Like everyone says, London is the most incredible City in the world and after spending a short week there i can see why. I had not been to London for more than 6 years, when my husband mentioned that he had to travel there for work Ii quickly booked myself a ticket and was lucky enough to tag along. Coming from Singapore I was not prepared for the cold and certainly didn’t have any appropriate clothes, but when we woke on the first morning to blue skies I was feeling pretty happy, once we stepped outside I was shocked, it was so mild. And wow, what they say is right, when the sun shines they all go a little crazy!! The parks were filled with Londoners sunbaking in their swimmers, bars and pubs were spilling onto the streets at 4.30 in the afternoon, and the streets were filled with shoppers enjoying strip shopping and not being locked away in malls. We were so lucky to be there for such glorious weather, each day was between 18-22°C with no wind and blue sky, as i’ve been told we were so lucky, it’s not like this all year round…really?!? It was the perfect weather for a tourist like me with no nap times to race home for, i was a free spirit roaming the streets and happily being lost among the blossoms that line the streets of the most expensive real estate in the world.
Straight off the plane, and into the car for a one hour journey to Bicester Village with my sister-in-law for some serious retail therapy. If you have not heard of Bicester Village, imagine a quaint English quasi village filled with over 130 designer outlets, this is my idea of heaven – no kids and a day of shopping at seriously discounted prices.
Sitting down to a long lunch when you are in shopping mode is a waste of time in my books, so grab a quick salad or wrap from Pret. Yes it’s a chain restaurant, but their turnover is so high which means everything is fresh and not to say tastes really good.
If you don’t have much time in London, but love shopping and want designer brands at great prices, then definitely go to Bicester Village. Bicester is very easy to get to from London, click here to find out more about the shopping and how to get there.
From Paddington Station I took the train to Oxford to visit my dearest friend who is studying her PHD there. I was taken back by the beautiful English scenery that you pass on the train, it’s such a peaceful scenic route that only takes one hour and with wi-fi on the train, it’s a easy trip.
Straight from the train station I was taken on the mandatory tour of Oxford University. It honestly felt like a scene out of Harry Potter, the college library’s, dinning halls and chapel’s are just incredible.
Oxford is your quintessential English Village, narrow cobbled stone streets, old sandstone buildings, trees that are older than my great great grandparents, thatched roofs, and green pastures till as far as the eye can see and even a stream running along side the town. Oxford has lovely café’s and restaurants filled with students typing away for hours upon hours, so you may have to wait for a student to pack up their laptop before getting a seat.
I was determined to find a good breakfast spot, and in the lane way behind our hotel I stumbled upon Ravello, http://www.myravello.co.uk a great little café off Moorgate Road. My morning staple became a smoked salmon and egg roll, which was served on a freshly baked roll that was still warm and a quick coffee to set me off for the day.
My first mission was to see Borough Market. I started walking in the direction of London Bridge to cross the Thames and easily found the market, it was sign posted very well. The markets are incredible, they stimulate all your senses and the biggest challenge is restraining from buying everything in sight because it’s pretty hard to pack most of it into a suitcase. From the fresh breads, cakes, speciality cheese stores, Croatian delicacies, Italian delicatessen’s, freshly made pasta stand, incredible fruit and vegetable stalls with such a vast selections of amazing ingredients, Turkish stand with every flavour of Turkish Delight you could ever wish for, meat wholesalers with cuts of meats that any man would salivate over, cured meats, fresh seafood, and the list goes on and on. My biggest mistake upon visiting the markets first thing in the morning, WHAT WAS I THINKING?!? I should have gone when I was starving at lunch time.
From the markets I took a beautiful walk along the Thames and back across London Bridge to St Katherine Dock http://www.skdocks.co.uk. I’d never heard of it before, but coming from a bit of a boat loving family Mum and Dad suggested I take a look. It’s a marina that is home to some incredible boats, and surrounded by café’s and restaurants and some amazing apartments. Nice for a morning walk and a coffee break.
St Katherine Dock
Next stop was Islington. My friend at Oxford suggested I take a walk down the High Street of Islington. Straight off the tube I could see I was in a bit of a funky, up and coming area, it was very different to Notting Hill and Maida Vale that I’m more familiar with. My first stop was a bakery that specialise in cakes made with “no refined sugar”. After a few hours of walking, I thought I would try this novel concept for a cake store, or at least I thought so. Novel it was, a piece of cheese cake with no sugar…. I’ll stick to the more traditional ones!!
I kept walking down the street, crossing the road a few times to explore different shops and what appears right in front of my face OTTOLENGHI!!!! All my dreams came true at that very moment. It was only 11.30am, but there was no stopping me – I was sitting down for lunch. After countless recommendations, and being an averred follower, it was number one on my list of places to go in London. As soon as I walked in I knew it was going to be incredible!!! My biggest problem was choosing only three salads on my plate, I wanted them all and by all I really do mean ALL. The display in the window was breathtaking – well for any foodie it was. The display of deserts is mouth watering and the salads are displayed in an incredibly moorish way on huge platers topped with so many different herbs, nuts and sauces. This is definitely somewhere you MUST visit, but make sure you get there early. I was in Notting Hill the following day, and by 10.30am there was a line outside the store and down the street, so get to Islington early or be prepared to line up at Notting Hill.
My belly was full and now it was time to hit the High Street’s! After such a peaceful morning, I was not ready for the crowds that blanketed Oxford Street. A quick stroll down the street with a diversion into Selfridges shoe hall and soon I found myself on New Bond Street trying to escape the crowds. Now I’m feeling it, high end fashion and jewellery at it’s best. By this point my feet needed a rest, I could not resist a slice of carrot cake and coffee from Paul Patisserie. Paul is a French Patisserie chain with stores all over London.
I made my way to the Victoria and Albert Museum, however don’t make the same mistake that I did, buy your tickets before 4pm. I wondered around the amazing parts of the gallery that were free, but I could not access the exhibits. Next time!!
Time to head back to the hotel for a refresh and of course change into heels before dining at NOPI. I booked this as soon as I knew we were going to London because I did not want to miss out on the opportunity to experience Ottolenghi’s amazing food. We started off with a drink at the bar and then sat down to an incredible meal that was bursting with exotic flavours and really pushed our culinary pallets. I wont bore you with ALL the dishes we had, but a few of my favourites were the eggplant and octopus starters and the fish as a main. NOPI was exceptional, from the 5 star service, the variety of food, the casual but funky setting, you could not fault it just be prepared to open your wallet!!
As we woke up and the sun reflected on the incredible sandstone buildings outside our window, I knew another stunning day was ahead of me. First stop was Ledbury Road in Notting Hill. Sadly i was mainly window shopping as the shops are all pretty pricey, at the same time salivating at the cakes in the window of Ottolenghi, but I wasn’t prepared to wait in the line that was out the door and down the street.
My sister-in-law and I had a lovely lunch in the garden courtyard of MAZI in Kensington. MAZI is a Greek restaurants serving authentic food with a modern twist. If you are a regular reader of our blog, you will know I’m slightly obsessed with Greek food so I was eager to try this. We had beetroot tzatziki to start with freshly baked crunchy bread. Beetroot tzatziki sounds a little strange, but it had a nice refreshing flavour. We then had incredible tender bbq octopus with a seafood risotto, both dishes were delicious. MAZI is beautiful for a casual lunch or even dinner with friends as it’s nice to share dishes so you can try more.
I set off on foot down Portobello Road admiring the antique markets and general vibe of the area as it was buzzing with people on a gloriously sunny afternoon. My cousin gave me the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook years ago, so it would have been rude of me to not stop and try their tempting cakes. I was drawn to the cinnamon scroll, I know it’s not the traditional choice as cupcakes are their speciality, but it’s my husbands favourite and I thought I’d have it in honour of him (because sadly he was sitting in the office whilst I was exploring). the lady working at the shop said it’s incredible. Well she was right, it was deliciously sweet with just the right amount of sugar and enough cinnamon to give it great flavour.
My delicious cinnamon scroll from Hummingbird Bakery on Portobello Road
In the evening we met family at Charlotte Street Hotel for aperitivo, sliders were on the menu so they are hard to go by! We then headed across the road for dinner at Ninth. I have to say, we went on recommendation, the food was not exactly what we were expecting. It’s described as French Mediterranean style of sharing dishes, and I have to say each mouthful was an exploration of different flavours and combinations of food that you may never have experienced before.
Saturday had been set aside to spend time with family. A short strol away from Maide Vail tube stop where our family live, we headed towards the canal where we had lunch at The Waterway restaurant. On a beautiful day in London there could not have been a better place to be, by the canal, eating outside surrounded by cheerful Londoneners revelling in the sunshine. The food was perfect for a casual lunch with family including kids, serving a variety of dishes to make everyone happy.
Sadly my foodies tour (and my poor husbands week of work) in London had come to an end after a glorious week, that I hear is very rear in London, thankfully I was lucky enough to experience it. What an incredible City, London is truly an international city offering culture, the arts, history, beauty, incredible food and much much more to the lucky people who live there and tourist who come in their millions each year.
- If you want a delicious lunch or dinner that is ridiculously cheap and beyond amazing, you MUST try Franco Manca, a chain of pizza restaurants that specialise in sourdough pizza bases. They have stores all over London so no doubt there will be one near you.
- Buy a Oyster card (tube ticket) when you arrive are in London, take you ticket back to any tube station whhe you are leaving and you will receive a refund in cash. Well worth it, the only catch is you must have the card for a minimum of two days.
- Install the Uber app on your phone before arriving in London. We discovered on one occasion our Uber fair was half the price of the Black Cab.
- Pack comfortable shoes because the best way to see London is on foot.
- There is wi-fi absolutely everyone so you can get away with not buying a SIM card.
If you want to know more details about my London adventure, please do send us an email otherwise comment below and I will definitely get back to you.