We were in London a couple of weeks ago, as you know, to meet a friend and business associate from Spain. He was there, we would find out later, for the funeral of an old friend. It was the first time we had seen him outside of his comfort zone, which was normally his office, or a restaurant he loved or an art gallery opening where the curator was a friend of his. He was wearing jeans, which I had only seen him wear once before, on a weekend when he had invited us to try the very best paella and to visit a beach outside of town.
He was staying in Camden, he said, so we offered to meet him on Sunday morning. We had rented a car and weren’t too far away, so we thought it should be fine to leave a half an hour before our scheduled meeting time at a coffee shop in Covent Garden. As it turns out, Sunday morning traffic in London is insane, and the coffee shop we had told him to meet us at was closed. Catastrophes aside, we did eventually find him, very late, after having a terrible time finding parking (we would eventually return to our car to find a £65 ticket).
It was good to see him again and to catch up on old times in Valencia. He also told us a funny story of how he came to stay at an overpriced hotel that was nothing more than a hostel. He had made the reservations five months earlier, only to arrive to find that not only did they not have the two rooms he had booked for him and his brother, but that the hotel was nothing like the photos he had seen on their website. When he arrived, he was told that the only room they had was a small one with a double bed. He was scandalize. Funnier still, he had told us that he recommended the place to his friends and when they arrived, exclaimed incredulously, “What is this?” We laughed.
We also realised, at this point, how difficult it might be to know what to look for when booking places you’re not familiar with, and had suggested he should have asked us for recommendations. London is one of those places that sometimes suffers from too much choice, and we ourselves had made a mistake when searching for noodles in Shoreditch. And so, in honour of our friend and his misfortune, we’ve created a mini London city guide for your next weekend away…
Tucked away, only a short distance from St Paul’s Cathedral, the Bank of England and the Old Bailey, the only remaining early houses in Peter’s Lane have been repaired and extended to create The Rookery, a delightful boutique hotel. Inside, The Rookery is all period charm: polished wood panelling, stone flagged floors, open fires and genuine antique furniture that give the place a warm, homely atmosphere.
” Down a narrow lane, near Smithfield market, nestles London’s best kept secret.” ―Evening Standard
Kioskafé in Paddington is actually a project from the founders of Monocle: the perfect newsstand and coffee bar. Developed as a response to the shrinking news trade, this coffee shop stocks global titles covering everything from popular weeklies to specialist independent publications. In addition to delivering the best periodicals, Kioskafé also serves Allpress coffee and stocks essentials for those out on the road: toothpaste, Swiss underwear, cologne and hair wax, and also serves food and prosecco.
It was nearly 10:30pm when we arrived at Monico, exhausted from being out in the sun all day and famished from traipsing about for hours. We had tried to find dumplings near Gerrard, but the wait times were over an hour. Cafe Monico looked cosy with its candlelight and the menu looked promising. It turned out to be delicious. If it’s late, asked to be seated upstairs if it’s still open, because the downstairs can get a bit boisterous later in the night.
39-45 Shaftesbury Avenue,
London, W1D 6LA
Nearly 140 years ago brothers Giacomo and Battista Monico opened a side-street cafe in London’s West End. While the majority of their neighbours were demolished in 1885 to make way for the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue, the brothers expanded their premises and thrived for another generation before the site finally succumbed to the expansion of Piccadilly Circus in the 1950s.
Today Soho House, in collaboration with chef Rowley Leigh, has resurrected Cafe Monico right around the corner, complete with vintage décor and a central bar. Inspired by the original Cafe Monico, established nearby in 1877, the restaurant offers shellfish, pastas, grilled meats and fish in a traditional brasserie setting. The drinks menu features classic cocktails, traditional aperitifs and a large selection of vermouths.
The Sekforde, Clerkenwell
The Sekforde opened as a public house in 1829 and remained open for 176 years until it temporarily closed for a much needed re-development and restoration project in 2015, re-opening just before Christmas of 2017. The architects for the project were Chris Dyson and Associates, and the Magnificent Basement Company Limited carried out the redevelopment work (which included a glass atrium) under the leadership of director and structural engineer, Hadi Sarmadi.
The Sekforde stands at the junction of two historic early 19th century streets (Woodbridge and Sekforde) in the heart of Clerkenwell, London. Stop by this recently restored Georgian pub for a seat in the atrium and to sample its wonderful selection of craft beers, lagers, ales and wines.