I only left two days ago and I already miss it. This past year I called London my home, and while the weather and taxes might have gotten the better of me sometimes, there was still plenty to love about the amazing capital. I was sad to leave, but I’m also looking forward to a new career direction in another (equally) cool capital: Madrid. So, in honor of the city I have only just left, but already miss, here’s a roundup of some of my favorite places/frequented spots during my time in London (bear in mind, I’m neither an East Londoner nor a Westerner – I’m straight out of the heart of Bloomsbury :)
Rosa’s Thai Cafe: I have been scouring Europe for a good version of my favorite Thai noodle dish, and Rosa’s is the only place where I’ve found it (so far). I like the simplicity of the pale wooden decor, and the fact that it’s small and cozy. The Soho location was closest to my hood, but they also have a cafe in Spitalfields. 48 Dean Street, W1D 5BF
Poppies: I’m certain there are much better and more authentic fish and chips joints in London, but this place delivered the bang for a small buck, and has convenient locations in Camden and Shoreditch – handy when friends and family come to visit, and all they want to eat is Britain’s famous fried food. 30 Hawley Crescent, NW1 8NP
Wahaca: Again, there are definitely much more authentic places in London to go to for real Mexican food, but Wahaca does a great job at pleasing big crowds. They combine the best of Spanish tapas portions and spicy Mexican staples like taquitos, frijoles, and plenty of tequila. The Southbank location is perfect in the summertime, overlooking the river, and the Soho branch has a great bar downstairs. 80 Wardour Street, W1F OTF
The Breakfast Club: Many say TBC is over-rated, and they are probably right, but when I wanted a true American brunch to cure all evils, I waited in line on more than one occasion. Their french toast isn’t half bad, and they offer a good variety of veggie options too.
31 Camden Passage, N1 8EA
Hare Krishna @ SOAS: Want a free, hearty meal in London? The Hare Krishna food truck outside of SOAS university is the London student’s best-kept secret. The organization Food For All provides “spiritually enriched” vegetarian meals to all people, though specifically the homeless, disadvantaged, unemployed, and elderly. If you happen to know a SOAS student, the best place to enjoy the curry and rice is in their muralled student union :)
SOAS, University of London, WC1H 0XG
Borough Market: I have posted about this market before, and I’ll repeat it here as one of the coolest places in London. There is something very satisfying about buying your food from a market, fresh off the farm. Borough Market is like the upgraded version of your small town fruit and veg stand. 8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL
Coffee & Drinks:
Bloomsbury Coffee House: My “local” coffee shop when I needed wifi, wanted a pick-me-up, or just got tired of bitter take-away coffees. With mix-match tables and chairs, chill vibes, and good coffee, Bloomsbury Coffee House is a hidden hole-in-the-wall where I wrote more than one blog post. 20 Tavistock Place, WC1H 9RE
Workshop Coffee Co.: These guys know how to find and make good coffee. I loved the long, communal-style tables, and exposed brick wall (aside from the amazing coffee). The Clerkenwell cafe was around the corner from where I used to work, and it was only the steep prices that kept me from going everyday. 27 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RN
TAP Coffee: Another place with great coffee. They’re “No.114” location became an ideal place to relax and escape from the overwhelming hustle of central London.
114, Tottenham Court Road W1T 5AH
London Cocktail Club: Underground, dim-lit, and decorated in old-school wallpaper and velvet sofas, it feels like you’ve walked into a punked-out gentlemen’s club. The cocktails are crazy inventive, and I’d been a little more daring in my choice. LCC is a good alternative when you get tired of the pub. 61 Goodge Street, W1T 1TL
George Birkbeck Bar: Another London student secret, the George Birkbeck bar is a rooftop bar that overlooks the University of London campus and greater Bloomsbury area. Drinks are dirt cheap, smokers are welcome, and there are sofas inside for those who prefer to sit. You can’t go wrong. (Get there early if you want to avoid being asked for a student ID – and go with a student if you decide to show up late). Birkbeck College 4th floor, Malet Street WC1E 7HX
The Blues Kitchen: Good live music for the price of a pint. You had me at live music. Blues, funk, soul, jazz, and rock n roll are this place’s specialty with a live jam every Sunday, and DJs playing vintage rock n’ soul mixes on Fridays and Saturdays.
111-113 Camden High Street, NW1 7JN
Beyond Retro: If you come to London and don’t go into a vintage shop, then you’re missing out. There are tons of vintage shops in London, especially the further East you go. Beyond Retro just happened to be one of the first I ever walked into, and I’ve since discovered it’s one of the biggest vintage shops with good variety and quality. 110-112 Cheshire Street, E2 6EJ
Lamb’s Conduit Street & Camden Passage: These streets are two of the loveliest shopping streets I have discovered. Lined with small boutiques, cafes, independent book shops, and antiques stalls, they’re a peaceful and pedestrian-only alternative to the manic Oxford Street.
Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 3NG & Camden Passage, Islington, N1 8EA
Portobello Road Market: Another spot which has appeared before in a previous post, and which deserves a second mention. We have established that I love markets of all kinds, and I guess since I grew up singing ‘Portobello Road’, this would undoubtedly end up being one of my favorites. Portobello Road, W10 5TA
Daunt Books: There are 110 independent book shops in London. While Daunt Books is not one of them, it still has the feel of an independent book shop, and offers an amazing selection. I think I like this place especially for it’s unbelievable travel section in the Marylebone store.
83 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4QW
Senate House Library: When I no longer had enough money for a flat white, and needed a place to read and write in peace, I’d come here. The reading rooms look like out of a Harry Potter scene, and there is perhaps every book imaginable in their collection. If you’re a student you usually get “free” access, but there are membership plans for non-students too.
Senate House, Malet Street, WC1E 7HU
Hampstead Heath: It’s the park with the best view of London. It is also where George Orwell had his home – one in a long list of writers and artists who lived there. It’s a beautiful park to run in, although be warned that it’s a tough one given all the hills.
Gordon House Road, NW5 1QR
Tate Britain & Modern: It’s hard to pick a favorite museum in the city that has it all when it comes to art. But, if I had to choose, I think the Tates would be at the top of my list. Tate Britain for its photogenic interiors and very British collection, and Tate Modern for my love of contemporary art and the amazing views from its top floor cafe.
Tate Britain, Millbank SW1P 4RG & Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG
Regent’s Canal: A London “secret” that is quirkier and and less of a tourist-trap than the Thames. It starts in Little Venice in Maida Vale, and winds its way through Regent’s Park, the Camden craft stalls, Kings Cross, and then eastward into Mile End and Canary Wharf. I’m nosy and like peeking into the boat houses that line the canal, and love that it reminds me of one of my favorite places in Paris, too.