There are so many sights to see, and so many things to do in London, this is just one Web site that provides you with information on this much-visited city. We try to be a little unique, in giving you tips not generally provided by the mainstream sites.
Wining and Dining in old London Town
Remember - smoking is banned in all UK pubs and restaurants.
It is a huge task for a visitor to find the 'right place' to eat in London - with the 'right atmosphere', at the 'right price' - largely because, as in any big city, there are literally thousands of venues from which to choose. Unfortunately, London is one of the world's most expensive cities to eat in. However, there are plenty of good-value, even cheap places to eat - you just have to know where to look. Following is a rough guide to what you might get, should you fancy eating out:
£3 - you can get a good English pub or cafeteria breakfast with a rack of bacon, beans in tomato sauce, egg, sausage, orange juice and coffee or tea. Most pubs stop this offer at 11AM.
£5 - will buy you a couple of sandwiches and a soft drink, some takeaway fish and chips, or a fast food meal. There are also a number of mostly Chinese restaurants which serve an all-you-can-eat buffet for around this price. These are dotted about the West End and it is well worth asking a member of public or a shopkeeper where the nearest one is. These restaurants make much of their revenue on drinks although these are usually still moderately priced. The food whilst not being of the finest standard is usually very tasty and the range of dishes available is excellent. There are literally thousands of so called takeaways in London and a cheap alternative to a restaurant meal. Check with your hotel management if they allow food deliveries before ordering in. Most takeaways will offer some form of seating, but not all do.
£6-7 - will get you a good pub meal and drink or a good Chinese/Indian/Italian/Thai/Vietnamese buffet. Be aware that many pubs have a buy-one-get-one-free offer, and you can either order two main dishes for yourself or bring a friend.
£10 - some more expensive French, mediterranean and international restaurants do cheaper two or three course lunch menus.
£20 - offers you a lot more choice. You can have a good meal, half a bottle of wine and change for the tube home. There are plenty of modest restaurants that cater for this bracket.
£50+ - with more money to spend you can pick some of the city's finer restaurants. It may be a famous chef (like Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay) or simply a place that prides itself on using the finest ingredients. Worth the splurge to impress a special someone.
Prices inevitably become inflated at venues closest to major tourist attractions - beware the so-called tourist traps. The worst tourist trap food is, in the opinion of many Londoners, that served at the various steak houses. Real Londoners wouldn't dream of eating here - you shouldn't either! Notorious areas for inflated menu prices trading on travellers' gullibility and lack of knowledge are the streets around the British Museum, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.
In the suburbs, the cost of eating out is reduced drastically. Particularly in large ethnic communities, there is a competitive market which stands to benefit the consumer. In East London for example, the vast number of KFC-style chicken shops means that a deal for 2 pieces of chicken, chips (fries) and a drink shouldn't cost you more than £2, and will satisfy even the largest of appetites. Another good (and cheap) lunch option is a chicken or lamb doner (gyro) at many outlets throughout the city.
Tipping may also be different than what you're used to. All meals include the 15% VAT tax and some places include a service fee (10-12%). The general rule is to leave a tip for table service, unless there's already a service charge added or unless the service has been notably poor. The amount tipped is generally in the region of 10%, but if there's a figure between 10 and 15% which would leave the bill at a conveniently round total, many would consider it polite to tip this amount. Tipping for counter service, or any other form of service, is unusual - but some choose to do so if a tips container is provided.
As one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities, you can find restaurants serving food cuisine from nearly every country, some of it as good as, if not better than the countries of origin. If you are looking for particular nationalities these tend to be clustered in certain areas: Brick Lane in East London is famous for curries, but for better quality Tooting in South West London has a good reputation and is cheaper. Brixton for African/Caribbean, Chinatown in Soho for Chinese, Edgware Road in Marylebone for Middle Eastern and Drummond Street (just behind Euston railway station) for a selection of good value Indian vegetarian. Golders Green for Jewish and Kingsland Road for good cheap Vietnamese. Other nationalities are equally represented, but are randomly dotted all over London. It is usually wisest to eat in restaurants on main thoroughfares, rather than on quiet backstreets.
Fast Food Chains
Like other capitals in the world, London has the usual array of fast food outlets. Sandwich shops are London's most popular places to buy lunch, and there are a lot of places to choose from. Some Italian sandwich shops have a very good reputation and you can identify them easily by looking at the long queues at lunchtime. If all else fails, Central London has lots of mini-supermarkets operated by the big British supermarket chains (e.g. , Sainsbury's, Tesco) where you can pick up a pre-packed sandwich.
Busaba Eathai. Provides a similar experience and quality of food to Wagamama at several locations around London and focuses on Thai cuisine.. Nice thai food
Eat. Ready-made sandwiches, soups and pies, all made with quality ingredients.
Pret a Manger. Ready-made sandwiches made with quality ingredients. Increasingly known simply as "Pret."
Wagamama. Mon-Sat noon-11PM, Sun noon-10PM. Japanese noodle bar; generally good quality freshly cooked food at a reasonable price, in a well-designed canteen style restaurant. Diners are seated on benches opposite each other, so not a good place for an intimate meal. Two dozen restaurants around Central London. Main course £7-9.
Yo! Sushi. Dependent on location. Japanese sushi and noodle bar dishes; There is no waiter staff, everything is served on a conveyer belt. You pick up a plate, colour coded for price. Then, pay at the end of the meal. £1.70-£5 per plate.
Nandos. Mon-Sun 11:30am-10pm on weekdays and about 12am on weekends. Located all around London spicy peri peri style grilled chicken like you never tasted before. Extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. Main course around £7-£10.
London has plenty of vegetarian-only restaurants, and a quick search in Google will produce plenty of ideas, so you never have to see a piece of cooked meat all week. If you are dining with carnivorous friends, then most restaurants will cater for vegetarians, and will have at least a couple of dishes on the menu. Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants are generally more fruitful, as they have plenty of traditional dishes that only use vegetables. There are also many vegetarian Thai buffet places where you can eat somewhat unconvincing (but tasty) meat substitute grub for £5. These can be found on Greek Street, Old Compton Street and Islington High Street.
Food For Thought, Neal Street, Covent Garden. Tasty range of choices for vegetarians and vegans.
Red Veg, Dean Street, Soho (opposite Tesco). For those of you looking for veggie fast food, this has some great options.
Mary Ward Cafe, Queen Square, Bloomsbury (nearest tube stations are Holborn and Russell Square). A selection of veggie and vegan dishes that changes daily. £3.60 for a heap of food. Cakes, pastries, and salad available as well. Busy, eat in or take away.
Due to the mix of cultures and religions, many London restaurants cater well for religious dietary requirements. The most common signs are for Halal and Kosher meat, from burger joints to nice restaurants. There are loads of Halal restaurants and shops all over London - including east London (Whitechapel Rd, Brick Lane), Edgware Rd and the WC postcode (e.g. Bayswater), and many parts of north London, and plenty of Kosher restaurants mainly in Golders Green and Edgware.
London is home to a great many pubs, bars and nightclubs. The weekly magazine Time Out can inform you of what's going in London's night life, as well as with cultural events in general.
Pubs and bars
London is an expensive place and your drink is likely to cost more than its equivalent elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Expect to pay £3 for a pint of beer in an average pub. However many local pubs, especially those run by chains like Wetherspoons and Scream tend to be more reasonably priced, the latter catering for a student audience. In the Bloomsbury area, check out The Court (near the North end of Tottenham Court Road) and The Rocket (Euston Road); both are fairly cheap to drink in, given that they cater for students of the adjacent University College London. Directly opposite the British Library is The Euston Flyer, popular with locals and commuters alike given its close proximity to St Pancras International railway station. Classier bars and pubs can be much more expensive. However, the cost of alcohol drops significantly the further away you go from the centre (though be aware that West London tends to be an exception, with prices pretty much the same as the centre).
The Devonshire Arms, (Camden). A little more rock and metal oriented but be prepared to look the part.
The Foundry, (off Old Street). Closed Mondays. One of the most interesting pubs in London. It's got a unique atmosphere, and serves excellent organic ales and stouts from Pitfield's, a local brewery. Make sure to go downstairs to the bathrooms, as there is usually an art exhibit in the halls.
The Intrepid Fox, (West End). A little more rock and metal oriented but be prepared to look the part.
JD Wetherspoon chain. The Knights Templar, Chancery Lane. Cheap-moderate.
Light Bar, St Martins Lane. Expensive cocktails with a decor to match.
The Midas Touch, Beak Street (tube: Piccadilly Circus). Popular pub with locals and usually has some good happy hour deals. Cheap-Moderate.
Sam Smith's. The various pubs are very well priced, central and as traditional as you could want. Chandos, St Martin's Lane; The Cittie of Yorke, Holborn; The Crown, New Oxford Street; Princess Louise, High Holborn; Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street.
Sanderson London. Long Bar and Purple Bar. Expensive.
Nightlife seems to be an integral feature of London life and there are countless nightclubs in and around Central London with music to suit even the most eclectic of tastes. Districts in London tend to specialize to different types of music.
The Farringdon/Hoxton/Shoreditch area mainly consists of clubs playing drum and bass, house and trance music and is home to the superclub Fabric (arguably the best nightclub in London). The clubs in this area are often home to the world's top DJ's and attracts a lively crowd.
The area around the West End (Leicester Square, Mayfair, Piccadilly) is home to the more upmarket and exclusive clubs in London. This area attracts a rather pretentious crowd who love to flaunt what they have and is a must go to celebrity spot. Beware that drinks are ridiculously expensive and many clubs operate a guestlist only policy. Music played here is often of the chart funky house, hip hop and R&B genre. Notable clubs include Cafe De Paris, China White, Funky Buddha, Mahiki, Number One Leicester Square and Paper.
The Camden area in North London is made of clubs which play Indie, metal and rock music. Notable clubs include Electric Ballroom, the world famous Koko, and Underworld. (Courtesy of Wikitravel).
Make a night of it at the Proms
The Promenade Festival started in London in 1895 with the aim of presenting the widest possible range of music, performed to the highest standards, to large audiences. Now known as the BBC Proms, the festival takes place this year from 17 July to 12 September with 100 concerts, including 76 main performances in the Royal Albert Hall. A ‘Prom’ is a Promenade Concert, where part of the audience stands in the Arena, the ‘promenade’ area of the hall directly in front of the orchestra. There are also standing places high up, at the top of the Gallery The hall offers more than 1,000 standing places for each Prom. The traditionally low prices start at £5. Seated tickets cost from £7 to £90. Promming (standing) tickets cannot be booked in advance for individual concerts and queues form early for the more popular programmes.
The concerts are noted for their informal atmosphere. The 2009 programme includes all of Tchaikovsky’s music for piano and orchestra, ballet scores by Stravinsky, Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a day-long Indian prom with a Bollywood finale and concerts dedicated to the contemporary composers Philip Glass and Michael Nyman. Every Prom concert is broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, on air and online. Many are broadcast on BBC television with most available on BBC iPlayer for seven days after broadcast. The last night of the Proms is celebrated with simultaneous live concerts at various open-air venues round Britain.
BBC Proms, 17 July–12 September 2009
Web site: www.bbc.co.uk/proms/2009
Talking Travel Uniquely carved entrance doors, as seen at many stately London homes, set the tone for a one of a kind residence, perched high above Carlos Place in the heart of London, as The Connaught opens The Apartment on the top floor of the hotel. Welcoming cosmopolitan travellers from around the world with an eclectic taste in art, culture and literature into a private collector’s home, the David Collins designed space features an array of specifically commissioned artworks and limited edition books. The unveiling of The Apartment marks an important milestone in the £70 million restoration of The Connaught, taking the landmark hotel into the 21st century while preserving its authentic elegance and distinct personality.
The understated palette of heathery blues, rich lavenders and ocean greys is elevated by metallic accents, silk curtains and hand-crafted, artisan elements. From lilac leather lined cabinetry in the dressing room and a bespoke card table, upholstered in navy leather with antiqued brass detailing, to a richly veined custom designed white marble fireplace, The Apartment feels like the home of an urbane, cultured connoisseur. The entrance corridor has been treated as an extension of the living space with a library including an interesting collection of twentieth century novels, unusual art history books and some rare volumes. The Apartment features carefully selected antique and contemporary decorative artworks including ceramic vessels, inspirational architectural black and white photography, and bespoke framed modern textiles sourced from craftsmen and artists all over the world.
The Apartment encompasses a stately, double height sitting-room , crowned by an artisan plaster chandelier by the well-respected sculptor Philippe Anthonioz, reminiscent of that in the Musee Picasso, Paris. The adjacent dining room is created with an exclusive, intimate diner party in mind with walls adorned with specially commissioned art work, giving it the residential touch of a world-traveller’s home. The world-famous Connaught butlers are on hand to arrange a private dinner party, with menus specially designed by two-Michelin star chef Hélène Darroze. Two landscaped decked terraces created by award winning garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith have far reaching views over the rooftops of Mayfair. The master-bedroom, with a four poster bed and delicate silk draping, opens up to a luxurious dressing room, boasting pale lilac leather lined wardrobes and an elegant dressing table designed by David Collins, bedecked with a capsule collection of Guerlain beauty products. A white and grey marble bathroom with stand-alone bathtub and double shower completes the experience for discerning guests. There is an equally beautiful guest bedroom with en suite marble bathroom.
“The Connaught is more than a hotel, it is a home, a familiar refuge, and I intended to create an iconic, unique home from home, eschewing the word penthouse. The Apartment is created for a discerning client: well travelled, informed and with an appreciation of design and the art of living. It is a private place for a chosen few and a very personal design statement,” said David Collins.
With the transformation of Mount Street into one of the world’s most avant-garde retail destinations, The Connaught has established a unique relationship with many of the neighbouring designer shops. Lanvin silk dresses, Balenciaga suede jackets, Christian Louboutin satin heels and Goyard vanity boxes can be placed in the dressing room prior to arrival as part of a couture shopping service.
The Connaught, part of the Maybourne Hotel Group, has recently unveiled a multi-million pound restoration and renovation programme which includes a magnificent redesign of the guest rooms, suites and interiors using some of the world finest designers and craftsmen. Siganture features include Helene Darroze at The Connaught which was recently awarded its first Michelin star only six months after opening. Both The Coburg Bar and David Collins designed Connaught Bar have attracted the stylish set since their opening.