S)
2)FAVORITE PLACE/ PARK/ SQUARE FOR A PICNIC?
Poulomi– London fields Victoria Park( Vicky Park) Visit London says “Victoria Park in London’s Tower Hamlets is a large park with canals, ponds, a pavilion, tennis courts and a sports ground. Open air pop and rock concerts are held in the park during the summer”
Shefali– Regent’s Park. Spread over 395 acres it is one of the largest parks in Central London. The park also houses the Open Air Theatre, London Zoo, Primrose Hill, the country’s largest free to access waterfowl collection and 100 species of wild bird. The Broke Londoner says “ Primrose Hill is located a few minutes away from the north side of Regent’s Park – just across the London zoo. From Camden Town, it’s a pleasant 10 – 15 minute walk along Regent’s canal. When in the park, the slope is steep, but climbing is worth the effort, since from its 78-metre height Primrose Hill offers a clear view over Central London”
Neha–Always the Hyde Park especially by the Serpentine Lake
3) MY FAVOURITE VIEW OF LONDON……
Poulomi: Parliament Hill, Hampstead. Time Out London says “Famous for its iconic views over London, Parliament Hill is capable of reviving even the most jaded Londoner, and on a clear day, you’ll have to tiptoe over tourists and locals lounging on the grass and admiring landmarks (The Gherkin, St Paul’s) among the numerous tower blocks”
Shefali: The Aquashard bar at the Shard ( Level 31, 32 London Bridge Street London SE1 9SG)
Neha: The views from Shard are great but I prefer the view from Paramount bar on the 32nd Floor of Centrepoint tower (Paramount, Centre Point, 101-103 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1DD)
4) BEST NEIGHBOURHOOD TO EXPLORE INDEPENDENT MUSIC GIGS & UPCOMING ARTISTS
Servant’s Jazz Quarter(10A Bradbury St, London N16 8JN) Londontown.com describes it as “Despite the name, Servant Jazz Quarters is not strictly a jazz club. Instead you’ll find music from many genres at this Dalston music venue which supports innovative artists from all backgrounds, and particularly those from the Hackney area”
Cafe Otto(18-22 Ashwin St, London E8 3DL)
Vortex(11 Gillett St, London N16 8AZ) Time Out London says “The Vortex has developed a strong profile on London’s improv jazz scene and is now well known for its consistently exciting programming. Mopomoso is the improv club night to catch here”
Shefali: CAMDEN ( Here’s an interesting link on how to get to alternative music gigs in Camden ) The Forge (3-7 Delancey Street, Camden, London NW1 7NL) “ is an award-winning venue, home to London’s most diverse musical talent. Its amazingly flexible building is reflected in the great breadth of the programme, which ranges from informal jazz and comedy on a Monday to high-class concerts in mid-week and pulsating live music club nights at the weekend”
Shoreditch/ Hoxton are great for live gigs too
Elephantdrums.co.uk explores musical venues in the Shoreditch & Hoxton neighbourhoods,
Standard.co.uk has an interesting article on East London guide: music venues
5) YOUR FAVOURITE ENGLISH PUB
Poulomi– The Narrow Boat (the Narrow Boat Pub, 119 St Peters Street, Islington London N1 8PZ) is a hidden gem of a pub situated directly on Regents Canal in Islington
Shefali– Not so much English pub as Gastropub and so many to choose from
The Garrison (99 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3XB) is an award winning pub near the Borough market. Great little place calls it a gastropub
The Builders Arms(1 Kensington Ct Pl, London W8 5BJ) Time out London describes it as “Less well known than many Kensington pubs because of its location – hidden among the maze of avenues behind the High Street – this establishment has a great local feel”
Neha–Freemason arms( 32 Downshire Hill, London NW3 1N) in Hampstead heath will always remain my favourite. Its pretty interiors and massive beer garden make it a popular draw year round. Here’s what blogger Sunny in London has to say about Freemason Arms and other pubs in Hampstead Heath
6) THE BEST FISH AND CHIPS IN LONDON
Poulomi: RiverFront BFI (BFI Southbank, London, SE18XT) “their lightly battered pollock, chips, tartar sauce & minted peas” is a killer
Shefali: Sea Shell of Lisson Grove (49-51 Lisson Grove, Marylebone, London NW1 6UHM) Top table says “Marylebone restaurant The Seashell of Lisson Grove promises to fulfill the fish and chips dreams of any discerning London diner. This fabulous kitchen, according to food critic Alain Ducasse serves up ‘the best fish and chips in London”
Neha: sadly, not my thing!
7) FAVOURITE FRESH FOOD MARKET:
Poulomi: Broadway market in Hackney, East London(Broadway Market, London E8 4PH)
Spotted by Locals says “Broadway Market on a Saturday is a snapshot of what life in Hackney is all about. A true mix of styles and cultures, young and old, traditional and new. It is a microcosm of what living in a truly global city is all about and I love it”
The Londoner describes it as “ jam packed with delicious food, beautiful jewelry stands, vintage clothes, old vinyl records, buskers & street performers, local produce & more fresh fruit & veg than you can shake a stick at”
Shefali: Borough Market(8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL)
Time Out London describes it as “London’s oldest market – dating back to the thirteenth century – is also the busiest, and the most popular for gourmet goodies. Traders satisfy the city’s insatiable appetite for artisan cheeses and ham from acorn-fed pigs. If food is your thing, then Borough, with its abundance of beautifully displayed organic fruit and veg, cakes, bread, olive oil, fish, meat and booze, is the place to go”
Neha: Borough Market for its great selection of local British Cheese, fruits and vegetables.
Here’s what the Gastronogeek’s guide to London has to say about Borough market
The London Eater covers a day out in Borough market
The Borough market blog is an interesting blog written by fellow Borough market stall owners & chefs featuring interesting shops and eateries to visit within the market
8) Best place for Traditional Afternoon tea
Poulomi: Peggy Porschen in Belgravia(116 Ebury St, London SW1W 9QQ) London Town says “For excellent cakes and pastries Peggy Porschen’s shop in Belgravia is the place to go – it’s where many A-listers including Elton John, Stella McCartney and Sir Anthony Hopkins place an order when they’ve got something to celebrate”
Shefali: Tough one but based on experience it would have to be Charlotte Street Hotel (15-17 Charlotte St, London W1T 1RJ) for its “Very cool vibe and great food” and The Palm Court at the Ritz Hotel (150 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR) for its “old school glamour and service!”
Neha: Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum and Mason offers a great high tea experience. The Afternoon tea club says “Located on the store’s fourth floor and decorated throughout in calming pastel hues, this pretty tea room is the image of refinement, with clean white tablecloths and comfortable leather armchairs completing the look, whilst also adding a touch of luxury for good measure”
9) Best neighbourhood for shopping/ Favourite Department store?
Poulomi: King’s Road & Sloane square. The Street sensation says “The curved facade of Peter Jones department store marks the start of the King’s Road at Sloane Square. Nearby, on the opposite side of the road is the Duke of York pedestrian precinct and the Saatchi art gallery. The further away from Sloane Square you walk, the greater the number of smaller, independent clothes and shoe shops there are, plus a good selection of contemporary furnishing stores”
Westfield Stratford(2 Stratford Place, Montifichet Road, Olympic Park, London E20 1EJ) – there are more than 250 shops and 70 restaurants in this mini shopping city!
Shefali: Fenwicks on Bond Street(63 New Bond Street, London W1S 1RQ) for its bespoke collection for ladies
Selfridges (400 Oxford Street, Marylebone, London W1U 1AB) Urbanpath describes it as “the famous Oxford Street department store continues to keep its finger on the retail pulse as it approaches its centenary. As well as six floors of fashion, Selfridges has an ever-popular food hall, famous window displays and on-going series of exhibitions and events”
11) Best high end restaurant deal?
Shefali– There are many dining deals to be found on www.toptable.co.uk
12) Favourite place for chilled out drinking?
Poulomi– The Owl and Pussycat(34 Redchurch Street London E2 7DP) Time Out London says “ The gentrification of trendy Redchurch Street continues as this former east-end boozer returns in a familiar gastro pub guise. Fashionably mismatched Chesterfields, stripped tables and antique fittings furnish the lilac-coated main bar, which serves pints of Peroni and Heineken, a selection of four rotating ales, and wines by the glass”
Shefali: Most hotel bars, but I particularly like the Oscar Bar at Charlotte Street Hotel (15-17 Charlotte St, London W1T 1RJ) MrandMrsSmith say “The buzzy Oscar bar is popular with Bloomsbury’s media crowd for after-work cocktails and sharing plates. Perch atop a multicolor humbug-striped stool and sip an Oscar Limeade (Grey Goose vodka and apricot brandy muddled with fresh lime) with a tapas platter of chorizo, manchego and octopus, or knock back rock oysters with a glass of fizz”
Coburg Bar at the Connaught hotel(16 Carlos Pl, London W1K 2AL) Time Out London gives it a 5 star rating “The cocktail list focuses on classics, which it introduces with a brief history. Execution is flawless; two manhattans, one a ‘perfect’ version and one sweet, were the best we’ve ever had in London”
13) Favourite time of the year in London and why?
Poulomi: May through October – between Summer & Autumn
Shefali: Winter – love the coziness of wrapping up and eating amazing comfort food
Neha: Summer- if its not a wash out, plenty of time to be spent indulging in picnics at the park!
FURTHER REFERENCES & READINGS
Spotted by Locals– a great guide to London created and written by locals
The Londonist is similar to Time Out only that they now have a cult following amongst Londoners They describe themselves as “We provide everything you need to know about the capital, as well as celebrating the quirks, eccentricities, hidden and surprising bits that make up the alternative side of the city”
The Lost Londoner is an interesting alternative guide to London
I know this Great little place “is a collection of thoughts on the best in London’s unexpected special little venues and activities”
The Telegraph online edition has a plethora of interesting articles covering London’s Arts and Culture, Food & Drinks scene