The Weekly Getaway: London, a city transformed
London had always been central to a tourist's roadmap. Recently though, with internationalism reaching its peak (what Brexit?) and the influx of creative minds, London has started looking its hippiest.
Starting with London's East, the city transformed in the last 5-10 years towards more attitude and less glitz. Even Marylebone, Fitzrovia and Soho these days are being infused with outlets of those early establishments from Angel and Shoreditch that made London cool again.
Central - Marylebone, Fitzrovia and Soho
Home to millions of toursists each day, this urban and busy-feel part of London has recently started acquiriing a more hip look thanks to an influx of food and drinks outlets alike. Where once places like Sketch, Hakkasan and Le Relais De Venise thrived, there is now simple yet powerful statements of coffee culture in the likes of hip-looking joints from Workshop, Kaffeine and Monocle café.
Yes, shopping is indeed still there as an option but especially in Marylebone there's a sense of a new era. Maybe, American hotelier André Balazs had something to do with it when he launched his first British establishment in 2013 at the old Marylebone Fire Station and introduced Chiltern Firehouse, headed by chef Nuno Mendes.
As you go south, Soho has gotten a revamped look with a lot more food options ranging from the Italian cheap comfort food, think Princi, to the more sophisticated Peruvian-inspired Japanese Chotto Matte.
West - Notting Hill and Kensington
West was always a bit of a eurotrash situation but what we you do... Hugh Grant and the Royal family aside, the green is indeed greener on this other side! Whether it's venturing out for a stroll through Kensington Gardens, or burning some calories on the London bikes, Hyde Park is always a great idea for a getaway from all the smog.
Recently, the area around Notting Hill has also gotten kind of an upgrade. Portobello rd still fills with antiques, groceries and other collectibles on Saturdays but there are things to do. Most notably, you can indulge (err - is this the right word?!) in a healthy breakfast or brunch at Farmacy London. Fresh interiors and a crowd of bloggers stepping on their chairs in order to capture the best shot. Otherwise, grab a small bite from Fabrique London bakery.
East - City, Shoreditch and Borough
Walking up to Shoreditch from Brick Lane you can get a dose of brilliant graffiti, and also get a glimpse of where this whole notion of East London started from. Yes, you can still catch the infamous Beigel Bake, the 24-hour bakery known for their traditional Jewish-style salt beef filled bagels. If you're there during the weekend, you shouldn't miss Columbia Rd Flower Market where you'll definitely find not only flowers but real tasty small bites.
- Tate Modern - recently opened its new building, definitely worth a visit
- Borough Market - great Saturday walk, especially if you're a foodie. There is fresh produce and great bars around to have a pint or two
- Dover Street Market - ultra hip, expensive and sleek design market that has now moved to Haymarket. Perfect spot for some high end shopping
- The Hoxton Holborn - after catching everyone's attention in Shoreditch, the group has opened a new albeit smaller outelet in Holborn, offering the same atmosphere but better coffee... nextdoors at Holbron Grind
- The Edition - located in the heart of the city, between Oxford Circus and Tottenham Ct Rd, the London Edition is the epitome of good vibes in a posh but flirty ambience
- Chiltern Firehouse - located in one of the first purpose-built fire stations in London, dating from 1889, Chiltern Firehouse was carefully restored by hotelier André Balazs (Mercer Hotel NYC) offering 26 elegantly luxurious rooms
- The Hari - (former Belgraves Hotel) a boutique hotel in Belgravia which offers a peaceful location just off Pont street with many option around Elizabeth street on one side and Sloane street on the other
- Patty & Bun - perfectly juicy sloppy burgers in this fast going joint; make sure you queue up before London dinnertime to get a table fast
- Chotto Matte - Peruvian-inspired Japanese restaurant, grill and sushi bar with amazing variety to go with that. The atmosphere is buzzing, the music is loud and the grill fire is on, right in front of the tastadas bar which is exactly the spot you want to get!
- Flat Iron - dead simple and insanely tasty menu of... flat iron steak and fries. If you're lucky you may stubmle upon a daily special burger... deep-fried! Brace yourself
- Park Chinois - elegant posh Chinese restaurant with live music upstairs, dark loud music club (also serving food) downstairs. Opulent patrons and a beautiful crowd to go with it. Don't miss the duck!
- Farmacy - healthy frenzy in this bright space just off Notting Hill. Even Mohamed Al Fayed is into gluten-free bread these days. Make sure you get a reservation for breakfast/bvrunch during the weekend
Coffee, Brunch and Small Eats
- Workshop Coffee - fine artisan espresso coffee that started out in Clerkenwell rd and now expanding west... recently also launched a 3,500 square foot roastery space. They're offering Coffee Masterclasses if you're interested in this craft
- Kaffeine - indipendent Aussi/Kiwi-owned cofee shop with an industrial feel that gives more attention to the brew rather than the decor
- Grind - originally founded in Shoreditch in 2011, this group of espresso bars offers tasty espresso, equal to that of Italian's espresso bar. Holborn Grind is part of The Hoxton Holborn rumored to be the best - try the espresso martini if you dare!
- Nordic Bakery - infamous cinnamon buns you don't want to miss. Try the outlet in Golden Square and enjoy some of that London sunshine
- Lantana Cafe - opened up first in Shoreditch, this breakfast place has everyone queuing up for hours. Best to visit the Fitzrovia outlet and order the avocado poached eggs
- Daylesford Organic Cafe - originally launched 35 years ago, this farm based out of Cotswolds has made great progress in the brunch scene of London in white marble decor and tasty organic eggs all around
- Bao Fitzrovia - authentic Taiwan food joint with the original Gua Baos! You may have to wait in line... good news, their latest venture (Soho, Netil 360) is a bit less crowed