London is the quintessential cosmopolitan city, often associated as the hub of the world. The city has the buzz of a busy metropolis like New York, the cultural diversity of a city like Toronto, a pulse on fashion like Paris and a history that is steeped in tradition (just tea-sing!). While London has no shortage of iconic sites and well known restaurants, enlisting the help of a local is one of the best ways to explore the city’s lesser known spots and emerging trends. Armed with recommendations from a dear friend, Cassondra – a Toronto export residing in London, I recently spent a couple of days exploring the city and gathered a couple of noteworthy spots from my jaunt to share with you.
No trip to London should be complete without brunch at Granger & Co. This hugely popular Australian based restaurant has three locations. I’ve frequented the one in Notting Hill on every visit to London, sometimes multiple times within a given day! With lines around the corner starting early in the morning and an occasional celebrity or royal family sighting (oh hi Harry!), the cheerfully bright interior packed with beautiful floral arrangements are a perfect setting for a leisurely Sunday brunch.
British chef Yotam Ottolenghi has made quite a name for himself within the London circuit. His food empire consists of his eponymous London restaurants, countless cookbooks, a catering company, and television shows. His Middle Eastern inspired cuisine is not just visually pleasing, it’s downright delicious. With a number of restaurants scattered around London, my favorite spot is the small take-out spot tucked away in Notting Hill. The baked goods lined up along the windows are a sure treat to go along with your afternoon tea.
An awe-inspiring and breath-taking beautiful gallery, housed in London’s posh Edition Hotel, is the centre of the dining experience at Berner’s Tavern. Michelin stared chef Jason Atherton, serves customers with an experience like none other. If the decadent twist on traditional British fare doesn’t blow you away, the beautiful interior will.
While I had read about London’s emerging Peruvian food scene, it was much to my surprise when I went to dinner with Cassondra and I found out that she had selected a Peruvian restaurant for our night out in Soho. Packed to the rafters, the restaurant offers a tapas style menu complete with – you guessed it – a sizeable ceviche bar. The menu also included a variety of meat and vegetarian options, complete with ingredients such as tiger’s milk, nasturtium leaves, and other such items that I later had to look up on Wikipedia. Rich in flavor, this restaurant offers a great way to sample Peruvian cuisine in an energetic and lively environment.
Nothing is quite as exciting as gaining entry into an otherwise secret locale. This is precisely what we stumbled up on at The Blind Spot at St Martin’s Lane Hotel. Tucked away with a secret entrance, this cocktail bar is a hidden sanctuary amongst the bustle of Covent Garden. Offering guests a host of specially crafted drinks, this lounge provides customers with a vibe of exclusivity without any pretentiousness.
While I find that spending a couple of days in London cannot do justice to this great city, it can certainly provide a rich taste of what a modern European city has to offer. So brush up on your British slang, hop across the pond and don’t forget to check out some of my recommendations above – I’m sure you will have an ace of a time!