Quo Vadis, Soho
The restaurant first opened in 1926, but its recent nip and tuck has reinstated it as a hotspot all over again. This is mostly thanks to new chef Jeremy Lee (from Blueprint Café) who has revamped the menu, which they say is amended “merrily and daily”, made everything more affordable and attracted a host of celebs – from Ralph Fiennes to Gordon Ramsay. Word on the street is that the signature starter of Smoked eel and horseradish sandwich is one of the most delicious nibbles in London, but when we visit we’ll be trying the Theatre menu, opting for Crab soup, Lamb’s onglet and Pistachio cake and raspberries – and all for just Dh115.
Open 12pm-2.45pm and 5.30pm-10.45pm, Monday-Saturday | Dean Street, Soho | quovadissoho.co.uk
Dinner By Heston Blumenthal, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Knightsbridge
Trust molecular gastronomist Mr Blumenthal to serve Meat fruit – a dish that looks like an impossibly glossy tangerine when it arrives at your table, but in reality is mandarin jelly housing chicken liver parfait. It’s this level of inventiveness you can expect at the fledgling London eatery; the interior is all sleek chestnut wood, the menu is based on Britain’s cuisine history (every item has a date with it, for example it’s not just lamb soup, it’s Broth of lamb c1730) and the glass-walled kitchen lets you look into the 20-chef strong ballet performance that is the service each night. Dine here and you’ll spend around Dh300-a-head (food only), but you’ll also experience a truly original meal.
Open 12pm-3.30pm and 6.30pm-10.30pm, daily | Mandarin Oriental | www.dinnerbyheston.com
Espa, Corinthia Hotel, Trafalgar Square
This new spa is a glorious 3,300sq ft of white and black marble that runs over a resplendent four floors, and is without a doubt the hottest new pampering destination in the capital. Housed in a grand Victorian building in the newly opened 294-room Corinthia Hotel, the spa has an all-encompassing approach to wellness, and an in-house team of naturopaths, masseuses, osteopaths, physiotherapists, personal trainers and acupuncturists. After your massage or facial (which start from Dh500), make sure to take time for the sunken sauna, the snow hollow, the hydro jet plunge pools or the jacuzzi beds. We want to be there so much right now we’re finding it hard writing this without booking the next flight out.
Open from 6.30am-10pm, Mon-Fri; 7.30am-9pm, Sat-Sun | Whitehall Place, Corinthia Hotel | espalifeatcorinthia.com
Rum Parlour, The London Cocktail Club, Shaftesbury Avenue
JJ Goodman and James Hopkins – the passionate bartenders who won the top honours in Raymond Blanc’s The Restaurant reality show in 2009 – opened their popular Goodge Street Gin Palace just one year ago, but have already wowed London with their second project of whimsy and mixology, the Rum Parlour. Themed like a tattoo parlour that pirates of folklore would surely have loved, this is a kitsch, navy-style bar that’s all about the caramel-hued tipple. Just a few months after its opening, it’s one of the hottest spots in the city (James Corden loves it) – and why? Well, the quirky Brit-centric tapas menu from Raymond Blanc is wonderful, the crowd is pretention free and the drinks are certainly some of the quirkiest in town – fancy a Squid ink sour?
Open 4.30pm-1am, Mon-Sat | 224 Shaftesbury Avenue | www.londoncocktailclub.co.uk
Harry Potter Studio Tour, Watford
Now this is one activity you’ll have to book early because, since its opening three months ago, the tour of the set where all eight of the Harry Potter flicks were filmed has become one of the hottest tickets in London (well, outer-London actually). Wander through the unassuming-on-the-outside Leavesden Studios – near Luton Airport – and you’ll see the props, costumes and sets that captured a generation’s imagination. There’s everything from a model of Dobby the House Elf to Harry’s broomstick and Hermione’s cloak; but by far the most impressive thing is the model of Hogwarts, which was built at a 1:24 scale, took six months to craft and is fitted with almost 3,000 fibre optic lights that change to depict a day-to-night cycle. You can head to the green screen room and whiz through the streets of London on a broomstick, before supping on a glass of butterbeer and, of course, blowing your holiday budget at the gift store.
Dh160 for an adult (tickets can only be booked in advance) | Watford, 20 minutes by train from Euston | wbstudiotour.co.uk
A Summer Affair By Dead Dolls Club
The most-hipster hotspots right now are the pop-up ones, and this summer it doesn’t get any hotter than the collaboration between boutique brewery London Fields, and avant-garde food producers Dead Dolls Club. Visit any weekend, day or night, and you’ll get to shop at the craft market, listen to live indie bands, sample the brew, check out the quirky crowd (Adele’s been spotted at DDC bashes) and sample the smoky BBQ food – from sticky ribs to gourmet sausages.
Open 12pm-11pm Saturday and Sunday | 370 Helmsley Place, E8 | thedeaddollsclub; londonfieldsbrewery.co.uk
St Ermin’s Hotel, Westminster
The 331-room hotel first opened in 1900, and has witnessed plenty of intrigue and fame in its history – MI6 was said to have used the rooms as safe houses for informers throughout the 20th century, and scenes for 1986’s Sid And Nancy were filmed there. Its most recent memorable moment has been the Dh171-million makeover that has turned this ageing dame into a glittering new hotspot. While you’re unlikely to find a room here during the height of summer and Olympic madness – there’s no hotel in the city that’s nearer to Buckingham Palace or Westminster – it’s definitely worth a visit even just to see the sweeping staircase and ornate-balustrade balconies over the foyer. Why not book into the Caxton Grill and try the delicious dishes that are prepared on the Josper grill – and with an early-bird set dinner that costs just Dh100, it’s a luxury you can afford.
Rooms from Dh1,300 | 2 Caxton Street, Westminster | www.sterminshotel.co.uk