There is no place quite like summer time London. Even on the greyest of summer mornings, between promise of sun and idyllic afternoon teas, the Queen Elizabeth’s backyard has a romantic, yet modern lure. Add to that the creative frenzy as the British capital starts its preparation for a rather busy September, courtesy the London Fashion Week and London Design Festival.
Where to stay
The W London Leicester Square is quite literally in the centre of everything, with iconic cinemas such as Empire or Odeon, Chinatown and Soho’s electric nightlife right at the doorstep of this Jestico + Whiles designed glam landmark. Every inch an arts and design hotel, the W is host to pop art and furniture that dots the property right off its disco ball-studded lobby. From the (relatively) modest “Wonderful Room” to the “E Wow Suite” with its own DJ booth and a giant revolving chesterfield sofa, in-house screening rooms and the stunning Spice Market restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the W is indeed the best place for the A-list to rest their weary heads.
ME London, appointed in The Strand — the artistic and cultural heart of London — is as much a tourist destination as it is a top-notch hotel. Designed by world-famous architects Foster and Partners, it boasts an almost futuristic fashion aesthetic — a monochrome lobby with cutting-edge lighting sets the tone. ME London’s seamless, personalised service is only matched by its luxuriously decked modern rooms offering splendid views of the River Thames, London Eye, Tower Bridge and Covent Garden.
Between STK and Cucina Asellina, the hotel offers premium dining venues, but many guests don’t want to leave their private terrace for anything.
CitizenM on London Bankside, a stone’s throw from Tate Modern, is an innovative concept, offering affordable luxury to world travellers. With its modular rooms pre-fabricated in Netherlands and shipped to CitizenM properties the world over, it is in the brand’s service offerings that one forgets its affordable rack rate. Its sleek open-plan lobby bears the brand’s commitment to high design as an eclectic mix of high-brow Vitra furniture and bookshelves laden with the latest coffee table books vie for attention. A slick coffee shop and bar offer stunning views of the central courtyard that holds this hotel together. Simply put, this is not your average, stuffy budget hotel.
The (new) institutions
Shoreditch House, the private members’ club, opened in the hip, creative district of East London in 2007 in a renovated 1930s factory building. It has since gained repute among the city’s creative set. Make the club your resting grounds as you explore the area’s wealth of established and upcoming designers.
Celebrity patisserie Eric Lanlard’s flagship boutique-style cake shop, Cake Boy, is nestled in the revamped Battersea Reach area. It is the place in London for a sweet bite and their afternoon tea is easily one of the best in town.
The Columbia Road Sunday flower market may have turned all touristy in recent years but Angela Flanders’s eponymous fragrance boutique remains the ideal example of a Victorian shop. The flower-market shop opens only on Sunday and is home to a bouquet of hand-made scents for the body, bath and home.
For stunning cityscapes
The View From the Shard, the observatory deck appointed at the polarising Renzo Piano-designed building are well, quite simply stunning. Situated at the 68, 68 and 72 levels — almost twice as high as any other viewing platform in the city — the decks offer sweeping views across the London Quarter and all the way to the horizon.
For a relaxed evening — or in London’s case, afternoon — head to The Boundary Hotel in Shoredictch. The legendary Terence Conran oversaw the conversion of forgotten Victorian Warehouse into a 12-bedroom boutique art hotel with a rooftop featuring 100-plus-year-old olive trees, lush trellises, a great menu and calming views of the city.
The rooftop OXO Tower Restaurant, Brasserie and Bar offers breathtaking views across the River Thames to Charing Cross and the City of London. Once you’re done with the design, arts and crafts shops on the ground and first floors, head to the 90-metre-long rooftop to watch the sun set behind St Paul’s Cathedral.
Our London insider
Lyndsay Edwards, one of London’s high-powered public relations agents and girl-about-town plays our London town insider as she gives us the skinny on what’s hot and happening in the Queen’s quarters.
THE ART CIRCUIT
Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at the Tate Modern (until September 2014)
One of the most exciting showcases of artistic brilliance in recent times, Matisse’s late works are an uplifting and joyful experience. The cut-outs Matisse created when bed-ridden, are bold, positive and pioneering in their vision.
The Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery (until September 2014)
The National Portrait Gallery hosts most prestigious portrait competition in the world, The Portrait Award. Now in its 35th year, the award showcases the most outstanding and innovative new portraits — a mix of informal and personal studies of friends and family and revealing paintings of famous faces in a variety of styles.
Wedding Dresses 1775-2014, Victoria & Albert museum
The exhibition, spread across two floors, details the evolution of the wedding dress from the 18th century to the modern-day fixation with the nuptials of celebrities and high-profile figures in the media. Showcasing rare antique gowns to more recent high-fashion dresses, the layout of the exhibition presents not only the dresses themselves but the fashion trends and social connotations of weddings through the ages.
Scarfe’s at The Rosewood
With over a thousand antique books handpicked by a Portobello dealer and amusing artworks depicting British icons by artist and caricaturist Gerald Scarfe, Scarfe’s at The Rosewood is a conversation-starter in the Martin Brudnizki-designed establishment. Dotted with custom design pieces by master craftsmen, the room makes for a fab night out with friends.
Sketch at Mayfair
This coveted destination for art, design, music and food dreamt up by Mourad Mazouz and the French master chef Pierre Gagnaire stretches over two floors of a converted 18th century building on Conduit Street. Bold, imaginative and ground breaking — the interiors and the menu deliver on their promise.
Apero at The Ampersand
Apero is a one-off destination restaurant in the vaulted basement of The Ampersand Hotel in the heart of London’s museum district in cosmopolitan South Kensington. Beautiful leathers sourced from Fameed Khalique’s extensive portfolio adorn the banquettes in a venue known for its extensive and innovative menu.
TOP 3 DESIGN DESTINATIONS
Chelsea Design Quarter
At the heart of the Chelsea Design Quarter is the Design Centre Chelsea Harbou — internationally renowned as the place to visit for access to the ultimate high-end design brands in the UK. From fashion drives and haute home brands to legends such as Rubelli and Donghia, the centre has something for every design lover.
Marylebone is fast becoming an increasingly exciting design destination within the West End. Traditionally big names in design such as The Conran Shop and Skandium have chosen the area to house large showroom spaces, but recently interesting independent design havens such as French brand Caravane have been popping up in between the established names.
Brompton Design Quarter
Within the Brompton Quarter sits Walton Street — a design enclave hosting top names in the British design world — from the undisputed doyenne of British design Nina Campbell to the eclectic world of furniture and accessories at Andrew Martin and a shop by the new hero of British design, Katharine Pooley.
— Pratyush Sarup edits a Dubai-based interior design blog designcarrot.co