Wonders of London: a Nutshell guide

London is not an easy city, not even a traditionally beautiful one, but it is full of wonders. Now that I have left, and can wax lyrical in sweet nostalgia, it was the small experiences and places that made all the bad things (e.g. astronomic rent for a mouldy box-room, daily zombiefication on the tube, diarisation with friends of Versailles treaty-intenstity and lonely weekends when everyone had a much better time than me) a little more bearable.

Below are the highlights of the past 3.5 years, as well as an easy list of places to check out if you are in need of inspiration.  I made a hobby out of exploring the city whenever I had the time: it was always worth it as it allowed me to appreciate the history and beauty that gets all too easily drowned out by the stressy, grey and impersonal day-to-day. The list excludes more touristy stuff (it is known that pretty much any show at the RA, walking the South Bank, going up St Paul’s  etc. are going to be great) so I only included things that I felt were a bit different. I do hope this will help you find your own strange routes and routines to make the city a little bit better. It also goes without saying that one of the key attractions is the diversity of food in town so it is a great way of passing time, so I also included the list of my favourite places to eat your stress away.

Routes and routines

– Walking from Bethnal Green to Kensington to see all the facets of London

– Hitting Regent’s Canal from Little Venice to Victoria Park

– Hiking the heath from Hampstead to Highgate, with pints at the Holly Bush

– Pretending to be a morbid romantic in Highgate Cemetery, on a gloomy November day

– Taking in the high life at Kensington Roof Gardens

– Surviving Bermondsey’s Beer mile

– Feeding the travel-bug at Daunt books

– Admiring the view from Primrose hill in the morning and at night (extra points if you manage to run up the hill)

– Feeling on top of it all at the Sky Garden in Walkie Talkie

– Getting lost in Clerkenwell and Farrigdon and seeing the St john’s Gate and St Bartholomew-the-great

– Listening to the quaint ancient fountain in the Fountain court of the Temple bar

– Relaxing with koi Japanese garden in Holland park

– Raving in Ally-Pally and the Roundhouse

– Walking around the Barbican and its conservatory, preferably in a black turtle neck

– Indulging in high tea at the Connaught and later sipping cocktails at the Connaught bar (The American bar in Savoy was a good alternative)

– Feeling like a kid watching the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House

– Gobbling bagles on Brick lane after midnight

– Feeling foodieish Broadway market and having the best chicken of my life at Butchies

– Feeling fashionable at Exmouth market while devouring the Red Curry from their Thai truck

– Chilling outside the Monocle cafe, trying to spot celebs at the Chiltern fire house

– Entering the vortex of weirdness in Bethnal green working man’s club

– Spotting yummy-mummies at Duke of York square saturday market

– Gallery hopping in Mayfair (Blain/Southern is usually amazing)

– Realising that 99% of contemporary art is actually crap at Frieze London

– Skating at Somerset house

– Cream Tea and architecture in V&A’s Morris room

– Chilling in a Pall Mall club

– Relaxing in Cafe Royal’s David Chipperfield spa

– Very late dinner/ early breakfast at the Duck and Waffle

– Admiring St Pauls’s from the roof of One New Change

– Swimming with the cool kids at London Fields Lido

– Being shouted at by the small waiter with a huge voice while ordering a fry-up at Art-deco Regency cafe

– Feeling like a kid in Fortnum and Masons at Christmas

– Urgan farming in Hackney

– Dreaming of a an unlimited budget at Conran shops in Marylebone and Chelsea

Additional sights of interest

Leighton house (Kensington)- House of a famous Victorian artist with dazzling orientalist rooms

Kew Gardens (Kew)- world’s most impressive botanical gardens. Also worth popping to much closer Chelsea Physic Gardens

Esoterick collection (Cannonbury) – great collection of Italian futurists tucked away in leafy Cannonbury

Cortauld gallery (Strand) – Amazing collection of Impressionists in Somerset house

Soane museum (Holborn)- Impressive house of an eccentric and probably anally retentive 19th century architect (of Bank of England fame)

Hampton court and gardens – the best royal palace I’ve seen

Curzon Mayfair (Mayfair)- Art-house cinema in a beautiful 70s setting

Westminster Cathedral (Victoria) – a Neo-byzantine beauty of a catholic church


Barrafina (Drury lane) – Great, albeit overpriced tapas

Lurra (Marble Arch) – Hip place with great Northern Spanish seafood

Franco Manca (Brixton market) – The home of London’s best pizza, which is par with Neapolitan pizzeria in quality, charm and queue length

Alio e Olio (Fulham road) – Great local italian

Princi (Berwick Street) – Stylish yet unfussy Italian bakery in the heart of Soho

Caffee Caldesi (Marylebone Lane) – Great local Italian with very warm service

Gokyuzu (Green Lanes) – Great, inexpensive Turkish with bread to die for

Ishtar (Crawford street) – Very good Turkish in Marylebone

Honey & Co (Fitzrovia) – Israeli home-cooked wonder by a husband/wife due who trained with Ottolenghi

Nopi (Warwick street) – Unpretentious, but beautifully designed restaurant by my beloved Yotam Ottolenghi, a place for vegetarians torejoice

Kopapa (Seven Dials) – Delectable Kiwi cuisine by the people who brought us Providroes

Lowlander (Long Acre)- Belgium beer pub serving tasty grub

The Smokehouse (Cannonbury) – Meat specialists with a beautiful garden and even prettier selection of beers

Cooke’s Eel shop (Broadway Market) – Included more for the shock value, it is a rare authentic East London eel, pie and mash shop

Fryers delight (Holborn) – the best chips in an authentic 70s setting

Dirty Burger shed (Kentish Town) – Burgers are awesome, but the fact that they made a shack that makes you feel like a mid-western steel worker deserves all the priase

Patty and Bun (James street) – Slightly overhyped, but the sauces in Burgers are truly something

Meat Market (Covent Garden) – part of the Meatliquor chain, but sans the queue and right in the middle of things

Bleecker st burgers (Spitalfields Market) – Worth a visit for their black pudding burger

Tayyabs (Whitechapel) – A London institution: you will probably need to burn your clothes after the experience, but will have had amazing lamb-chops and naans

Rasa (Derring street, by Bond street tube) – Great cheap South Indian just off Oxford Street

Woodlands (Marylebone lane) – Really light vegetarian Indian fare

Trishna (Marylebone) – Stylish and worth every premium penny you pay, especially for daal and guinea-fowl biryani

Gymkhana (Mayfair) – Same owners as Trishna, this time with game and a colonial-club feel

Govinda (Soho square) – run by Hare Krishna temple, you get a goof thali for £10

Bao (Soho) – Hyped Taiwanese buns, worth a half-hour wait

Tokyo Diner (Leicester square) – Cheap but reliable Japanese with an authentic flair

Attari-ya (James street) – Cheap good Sushi just off Oxford street

The Heron (Edgware road) – very authentic Thai at the bottom of a council estate pub, where the the smell of food only slightly overpowers the smell of the floor (still it is an experience)

Money and Me (Crawford street) – Decent friendly neighbourhood Thai

Spicy basil (Kilburn high road) – Great eatery with a Pad Thai to die for

Royal Oak (Marylebone) – my local and favourite. A true pub experience with quirky staff, and best burgers around (NB: Wednesday is wings day and the Korean wings are off the charts)

Punch and Judy (Fleet street) – great burgers and ales

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (Fleet street) – A true rabbit warren of a pub, but the place to go for is the old room with the firepalce

Three kings (Farringdon) – nutty pub with a Rhino on the wall and London’s best Nachos

The Lockhart (Edgware road) – Great whiskey selection, also famous for ribs (but I wasn’t convinced on that point)

Lamb and Flag (Covent Garden) – A rarely historic west end pub with plaques commemorating old patrons

The Harp (Charring Cross) – A must for all ale-lovers

The White Horse (Parsons Green) – aka the Sloaney Pony, amazing selection of beer and pastel-coloured trousers

Admiral Codrinton (Chelsea) – Amazing burgers tucked away from Kings Road insanity

The Enterprise (Chelsea) – Chelsea institution

Mitre tavern (Farringdon) – One of London’s oldest pubs, very difficult to find

The Mayflower (Canada Water) – Atmospheric historic pub

Lantana (Charlotte place) – One of the original Aussie eateries very popular but worth the wait if only for the crack cakes

Providores (Marylebone high street) – Great Kiwi place with amazing Turkish eggs

Granger (Notting hill) – Great breakfast by Australia’s star chef, but more memorable for the fashionable crew in the queue

Ottloenghi (Notting hill) – Selection of London’s best salads and pastries, ideally eaten at the adjoining square while watching beautiful people of Notting Hill swan by

Il Blandford’s (Chiltern street) – a Sicilian family-run enterprise with amazing coffee and great fry-up

Coffee and cake

Monocle cafe (Chiltern street) – my local and favourite: lovely staff, and London’s best muesli (well paired with cardamom buns)

Workshop (Farringdon) – the original temple to great coffee

Kaffeine (Great Titchfield street) – great coffee

Brill (Exmouth market) – music shop, cakes and great coffee, what’s not to like

Holborn grind (Holborn) – best in the chain

Department for coffee and social affairs (Clerkenwell) – great coffee if you manage to find a seat between the rows upon rows of Mac-toting students

Dash (Caledonian road) – small reliable coffee place by King’s cross

Gelupo (Archer street) – hands-down best gelato in London do not leave without trying the Bonnet

Aux Pains de Pappy (Gray’s Inn) – a French family run boulangerie responsible for London’s best croissants

Fabrique (Hoxton) – London bakery of a Stockholm chain

Fleet River Cafe (Holborn) – great cafe tucked away behind Kingsway

2 thoughts on “Wonders of London: a Nutshell guide

  1. “preferably in a black turtle neck” love it!

    Confound it, now I’mma have to go back and fill in all the blanks… class list this!

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