London’s Most Incredible Restaurants

London has a vibrant dining scene offering traditional English as well as delicious cuisines from around the world. The capital has rapidly adapted with well-developed restaurants. Some establishments serve tasty delicacies in elegant spaces perfect for fine dining. Recently, world-class and celebrity chefs have descended on the capital adding to the culinary attraction. New restaurants are offering boundary-pushing four-course menus with excellent service and presentation as well as affordable, quick meals on the go.

You can tell good restaurants by how popular and packed they are at peak dining hours. There are also industry benchmarks that rank restaurants according to the quality of culinary excellence, service delivery, and the overall dining experience. Let us look at some of the best places to eat in the capital, according to travel expert D. Scott Carruthers.

1. The Ledbury

The restaurant features a contemporary setting. It has been recognized with two Michelin stars and has been serving great dishes since 2012. The eatery has won numerous industry awards for exceptional cuisine and service. Some of the honors include recognition by Restaurant Magazine, S. Pellegrino, Zagat and the Sunday Times. The atmosphere is elegant and laidback; it says class without having to scream about it.

2. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

The celebrity chef, restaurateur, and author runs a vibrant flagship eatery along Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea. It is friendly to people with various allergies. You only have to talk to the server about the ingredients you would prefer to skip. The dishes are made with fresh and seasonal ingredients to bring out the best flavors in modern French cooking. The eatery opened its doors in 1998 and remodeled the interior in 2013.

3. Pollen Street Social

Welcome to modern high dining in Mayfair. The restaurant has a sharp focus on the customer and is an excellent spot for the busy executive to socialize. It strives to make formal dining fun and enjoyable without the associated stiffness. The interior décor reflects this attitude. The cuisine is mostly a fusion of English and French dishes packed with bold taste and texture. It has won multiple awards such as Time Out, Food and Travel Magazine and Good Food Guide.

4. The Greenhouse

One of the best places to load up on French and modern European delicacies in Mayfair. The setting is luxurious and discreet with a spacy outdoor segment, creating a serene oasis in the heart of the district. The chefs have fantastic presentation and inspiration. It is one of the few fine-dining spots to boast a Wine Spectator Grand Award for offering high-quality wines.

5. Restaurant Story

The eatery takes classic British dining to the next level with a choice of either six-course or ten-course menus. The idea is a storybook with many different chapters. The patron chef Tom Sellers pushes his story through an evolving tasting menu and seasonal specials. In line with the story theme, each meal is a chapter in the book that courses through childhood, sea, land, garden, the end, and various snacks.

Conclusion

London has multiple exciting and compelling dining experiences. From the traditional gourmet districts of Soho to Convent Garden and Mayfair, there is a tasty match for every discerning palate. There are options for high dining through to down-to-earth, affordable eats. The above will help you get started on your journey to find the best spot that makes you go back repeatedly.

Taking inspiration from the celebs with holidays in London

Physic Gardens in London

London is a great place to visit regardless of the season and one that is full of hidden gems. With Christmas almost upon us, now is the time to begin planning a decedent escape, and if you wish to go truly over the top why not look to celebrities such as Richard Rogers, Kim Cattrall and Jon Snow for inspiration?

Physic Garden in London

The Physic Garden

Kim Cattrall is said to be a big fan of the Physic Garden – an area of beauty and educational purposes. Situated in Chelsea, this particular garden boasts various events. You can even learn a little about how plants are used in medicine by an abundance of cultures, including the Chinese, the Maori and the North American Indians.

Thomas Hardy’s Tree

Jon Snow is often spotted in the capital, with one of his favourite hangouts said to be Thomas Hardy’s Tree. When the North-East Railway derailed and took out a large part of St Pancras Church Graveyard, Thomas Hardy was given the task of numbering the scattered gravestones. After sculpting Roman numerals on each, he stacked them around an old ash tree, where they still remain today.

Sir John Soane’s Museum

When in London, Norman Foster will often take a trip to Sir John Soane’s Museum – an area celebrated for its mastery of space. From drawings and curiosities to layers of sculptures and galleries, this is a fascinating place to visit.

The Print Room

This quaint venue, located just off Westbourne Grove, is a favourite of Lady Antonia Fraser. Aside from the entrance being hidden away, you certainly feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a secret theatre and one that boasts an abundance of revolutionary shows.

The Tate Modern

Richard Rogers is often seen wandering the Tate Modern, described as one of the best cultural centres in Europe. Aside from boasting the perfect setting, the Tate is also home a wide collection of contemporary masterpieces.

Getting to London is easy, especially as there are an abundance of routes to choose from. From planes to trains, there are many forms of transport operating in and around the area and an abundance of hotels, trips and attractions.

Where to best experience London’s nightlife

The Mayflower pub - the oldest on the River Thames

Calling all party people – the London club scene is hotter than ever right now, so it’s the perfect time to take a trip, especially if you never been before.

We know reading’s not all that hip, but we’re sure you’ll be glad you took a minute to browse this blog post, and find out all about the best London pubs, bars and clubs to visit.

The Mayflower pub - the oldest on the River Thames

The Pub

The Mayflower, “the oldest pub on the River Thames

There has been a pub on the Rotherhithe site – which is now home to The Mayflower – for hundreds of years. It is every inch the traditional London pub, complete with oak beams and wooden panelling, plus a gorgeous view of the Thames from the upmarket upstairs dining room. There’s also an excellent pub quiz!

The Wine Bar

Gordon’s Wine Bar

As the oldest wine bar in London, Gordon’s is conveniently placed a stone’s throw from Embankment tube station. This quirky establishment is almost entirely underground – with exposed brickwork, flickering candlelight and a great atmosphere all adding to the experience. The variety of wines is vast, choose something classic and French or, a highlight, the fortified wine drawn directly from casks behind the bar.

The Cocktail Bar

Callooh Callay

From the cassette tapes which decorate the toilet walls to the Narnia-style wardrobe you can walk through, this trendy Shoreditch bar screams out for party people to come and play. Hidden on a cobbled East London side street, Callooh Callay offers superb cocktails and even better puns – try best-seller, ‘If you don’t gnome me by now’ which, obviously, comes served to share in a big gnome.

The Club

Fabric

This world-famous club is a must-go for anyone who wants to truly experience London’s nightlife. It can get a little crowded, but hang on in there till the early hours of the morning and things get a little more relaxed. Most of the big acts don’t come on till around 3am but the consistently fantastic weekend line-ups mean that they’re sure to be worth waiting for.

In terms of accommodation, a trip to London centred on the nightlife is best experienced from rented apartment, so that there’s no need to worry about waking other hotel guests. Plus, you can spend the money you save on getting into that hot new bar, and even carry on the party back at your very own crash pad if you’re not burned out by the time the clubs closed.

Best evening activities for a London stag weekend

Don't drink too much!

If London is the place to be for your stag weekend, the array of choice on offer can be overwhelming. As a city, London can cater to a massive range of tastes and budgets, but knowing what you are looking for can help you narrow down the options and have a fantastic weekend.

Don't drink too much!

A multi-faceted city

London can offer a huge range of choices for a stag weekend, from a pub crawl around the city, visits to trendy bars in the West End, to taking a more bohemian turn around Camden. As with any stag experience, knowing the tastes of the members of the group can help you to plan for a successful time. When thinking about the itinerary for the evening, there is an almost endless selection on offer.

Something to eat

Given that a meal out in London can be an entire evening in itself and that the capital has plenty of choice when it comes to restaurants, the mantra of planning ahead rings true again. Similarly, the role of the meal in your evening will dictate to an extent the sort of place you plump for. If you only want a meal in order to provide foundations for the rest of the evening’s activities, something cheap, cheerful and plentiful is in order. An all you can eat buffet or noodle bar, of which there are many dotted around the capital, will provide much food for not many pennies. If the meal is likely to be a more central part of the evening, perhaps if you have older relatives along on the stag weekend who are unlikely to join you for the rest of the shenanigans, a restaurant like The Fish & Chip Shop in Islington provides a great take on the Friday night tea staple. Described by the Independent as an “undoubted success”, this place provides a fun start to your night.

A night on the tiles

Once you have eaten, often the next order of the day is taking to the bars and ending in a nightclub. With so many pubs, bars and clubs to choose from, it can be tough to know where to begin. In an area such as Greenwich or Camden there are many places within walking distance, so using this place as a hub you can plan your entire night. In terms of clubs, London Bridge’s Cable was among one of the Guardian’s top 10 clubs in London and is well worth a shout for late night drinking and dancing.

Away from the bars

If spending your weekend in the pub is likely to be eschewed in favour of other activities, London has an unrivalled selection. Taking in a comedy club or even a west end show can make your weekend live long in the memory. If you are stumped for activities to fill your weekend, there are companies like Chilli Sauce who can do the spade work for you, they even offer stag weekends abroad for those interested.

Experience some of London’s historic sites

magnificent entrance to the British Museum

While many people visit London to enjoy its modern culture, there are many more who visit the city for its rich history and medieval structures. If you plan to be in London in the near future, here are 4 historic sites that cannot be missed:

1. Nelson’s Column

Located in Trafalgar Square, the Nelson’s Column is dedicated to Admiral Lord Nelson. As the victor of various naval battles, he became a national hero, and was killed during the Battle of Trafalgar (although he was still victorious).

Nelson’s Column does not require admission, which makes it a great place to visit on a budget. Since it is centrally located, there are many shops and places to eat nearby, although parking is restricted due to heavy traffic. Luckily, you can stay in a nearby hotel within walking distance or close to public transportation.

Magnificent entrance to the British Museum

2. The British Museum

The British Museum is a world renowned museum that has a collection of artifacts from around the world and throughout history. From the Ancient Egyptian to the Samurai, the museum has plenty to offer in order to keep visitors busy. In addition to its exhibits, the museum also offers workshops, trails, and other activities that are perfect for family visits.

Admission to the British Museum is free, and it is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM. However, on Fridays, the museum is open from 10:00 AM to 8:30 PM.

3. The Tower of London

You cannot visit London without stopping by the Tower of London. Built in the 1080’s by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London is a royal residence, Norman fortress, and prison all in one that is rich in history. With plenty of family activities available, such as the Medieval Palace family trial and Yeoman Warder tours, there is plenty for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

The Tower of London is open from Tuesday to Saturday at 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM, and Sunday and Monday at 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM.

4. Jewel Tower

The Jewel Tour was built in 1365 as part of the medieval Westminster Palace. It was used to store King Edward III’s riches and known as the “King’s Privy Wardrobe.” In 1834, a fire burned down most of the palace, although the Jewel Tower and Westminster Hall survived the ordeal.

AKA King’s Privy Wardrobe

Today, visitors can visit the Jewel Tower and take tours. The tours typically last for about a half hour and includes exhibits, as well as views of the vault and medieval moat and quay. The Jewel Tower is open to the public daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Although there is much to see and do in London, it is important to take the time to learn more about its history as well. With these 4 historic sites, you will both entertain and educate your entire family on your next trip.

Summer in the City: Five Fabulous London Festivals

The Wonderground festival

London is an incredible place to visit in summertime. Not only are the city’s parks and gardens in their lovely bloom, but even the main tourist landmarks and attractions are enriched by the festivals that take place during the season. You can enhance your London holiday by planning to check out any or all of these unforgettable London festivals.

The Wonderground festival

London Wonderground

This summer-long festival runs from May 10 to September 29 at Southbank Centre and is a celebration of cabaret, circus, and sideshow performance that wow crowds with amazing shows. It’s the festival’s second time at Southbank and it promises to delight onlookers with a myriad of performances to suit a wide range of tastes. The summer festival includes performances of theatre, comedy, dance, music, and even children’s shows. The full schedule is available on the London Wonderground website (londonwonderground.co.uk) along with more detailed information about each performance.

Taste of London Regent’s Park

Taste of London festival at Regent's Park

Experience the best tastes of London June 20-23 at this Regent’s Park festival that is a highlight of the summer season. This celebration of food and drink is merely about taste; the festival’s organizers also showcase demonstrations and interactive programmes that make the event an altogether richer experience. Visitors can head to the festival to create their personal menu filled with the taste sensations from forty of the city’s most revered restaurants. It’s a great place to sample the best culinary delights of the city and enjoy them with family, friends, or other London tourists.

City of London Festival

Running from June 23 to July 26, the City of London Festival is an arts fest that occurs each year in various parts of the city. Music performances are held in local churches, on city streets, or within city squares to enrich the city with classical music, jazz, opera, and other types of world music. The performances bring vibrancy and excitement to London’s various localities and their air of cultural enthusiasm infuses the atmosphere of the city. It’s wonderful time to delight in the sounds of music as they emanate from places like St. Paul’s Cathedral or even an enchanting London park.

Coronation Festival

This four-day festival is held in commemoration of the Queen’s coronation. This will be the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty’s coronation. The festival will be held in the Buckingham Palace’s gardens and tickets are available to the public for daytime or evening events. Guests are encouraged to enjoy the splendid gardens or attend the evening galas to enjoy their magnificent entertainments. This year’s Coronation Festival will take place from July 11th to July 14th.

Notting Hill Carnival

From August 25-26, the Notting Hill Carnival will enchant visitors with its pageantry and merriment. The Caribbean-themed carnival is filled with musical performances and exotic tastes of the West Indies. The streets are lined with floats and costumed performers that will delight crowds and celebrate culture. The event has been held annually since 1966 and is one of the city’s most exciting celebrations.

Each of these festivals complements the city in its own particular way. Visiting London in the summertime is sure to be a fascinating experience if one plans to attend any of these unforgettable London events.

5 of the most romantic spots in London

Highgate cemetery where Karl marx is buried

With so much going on in the capital it can be hard for lovers young or old to find a special place where they can just get away from it all and enjoy each other’s company. Here are five of the most romantic places in London where you can both enjoy a really special time together.

Highgate Cemetery

Highgate cemetery where Karl marx is buried

If you thought a date in a cemetery was the sort of thing that only happens in a Tim Burton movie, then think again. The wild woodland and rambling gravestones of Highgate Cemetery make the ideal setting for a gentle stroll, walking arm in arm as you gaze down at the stunning views of the city below.

With its abundance of monuments, its gravestones overrun by tree roots and covered in creeping ivy, the cemetery is a place to follow your own unplanned, meandering path. Along the way you will find plenty of conversational points and the resting places of Marx, George Eliot and Radclyffe Hall.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dani0010/3290805482/

Primrose Hill

Another locale that allows lovers to look down on the panoramic views of the city below them is Primrose Hill. The quality of the views is unparalleled and you will not be left gasping for breath after the easy five-minute stroll to the top. On a nice day it provides a great spot for a picnic and on cooler days you can snuggle together taking in the sights from the comfort of a bench.

Primrose Hill also has the advantage of being pretty central for all Londoners to reach and it boasts some fine restaurants nearby to round off that first date perfectly.

Boating on the Serpentine

Forget the Thames cruise and all its tourist trappings. A romantic boat trip in London is best done the old-fashioned way: in a rowing boat. A day in Hyde Park crowned by messing about in a boat on the Serpentine makes a perfect romantic interlude to city life. If you are inspired to get down on one knee and propose just make sure you have your balance first!

Albert Embankment

If it is the romance of London that you want as the backdrop to your date then nothing beats a stroll along the Albert Embankment. As the old-fashioned street lights are reflected in the Thames and Westminster Palace twinkles in the background this is one truly atmospheric spot for lovers at night.

Richmond Park

Trees and bushes in Richmond Park

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bortescristian/7223952780/sizes/m/in/photostream/

To truly get away from it all nothing can rival Richmond Park. Strolling through the open spaces surrounded by wild deer is such a refreshing change from scurrying to catch a tube through overcrowded corridors. Richmond Park helps to create the space you need to just enjoy being with each other.

The Isabella Plantation must be one of the most beautiful spots in the capital and the mound of King Henry VII grants you unobstructed views stretching down to St Paul’s Cathedral. Take it all in with someone you love.

Getting around London during the Olympics 2012

Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and the London Wheel

Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and the London Wheel

In a matter of weeks London will be the most viewed location as millions of people from all over the world will watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony on their televisions. Many thousands more will visit the city in person as competitors, their support crew and organisers, and spectators. Certainly there will be few, if any, spare rooms in hotels in London.

Getting around the city is not going to be easy, so here are a few tips on surviving the London Olympics that are aimed primarily at visitors to the city but may also be useful to some of the city’s residents who have been lucky enough to get a ticket or two.

A special welcome

A word of reassurance to foreign visitors: when you arrive you will not be alone, that is if government plans work out as hoped. At every airport, port and train terminal where Olympic visitors are expected, it is planned to have groups of “greeters” to welcome you into the country and city. These are volunteers whose role will be to make you feel welcome and provide you with help and advice, for instance how to reach your hotel. London greeters can be avoided if spotted in advance.

The Tube

The most popular and best way to get around London is on the London Underground (which the locals refer to as the “tube”). It can be crowded, uncomfortably hot with no air conditioning, and where eye contact is deemed to be dangerous – but everyone is dependent on its practicality and reliability. You can’t help but notice that people cocoon themselves in their own little world, usually plugged in to an iPod and engrossed in a Kindle. The plus side is that you can get to just about anywhere you want to with ease, and, you can save yourself a significant amount of money if you get an Oyster card. They cost £18 with £15 credit on the card and it can be used on all London public transport.

Black cabs

Black cabs are also a traditional form of transport. They are also called Hackney cabs and they are not necessarily black anymore. London cab drivers have what is called “The Knowledge” which means that they have a good geographic memory of the city and know all the rat runs and shortcuts and do not need to rely on satellite navigation systems. Generally they can be relied on to take you to where you want to go without going on an expensive detour. Tipping is generally expected but you should bear in mind that your driver probably lives in a better house than you do. An addition benefit is their cheerful chatter!

Unavoidable – buses

London busses are another excellent way to get around the city, especially if you have plenty of time on your hands. The average speed of cars in London is around 9 mph but cars do not have to stop at bus stops and take on and disembark passengers. Quite often it is as fast, if not faster, to walk than to take the bus, certainly at busy times.

Bikes

Faster by far are bikes. London has a bike sharing scheme known colloquially as Boris Bikes. You just pay at a bike docking station and eventually return your bike to another docking station. The first thirty minutes is free, but there are heavy fines if you fail to return the bike within 24 hours.

The London Film Festival 2012

56th London BFI Film Festival

56th London BFI Film Festival

The 2012 London Film Festival (otherwise known as the BFI London Film Festival) may not be until October, but nominations are already open and movie producers from over 50 countries will be submitting possibly thousands of features and movies for the panel to consider.

Finding a place to stay

If you love films and you can get there, then the London Film Festival is a must. In October there should be no shortage of hotels. London should be reasonably quiet after the Olympics, and you should be able to book into one of the hotels in Leicester Square which will put you right in the heart of cinema land.

The 4 pillars

The 2012 Film Festival will be the 56th to be held and as always it will showcase the very best of cinema worldwide. Its mission is to focus on the four vital aspects of modern cinema which are imagination, creativity, vision and originality. As well as established film makers it also focuses strongly on emergent ones.

Aiming for London

Before 1953 the major international film festivals that were held in Europe were hosted by Cannes, Venice and Edinburgh. Crucial to the pressure for developing a new one for London was the Sunday Times along with a number of established film critics.

The aim was to develop an entirely different type of festival; rather than pitching it for the cinema industry it was to be pitched for Joe Public enabling cinema audiences to see movies that would not usually appear on British cinema. The vision was to create the ultimate festival of festivals and to present the very best of Cannes and Venice and other festivals.

The beginnings

The first festival was held at the National Film Theatre, which became subsequently the BFI Southbank. A much smaller affair than the current festival, only 18 or so films were screened and most of them were directed by important directors of the day.

Over the years the festival developed and grew and now as well as presenting the best of the best in modern cinema, it also concentrates on new discoveries and new talented film makers. Another change is that although it still focuses on the public, it is now a very important event for cinema industry professionals, film critics and journalists from all corners of the world. For many films that are shown it will be their only screening in the UK, but many others will go on to receive general release in the UK.

Red carpet treatment

If you are able to make either the opening or closing days then you will enjoy some of the most important red carpet events that are likely to happen in London this year with world premier screenings which will be watched by the actors, directors, producers and many of the film crew. Many of these will be held in Leicester Square cinemas and other large venues in the city. There is also a separate awards ceremony.

3 secret things to do in London

Food at Borough market

Food at Borough market

London is one the world’s greatest cities and is full of interesting and exciting things to do, however most of these are plagued by long queues and sky high ticket prices. In an effort to help visitors to London who don’t want to spend hours waiting around for an overrated attraction, I have decided to look into the top three things to do in London which are away from the tourist hot spots.

Boris Bikes

Most of the world’s mains cities now have some sort of cycle hire system which is available to visitors without a long term contract. The Barclays Bike Hire system allows guests to rent a bike from one of the many docking stations using the chip and pin machines which are built in the docking stations. These so called “Boris Bikes”, named after London mayor Boris Johnson, are a great option for anyone who wants to explore the city without using an open top bus. After a quick read over the relevant safety information these bikes allow visitors to get to know the real London. See http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/14808.aspx.

The Charles Dickens Tour

Another option for tourists who are eager to explore the “real London” is going on a guided walking tour; these are a cheap (often free) and fun way to explore many of London’s hidden backstreets. These are run by enthusiastic locals who are keen to share the history of their local area. For tourists who have an interest in English Literature, the Charles Dickens tour allows you to explore the streets which he wrote about and the pubs in which he drank. See http://www.discovery-walks.com/london-walks/.

A true taste of London

For a true taste of London the best place to go is Borough Market near London Bridge. This food market is full of stalls which have a wide range of products ranging from Artisan loaves to sustainably sourced fish. In order to set up a stall all potential traders must prove that they have in-depth knowledge and that they are offering exceptional food or drink. All of the traders at this historic market are always on hand to offer advice and tips on the best way to prepare their handmade ingredients. The market also host regular events and talks on topics related to the products on sale such as cooking classes. See http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/.
These three tips should help you avoid all the queues on your next trip to London. Not enough activities? Here are 16 activities you can do in London in winter. If the aim of your next trip to London is to see the real London why not stay in a vacation rental or in a low cost hostel room from The London Hostel Association (LHA).