John and I headed off to New York City this past week for a night (Hello, TWA Hotel! and a few meetings–the TWA Hotel needs MAJOR work on the service front) and then zipped on to London for a few days before we headed to water-logged Venice for Thanksgiving with a friend from Hong Kong and my parents. We have Hunter boots in tow, but our friends tell us that Venice has picked itself up and wrung itself out. Even the fabled Gritti Hotel (they had photos of terrible flooding) is back in the saddle and fully operational. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, we spent three nights in London at a charming Air BnB in the wonderful, up-and-coming Pimlico neighborhood that is sandwiched between Victoria Station and the Houses of Parliament. Pimlico is the perfect home base as the neighborhood is quiet and yet it is only steps to the action.
What are our essential London must-visits on every trip across the Pond? Here, our Top Tep London Must-Visits.
1. The Fumoir Bar at Claridge’s
We can’t afford to stay at iconic Claridge’s Hotel in the heart of Mayfair, but we do have enough cash to drink at Claridge’s–specifically the jewel-box like, charming Art Deco-styled Fumoir Bar. Think fabulous cocktails such as the Fumoir Negroni and the Vervain paired with delicious munchies such as the £25 club sandwich… Heaven. We love the amazing Deco-designed men’s lav downstairs. I wonder if the woman’s loo is just as chic?
2. Liberty of London
History crashes into the contemporary at the stunning Liberty of London department store where you can purchase everything from needlepoint kits to cutting-edge fashion and home goods. The mock-Tudor facade and interiors are equally delightful–especially at the holidays when they are kitted out in exuberant style. But beware of the holiday crowds–there is an absolute crush of people. I had a small panic attack, literally.
3. Leighton House Museum
A favorite “house museum” in London is Frederic, Lord Leighton’s Leighton House Museum in Holland Park. A renowned Victorian-era painter who has been forgotten, sadly, by time, Leighton crafted an incredible retreat packed with Arabesque details and transporting tile work.
4. Colefax & Fowler
Smack in the heart of Pimlico’s bustling design district, Colefax & Fowler decamped not long back from its former, magical digs on Brook Street. The newish outpost doesn’t have Nancy Lancaster vestiges but is still a stunning spot to browse. We especially love the wicker baskets at the front door that overflow with glorious flowers and greenery.
5. The Regent’s Park
The Regent’s Park is a favorite oasis in the heart of London. The magical gardens–including Queen Mary’s Rose Garden–pair with stunning lakes and verdant lawns to create pure magic. In the summers, John and I like to visit the park’s Open-Air Theatre for wonderful performances paired with a boozy picnic.
6. La POule Au Pot Restaurant
Charming French fare takes center stage in the wonderful, throwback La Poule au Pot French eatery in the center of the Pimlico design quarter. Try the superlative Dover sole paired with wonderfully throwback, country-style decor.
7. Fortnum & Mason
There’s no department store in the world quite like Fortnum & Mason, a Mecca for gourmands. John and I come in for tea and scones and stock up on glorious grocery goods to trot home such as gin-scented tea and fabulous honey from apiaries housed upon the store’s roof. Upstairs, there is also a selection of gorgeous must-haves for the home, gents, and women, too. Sadly, the service isn’t what it once was, but do look beyond that.
8. Dennis Severs’ House
Head to the incredible Dennis Severs’ Home on Folgate Street home in East London for a “visual interpretation” of what a Huguenot silk weavers’ family’s home might have looked like from the 18th century until the 20th century. Incredible.
9. Bermondsey Market
The Friday-morning Bermondsey Market on the south bank of the Thames isn’t what it once was, but it’s still a fun excursion for poking around the bits of silver and bric-a-brac. Plus, the neighborhood around the market has exploded so sample one of the fun eateries such as José and Casse-Croûte for lunch. We also love to have a coffee at the charming Watch House across from the market.
10. Circolo Popolare Restaurant
John and I absolutely love the bustling, very chic, loud Circolo Popolare eatery off Oxford Street for its amazing vibe, cheap and stylish eats, and all-around fun. Really cool and unpretentious. Like stepping into Sicily circa 1984. Heaven. Get ready to dance after your truffled pizza! Truly.