The wonderful thing about living in an old city like London is that you never know what you’re going find. Explore the winding streets of Covent Garden, the narrow enclaves of Soho or the colourful mews of Belgravia and you could discover something wonderful. A place that makes the perfect porridge, delivers a stunning afternoon tea or somewhere that serves sushi that’s every bit as good as the top London restaurants but it’s half the price. I’ve now lived in London for over ten years and in that time I’ve uncovered some wonderful hidden gems either by aimlessly wandering, word of mouth or a chance invitation. In this post I’m working with Expedia, the UK’s top online travel provider, to show you my favourite hidden gems in my home city to help travellers avoid the obvious places and find somewhere special to eat.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know I’m basically sushi queen and I love revisiting my favourites Roka, Zuma and Nobu but I have some suggestions if you want to seek out some independent and more unique places. Dinings in Marylebone is somewhere that you could very easily walk past, with a discreet entrance on Harcourt Street, it’s very easy to miss. But make sure you don’t!
Despite the restaurant’s simple, intimate interior that mimics a traditional Japanese Izakaya, the food is anything but simple. On the menu is a fusion of Japanese tapas with modern European cuisine, for example I love the tartar chips with fatty tuna and jalapeno mayo. Also be sure to check out the truffle ice cream, I don’t think I’ve seen it anywhere else!
Another great neighbourhood sushi place, and a rather recent discovery for me, was Koji in Parson’s Green.
There’s an open kitchen so that you can watch the sushi masters at work as you eat the mouthwatering food that they create. We absolutely loved the prawn gyozas but make sure you order a few of the cocktails as they serve the most amazing Porn Star Martini.
Finally if you’re shopping in Soho, a sushi place not to pass is Dozo. I had a fantastic lunch there with Lauren a few months ago and I still recall that sushi platter with delight.
The great thing about Dozo is that the food has all the quality and freshness of some of the big name sushi restaurants but minus the whopping price tag.
Ahh… brunch…perhaps a blogger’s favourite meal…and while I love the iconic brunch places such as The Wolseley or The Delaunay, they can often be pricey and it can be difficult to get a booking. I recently discovered Blixen in Spitalfields, an absolutely gorgeous restaurant with a garden theme.
Though I’ve only been for lunch, brunch queens Emma and Rebecca claim Blixen is one of their favourite brunch places and I can just imagine spending the morning there
playing on Twitter reading a book and enjoying avocado and spinach on the perfect potato rosti.
I’ve mentioned before, one thing that I love about brunch is the totally random nature of it. Have a stroll around Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill and you’ll come across 202 London, it’s part fashion retailer, part book store and part marvellous modern brunch place.
A creature of habit, I loved their smoked salmon bagel, served with a good dollop of cream cheese while Mr S enjoyed a plate of sizzling fajitas…I told you it was random.
If coffee’s your thing, Caravan in King’s Cross is famous for its home roasted coffee using beans sourced from around the world. All the beans at Caravan are bought in from farms in the speciality coffee market with an emphasis on freshness and quality but also sustainability and fair trade.
What makes Caravan a bit different is the cool industrial interior that looks like a converted factory with open pipework, concrete floors and an unfinished ceiling. The brunch menu is also so much more than your standard eggs benny and pancakes with options such as coconut bread, lemon curd cream cheese and rhubarb or courgette and corn fritters.
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many afternoon teas in my whole life as I have in the last two years of writing my blog. But it has given me a chance to try some really interesting new places and sample the most unique offerings rather than the usual suspects. Afternoon tea at one of London’s top hotels can be super pricey but The Firmdale Hotels offer some great luxe for less options. I absolutely love these hotels with their eclectic interior all individually designed by owner Kit Kemp in her own unique style.
The Covent Garden Hotel is one of my favourites in the Firmdale group and with the tea priced at £28 it’s much less expensive than the ultra luxurious London hotels and every bit as good in quality. I’d also highly recommend the film club here, a great deal as you get a two course meal and a glass of wine for £40.
No.11 Cadogan Gardens is an option for tea at a more unique venue. The hotel is located along one of the mews streets just off Sloane Square and has all the charm of a traditional Victorian Townhouse. It was actually built by Lord Chelsea in the 19th Century and at the time was the perfect hideaway for Victorian aristocrats, politicians and celebrities.
I love the drawing room where tea is served and the hotel provides the perfect refuge from the busy shopping areas of Sloane Square and the King’s Road.
Finally, if you want an afternoon tea that’s a bit of a break from the traditions of standard finger sandwiches and scones, I’d highly recommend the Spanish themed tea at Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, the Michelin-starred restaurant at The Halkin Hotel.
Rather than the usual three-tiered tower there’s a Spanish tapas selection followed by a tasty choice of desserts, all for a rather reasonable £32.
There are so many bars in London, many of which are chain places or just rather uninspiring. I absolutely love the more unusual places, especially those that relate to my number one passion; travel. I’ve recently fallen in love with Mr Fogg’s Tavern in Covent Garden. There’s a lively pub on the ground floor and a more sedate Gin Salon on the upper level. Decorated with souvenirs from the travels of the eponymous Mr Fogg, there’s something interesting to see in every corner of the room. For drinks, I particularly loved the Trans-Siberian Express cocktail which contains a heady blend of vodka, crème de framboise, lemon, pineapple juice and a topping of champagne.
Cahoots in Kingly Court is another one of my favourite travel themed bars, the setting is based on an out of use 1940’s underground station. Here you can really get into the spirit of the Blitz enjoying cocktails served in unusual receptacles such as tea pots, milk bottles and thermos flasks.
My last travel-themed gem is The Booking Office in the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
Located in what was once the busy ticket office for St Pancras station, The Booking Office actually overlooks the train platform so you can watch as the trains pull quietly into the station. Unmissable here are the punches which are based on old recipes that celebrate the bar’s Victorian roots. Check out the champagne punch made with Somerset Cider Brandy, Marachino liqueur, Orange Curacao, homemade orange and lemon sherbet and a whole bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne….
Do you know any hidden gems? What are your favourite unique or off-the-wall places?
Expedia are working with 12 food influencers around the world to uncover the coolest hidden hotspots, unique restaurants and secret gems. To find out more visit the Expedia Blog.
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