It's 6 months this week, since I moved from London back to Melbourne. In many ways the move back home was simple; I had a place to live, a job lined up, friends and family, and intimate knowledge of the city. Yet, 6 months later, I still don't feel settled, and I can't really pinpoint exactly why that is (wanderlust, perhaps).
I miss London much more than I expected to and my heart feels a little pang of longing every time I see a photo of my favourite East London streets and old haunts (which is way too frequently). I had expected to miss the "away every other weekend" lifestyle, but I wasn't prepared for what I can only describe as mild homesickness (something I never experienced whilst in London). Maybe it's because I know I am not likely to ever live in London again, which makes it so hard to let go.
So here is my incredibly long (East London heavy) hitlist, plus some new hotspots that I look forward to visiting next year! If you're visiting London soon, I hope you enjoy, and as always I'd love to hear about it. L x
I can't go past The Ace Hotel in my old 'hood, Shoreditch. I have friends who will no doubt insist I stay with them, but waking up fresh in a hotel bed after a long haul flight is the best holiday prep. New opening Nobu Hotel (yes, by that same 'Nobu') also in Shoreditch, has been on my radar recently too.
For those wanting something a little more central, boutique hotel Henrietta in Covent Garden would be my pick - quirky and super cool. And if quirky isn't your vibe (and you have cash to splash) the London Edition has refined luxury down to an art (courtesy of some exquisite design by Yabu Pushelberg).
Best way to get over jet lag? Hit the ground running! When I'm on holiday I like to stay active and London is home to a range of amazing gyms and studios.
Unleash your inner boxer at 1Rebel; feel the "pilates on crack" burn at one of Matt McElligott's classes at Studio Lagree; enjoy the beautiful surroundings and inventive classes at BLOK; go hard at the sleek studio of Core Collective; sweat it out whilst stretching at Fierce Grace; and get ready to use muscles you never knew existed with a Twerk or Pole class with Kelechi at Kelechnekoff. I'm also dying to try a class at newly opened BXR (Anthony Joshua, Mark Ronson, and Sara Sampaio are all on the committee).
If gyms aren't your thing, London is home to many beautiful parks, perfect for a walk or run.
ARCHITECTURE, SIGHTS, MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
I had a pretty steady Sunday Ritual going when I lived in London, with a visit to Columbia Road Flower Market a huge part of that. The flowers are beautiful, but the crush of people can be a bit intense, so if you don't deal well with crowds, go early.
The Gherkin, obviously. If you followed my instagram when I lived in London, you would have seen me post a picture of The Gherkin about once a month... ok, once a fortnight. The best vantage point is from the former Heron, now Salesforce Tower next door (book yourself a table at Duck & Waffle or Sushisamba).
London has a wealth of galleries and museums, and you'll never have time to get to them all, or perhaps even get to the ones you want to! White Cube Bermondsey is my fave, with consistently great exhibitions, and the space is perfection. The Gagosian galleries aren't too far behind, with Newport Street Gallery, rounding out the top three.
The new Tate Modern extension by Herzog & de Meuron is a must for the archinerds and the panoramic view from the (controversial) viewing platform is a stunner. Once you've had your fill of modern art, walk over Millennium Bridge to admire St Paul's (whilst possibly being annoyed with the fact that the bridge doesn't exactly align with the cathedral). And for an even better close up view of the cathedral, head up to Madison at One New Change for a pre-dinner drink and to take in the spectacular views over St Paul's and the city as the sun sets.
I've always had a soft spot for the V&A Museum and I'm dying to see the new AL_A designed Exhibition Road Quarter. And a stop at the British Museum is non-negotiable, though I typically only go to admire the forecourt by Foster and Partners, rarely bothering to see any of the exhibits.
It's worth checking out the programmes of the Saatchi Gallery and the RA whilst you're in London, as they both hold some incredible exhibitions. The Chanel exhibition at the Saatchi and the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the RA were particular highlights during my time in London.
Located within Kensington Gardens, on the border with Hyde Park, a visit to the Serpentine Galleries cannot be missed, especially during the summer months when the Pavilion is in season. Archinerds will want to make sure they visit the Serpentine Sackler, with the Zaha Hadid structure. Combine your visit with a stroll or cycle around the two Royal Parks.
London has a reputation for individual style and great shopping... I'm not sure whether I found that to be the case, but there are certainly some shops (not so much the price tags) that I do find I miss.
Wander down my old local, Redchurch Street to indulge in a bit of (window) shopping, at the likes of A.P.C, Sunspel, Aesop, Labour & Wait, Club Monaco Mens (I actually love the men's collection more than the women's), Monologue, Le Labo... the list goes on. Sneaker heads will find delight in Sneakersnstuff on nearby Shoreditch High Street, and the Nike Lab, just around the corner. Rivington Street, Calvert Avenue, and Boxpark are all good for a browse. Columbia Road and Broadway Market are just as great to visit on non-market days.
The All Saints flagship in Spitalfields is probably the store I miss the most... you can never have too many leather jackets in my opinion, and the ones from All Saints always seem to fit like a glove, plus they just get better with age.
As much as I would try to avoid Oxford Street and the thousands of slow walking tourists, many brands have their flagships on the street, or perpendicular Regent Street, making it incredibly difficult to avoid entirely. Selfridges, & Other Stories, Whistles, COS, plus newly opened Swedish labels Weekday and Arket would be my staples. Dover Street Market, Victoria Beckham, ACNE, Axel Arigato, are all drool worthy (even if all you can afford is to deposit some drool). And a visit to the beautiful old Liberty building (along with flower shop photo) is obligatory. If you are a bit overwhelmed by the crowds, nearby Marylebone High Street offers some favourites (think Sandro, The Kooples, Matches).
FOOD & DRINK
The London coffee and cafe scene is heavily populated with Antipodeans, which isn't a bad thing in my opinion. Pop into my old daily (and NZ export), the Allpress espresso bar on Redchurch Street, and if you have time, head to the roastery cafe in Dalston for breakfast. Workshop Coffee, Kaffeine, Nude, Climpson & Sons, and Lanark are also some of my old favourites. And whilst I find the consistency of the coffee at the Grind cafes variable, they have some of the prettiest interiors town (Clerkenwell and Royal Exchange especially).
Recent opening, The Penny Drop, is a transplant from Melbourne and I'm dying to check it out, especially as it was designed by my clever friends at GOLDEN. Check. It. Out.
Historically, London (and the UK) doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to its cuisine, but that's definitely changing. Even the snobbiest of foodies will be able to find something to satisfy and excite their tastebuds.
There are two 24-hour (yes, really, they're open 24 hours a day) bagel shops on Brick Lane and Beigel Bake (the white one on the right hand side) is the best. I've had too many salt beef, smoked salmon cream cheese and Nutella to count! I actually used to program Uber to drop me off at the bagel shop after a night out, as it was conveniently located around the corner from home.
Hit up Dishoom for brekkie, to take advantage of the bottomless chai (seriously, the best) and the bacon naan rolls (you haven't lived until you've eaten one, or three, of these). On a weekend, this place gets BUSY, so get there early or expect to wait.
Breakfast/brunch at Duck & Waffle, is one of the meals that I would use to show off London to visitors. Confit duck on a waffle may sound like an odd combo, but trust me on this. Plus the view (I do love a view, especially when it's over the Gherkin) is the icing on the cake (mustard maple syrup on the waffle). Sushisamba is located on the level below, and it's a go-to for special occasions.
Dining at Granger & co may seem counterintuitive for someone who has moved back to Australia, but Bill Granger doesn't have a Melbourne outpost yet, so I will be making sure I get my Granger fix (more than once)! Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Granger is a good idea all of the time.
Hoi Polloi in the Ace Hotel and it's sibling, Bistrotheque, are both buzzy on weekends, serving up consistently delicious food in beautiful surroundings.
Just around the corner on Columbia Road, you'll find one of my favourite neighbourhood spots, Brawn. It's casual, cosy, and the food heroes local produce.
The spot that I will never be able to find a replacement for in Melbourne, Taberna do Mercado serves no fuss, just delicious Portuguese food with punchy flavours. Other great casual options include, great pizza (and even better mac and cheese) at Pizza East; the crazily addictive lamb chops from the tandoor at Tayyabs; tasty Sri Lankan fare at Hoppers; sensational Thai (great East Asian food is somewhat of a rarity in the UK) at Kiln; perennial favourite, Ottolenghi; and tapas at Barrafina.
Treat yourself to an indulgent afternoon tea at the gallery at Sketch (think millennial pink velvet and an insane marble floor, very instagrammable). Just make sure you arrive hungry (and book well in advance).
For fresh seasonal fine dining, Spring at Somerset House is the place. The dishes are delicate and well-balanced, whilst the surroundings are nothing short of delightful (I don't even like pink that much, but I literally, yes literally, squealed when I saw the pink bathroom).
One restaurant I wish I'd tried sooner is the Typing Room at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green. I shared the five course tasting with foodie friends as a farewell London lunch and we were pretty much blown away by every course - as delicious as the plates were beautiful.
The new spot I'm dying to try out is Taiwanese restaurant XU. Whilst I am always sceptical of East Asian restaurants in London, the interiors of this place alone are enough to make me want to visit at least once!