When we found out that Andy needed to go to London for a week for work, there was no way I was staying home! I’d been there twice before about ten years ago and loved it. It was no different this time. There’s just something about London. For me, it feels comfortable and homey in a way that New York and other big cities never do.
Since this was Andy’s first time in London, it was really fun to be able to experience the city in new ways with him. While he had to actually go to work all day every day (I’d complain, but I guess we wouldn’t have been there otherwise!), I spent my days exploring the city by myself, then meeting up with him and sometimes his co-workers/new friends for dinner and drinks in the evenings. Then he and I stayed an extra couple of days afterwards to “vacation” together.
Here’s a big, long, huge list of all our London recommendations from this trip. Better get comfortable because did I mention this list is B-I-G??!!
We stayed at two different hotels while in London. Andy’s company put him in a hotel close to the office during the week, the Mondrian, and on Friday we switched to the Intercontinental that we booked using credit card points — yay for a whole week of not paying for hotels!
Mondrian — super hip, trendy, boutique-style hotel in an excellent location right on the south bank of the Thames, within walking distance of tons of things and close to several Tube stations for easily getting to everything else. We’d 100% recommend this hotel and plan to stay here again whenever we get back to London.
Intercontinental Park Lane — a very traditional, classic and classy hotel across the street from Hyde Park where we stayed for the weekend (booked with IHG points). Not really our style (think doormen in top hats and tails), but it was very nice.
When you tell people you’re going to England, they tell you the food is bad. Not true! We were lucky to have a lot of restaurant recommendations from Andy’s London-based co-workers, and we decided we actually had one of the best weeks of food ever!
Kappacasein, Borough Market, Southbank — Put this on your London MUST-DO list. Probably the best grilled cheese you’ll ever have. The flavors are rich and layered, with more flavor than you thought possible from a little old grilled cheese. The only problem: every other grilled cheese from here on out might not be quite as good. I linked to the recipe if you want to try it at home… but I don’t think it would ever be the same.
Pizza Pilgrims, Soho — This was some of the best pizza we’ve ever had. Seriously, ever. We put this in our top 3 of all time (one in Florence, Italy; one in Brooklyn, NY; and this one in London). There’s a couple Pizza Pilgrims locations, but Dean Street is the original. The pizza is traditional Neapolitan style, with the chefs actually being from Naples, according to our server. Just be warned: it’s as hot as a pizza oven in the restaurant!
Ping Pong Dim Sum, Southbank — After happy hour with some of Andy’s London-based colleagues, the Americans on the trip reminded them that we actually kind of needed to eat dinner, not drink dinner. So a few of us took off to this nearby dim sum place that was hip and cool, not really the Chinatown kind of dim sum I’d had before (no carts with mystery items to point at, thank goodness). We each chose 3 or 4 dishes to share, and then when that was all eaten we ordered seconds all around! It was a ton of fun, especially for a group.
Victoria and Albert Museum Cafe, South Kensington — I usually think of museum cafes as bland pre-wrapped sandwiches, but everything here was super fresh, beautiful, and the bruschetta I had was fantastic. After wandering around the museum for a couple hours, I went back for a slice of cake!
— Hey, it’s Andy! I’m taking over this post for a minute because there are a few places I went without Kerry that I loved. So here I go! —
The Anchor and Hope, Southbank — This was the first real London dinner I had. The day I landed I ate a burrito (duh) but the next day I went to The Anchor and Hope with two other people and we absolutely loved it. I learned later that the menu changes daily but luckily for us they had a braised lamb shoulder that was recommended by a co-worker. I don’t think I’d ever had lamb, and after this, I think I had the best lamb ever so I don’t know if it’s necessary to have it ever again. Of course we had to be the dumb Americans and ask things like, “What’s a Jersey royal?” (it’s a potato).
Hixter, Southbank — On our first work day, my New York colleague and I went to lunch with the two co-workers from the London office. We went to a very vegetarian-friendly place, and I was asked, “What about you, what do you usually eat?” My response was, “cheeseburgers, generally.” That’s when I was told about Hixter, and how we had to go sometime over the course the week. There were a few scheduling issues, but finally, on Friday, we were able to go, and I ordered the much-talked-about Cock ‘n’ Bull Sandwich, which is one large sandwich, half chicken and half steak. It was amazing. You’d think after a week of hype I would have taken a picture before I started, but unfortunately I cut it in half and took a few bites before I remembered to document.
— and that’s it from Andy. Now Kerry takes back over! —
The Breakfast Club, Southbank — There are a few locations around London serving all-day breakfast with kitschy-fun themed decor. The food was good, but we’ll have to go back another time to take advantage of THIS!!
Stax Diner, Soho — It seems kinda silly to go all the way to London and end up at an American-style diner (the chef is from Virginia), but this came recommended by one of Andy’s London-based co-workers and definitely did not disappoint. Burgers, milkshakes, really good onion rings, in a cute little restaurant just off of Carnaby Street. There are very few tables (like maybe 5) so get there early or expect a wait.
Jamie’s Italian, Soho — We were a little weary about going to a chain restaurant, but on our last night in London we were too exhausted to bother researching a place to eat. We’re fans of Jamie Oliver, so we decided to give this place a try. Consider us pleasantly surprised! The food was delicious and worth the hour-long wait. To top off an excellent meal, I had mascarpone cheesecake with meringue on top… I need to eat more of this cake, so can this chain come to Cleveland, please?!
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street — A fun place to grab a drink. It’s a maze of little rooms going down down down with three or four little tables each and crazy angled ceilings, and then a larger bar and communal tables on the bottom level. We had dinner here, which was ok but not amazing, so unless mushy peas are your thing, we’d recommend sticking to beer. It’s a fun experience and has great atmosphere.
There is SO MUCH going on in London that I was only able to do about half of what I was hoping to. But here’s a list of my top favorites… and the best part is: (almost) everything on this list is FREE. That means you can save your quid for all that amazing food and a real nice hotel!
Victoria and Albert Museum — My plan was to look around real quick, have lunch and move on, but this museum was so good and so much fun that I stayed the whole afternoon. I felt like the exhibits, from the history of fashion to ancient artifacts, were displayed in fresh, modern ways that made this museum anything but stuffy. I’d highly, highly recommend a visit — and it’s free!
Borough Market— Hustling, bustling farmer’s market near London Bridge. Definitely stop for lunch or an ice cream or just to take a look around during open hours on Wednesday through Saturday. (And get one of those grilled cheeses I mentioned above!)
British Museum — The first time I went to the British Museum years ago, I came around a corner and there was the Rosetta Stone. The actual Rosetta Stone. It blew my mind. I made a point of bringing Andy here without telling him what he was going to see — and he had the same reaction. It’s just, whoa. The whole Egypt/Greece/Rome section is fantastic, and the sit-down restaurant upstairs is really good, too. Bonus: the museum is free!
Hyde Park — This is a huuuuge park with a large lake in the middle and beautiful gardens where I spent an entire afternoon reading, taking a million pictures of flowers, and pretty much nursing my sore feet by doing as little walking as possible. At the lake you can rent paddleboats or row boats or even go swimming if you’re brave. There’s a couple cute little cafes around Serpentine Lake where you can grab food and eat outside along the water.
Walk along the Thames south bank — Take some time to walk from the Parliament Buildings/Big Ben along the south bank of the river to London Bridge. It’s a pedestrian street lined with food vendors, street performers, restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, and great views. Since our hotel was along this strip, I made this walk several times and had fun seeing something new every time.
Chelsea — One of the best things to do in London is to wander around different neighborhoods. They often feel like small towns within the larger city. Chelsea is a fun one, with lots of boutiques and cute little cafes, and Bywater Street is straight out of my dreams, with houses in every color of the rainbow. (Other favorite neighborhoods are Notting Hill, where unfortunately I didn’t have time to go this trip, and Marleybone, where I like to visit my favorite ribbon shop, VV Rouleaux)
Ok, this isn’t totally free, but it’s cheap — Muggle Walking Tour — If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, this is a fun way to take in some London sights and learn a little more about the movies at the same time. We thought some of the references were pretty obscure, random scenes that we didn’t remember, but it was still fun and so awesome to find out at one point that we were standing in the actual Diagon Alley. It’s real! This street is where the scenes of Diagon Alley were filmed for the movies, but also was the original inspiration. Apparently J.K. Rowling used to hang out often on this street full of bookshops.
Alright, that’s our London recommendations in a nutshell. We had a wonderful time and are already dreaming of going back!