Dec, 2010 17

drink/eat, pubs Find the Hidden Pub in Kennsington~Delightful

Although London pubs can be found up and down lanes and streets, large and small, this London pub is in a bit of an unlikely location off Kensington High Street in  West London. 60 seconds walk from Kensington Hight Street Tube station, nestled in what looks like a typically residential neighborhood, you will find the Scarsdale Tavern, a pub of gracious Georgian design. Located at 23a Edwardes Square W8 6HE, this pub is especially treasured by the locals who call it their own. Lucky them, as it offers so much atmposphere inside and on its terrace. It’s absolutely perfect for catching a Spring, Summer or Fall sunset while having a “happy hour” of your own making at the end of your London day.

It’s pub food/bar menu which, while not offering shockingly unique cuisine,  does offer very decent “pub grub” and a few appetizers to have with your drink.

First glance at the Scarsdale’s exterior, and those on the hunt for cozy, eclectic, non-touristy places to eat, drink and hang out under the stars will think they have found a tiny slice of pub heaven. One of the quaintest pubs in London, it  just happens to have “good ales and a wine list that dips into the old world and new” as one reviewer noted.

Another reviewer of the Scarsdale wisely noted that this is not the place to go for gourmet, many courses type of dining, but rather: a good pint, a nice glass of wine, a bar snack, or some “pub grub” all of which they do admirably.  But, without a doubt, it is the atmosphere, at this hiding-in-plain-sight pub that will draw you back.

TO GET THERE: The  Scarsdale Tavern is literally a 60 second walk from the High Street Kensington Tube stop. Google the name of the pub and the first thing that comes up is a very close-up map that takes you from the Tube right to their door. I happened upon it one evening and knew it was something I had to share. You will love it.

Come along with me….London calling….

Dec, 2010 16

drink/eat, know how Drink Like an American~in London

Pubs abound in London, of course, and there is nothing better than a pint while you rest your weary legs from all the urban hiking that London offers.

But, if your mood at the cocktail hour is for something a bit fancier in uber glitzy surroundings, think about a visit to the very famous American Bar at the Savoy. Yes, it is a very touristy thing to do, but there is no doubting that the places oozes history along with the over-the-top glamour. As it is located in the West End, home of theaters galore, it is also a fun place to have a pre-theater drink.

The bar is within the newly refurbished (to the tune of over 200 million pounds and three years of labor) Savoy Hotel which is another London place hiding in plain sight. If I have walked by it once, I have walked by it 50 times and only noticed it a few months ago.

Supposedly, this hotel is the first in the world to have been lit by electric lights and the first with electric elevators. More impressive, is the list of people who have stayed there: The Beatles to Lena Horne to Led Zepplin to U2, along with Claude Monet and James Whistler before them. Apparently, Churchill often took his cabinet here for major power lunches. Imagine. If only the walls could talk.

It is said that the first cocktails ever served in Europe were served at the Savoy’s American Bar many, many decades ago. So famous were the cocktail recipes at one time, that a book was written in the 1930’s in homage to the classics: Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Singapore Slings and Grasshoppers. The Savoy Cocktail book can be bought here: http://www.amazon.com/Savoy-Cocktail-Book-Harry-Craddock/dp/1862057729

TWO MORE FASCINATING FACTS about the Savoy….Bob Dylan stayed there in 1965 and filmed the video clip of Subterranean Homesick Blues in an adjacent alley. And, perhaps, most delightful of all, the hotel’s restaurant, The Grill, possesses a 3 foot tall black alabaster cat which they use as an extra guest if a dinner party’s guests number an unlucky 13. The cat, Kaspar, is sat at the table with his own place setting to ward off any voodoo that might be lurking.

TO GET THERE: Take the Bakerloo, Northern or District and Circle Tube lines to Charing Cross station. Go above ground and outside the main entrance to the station. You will be facing the Strand, the busy avenue directly in front of the station. Turn right and walk along the Strand on the same side of the street as the station. Walk for about two mins., past Super Drug and Top Shop; looking always on your right. There, set back about 45 feet in a very posh alley, you will see a large sign that says SAVOY. The bar is inside the front doors and to the left.

WORD TO THE WISE: Cocktails are very expensive, perhaps $15 each. But for a one time pre-theater lark or an oh-what-the-hell afternoon drink it could be a bit of fun.

Come along with me….London calling….

Nov, 2010 22

drink/eat, know how Let the View (and Champagne) Take you to Dizzying Heights

Why not get dizzy at Vertigo 42, a reservation only, champagne cocktail bar in EC London? Teeter 590 feet above street level, if you dare, with the most spectacular panorama of London gazing back at you through the bar’s almost entirely glass walls.

Vertigo’s chic and slouchy chairs and tiny glass tables invite you to settle in for an afternoon or evening of sipping and peering over the city. It would be impossible to not be impressed. Having just gone to a champagne wedding reception at Vertigo, I can say that the sights from its windows are from the most spectacular vantage point that I have seen in London (except for, perhaps, the views from the London Eye positioned over the River Thames).

The cuisine in the bar is of the hearty and not so hearty bar snack variety, described by Vertigo as “Modern European Cuisine”. While I did not sample the food, I did sample one of the 30 varieties of champagne that they stock and was wowed by the whole experience, especially the gracious host, Stephan who has called Vertigo his home away from home for ten years.

THEIR HOURS:  Monday-Friday noon until 3:00 p.m. and then 5:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. On Saturdays they are only open in the evenings from 5:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. Remember: reservations only.

TO GET THERE: Take the Central or District and Circle Tube line to Bank Tube stop or Liverpool Street Station and follow the map as provided  by  www.squaremeal.co.uk.  Just put Vertigo42 into the search box there; a detailed map is provided.

Come along with me….London calling….

Nov, 2010 20

drink/eat, know how Anyone for Tea at the Palace?~almost

One of the most enchanting places in London for afternoon tea, a light lunch or cake and a glass of wine is hidden in plain sight 50 feet from Kensington Palace, in Kensington Gardens. It’s called The Orangery and it will charm you with its views and simple beauty right outside its ceiling to floor windows.

This oasis of bright calm directly off the sometimes frantic High Street Kensington will welcome you after a tour of Kensington Palace, or perhaps before a walk through the gracious paths of Kensington Gardens. This garden is a vast expanse of gorgeous trees, a duck pond, a pirate ship playground for the under 8’s (sorry ladies Johnny Depp does not hang out here); all on the edge of Kensington Palace, the former home of Princess Diana.

The Orangery feels a bit Venetian in architecture, offering shelter for fruit trees growing inside with its windows overlooking the back of Kensington Palace and the edge of the garden. The food offerings are limited to light lunch and snack items along with wine and tea, but it’s the atmosphere in this quiet spot that will offer you something a bit special for a short rest and chat with your traveling companion. It’s perfect if you are on your own, too. A couple times I have gone on my own and enjoyed a glass of wine while reading my newspaper and pausing to look out at the gardens just outside the expansive windows and have felt most welcome and comfortable.

Then, you can say that you had tea at the palace~almost.

TO GET THERE: Take the  District or Circle Tube line to the High Street Kensington Tube stop. It’s about an 8 minute walk to the Palace and the Orangery from there. As I recall, you come to the top of the escalator or stairs and go out the main exit of the Tube station and turn right heading down High Street Kensington for about 8 minutes. The Palace and the Orangery are on the opposite side of the street as the Tube station exit.

HOURS: March to October, everyday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and November to February 10:oo a.m to 5:00 p.m.

Come along with me….London calling….

Aug, 2010 05

drink/eat Fashionable Coffee and Pastry in London?~Where Else?

Cocomaya…love the name and the looks of this picturesque new-ish bakery, coffee shop andchocolate shop in West London. With its pale awnings adorned with hot pink lettering, plus its black and white metal tables and chairs gracing the front of the shop, you could easily think that you have stumbled upon a Paris café in the midst of London.

Three heavy hitters from the London fashion industry have joined together to make a bakery, coffee shop and chocolate shop all in one. The decor is just lovely~all pale wood and white marble for the bakery and a more punchy, confectionary pink for the tres chic chocolate shop.

Afternoon teas are available with sandwiches on the wide variety of artisan breads they create (70 types!), or coffee and pastry for a sublime start to your London morning may be more your style.

What is so fun about places like this, is the impact of a delicious pastry and coffee enjoyed al fresco can start your London day on a great note; allowing you to feel like a local while perched at the café tables, watching the foot traffic stroll by.

TO GET TO COCOMAYA: Located at 12 Connaught Street in W2, the closest Tube stop is the Marble Arch stop on the Central line. Cocomaya is located on the edge of Hyde Park, about a 6 minute walk from the Tube stop. Detailed map and hours of operation are here:

http://www.cocomaya.co.uk/index.php/main/locations

Come along with me….London calling….

Jul, 2010 21

drink/eat, know how The Center of the Universe~Charing Cross Hotel Bar

Candle light stroll to the bar
Candle light stroll to the bar

From the early 19thcentury until 1965, when the concept of “Greater London” came about, Charing Cross was considered the very center of London. Until 1965, if you saw a sign on the outskirts of London that said “London 7 miles”, it was referring to it being 7 miles from where you were then to Charing Cross.

I love the idea of Charing Cross still being the center of London, because in my mind, it very much is. When in London I seem to land at Charing Cross (Station/Hotel Bar) with alarming regularity: to go to The National Portrait Gallery, have a drink, walk to a theater, to eat breakfast in the best café in all of London (see post entitled the same under Eat/Drink), to catch a glimpse of the mighty Thames, or to zoom off on the Bakerloo line to see my dear friends in Maida Vale.

But the very true center of the (London) universe for me these days is the Charing Cross Hotel Bar.

Believe not what the Charing Cross Hotel website shows for pictures of the bar. That is not the bar I am aware of at Charing Cross. Let me tell you about the one I love there. It’s located on the second floor of this very pretty little hotel that you find by going through the main, front doors of the hotel, walking down a candle lit (after 6pm or so) hall way and up a sweeping, winding set of stairs. At the top of the stairs, walk about 20 feet to your left and there, on your right is the bar that I know. It’s true, I do spend a lot of time here, a) because it does seem to be the center of my universe, and b) it is a quiet place to meet my sweetheart, or a friend, at the end of the day for a quiet catch-up in a peaceful setting. My sweetheart and I are actually regulars there and I don’t even live in London.

The decor of the bar reminds me of a private club in NYC circa 1940’s~not that I was around then, but it does have a very old, black and white movie kind of feel about it. The actual bar seats just a few, there are gorgeous grey walls, about 12 tables and very kind servers that can make all manner of drinks that are worth a try. And the wait, (as this is not the kind of place where they just sling the drinks at you) is worth it. They also will serve you just tea and coffee if that’s your tipple.

  This is the place for a fab cocktail at the end of the day in a setting that might remind you of the above, or a 19thcentury English gentleman’s drawing room. The view from the window is of The Strand, the large avenue that runs in front of Charing Cross Station; the perfect vantage point for watching Black Cabs and double-decker buses wend their way through London. And what could be more London than that? It is another place that I have found that several of my London friends had never heard of. Love those places.

To get to the Charing Cross Hotel: Make your way to Charing Cross Station via Tube or over-ground train. As you come out of the large Charing Cross Train Station (depending on which under or above ground exit you take) you will either come out on to the forecourt where all the taxis are waiting near The Strand. In that case, turn and look to your right and there are the large revolving doors to enter the hotel where the bar is. If you come up from some of the exits of the underground/Tube, you will be right across the street from the hotel. Look for the large revolving doors of the hotel.

Good news:  An small elevator takes you from the hotel lobby to the floor where the bar is if climing the winding stairs is an issue for you or your travel companion.

Come along with me….London calling….

Jul, 2010 19

days out, drink/eat Maida Vale…Eat & Drink in a Peaceful Part of Town

In the Paddington, Westminister area of West London, not far from the Beatles old stomping ground of St John’s Wood and the elegant funk of Notting Hill, is nestled the area of Maida Vale, an area worth your time if you are seeking a more peaceful pace than Central London. Here are shops, cafes, a nearby puppet theater and comedy club, the BBC recording studios, punctuated with pubs and trees and a sense of how the other 1/10 might live. I suggest two places below that are excellent places to eat and drink. Both are worth a trip to Maida Vale.

Maida Vale has its own Tube stop named after itself and has one of the most charming Tube stations in all of London. Maida Vale is in W9 if you are taking a taxi, but the Tube ride is a mere 10 mins., direct, from Paddington Station and a 20 min. direct shot from Charing Cross Station on the Bakerloo line.

After WWII this area was gentrified in a large way, evolving from a place, in the 1930’s and 40’s with gorgeous mansions broken up into rented rooms-some by the hour-ahem, and also by the month. Now it consists of those same mansions broken up into family flats (apartments) that are owned or rented. The rentals are not for all, alas, as 2010 prices for a 1 bedroom flat are about $650 a week. 85 per cent of housing in Maida Vale is flats; the rest, large, showy one- family homes whose front doors suggest something even grander beyond them.

In Maida Vale are two wonderful places to eat and drink that you might try. One a pub, The Grand Union, and one a family run Eritrean (African) restaurant called Mosob. Both can be reached by the Hammersmith and City Tube Line, the Ladbroke Grove Tube stop. But, the much more scenic way is to traverse to these lovely places to eat and drink from the Maida Vale Tube stop on the Bakerloo line.

The Grand Union Pub

The Grand Union has beer, wine, rustic/modern tables and fabulous soups and salads daily, as well as evening specials of pasta dishes, lamb stew or shepard’s pie. The setting in summer is especially lovely because they have an assortment of tables outside right on the canal.

To find the Grand Union:

Take the Bakerloo line to Maida Vale. Come to the top of the only set of stairs at the Maida Vale Tube station and turn left on the large avenue in front of you-Elgin Ave. Walk approx 12 mins down a tree-lined, mansion filled street until you come to the Royal Bank of Scotland on your left near a busy (and less ch-chi-la- la) bustling square , turn left here and walk 3 mins toward a small bridge/overpass. There, on your left, is the Grand Union Pub..

Their hours are here: http://www.beerintheevening.com/pubs/s/37/3753/Grand_Union/Westbourne_Park

The Grand Union would qualify as, what the English call, a gastro pub. This means (as I understand it) that it has likely been modernized, decor-wise, inside (very often to great effect) and that it serves some usual pub fare along with more contemporary choices of food, such as gazpacho soup in summer, or crab cakes and creamy butternut squash soup in winter.

Mosob is an absolute favorite of mine. Each time I have gone I have been charmed by the service and delighted with the spicy African food. Cold beer, a sweet decor and service with a smile have kept me going back these last few years with dear friends who live in the area.

Mosob, too, can be reached: by the Hammersmith and City Tube line, but you can get to it the same scenic way as above. I highly recommend that route. For Mosob, though, when you get to the Royal Bank of Scotland and the bustling square, look over toward your left. Across from the bank you will see Mosob at 339 Harrow Road. For hours and menu, look here: http://www.mosob.com/

Think of Maida Vale for a day or evening in a more peaceful London ~ I think you will be impressed.

P.S. From both of these places you are a five min. walk to Notting Hill’s famous Portobelo Road.

Come along with me…..London calling….

 

Jul, 2010 19

days out, drink/eat Life’s a Picnic…in London

It may be true that ” in spring a young man’s thoughts turn to love” , but in spring, my thoughts often turn to picnicking. Having a picnic in London will offer you a unique travel experience that could make your London stay memorable in a different way.

Let me tell you about two places in London to picnic where there are not hordes of people and where its possible to have a peaceful tete- a- tete with your sweetheart, or a place that is excellent for taking children on a picnic. I mention out of the way places devoid of hordes of tourists, but if you want the also lovely “oh, will I spot a celebrity” kind of experience, by all means head over to Hampstead Health-a park in NW London. There, I hear tell, Jude Law is known to toss a Frisbee about with dramatic flair, calling attention to his actor-y self all the while. A friend has spotted him many times around that section of London and notices that he does little to hide his light under a bushel basket. So if actor- spotting is your sport , off you go.

For your London picnic, either you can ask your hotel restaurant to pack you a picnic if they will, or try one of the places mentioned here: http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/restaurants/london-summer-picnics-feature-1036.html .

The best idea yet, may be to find the closest Camden Food Company, Costa, Eat, Cafe Nero or Marks and Spencer’s food shops: all places that have fresh daily, pre-made sandwiches of vegetarian and non-vegetarian variety, along with juices, soda, coffees and teas and slices of cake to go. Chilled bottles of champagne, wine or beer can be found some of those places, too, or at Odd Bins, a chain of wine shops all over London. The least hard thing to do in London-town is to find alcohol to accompany any occasion.

If the season is right, why not pack a simple travel picnic kit to take for your London picnic experience? You may be like me in that you want style to feature while you picnic. If you are, consider packing these items:

~  ” plastique” wine glasses or champagne flutes

~  ” plastique-but stylish”,  dinner size plates (Ikea, Crate and Barrel and Target all do a nice range of these)

~    forks, knives and spoons from your silverware drawer (who wants plastic utensils when you are trying to be chic in London?), wrapped in cloth napkins so they don’t get lost in your luggage, (of course these would go in your checked luggage).

~  wrap all of these items in your luggage in a a very large, beautiful beach towel to use as your picnic blanket

THE LOCATIONS:

POSTMAN PARK

So called, not because you need to be a postman to picnic here, simply because the park in located on the site of the original head office of the general post office. It is located in” The City”, home of banks galore, but is hidden and probably even the bankers know nothing about the place.

The location is in the church yard of St Leonards on FosterLane, Aldergate between King Edward Street, Angel Street and Little Britian. The post code is EC1A 7BX. You can give this info to the black cab driver if you decide to cab it there. The closest Tube station is St Pau’sl Cathedral. The park is a few minutes walk from the Tube. However, I would suggest a cab to the park if you are at all direction-challenged. I would not dare to try to be of more help in this instance as, although this is an area I know quite well, I had to call out my posse not long ago because I got lost on King Edward Street and might be there still had I not been rescued. Lots of alley ways and nooks and crannies in The City, so maybe cabbing it is best. Let me tell you why I think this park is worth the effort, though.

At Postman Park, along with the small fountain, plenty of benches and green grass and trees, you will find touching tributes to ordinary people who, over the last 125 years, have done extraordinary things to save someones life. Their tales are briefly depicted in hand lettered Royal Dalton plaques under a wooden canopy. These little stories spelled out make it a very special place to share a London picnic with people you care about.

BROCKWELL PARK

If a miniature railway that you can ride on( if you are under nine years old) is more your thing, head over to Brockwell Park in SE London, near Brixton. The park is open daily at 7:30 a.m and closes 15 minutes before sunset. What a wonderful way to keep time: ” I’ll meet you 15 minutes before sunset”.

In Brockwell Park, along with a Regency style building called Brockwell Hall, you will find a walled garden, a shaded arbor and a lido (large outside swimming pool) that is unusual for London. Additionally, there are 6 tennis courts if you fancy a pre-picnic game. The railway operates a select times mentioned here on this link for the park: http://www.brockwellpark.com/

To get to the park:

The park is a 7 minute walk from the over-ground train station and a 15 minute walk from the Tube station. I’ll let you Google the park’s site for very specific directions, as they are a bit complicated. The miniature train and the lido make it a worthwhile effort if you are taking children on a picnic, though. They also have events weekly throughout the summer that make this a destination that adults and children can enjoy together.

Come along with me…London calling…

Jul, 2010 19

drink/eat, pubs Big on Charm: Small, Hidden Pub in Kensington

Although London pubs can be found up and down lanes and streets, large and small, this London pub is in a bit of an unlikely location off Kensington High Street in  West London. 60 seconds walk from Kensington Hight Street Tube station, nestled in what looks like a typically residential neighborhood, you will find the Scarsdale Tavern, a pub of gracious Georgian design. Located at 23a Edwardes Square W8 6HE, this pub is especially treasured by the locals who call it their own. Lucky them, as it offers so much atmposphere inside and on its terrace. It’s absolutely perfect for catching a Spring, Summer or Fall sunset while having a “happy hour” of your own making at the end of your London day.  

It’s pub food/bar menu which, while not offering shockingly unique cuisine,  does offer very decent” pub grub” and a few appetizers to have with your drink. 

First glance at the Scarsdale’s exterior, and those on the hunt for cozy, eclectic, non-touristy places to eat, drink and hang out under the stars will think they have found a tiny slice of pub heaven. One of the quaintest pubs in London, it  just happens to have “good ales and a wine list that dips into the old world and new” as one reviewer noted. 

 Another reviewer of the Scarsdale wisely noted that this is not the place to go for gourmet, many courses type of dining, but rather: a good pint, a nice glass of wine, a bar snack, or some “pub grub” all of which they do admirably.  But, without a doubt, it is the atmosphere, at this hiding-in-plain-sight pub that will draw you back. 

TO GET THERE: The  Scarsdale Tavern is literally a 60 second walk from the High Street Kensington Tube stop. Google the name of the pub and the first thing that comes up is a very close-up map that takes you from the Tube right to their door. I happened upon it one evening and knew it was something I had to share. You will love it.

Come along with me….London calling….

 

 

May, 2010 16

drink/eat High Flying Views Over London…with a cocktail

Opening at the end of May 2010, Londoners and tourists alike will have views from Paramount @ Centre Point while they nosh and drink and gaze across London’s tree and building tops, all the way to the grounds at Windsor Castle. In that case, it wouldn’t really be a lie, would it, to say you had drinks while over-looking the gardens at Windsor Castle?

The Paramount, formerly a private members club, will soon be offering it’s 360 degree views over the city, from what they say is the highest perch in town, to the  general public. One of Paramount’s high-profile investors is Stephen Fry, the English stage actor, writer, tweeter-extraordinaire and star of our PBS series such as Jeeves and Wooster.

The chef is Colin Layfield, who brings some 20 years experience of working in variously starred restaurants in London and the revitalized, and suddenly chic-er, Birmingham, UK. As the restaurant is so newly opened to the public, I, or any one that I know have not eaten there, but the food is billed as “predominantly British dishes that embrace both the delicious and the hearty”.

If nothing more, you will have the memorable experience of eating your lunch, or having a cocktail with glorious views from the highest vantage point, looking across London. Go on, give it a try for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

TO GET THERE:The closest Tube stop is Tottenham Court Road (on the Central and Northern lines) and the restaurant is a 7-10 minute walk from the stop. The restaurant’s web site gives a clear and precise map from the Tube to the restaurant here:  www.paramount.uk.net

IF GOING BY TAXI: tell the driver that Paramount @ Centre Point is located on 101-103 NEW Bond Street in WC1

 

Come along with me….London calling….