Steeped in history and culture, London was crowned the most visited city in the world this year. With landmarks from Big Ben to the London Eye, the historical significance of the city goes without saying. What gets us most every time is cohabitation of old and new. Once one has seen the sites, discovering why London is now known as Europe’s hippest capital city is next on the agenda. Here are our picks:
Eat: Chiltern Firehouse
Nestled in the heart of the well-heeled neighborhood of Marylebone, Chiltern Firehouse has been branded a spot “for everyone who’s anyone” by Tatler. The restaurant is housed in a restored gothic firehouse and features a whimsical lantern-lit courtyard. The brainchild of venerable international hotelier André Balazs, of Chateau Marmont fame, the dining room is the crown jewel of the ultra-exclusive boutique hotel. As Balazs’ first venture outside the States, it has naturally attracted star power like bees to honey. Serving up distinctively modern American cuisine, the menu features a well-balanced mix of inventive dishes including maple-bourbon sweet potatoes and crab-stuffed donuts. We like the Firehouse Caesar featuring crispy chicken skin and Parmesan. Note to the wise: as the hotspot it is, the eatery takes reservations up to two months in advance. For reservations big or small, make yours early to avoid disappointment. Address: 1 Chiltern Street, Marylebone, London W1U 7PA, +44(0)20 7073 7676.
Drink: Sketch Parlour
Set in a grand, sprawling Georgian townhouse a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Regent Street, Sketch is a gastronomy complex featuring multiple eccentrically themed restaurants and lounges for whatever mood may strike. Known for its audacious (and oftentimes downright puzzling) artwork, egg-shaped restroom stalls and curious menu, Sketch is nothing short of an assault on the senses. The Parlour lounge is the perfect venue for an aperitif. The space fuses the heady days of the Victorian dandy with modern maximalism against the resident DJ’s bass-thumping soundtrack of cool house. The Parlour becomes members only after 9:30PM, but it’s fitting given the already anti-egalitarian vibe. We particularly like the Lovely Bubbly—a summery delight of tangy passion fruit with black raspberry liqueur, charged with a chilled draught of Champagne. Address: 9 Conduit Street, London W1S 2XG, +44(0)20 7659 4500.
Stay: Cinema Suite, 51 Buckingham Gate
Mere yards away from Buckingham Palace, the Cinema Suite is the crown-jewel of 51 Buckingham Gate, a Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces property. The space was created by legendary Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee and pays tribute to the history of motion pictures from around the world. “I would have made a far better interior designer than a fashion designer,” Sabyasachi recently told us. Larger than life artwork, curious knickknacks and handmade textiles indigenous to India add to the decadence of the space, which includes two bedrooms, a dining room, study, powder room, kitchen and living room. With a state-of-the-art cinema built right in and hundreds of films to select from, guests may not feel the need to see London at all. Do try the Cinematic Platter of popcorn and sweets that is served daily by your very own private butler. Prices start at £5,100 per night. Call +44(0)20 7769 7766 for reservations.
Shop: Harvey Nichols
With humble beginnings as a linen shop in 1831, Harvey Nichols has since expanded to a full city block at the corner of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street. Pre-dating Selfridges and Harrods, Harvey Nicks—as its fondly known—offers quality luxury goods far superior to its flashy rivals. It’s no wonder that Princess Diana was known to be a regular patron in the ‘90s. With beautiful, streamlined interiors, minimalism is king in this fabled department store. Stocking only the top pieces from a very select pool of designers, visitors can expect a well-curated shopping experience.
Did we mention shoppers will find ISHARYA in the jewelry department, and in the window? Do stop by! Address: 109-125 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RJ, +44(0)20 7235 5000.
There is no other city on the planet quite as cosmopolitan as London. One could inexhaustibly tour the city for months. From regal Kensington to subversive Shoreditch, new adventure awaits on every visit to this magnificent city.