City Guides: London

London is the coolest city in the world.

There. I said it.

Even as a New York native, I can comfortably admit that London has got it going on. Although only brought to light by recent international attention (Royal Weddings and Birthdays, the Olympics, Kate getting knocked up...) in typically British fashion, a culture that has been quietly reinvigorating, reinventing, and gathering momentum for a while now has really hit its stride. And nowhere moreso than the food scene.

I left London in Autumn 2012, and even now there are a zillion new openings I'm dying to try (hello, Quality Chop House, etc etc.). So this is by no means an exhaustive list, but merely a few of my favorites. Give them a go.

Oh, and when in doubt, hop onto Hot Dinners for new openings and follow @Tweat_Up for fun happenings.


TO EAT

Lingering breakfasts:
  • Towpath - for summer mornings in the sun on the edge of Regent's Canal
  • L'Eau a La Bouche - the only spot for food and people-watching on market mornings
  • Lantana - coffee and corn fritters with slow-roasted tomatoes and bacon. The end.
  • Caravan Exmouth Market - more Antipodean goodness
  • Del Aziz Parsons Green - piles of pastries in a Moroccan-flavored market

Cheap and cheerful:
  • Maroush - the best late-night shwarma fix. I might have an addiction...
  • Mien Tay - the best Vietnamese on 'Pho Mile' (also BYO)
  • Cay Tre - Vietnamese with an edge
  • Lucky Chip at the Sebright Arms - burgers + craft beers in a pub. Brilliant.
  • Pitt Cue Co. Soho - Southern-style BBQ done good
  • MEATLiquor - the original dirty burger in a dirtier dive
  • Burger + Lobster Soho - yes, lobster for "cheap"

The New British:
  • St John Bread + Wine - the low-key brother of the restaurant that started it all
  • Rochelle Canteen - blissful simplicity
  • Hawksmoor Seven Dials - the best of the bunch of clubby steak spots, all tobacco and leather
  • Tramshed - Mark Hix's new venture, serving just steak or chicken

New London Classics:
  • All of Russell Norman's creations - Polpo, Mishkin's...
  • Koya - the original udon-ya (be prepared to wait)
  • Brawn - natural wine and fantastic French
  • Bocca di Lupo - only a hop away from the best gelato in London at Gelupo

Parents are in town:
  • The Wolseley - THE brunch. Natch.
  • The Modern Pantry - effortless elegance at any time of day
  • Hix Soho - for brilliant British while surrounded by cool contemporary art
  • Ottolenghi - the most delicious Middle Eastern to pack for a picnic (plus the pastries! Swoon!)
  • J. Sheekey - an immortal classic

Sunday lunch:
  • The Bull + Last - The Perfect Pub #1 
  • The Anchor + Hope - The Perfect Pub #2

True originals:

  • 40 Maltby Street - natural wine and simple fare in the wine storage arch itself (and my favorite restaurant in London)
  • Mama Irene at Lennie's Snack Bar - Thai homecooking from a true character
  • Story Deli - cracker-thin pizzas in an artsy studio space
  • EatSt, now Kerb - a rotating line-up of street vendors in Kings Cross


TO DRINK


Serious coffee:
  • Tapped + Packed - a surplus of handlebars, both of the fixie and mustache variety
  • Monmouth - the original artisan London coffee co.
  • Lantana - again.
  • Caravan - and again.

Proper cocktails:
  • Dukes Hotel - for the perfect martini
  • St John Smithfields - for the perfect negroni
  • Mark's Bar - for the perfect anything else

Speakeasy-types:
  • Happiness Forgets - literally underground with none of the pretension
  • Nightjar - Golden Age decadence (with jazz!)
  • Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown - a sneakily central spot

Lazy Sunday afternoons:
  • Crate Brewery - although out there (E9), the canal-side situation, craft brews, and perfect pizza more than make up for it
  • The Owl + the Pussycat - a solid pub with a great beer garden
  • The Cat + Mutton - another Broadway Market
  • The Spaniards Inn - an atmospheric haunt on the Heath
  • The Harwood Arms - the best scotch eggs in London

TO DO

Markets:
  • Portobello Road Market (Friday-Sunday, but ideally on a Friday as to avoid the crushing crowds)
  • Broadway Market (Saturdays) - people-watch from La Bouche or go to Ca Phe and Violet Cakes for (strong Vietnamese) coffee and cake canalside
  • Maltby Street (Saturdays) - Monmouth coffee, St John Bakery, and everything else delicious
  • Columbia Road Flower Market (Sundays) - Cockney accents + something sweet from Lili Vanilli's bakeshop

A little 'kultcha':

  • Tate Modern
  • Royal Academy of Arts
  • The Natural History Museum
  • Soane Museum
  • Galleries along and around Redchurch Street

Walks:

  • String the above together by region and wander away! Favorite routes include those through East London for weekend marketing, Southeast London (from Maltby Street, through Bermondsey and along the Southbank) for food + culture, and The Heath for long walks and longer lunches.

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