Photo courtesy of The Hoxton Southwark
London Calling: A Weekend in the
Creative Capital—and What to Wear
In partnership with our friends at Vince
With respect to New York, Paris, Cairo, Buenos Aires, and so many others, London may just be the most dynamic city in the world. There’s something in that lime-y tap water that fosters a perpetual newness we struggle to keep up with. But keep up we must! A capital of creatives, where people are always Doing Things, London is the kind of place that gets in your face. In a good way. It inspires. It makes you want to go, see, and do, and then do it all over again.
If you can find a way to take a mini break to London, be strategic about it. Book lunch in Primrose Hill and dinner in Hackney. Soak up an exhibit in Southbank, but buy your books—and your boots—in Chelsea. London demands that you spread yourself thin and devour as many hunks of the city’s sprawling parks, redbrick-lined streets, and cultural powerhouses as time, footsteps, and tube stops permit. Don’t worry about stamina. Like we said, there’s something in the water.
STAY AND SLEEP
Every hotelier in the world battles for a slice of London real estate, and most succeed. A splashy, big-name establishment is squished into every available square foot. But there are a slew of personality-packed boutique hotels that get it just right. Location-wise, the Belmond Cadogan on Sloane Street puts you within walking distance of major galleries, Hyde Park, and serious shopping (the penthouse-style Harrods shoe floor is not to be missed). An ode to the original creatives who used to frequent this Chelsea address (Oscar Wilde being one), each guest room has a library curated by nearby bookseller John Sandoe. Some corridor walls are papered to mimic heaving bookshelves, and across the street is one of London’s coveted private gardens, entered only with a key and filled with tennis courts, mazes, and smooth lawns ready for picnics organized by the thoughtful concierge.
Across the Thames, on high-brow Southbank (Tate Modern, Barbican, the Globe Theatre) is the cool Bankside Hotel. Rooms have Brutalist touches, like poured-concrete pillars, and the walls act as a gallery space for local artists and sculptors. In place of minibars, each floor has luxe vending machines dispensing fine wines and champagne as well as necessities, like Wolford tights, and filtered water is a welcome replacement for wasteful plastic bottles. The Bankside manages to marry a subtle edginess with five-star comfort, and the result is a hotel you want to hang out in.
The Hoxton Southwark, also south of the river, is newer and buzzy enough to satisfy the trendiest of travelers. It goes heavy on smart design. Millennial-leaning amenities—like custom cool-spot maps, kombucha on tap, and complimentary breakfast in a bag on your doorknob—are the norm. Best of all, it means there’s an affordable-ish hotel within easy reach of the Tate and Borough Market with a bar that booms every night and a lobby that welcomes laptops all day.
what to wear
Valentino Scarf Cettire, $394SHOP NOW
Chloé BAG goop, $2,350SHOP NOW
Vince shirtdress Vince, $395SHOP NOW
Muji Trench coat Muji, $119SHOP NOW
Vince flats Vince, $275SHOP NOW
EAT AND DRINK
Brunch in London is primarily a tourist trap: Locals are too savvy to spend an hour standing in the wet drizzle for eggs and soldiers. We recommend breakfast at your hotel or subsisting on a cappuccino and flaky croissant from one of the excellent cafés that populate most street corners until lunch.
Lunch is a different story. That’s where Londoners excel, especially on Sundays. A proper weekend roast is a British institution no one would dare tamper with. The Engineer, in pastel-pretty Primrose Hill, is the
kind of pub that gives all pubs a good name. It’s full of cozy nooks and discreet corners to tumble into with a crowd of friends or family and a stack of newspapers for roast chicken and Yorkshire puddings. Suddenly, lunch becomes dinner, one glass turns into two, and no one’s complaining.
Lunch is a different story. That’s where Londoners excel, especially on Sundays. A proper weekend roast is a British institution no one would dare tamper with. The Engineer, in pastel-pretty Primrose Hill, is the kind of pub that gives all pubs a good name. It’s full of cozy nooks and discreet corners to tumble into with a crowd of friends or family and a stack of newspapers for roast chicken and Yorkshire puddings. Suddenly, lunch becomes dinner, one glass turns into two, and no one’s complaining.
Lardo and Little Duck The Picklery
East London is the center of the capital’s food scene these days. Both Lardo and Little Duck The Picklery top our list for breakfast (if you must), lunch, and definitely dinner. Hackney’s Lardo fires up its wood oven and serves the lightest, most beautifully charred potato pizza in town. (The pumpkin pizza with crispy kale and toasted walnuts is a close second.) Nearby, at Little Duck The Picklery, elbows rub elbows around a large sheet of marble, one corner of which is used by the chefs to plate up. This style of communal dining feels intimate yet informal, and the food—lamb on beds of creamy labneh, turmeric carrots flecked with pistachio, artichokes and white beans—is the inventive, vegetable-forward food we want to eat right now. (Don’t leave without checking out the ceramics.)
Bob Bob Ricard
In sparkly Soho, the place to go is Bob Bob Ricard (and no, no, that’s not a typo). Let’s put it this way: Each seat comes with a button to press for champagne. An evening in the Art Deco dining room is dress-up-for-dinner glamorous affair you won’t soon forget. It’s a restaurant you sashay into, ready for a platter of oysters and a few dollops of caviar. Foodwise, the menu is Russian-inspired with a few British flourishes (and next-level mashed potatoes). We’re partial to the pillowy mushroom vareniki and the salmon tartare. There’s also a new, second location in the Bank neighborhood.
London, like New York City, loves a wine bar. Bedales, buried in the middle of food mecca Borough Market, has ambiance and good bordeaux in spades, as well as small bites, like pickles and crusty bread with cultured butter to nibble on.
Gordon’s, rumored to be the oldest wine bar in town, sits on the banks of the Thames. You’ll have to fight through the crowds and be prepared to sit tightly packed outside on the terrace or inside the subterranean wine cave. But like everyone else in town, you’ll love it. While the wine list is justifiably famous, the best part is the cheese bar: You choose whatever wedges of Parmesan or creamy, melty mounds of Délice de Bourgogne take your fancy, with warm baguettes to scrape the plate with.
what to wear
Celine sunglasses Matchesfashion, $434SHOP NOW
Laura Lombardi necklace goop, $136SHOP NOW
No. 6 top goop, $295SHOP NOW
SLVRLAKE JEANS goop, $279SHOP NOW
Vince coat Vince, $795SHOP NOW
Common Projects sneakers goop, $416SHOP NOW
SEE AND SHOP
5 Carlos Place
London is a shopper’s paradise, but the city makes you work for it. Sure, you could muscle through the suffocating crowds on Oxford Street (and if you do, make it to Selfridges and Liberty), but we consider shopping a leisure activity, not an endurance sport. Skip the department stores and hit the boutiques instead. Across the street from the Connaught Hotel, 5 Carlos Place throws the traditional concept of what a shop should look like out the window. The nineteenth-century townhouse treats its interior like a lifestyle website, continually updating the layout and product offering, so each visit feels like your first. Our most recent trip saw the ground floor transformed into a take on a Christmas market, with John Derian porcelain and Dolce & Gabbana headbands in lieu of ornaments.
Alex Eagle Studio and Métier
Alex Eagle Studio, tucked in the side of a nondescript Soho street, curates a magpie’s dream mix of jewelry, clothing, furniture, makeup, and whatever else is making waves at the moment, all laid out like a beautifully merchandised studio you could move into. We filled our bags with Westman Atelier brushes, Veja sneakers, and velvet scrunchies we couldn’t leave behind. The most gorgeous, painstakingly crafted leather goods no one else will have are found at Métier on South Audley Street. However, we would go for the store alone, which resembles the teak-and-walnut interior of an antique sailing yacht. It helps that an espresso or sparkling water is immediately proffered by the lovely staff to fuel your browse.
Vince, John Sandoe, and Colbert
Back in Chelsea, Vince stocks the cashmere sweaters, leather jackets, and ankle boots that make up the perfect London uniform. Handily, the store is just up the street from our favorite bookstore, John Sandoe, and brasserie Colbert, for French fries and a glass of something cold.
Joanne Evans, JAB, and Sir John Soane’s Museum
When it comes to self-care, a facial with skin whisperer Joanne Evans at her new Holland Park flagship and a session with boxing whiz George Veness at the just-opened JAB (conveniently next to Métier) can’t be beat. For an injection of culture, and something genuinely different from the usual exhibition circuit—National Gallery aside—a candlelit wander through Sir John Soane’s Museum is pure magic. The Soane-designed building is home to the architect’s personal collections of sculpture, furniture, and masterpiece paintings. Reservations are essential.