You can get in to any number of types of trouble when you visit London: lord knows I do every time! That trouble could be shopping, over-eating, drinking, or even just wondering and getting lost. But that’s part of the charm to London so come prepared – and leave that credit card in the room if you have no self-control (note to self) – and start exploring this truly wonderful city!
The number of options in London is truly staggering and I am still trying to find the cool, funky, non-cookie-cutter options, all without spending a fortune (the latter may not be possible I fear!).
I don’t typically rave about chain hotels but I have to make an exception for the Hotel Indigo Paddington (https://www.ihg.com/hotelindigo/hotels/us/en/london/lonin/hoteldetail). For those of transiting through London Heathrow, the worst thing ever is to stay at an airport hotel, with nothing to do, and sub-par food at the very best. But what to do and where to stay in London for just one night? Take the Heathrow Express directly to Paddington Station (yes, it costs 47GBP but do you really want to stay at one of those boring airport hotels?!), walk out of the station, straight down Sussex Place for about 5 minutes (my max with luggage), and the Hotel Indigo is on your right.
Blakes Hotel (http://www.blakeshotels.com/) in South Kensington is definitely a charmer and as part of the “Design Hotels” group, it gets added points for style and creativity. The hotel is located in a small residential area, but easily walkable to everywhere so I really do love this hotel. But affordability is a relative terms so be prepared (and stalk those sale sites!)
Another option that I just tried was the Andaz London (http://www.london.liverpoolstreet.andaz.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html) which, although part of the Hyatt chain, was really quite nice. The hotel itself is a bit cookie-cutter – and although I love minimalist designs, the rooms were just plain which didn’t exactly scream “come and stay again” – but it’s proximity to the Liverpool tube stop makes it a great place from which to navigate most of the city so that gets plusses from me.
It’s not fancy, but if in that quick overnight in London, I can highly recommend The Mughal’s Indian (https://www.mughalsrestaurant.uk/) on London Street. The food is affordable, was packed until closing, and the staff are really attentive and care about what they make. I am literally salivating as I write this, wishing I would return tomorrow!
The Gate Restaurant (http://thegaterestaurants.com) was a fantastic suggestion from a friend and although it’s a vegetarian restaurant, be prepared to make a reservation and don’t be late. (We were 15 minutes late and nearly lost our table!) The food was amazing and the wine list, although small, was brilliant and, for the most part, affordable. The décor isn’t much to write home about but I must admit that the large windows that look out over rooftops was a smart touch.
Another find, this time over near Covent Garden, is Nopi London (http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/locations). Part of the Ottolenghi chain of restaurants, this restaurant has a formal dining room, that I loved and can’t stop thinking about, and a more “family style” environment downstairs that, the night I was there, was actually fitted for a formal and private banquet. The food was divine and the options for every food type extensive, and I bet, amazing. Big kudos to the restaurant for the following: we ordered desert but it was late in arriving. Because we were sitting there just chatting and not eating, and they explicitly say you have 1.5 hours to eat (not something I like and find somewhat offensive), the manager came over and politely asked how we were doing. When we said that we were just waiting on desert, he disappeared and quickly returned with our desert. Cool. He then followed up and when we raved about the desert, he took us to meet the pastry chef who then gave us the recipe for his chocolate confection. I’d return just because of this.
I’m still in search of those sites and experiences that you can find outside of your typical guidebook so stay tuned…