Saturday, August 19th, 2017

London Favourites

Although I don’t live in London, I visit it very often for my sanity. Coming from a large city originally (Glasgow), I find where I currently live (Cambridge) stuffy and boring. Luckily I’m a 48min train journey away from London and make the most of it when I can (usually at weekends)- even visiting for a few hours I always return in a good mood. What I particularly like is the hustle and bustle you have on main streets and the contrast when you jump a street or two back and find how quiet it is. Oh, and I’m a very impatient person who when they decide they want something needs instant gratification – only London can offer me that (try buying even the simplest thing in Cambridge and you’ll be disappointed !).

So, onto a list of my favourite places…

1. What do I show new people in London ?

Well of course that depends on what the person likes / dislikes. However, everyone likes a skyline, a bit of shopping, and some food / drinks. So here’s my top 6 things to do:

  • London Eye – a total must even if the weather isn’t that great.Anyone who doesn’t do this in London is missing out. Part of the reason I like it is that you can see all the major sites in a single viewing, but also that it’s the only way of getting a feel for actually how small London is ! (take the tube and you’ll think it is some vast outward place). Top tip – book in advance and buy a ‘Fast Track’ ticket to avoid a queue and wasting your day – it’s worth it.
  • All-Bar-One beside the London Eye (1 Chicheley Street). So okay, not quite your stereotypical British Pub, but the food and service is good and it’s near the tube and also the London Eye. Ideal if it’s raining.
  • Mayfair (take tube to Green Park). I love this area of London- especially because it usually isn’t that busy. If you like Parks, Hyde Park is within a throw, you can get a tourist bus. You also have the Ritz as a casual passing point. Fortnum and Mason is great for tourist gifts (esp. for foodies) and also traditional British food in a nice environment (i.e. not microwaved by someone on minimum wage).  You can then have a number of shopping opportunities onwards….
  • Hamleys in Regent Street (for people with kids, or big kids !). Great for buying British toys based on the British characters that kids abroad seem to like.
  • (New) Bond Street – good for window shopping and allowing people to buy upmarket goods given the Tax-Free system (with the shopping list from the spouse).
  • Onto Oxford Street for some general shopping, avoid the cheap side (right hand side towards Tottenham Court Road) as it’s full of naff tourist shops.  There are plenty of bars and restaurants around.

2. Food and Drink

Sadly as I don’t live in London I don’t have enough opportunities to eat out well (I think Cambridge had a good restaurant once and they closed it down). Therefore, I’m not at all an authority on places to eat. However, here’s a list of places I go fairly regularly:

  • Mainstream British - Fortnum and Mason. Just along from Green Park Tube. When I need something easy and a nice peaceful environment for comfort food I’ll go here. Has changed decor in the past few years, but the service is still great. Expect traditional British fare cooked well and with good service (at a price). Also does afternoon tea (never tried).
  • Korean – Asadal (Downstairs, beside Holborn Tube). Good service here, always get a table, food is good.
  • Upmarket Chinese – Hakkasan (Hanway Place, just off Tottenham Court Road). Has to be the most upmarket vs. surroundings place I have ever visited. Good food and nice atmosphere (bit noisy). You’ll have to have a booking (they check your name before you even enter).
  • Mainstream Chinese – Royal China (Baker Street). Bit Cantonese for my liking, but they have a number of ‘traditional’ British Chinese dishes plus good Cantonese food.
  • Thai – Eat Thai (St Chrisopher’s Place, off Oxford Street). One word – amazing. I particularly like the sirloin beef they do. Best Thai food I’ve had outside of Thailand.
  • “I’m hungry and just want some food and drink” – All-Bar-One just up from Oxford Circus. Fairly good atmosphere and okay food, plus a good drinks selection. Unlike most All-Bar-One’s in London they seem to actually wash the windows which helps pass time with a view.
  • “I want to eat with more London People” – Coco Momo (Marylebone High Street). I just tried this place last weekend (from Winners Dinners – and no I don’t read regularly) and it was fantastic. Good atmosphere, burger was great, staff friendly. Pretty cheap for London. There are also a number of nice shops in the surrounding area.

I’ll add more to the list as I remember them. Of course now I need to go and eat something as all this talk of food is making me hungry !

3. Shopping

London is amazing for shopping in that there are so many specialist shops that sell absolutely everything, add to that a range of department stores and you’ve got it made.

  • Shopping – Gadgets. Tottenham Court Road is the main shopping area here. I have fond memories as a child coming down to London and spending days wandering this area with my dad. You can get some great prices here, but you have to know what you want and how much you want to pay. Be prepared to pay cash if you want the best deals. There’s a great shop (Shymatronics) at the bottom end that stocks pretty much every IBM/Lenovo genuine accessory you want. Micro Anvika (has several shops, including an Apple store) is good but can be pricey.