Alternative title – Little House in the Big Smoke!
Turns out I had a whole load of things to say! Hence this long, rambly post.
Jessica and Kevin are staying near Trafalgar Square and flying in on a Saturday morning. Jessica told me they like to “eat our way through our holidays” so they can’t miss Borough Market! (It’s where I snapped those tomatoes above) The market’s only open Thursday to Saturday, so if J&K want to go they’d need to get there before 5 on Saturday to include it on this trip. It gets totally packed, but for a whirlwind trip to London it really shouldn’t be missed – Jess and Kevin will be able to sample a whole host of great food and soak up the fantastic atmosphere. Plus, they can get London’s best coffee at the Market’s Monmouth Coffee, or pop next door for champagne and oysters (or a pint) at Wright Brother’s oyster house – I’ve only ever had a bit of bubbly here, but Mr V’s top restaurant recommendation for Jess and Kevin was Wright Brothers Soho Oysterhouse – so if they choose to have lunch here we’re sure they wouldn’t be disappointed, and the décor is stunning (Monmouth Coffee looks as good as it tastes too – don’t mind the queue, it goes quickly). We love the Southwark Tavern pub at Borough Market for a nice pint.
As J&K are staying in Trafalgar Square, I’d highly recommend walking either to or from Borough Market, crossing over the river and along the South Bank. Even though it’s cheesy, I love this walk, particularly at sunset, but at any time of day it’s a nice place to do lots of people watching, see the Thames, stroll hand in hand…. They can pop into the Tate Modern if they’re into that kind of thing (there’s normally something fun in the Turbine Hall that’s worth the small detour). I like all the shops in Gabriel’s Wharf halfway along the route (there’s a nice bar with outdoor seating tucked away at the back) (you can also hire bikes here!).
Along the Southbank, you’ll also pass the lovely Oxo tower, which is where one of our top recommended restaurants is. It’s got great food, great views and great service (when Mr V and I went, he sent his kebab flying across the room and they were so nice about it and brought him a new one without being asked). It’s at the pricey end but I’ve included it in case you’re treating yourselves. It would be very romantic to have an evening meal here and walk back to your hotel along the river – the lights on all the buildings are gorgeous.
The other “treat” restaurant I’m including is Le Pont de La Tour. I love this restaurant! I used to get taken our to fancy lunches all the time in my old old job, and the beautiful lobster I had here was hands down the best lunch I’ve ever had in London and the views (of Tower Bridge) are just incredible. Go on a sunny day and insist on a table outside. You won’t regret it!
If J&K are braving the weekend crowds at the great (free!) museums on exhibition road (The Victoria and Albert (mind bogglingly amazing and the shop is stellar if you love good design), the Natural History Museum (I think I’ve mentioned a million times how much I love this place) and the Science Museum (also fun, but more geared to kids). Then there are a number of great places to eat snacky type food (sandwiches and salads) around there – my favourite is Greenfields Café at 13 Exhibition Road, but the crepe place across the road is good too.
Our favourite pub in London is the Island Queen in Islington. It’s got lovely atmosphere, lovely decoration, good beer, great food and it’s the where Mr V and I went on our first date (but that’s not the only reason it’s our favourite, promise!). The whole area between Angel tube and Highbury & Islington is great for food and shopping. Yotam Ottolenghi’s café is halfway down – with meringues the size of your head and there’s just so many good cafes and places to eat all along Upper Street. There are good slightly higher end clothes shops here (Hobbs, Toast, Whistles) as well as more mass market places like H&M (at the Angel end) and some great interiors places and one of the best toy shops ever (After Noah), which has an antique shop in the basement. Oh! There’s also Atelier Abigail Ahern here.
If you’re on a budget, Sam Smith’s pubs are found all over the place in London and they’re pretty highly recommended for cheap prices without a tacky atmosphere. They brew all their own beer and don’t have TV or music in the pubs. Our favourites are the John Snow in Soho and the Champion just off Oxford Street.
The Princess Louise is a Sam Smith’s pub but a total stunner in it’s own right – Sam Smiths have restored it to how it would have been when it was built in the Victorian times. It has these amazing little wooden cubby bars all around the main bar. It’s hard to describe, click here to have a look! Even the gents loos are historic, with marble urinals (that website says: “They are of sufficient historical and architectural interest that they have their own formal ‘listing‘ and are therefore protected from modification or destruction”). It’s close to the British Museum if you’re heading there (The British Museum is Mr V’s favourite building and museum in London, so it’s highly recommended!) and there’s a great tool shop around the corner if you’re into that kind of souvenir! (It’s really special).
If you want to wander the streets of an evening and find a restaurant to eat in, Soho is our recommendation. There’s the aforementioned Wright Brothers Oysters, I had a great meal at Arbutus once, but there’s also plenty of cheaper places – like the tapas restaurant on Old Compton Street, Tuk Tuk (yummy noodles) and Maoz (to die for falafel) or the Breakfast Club. The John Snow I mentioned above is in Soho, too and it’s got a great night-time ambience – but you probably won’t get a seat.
So there you go! I liked writing a little recommendation based on a foodie weekend. There was loads more I wanted to say but didn’t want to overwhelm J&K.
Hope you have a lovely time on your trip Little House Big Heart!
PS. Nearly forgot! When you get the train to Brussels, I’m guessing you’ll be leaving from St Pancras? If you have time, make sure to not run straight from the tube to the train – you can catch Platform 9 and 3/4 next door at King’s Cross and make sure to go to the front of the station to see the gorgeous facade.
Then, just before you get on your train, grab some food for the journey at Sourced Market within the station – much better than anything you can buy on the train and they even sell Monmouth Coffee. You can also pop into Marks and Spencers and buy a mini bottle of bubbly – it always seems so fitting for catching a train to Paris!