How to Fall in Love with London – a retreat guide from a Londoner to Londoner’s

It’s spectacular for tourists, but is London all it’s cracked up to be when you call the city home?

 

Seven months, three weeks and five days; that’s how long I’ve lived in London and how long ago I boarded a one-way train from Edinburgh Waverley to London Kings Cross. Cut that time in half and that’s how long I’ve been hating on the beating heart of Great Britain. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with old blighty, but this is where the jobs are and I can’t deny the incredible opportunities that have come my way since moving here. However, in my opinion, London is not all it’s cracked up to be. Just like the city has perfect pockets in different boroughs, there are also perfect pockets of time. The day to day slog in the city that is guaranteed to grind you down to your very bones is far from attractive.

I’ve tried to combat my distain for the city, so I asked a number of my friends who have lived here for a while what they think of this global metropolis. The general consensus is that, for a tourist, London is incredible. However, if you’re part of the 9 to 5 crew, the likelihood that you now live to work is rife. From rent to the tube to a simple G&T in your local, the expense of living in the city is akin to taking a European city break every day of your life. So I thought, why not make the most of my free time in London as if I am on a city break. I fall in love with places that I travel to. I get head over heels when winding down random avenues, visiting landmarks, eating the local food and getting lost amongst the buzz, so it’s time to make some time for my new home and fall in love with London.

For all you locals who are feeling the pains of a one-way relationship with this city, take a break, make some time to step outside your comfort (and tube) zone, and fall in love with London using my How-to guide.

 

Staycation;

The Marylebone Hotel
47 Welbeck St, London

In one London’s most alluring areas, this renowned hotel combines style and contemporary design with the charm of the old and traditional neighborhood.  A short walk from Bond Street, The Marylebone combines the joys of our wondrous metropolis in a secluded and quiet corner in Marylebone. Fashionable yet unpretentious, Marylebone is awash with designer boutiques and farmer’s markets alike. Just behind the main entrance of the hotel you’ll find some of the quaintest streets and traditionally British pubs in London.

The Marylebone offers an array of beautiful guest rooms that are light filled, spacious yet cosy, with Italian marble bathrooms and modish furnishings. Top floor suites offer views across London while lower rooms look onto the cobbled streets of Marylebone Lane. Our top floor suites offer views across the London rooftops. Hotel guests have complimentary access to the on-site Third Space health club, which has a superb range of gym equipment, an 18-metre swimming pool and one of the finest wellness spa’s we’ve ever visited – we’d advise booking treatments in advance. The vibrant 108 Brasserie and Pantry offer all-day dining from carefully crafted menus full of seasonal produce and nutritious dishes.

Recognised as one of the finest hotels in London, The Marylebone Hotel is a haven of understated and contemporary luxury that turns even the briefest of stays into a genuine pleasure. Opt for one of the corner suites or the newly open Marylebone Suite for a true taste of luxury in Marylebone village.

 

The Ampersand Hotel
10 Harrington Rd, Kensington

A stone’s throw from South Kensington tube station, this independently owned boutique hotel is housed in a grand building that dates back to 1888 but has embraced the inspiration seeping from the neighbouring art galleries, museums and French quarter. The enviable location makes The Ampersand ideal for a cultural weekend in London, with the V&A, Natural History and Science museums close by.

Step inside the classical building to find contemporary twists from the staircase and drawing room, all the way to the suites. Rooms are each uniquely designed in their own contemporary style and come equipped with Handy phones with guidebooks installed, bathrooms stocked with L’Occtaine products, unrivalled views of the neighbourhood and if you’re lucky, a balcony on which to enjoy your breakfast. We also totally geeked out over the TV in the bathtub – it’s the little things in life, eh?!

Lounge around the brightly coloured Drawing Rooms of an afternoon and indulge in the hotels Science Afternoon Tea, paying homage to the nearby Science Museum.

 

Eating

Sketch

9 Conduit St, Mayfair,

It would be easy to walk past the 18th-century townhouse on Mayfair’s Conduit Street if there wasn’t a hoard of insta-content junkies wading through the doors of Sketch. The art gallery-bar-restaurant hybrid attracts visitors from all over the world to its movie set-perfect dwellings. With three different dining options – The Gallery, Lecture Room and Library and The Parlour and Glade. The Gallery is the famed pink Wes Anderson style Afternoon Tea room, while The Parlour and Glade, where we dined, is how I’d imagine the Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland to decorate his home.

Upon entrance you’re greeted by enthusiastic and uber cool staff wearing elaborate outfits, however they make you feel as if at home in their own house. The spaces are densely adorned with contemporary art from the front door to the bathrooms, so take time to absorb and appreciate your surroundings when you visit. Also make sure to take a bathroom break to get that all-important Instagram shot – if you haven’t seen them before, you’re in for a surprise (think rubix cube light ceiling and alien pod portaloo’s).

Sketch is an entirely unique dining experience and the food, while exquisite and explorative in terms of flavour is not extortionately priced. The menus are some of the most imaginative in London in wonderfully calm and inspiring surroundings. It’s the ideal spot for a weekend brunch!

 

Frenchie Covent Garden

16 Henrietta St, London

An outpost of the ever popular Paris restaurant of the same name, Frenchie offers a relaxed, welcoming and unpretentious introduction to fine dining in the heart of London. The décor is carefully curated, the service is polished and the vibe is chilled, but it’s the food and wine that steal the show at Frenchie. Dishes are small but perfectly composed and bursting with flavour. The attention to detail for each plate is outstanding, with flavours unlikely to have been matched before.

Meticulousness, depth and sophistication permeate each morsel that’s served up, with expertly chosen wine to match each dish, complementing the flavours and not overshadowing those to follow. Opt for the wine tasting menu to experience everything that the Parisian favourite has to offer!

LIMA Fitzrovia
31 Rathbone Pl, Fitzrovia

The first Peruvian restaurant in the world to be awarded a Michelin star and quite possibly the best restaurant we’ve ever been to – LIMA is a must-visit for any Londoner. While the restaurant itself lacks atmosphere, the food is like nothing we’ve ever tasted before.

The small-plates menu is designed for sharing and showcases contemporary and classic Peruvian cuisine in an array of elaborate and colourful displays. The food is natural and indigenous meaning that the the flavours are powerful and truly distinctive. The black bream ceviche with avocado, sweet potato with Ají Limo and the braised octopus with green lentils, potato cream with alfonso Olives are absolute musts. Don’t forget to try a classic Pisco Sour, a Peruvian classic.

If you haven’t considered travelling to Peru before, you definitely will after a belly full of LIMA.

 

Drinking

Callooh Callay
65 Rivington St, London

A spot to find an expertly mixed elixir without the pretentious hipster mixologists, who knew such a place existed in Shoreditch?! Although it sounds gimmicky, Callooh Callay is a long-established favourite in London’s hippest neighbourhood. The exposed brick walls, retro soft-furnishings and excellent mood lighting make for a chilled yet fun vibe, where you’ll find more locals than suits and stag dos. We’d recommend a particular cocktail, but we think it’s imperative that you make your way through the entire menu! Feeling inspired? Challenge the bar staff to make you something ad-hoc, the only thing not served in Callooh Calley is disappointment.

Tonight Jospehine
111 Waterloo Rd, London

 Another Instagrammers heaven, Tonight Josephine is a basement cocktail bar opposite Waterloo Station that has one of London’s best happy hours; 5-7pm, 2-4-1 on their entire cocktail menu. Descend the stairs towards a neon sign that reads ‘Well behaved women never made history’ and let that set the tone for a night of delectable libations. There are popcorn cocktails, parma violet cocktails and some decked out with entire gardens, helping them to perfectly blend in with the neon pink hues throughout the space.

The toilet doors have celebrity mugshots on them; an unexplained but superb touch!

 

Spend your hard earned cash on our favourite activities…

  1. Dinerama – A street food emporium set in a former bullion truck, this Shoreditch favourite is home to some on London’s best known street vendors, offering grub for all tastes. Downstairs is a picnic style area, while upstairs is split into sections according to your drinking habits. Catch up with friends in Winerama, bathe in frozen margarita’s in the House of Bamboo, or let things get a little weird in the craft beer serving German Sex Dungeon.19 Great Eastern St, London
  2. Gin Afternoon Tea – why see London on a tour bus when you can see it on a vintage red bus with gin and finger sandwiches? Yes, dreams do come true! Hop on B Bakery’s red double decker bus, renovated to seat guests at tables where delicious, homemade afternoon tea is served alongside Hayman’s gin cocktails while you tour London’s greatest sites.

For more information: http://b-bakery.com

  1. Junkyard Golf – Not your average crazy golf range for not your average night out! Get boozed on cocktails like ‘Tee Diddy’ and ‘Who’s your Caddy?’ while attempting some wackiest golf courses imaginable. Signposted with bad but fantastic puns, with individually themed bars along the way, try to get a hole in one through a skull ferris wheel, UFC bear cages, scrapyard slides and mini volcanoes. If you’re a pro golfer, beware! You’re likely to lose your skill to the Junkyard masterminds.

Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Ln, Londo

  1. The Electric Cinema – This retro movie house on Portobello Road is one of London’s oldest and definitely the most romantic. Like many of London’s coolest establishments it is owned by the Soho House group and has been beautifully renovated and fitted with plush leather armchairs, love-seats, footstools, side tables with antique lamps like those found in 1920’s cabaret bars, cosy cashmere throws and waiter service delivering cocktails and popcorn to you throughout the movie. Electric is (ironically) movie-style perfect for a date because the front row of seats have been replaced with deluxe, velvet-lined beds – made for couples or pals who want that ‘binging at home watching Netflix’ vibe in public. What makes the Electric date-perfect is that seats on the front-row have been ripped out and replaced with six luxurious, velvet-lined double beds – ideal smooching. It can be expensive but it’s a real treat!

191 Portobello Rd, London

  1. Cabaret at Café de Paris – Covent Garden’s glamorous 1920’s style club first raised its curtain in London’s West End in 1924. Since then the venue has become world famous and hosts some of the most exclusive parties in the capital. However, we love it for its cabaret extravaganza! Presenting the finest performers, from circus to burlesque, magicians to musicians and some downright weird and wonderful bits in between, Café de Paris is widely recognised as London’s best cabaret stage. Enjoy the show over a sumptuous meal in the decadent surroundings of the titanic ballroom or with a tantalising libation from the mezzanine level.  3 Coventry St, London

Have we missed off one of your favourite things to do in London? Let us know on Twitter so we can add it to our list, tag @house_of_coco or #teamcoco to grab our attention!

Getting around:

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Caoilfhionn Rose

Caoilfhionn is a freelance travel writer who enjoys slow travel and avoiding landmarks in favour of diving into a destination's culture. Instagram: @CaoilfhionnRose

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