CuriousCities | London
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LONDON TRAVEL GUIDE
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LONDON TRAVEL GUIDE

From Borough Market to Chiltern Firehouse, it’s the local neighbourhood haunts that make this global capital an eclectic powerhouse

FIVE OF THE BEST

1. CHILTERN FIREHOUSE

Boutique hotel and notorious meeting spot for celebrities and the fashion world 

André Balazs has done it again with this repurposed, Grade II-listed Victorian-gothic Marylebone firehouse, which marries its exclusive, fast-crowd reputation with a friendly intimacy for its guests. In spite of the celeb stories that leak out of its Ladder Shed enclave, the true tale of this hotel is that it’s as cosy as it is cool; from the open fire and Palm Beach-style wicker chairs of its illusive bar, to the prunes left beside the bed on arrival. But if you aren’t staying overnight at Chiltern, book in for brunch – it’s far easier to get a table, and in summer the garden courtyard is a rare London sun catcher.

TRAVEL TRUFFLE: Local residents cried, “There goes the neighbourhood!” when Chiltern opened its doors in 2014. However, its presence has given Marylebone a considerable boost. Check out the Wallace Collection which lavishly guards some of Europe’s best artwork, furniture and armour collections, and grab lunch at Daylesford where all the produce comes directly from Lady Bamford’s Cotswolds estate.

2. DABBOUS

Fitzrovia restaurant with an unpretentious and exciting tasting menu

The unpretentious industrial surrounds of Ollie Dabbous’ Fitzrovia restaurant hides the treasure of his ‘Bistronomy’. The Kuwait–born chef has done stints at The Fat Duck and Copenhagen’s Noma and his food is as unexpected in presentation as it is delicious. Be sure to book a few months in advance, and opt for the tasting menu. The hen egg with woodland mushrooms and smoked butter served in its shell nestling on a bundle of hay is just one Insta-highlight.

TRAVEL TRUFFLE: To get you warmed up, there is Oskar’s Bar downstairs, which serves just as dashing cocktails, as well as the full menu. However, if you’d prefer to explore the local area, stop by the Charlotte Street Hotel or Edition London for a pre-dinner drink. In true Ian Schrager style, the latter’s lobby-cum-bar is always buzzing with stylish types after dark.

3. DUKES BAR

Ian Fleming’s favourite cocktail bar has the James Bond seal of approval

The romantic notion of a hotel martini bar is surpassed on every level at Mayfair’s Dukes. This old-school bar is about as English as you get, but come Friday night, white-jacketed head barman Alessandro Palazzi will be mixing martinis from his wheelie tray for a clientele as eclectic as London. This was James Bond author Ian Fleming’s drinking hole after all, and the bar is said to be the inspiration for the classic ‘shaken, not stirred’ tagline. The martinis here are so good (Palazzi prefers Polish vodka and makes them in front of your table like the magician he is) that there is a house limit of only two per person. You are similarly encouraged to keep up with the endless bowls of giant green Sicilian olives and nuts for your own good.

TRAVEL TRUFFLE: Gentleman need to have their arms covered: note this is not an establishment for tees and sneakers. Nor is it a pick-up joint – bar staff have been known to politely chastise guests for disturbing other tables so bring your best conversation and friends along with you.

4. PIZZA EAST PORTOBELLO

Soho House’s busy modern Italian restaurant that’s a hit with the Notting Hill set

Located at the intersection of Golborne and Portobello Road, this all-day dining Soho House star is pumping from breakfast to dinner with Notting Hill’s creative crowd. The wood fire pork belly pizza may be famous, but you can’t go wrong with the meatball starter or charcuterie plate, salt baked salmon or mac and cheese, accompanied by an avocado and butter lettuce salad before finishing off with a salted caramel tart. Pizza ‘West’ as it is known, is also ideal for groups with a large communal table upstairs or a private roof terrace available in the summer. Book for Saturday lunch and slowly wind your way back down Portobello Market after doing an antiques rummage on Golborne Road.

TRAVEL TRUFFLE: Every Friday and Saturday, Portobello Road turns pedestrian, as everything from vintage furs to fresh fruit and vege, crepe to paella vendors, antique silver and porcelain stalls line the street. Work your way down past the Electric Cinema to the more up-market Westbourne Grove where you’ll find designer destination Joseph, Aussie all-day dining favourite Granger & Co, and Ottolenghi for a sweet treat.

5. BOROUGH MARKET

Gourmet food market that’s been trading deliciousness since the 11th century

This is London’s oldest and most celebrated food market. The waiting list to sell produce at Borough is over two years long and the quality and variety of foods on display to eat on the go, or take home, only serve to reinforce its popularity. Freshly shucked oysters, scallops seared with bacon bits and served in a clamshell and Neal’s Yard for mega wheels of English cheese are all musts. Finish off your culinary adventure with a glass of vino at Aqua Shard, atop the infamous Shard for the best views of London. Sure the fit-out is more first class airport lounge than design treasure, but you can’t beat London from the 31st floor

TRAVEL TRUFFLE: Watch the weekend go by from the corner of Borough’s Market Porter pub and while you’re on the Thames’ Southbank, stop by the Tate Modern, which is easily London’s most dynamic gallery and never disappoints with its boldfaced line-up of major retrospectives. Then walk across the Millennium Bridge (making sure to take note of Ben Wilson’s chewing gum art underfoot) to St. Paul’s Cathedral for a quiet respite in its climbing rose garden.

FIVE OF THE REST

VOGUE CITY DIRECTORY : LONDON

“Vogue’s Ultimate Address Book as curated by friends of the magazine.”

THE CLASSIC LONDON GUIDE

“Our guide to the most iconic spots of this much-loved city, perfect for both locals and visitors alike.”

INSIDER GUIDE : BEST OF LONDON

“It should be no surprise that a city 2,000 years old is an alphabetic mishmash of things to gawp at.”

DESTINATION: LONDON

London has its own rhythms; time passes more quickly here…”

CITY GUIDE : LONDON

“Photographer, blogger and super-mum, Candice Lake, provide us with the best tips for visiting the city.”