August 1, 2011
Where to stay, eat, play right now on Will and Kate’s turf
By Nancy Staab
On the heels of the royal wedding and the new couple’s recent visit to the U.S. (La-La land to be exact), we’re besotted with all things British, particularly the capitol. London hasn’t been this swinging since the Mod ’60s! Here’s our veddy proper guide to a grown-up London—a glittering mix of rootsy native charms and cosmopolitan sophistication.
Sure the spanking new W Hotel opened with lots of celeb fanfare this spring www.wlondon.co.uk , but for the best London experience we recommend checking into one of the classic dowager hotels such as Claridge’s, The Connaught Hotel or Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite The Dorchester [The pink marble bath of the Harlequin Suite, which she shared with Burton, is supposedly marked by graffiti that reads ‘RB XXX ET.’] And if you think these 5 star Mayfair hotels are too queen mum, think again. Kate Moss was recently sighted at The Dorchester, which boasts an Alain Ducasse restaurant (for a unique experience book the fiber-optic curtained Lumiere Table with Hermes china) www.thedorchester.com
Diane Von Furstenberg just designed an exuberantly patterned suite for Claridge’s, which also has an in-house restaurant by Brit bad boy chef Gordon Ramsay and a masculine-posh Fumoir bar with purple velvet banquettes www.claridges.co.uk .
And The Connaught offers perfectly polished rooms with Deco baths, a restaurant by Helene Darroze, and the star attraction is its glamorous bar with shimmering silver leaf walls and one of London’s top mixologists www.the-connaught.co.uk. And don't miss the new fountain-and-mist water installation at The Connaught by contemporary architect Tadao Ando.
Any of these grand ladies would also be a good spot for popping in for traditional English tea. However, if you are seeking a slightly more boutique, contemporary experience, settle into one of The Hempel’s Zen-luxe suites designed by Anoushka Hempel (the one with the floating platform bed is our fave) in the heart of West London. We also love The Hempel’s manicured green courtyard and its enduring chic gives newer boutique hotels like The Sanderson or The W a run for their money. www.the-hempel.co.uk
London has tons of classics like The Woolsey, Scott’s for sublime seafood, Cipriani’s for the beautiful people, and the members-only Annabel’s, but London is also buzzing with several new cutting-edge eateries.
King of offal (plus bone marrow and lowly cuts of meat) Fergus Henderson is branching into the lodging business with his recently opened St. John Hotel, but the real buzz is about the hotel’s restaurant menu, which includes earthy dishes as suckling pig for four, www.stjohnhotellondon.com.
Probably the most momentous epicurean moment of 2010 was the opening of chef Heston Blumenthal’s first London restaurant called Dinner. Similar to his 3 Michelin star, country gastropub, Fat Duck, in Bray, but with a tonier setting within the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Dinner offers a menu of historical/archival 17th-19thth century British dishes such as “powdered” ie. brined duck, black angus sirloin with mushroom ketchup, and the famed “meat fruit” chicken liver parfait, but punched up with modern culinary techniques, www.dinnerbyheston.com.
At Pollen Street Social, former Maze chef Jason Atherton delivers creative dishes like Orkney langoustine with lemon peel puree, or Speyside beef fillet with organic carrots, snails, garlic and parsley porridge, www.jasonatherton.co.uk.
Of course you can’t go to London without checking in with former Atlanta chef Joel Antunes and his dark, sleek new Brasserie Joel near the London Eye. On the menu: his signature gazpacho with avocado sorbet, Thai coconut soup with crab dumpling, oxtail tortellini and sea bass with artichoke risotto.
Lastly, combine supping with shopping at buzzy designer Tom Dixon’s new shop and food emporium in a converted wharf building at Portobello Dock. The space includes cool contemporary lighting and furniture, a pop up garden shop, Dutch collaborative design firm Mooi next door, and The Dock Kitchen helmed by young chef of the year Stevie Parle in a contempo-casual space illuminated by Dixon’s Copper Shade globes, www.dockkitchen.co.uk.
It may be touristy, but a nighttime spin on The London Eye carousel is de riguer, not only for bird’s eye views of the city, but to test drive an attraction that has also been seriously proposed as a future tourist-booster for our own fair city of Atlanta! www.londoneye.com. Don’t miss the temporary Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Pritzker-Prize architect Peter Zumthor.
Theater buffs should check out Ralph Feines playing Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest this fall Aug. 27-Oct. 29 at Theatre Royal Haymarket www.trh.co.uk. You can also watch Feines’ English Patient co-star Kristen Scott Thomas tread the boards in Harold Pinter’s play Betrayal through Aug. 20 at Comedy Theatre.
Or if it’s a different kind of theater you crave, check out Simon Hammerstein’s risque nightclub The Box, which recently opened in London. Simon, who’s heir to the famously theatrical Hammerstein family, has brought his successful formula of cocktails, cabaret and supper club from downtown Manhattan to London’s SoHo. Not surprisingly, perennial party boys Jude Law and Prince Harry have already been spotted at the sultry den. The Box, 11 Walker’s Court at Brewer Street.
For a sceney nightcap duck into Sketch a combination gallery, tea room, restaurant and bar in Mayfair. Its West Bar is deked out in futuristic white leather and neon pink, while the Gallery room boasts an imaginative menu by master chef Pierre Gagnaire www.sketch.uk.com.