, ,

Top 10 Hip London Pubs


London is rife with traditional as well as modern pubs and bars, from the scenes of Soho to Jack the Ripper’s favorite haunts, make sure to check out the hippest places to drink across the pond!

Blind Pig

Prohibition meets modern class at this New York style Soho drink stop. Located quietly and quaintly above Social Eating House, make your way there during the day for a relaxed vibe (although reservations, any time of day, are advised!), or pop in at night to take in the ambiance. Their unique cheekiness can be seen in their décor as well as their menu. Find the brass door-knocker appropriately shaped into a blindfolded pig, and settle into a leather banquette with a Bulleit Rye or a Vitamin C Vesper – just to make your habit seem healthy for a drink or two!

Address:

58 Poland Street, London W1F 7NR

The Ten Bells in Whitechapel

A personal favorite, the Ten Bells sits as an antiquity – and for good reason. Conjure up the spirit of Jack the Ripper with a few spirits of your own, known for one of the locations where he met his ill-fated victims. The friendly staff and tasty Pimms cocktails mix well with the location, directly across from the lively Old Spitalfields Market. Take your drink outside and watch the city walk by, and make some new friends in the process.

Address:

84 Commercial St, Spitalfields, London E1 6LY

Bradley’s Spanish Bar on Oxford St

When not in Spain, let Bradley’s bring the Spanish vibe to you! This low-key pub is perfect for a rainy day when only a glass of wine and a song from the jukebox will do. Drinks are well priced and the atmosphere is enhanced by the local customers who spill out into the streets for good cocktails and conversation. Visit Bradley’s for classic music, a glass of Spanish wine, and a laid-back atmosphere as the sun sets.

Address:

44 Hanway St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1UT

The White Hart Pub

Another Ripper reference sits quietly on White Chapel High Street, just east of central London, with excellent food and a laid-back atmosphere that appeals to locals and tourists alike. Conveniently located across the street from the Aldgate East tube stop, the White Hart is an ideal spot to grab a quiet drink and have a long conversation with your friends, or anyone else who happens to pop in!

Address:

89 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7RA

Coach & Horses in Soho

Another one of London’s old-school pubs in Soho, Coach & Horses is a great place to toss back a pint where the stained glass windows and well-worn carpet create a story onto themselves. Take a Wednesday or Saturday night to visit this classic pub for their piano sing-along and get into the spirit (and the spirits!) with the crowd, known for their classic cockney renditions as well as a more modern play list. Grab a Fuller’s or a Hopspur and join in!

Address:

29 Greek St, Soho, London W1D 5DH, UK

Cross Keys in Covent Garden

Put the keys up and grab a cab to the Cross Keys for a low-key afternoon pint. A traditionally British pub, relax and lift a glass outside while the greenery and glow of the sunset light up the night. As one of the quaint antiquities that defines classic London tap rooms, its all about that homey feel you search for at the end of the day. Try a pint from Brodie’s, a classic local London brewery. Have a bite or two while you’re there as well; the Doorstep Sandwich is a local favorite.

Address:

31 Endell Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9BA

Doodle Bar in Bermondsey

Bring your inner kid and grab a stick of chalk at this unique spot in Bermondsey, where you can write on the walls while hoisting your favorite pint. In addition to the whimsical vibe, food trucks frequent the establishment for late night revelers looking to eat as well as imbibe. Originally started as a hard-to-find pop-up pub, the Doodle Bar has evolved into a hip and chill every-day spot for the locals. Try their signature beer, an aptly named Doodle’s Pale Ale. Get to the bar in the evening for a chiller vibe, before the larger crowds grab a spot and start chalking it up!

Address:

60 Druid St, London SE1 2EZ, UK

The Elephant & Castle (in Elephant & Castle)

This pub puts the the hip in what’s happening and not necessarily the hipster. A trendy spot that’s been courted by the city after a rough and tumble history, the Elephant stands as a testament to how the past can bring the future into the forefront. It’s not only craft beer that lines their bar; Heineken and Amstel mingle nicely with local IPA’s and great crowds.

Address:

119 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BN

Harp in Covent Garden

No need to go to church on Sunday, just visit the Harp for a communion with stained-glass windows and a bit of the spirit. A great spot for beer-o-philes and pub aficionados alike, Harp is a small bar with a lot of traditional flare. Another favorite among locals, it’s rightfully been named pub of the year. Take a mill around Harp when you find yourself in central London and toss back a pint of any one of their rotating brews.

Address:

47 Chandos Pl, London WC2N 4HS

Royal Oak in The Borough

The Royal Oak is where history meets a modern tavern. Voted one of the best places to drink a beer, this pub espouses Chaucer’s spirit with it’s homey feel and warm yet up-to-date character. A nice mix of the old school and the moving tone of London, venture in and ask for a Cask Mild and enjoy your evening, you won’t be disappointed.

Address:

44 Tabard Street, Borough, London, SE1

Bonus Bar – Phoenix Artist Club in Covent Garden

Another one of our personal favorites for a late night plug, the Phoenix Artist Club serves up a very unique (and, of course, artsy) vibe. From the congenial bartenders, to the thespian memorabilia and the secluded back room where some of the most famous theatre greats frequented (and still do), it’s like stepping back in time – while present in the ethereal, low-lighted moment. The caveat to this establishment is that you have to be a member, available for about 70 Pounds per year. That is, unless you have a ticket stub from any one of the unforgettable London theatres. We chose Phantom of the Opera for our last visit in the West End and topped it off with the Phoenix… well worth the price of admission in every sense of the word!

Address:

1 Phoenix St, London WC2H 8BU

London is the quintessential and classic city for some of the best pubs in the world, make sure to venture out and find your favorite!

 

, , , ,

Review: Ibis London City Hotel – Shoreditch


London is a city with endless possibilities for discovery and entertainment, as well as art and history. With tourism continuing to rise significantly over recent years you’ll also have endless choices for hotels!

On our most recent trip across the pond we stayed at the Ibis London City hotel, a funky and accommodating place near the Whitechapel area of the city. A few steps away from the Aldgate East tube stop, we found everything we needed within walking distance, as well as by short underground trips around London. Just fifteen minutes on foot to the Tower Bridge and the famous River Thames, you’ll find its location convenient no matter what your plans for the city.

Convenient lobby bar with great, full service.

Upon entering the lobby, the décor is strikingly modern and colorful, rife with reds, blues, artistic geometric dividers and warm brick walls. Combined with comfortable chairs and beautifully lit sitting areas, we utilized this space quite a bit in the mornings before we headed out to our destinations, as well as in the evenings to relax and have a drink before retiring. In addition to the casual and inviting conversation areas, the Ibis is home to Fogg’s, a full service bar right in the lobby with friendly and attentive service. After a long ride from Heathrow into the heart of the city, that was our first stop, even before checking in!

We arrived earlier than the typical check-in time, as many travelers do, but the staff at the front desk was accommodating and helpful, finding the first available room for us to check into after such a long day. Available 24-hours a day, you’ll never find yourself without assistance if need be! One early morning I found myself needing a pair of scissors, of all things, and they gladly lent me a pair. Next to the concierge desk they also have free Wi-Fi stations where you can search for things to do around London, send an email, or just check Facebook.

The rooms at Ibis are clean, comfortable and conveniently located in Whitechapel.

The room itself was quite modern, clean, and cozy. As with many of our hotel experiences in Europe, the room’s design and efficiency were outstanding, with enough space to comfortably unpack, relax, take a shower and watch TV after a long day. Electrical outlets are conveniently placed next to the nightstands so you’re able to charge your phones and browse your computers while reclining. The bed was comfortable and we slept quite well after each day of city-wide excursions. We rarely spend more time in the room than while we’re asleep when traveling, and the Ibis’ welcoming décor and warmth definitely exceeded our expectations.

The hotel offers a generous spread for breakfast for a nominal fee (I believe we paid around ten Pounds), where you can find everything from eggs, bacon and sausage, to yogurt, cereal and fruit (in addition to many other options!). To find a quick bite when the Ibis’ restaurant isn’t available, simply walk next door to the conveniently located Tesco Express where we visited quite often whenever we needed snacks, toiletries, water (and, of course, beer!) or a quick sandwich to tide us over on a tube ride.

The fun and festive Spitalfields Market, walking distance of the Ibis London City.

The Ibis is located an easy walk away from the lively Whitechapel area, home of the expansive and bustling Old Spitalfields Market (one of our favorite places to visit in the area) as well as the infamous and legendary scenes of Jack the Ripper’s mysterious reign of terror in London. While in the area, make sure to check out the historical Ten Bells pub, directly across the street from the Spitalfields Market, our staple watering hole when in this area of London – and also one of the places where Jack the Ripper is rumored to have found some of his victims! For a quick drink – and an additional Ripper experience – check out the White Hart Pub, where we started a few of our daily journeys with a pints and delicious potato soup!

Stay at the Ibis, and have a few drinks with friends at the Ten Bells – where the Ripper roamed!

Our experience at the Ibis London City was welcoming, convenient and comfortable. With around the clock concierge we found it easy to come and go as we pleased, and with an on-site bar we found it easy to imbibe as we pleased as well! The location is excellent, the rooms inviting, and the staff accommodating.

Our verdict: Highly recommended

Contact

Website 

Address: 5 Commercial Street E1 6BF – London, UK

Phone : (+44) 207/4228400

 

 

, , ,

The Ultimate Guide To Get Around London


Recently, we had a friend has us for a few tips on how to get around London. Thinking that many might have the same question, I decided to make a post about it!

London is incredibly easy to navigate, thanks to many forms of transportation including black cabs, trains, direct shuttles and the famous London Underground (also called the “Tube”). If you’re flying into London, you’ll arrive via one of three airports of varying size, service and direction from the city center:

  • Heathrow International Airport– The largest and most famous of the airports in London. Heathrow offers the fastest transportation to the city center, via The Heathrow Shuttle that goes non-stop from the airport to Paddington Station. Shuttles run every 15 minutes, and run at an accelerated speed that gets you to London in about 22 minutes.

You can book tickets ahead of time by visiting https://www.heathrowexpress.com/, however tickets may also be purchased at the Heathrow Shuttle desk in the airport. One-way tickets run £22 per person, but it’s best if you get the round-trip ticket for £37 (unless you lose your passport and plan on staying a bit longer!).

  • Gatwick Airport– The second largest airport in London, located roughly 45 minutes south of the city center. The fastest, and cheapest way to get between Gatwick and London is via the The Gatwick Express, which offers non-stop train service to Victoria Station every 15 minutes with a journey time of about 35 minutes. Services to London Bridge, St. Pancras International and Luton Airport also run four times an hour with a journey time of between 30 and 45 minutes. If you are traveling by train you can buy tickets in advance from thetrainline.com , an independent retailer of train tickets online. Train tickets normally run about £18, and you can find scheduling and booking information at http://www.gatwickexpress.com/ .
  • Luton Airport– Luton is a smaller airport that flies regionally in the UK and EU countries that is located about an hour’s train ride north of London. It’s a bit trickier than Heathrow and Gatwick, who are both quite straight forward to navigate, as you take the Luton Express and exchange at Thameslink in North London. Via Thameslink Station, you’ll arrive at St. Pancras Station in the city center. KEY: Tickets via the Luton Express will only take you to Thameslink Station, which only cost about £3 per person. From there you will need alternative means of paying for your London Underground access, which we will cover below.

The London Underground

The London Underground (also known simply as the Underground, or by its nickname the Tube) is a public rapid transit system serving Greater London and some parts of the adjacent counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. It’s affordable, relatively fast, cleaner than New York’s Subway or Paris’ Metro, and has a wide enough reach with enough lines to take you relatively anywhere you would like in the city.

If you’re in London for any amount of time, you have a few options for how you can pay for the Tube. You can purchase a one or two-day pass or pay-as-you-go. However, what we’ve found to be most convenient is to simply purchase an Oyster Card, a prepaid card that you can load and reload as needed. It makes Tube travel incredibly fast, and it’s the perfect answer for anyone who is going to be in the city for more than just a couple of days or plans on returning. Prices for the Oyster Card and prepaid levels can be found at https://www.londonpass.com/.

London is a congested city in many areas, being a major center of business and tourism, and Tube travel allows one to get to virtually anywhere in the city without the pain of traffic. In some areas, including London’s East End and near Parliament, traffic can be as bad as New York. You’re better off utilizing the cheapness, speed and ease of the Tube.

Black Cabs

There will be times, however, when you can’t take the Tube. There are hour restrictions, a general time when the Tube opens for business and closes, and you may find yourself out beyond that timeframe and in need of transportation. If that is the case, you can easily take a London Black Cab.

Specifically take the Black Cab, as they are the most well-trained and fair of the London cab systems. They know how to get anywhere, and even know most of the shortcuts on how to get there. The other cab systems have a poor reputation of overcharging, getting lost, and generally providing a poor experience. Take a Black Cab. They can be found virtually all over London at any time of day or night, but if you need to book ahead of time (perhaps an early checkout heading back to the airport) you can find their contact and booking information here http://www.londonblackcabs.co.uk/ .

Double-Decker

The Routemaster, or Double-Decker as it’s colloquially called, is synonymous with London. Not only are they traditional, but they’re also efficient, useful and affordable. While not a standard method of transportation, the Double-Decker is a bit more strategic as it travels along five different tourist routes that cover virtually all of the more tourist-popular locations of London’s city center. These routes include

  • Five Bridges and Thames
  • Westminster and The West End
  • The City and The Tower
  • Windsor and Runnymede
  • Christmas Lights (seasonal)

Scheduling and pricing information may be found here http://londonbyroutemaster.com/ .

Rickshaw Tour

One final method of transportation that is gaining popularity is the London Rickshaw Tour, a coach-by-pedaling method of touring the city that has room for two, and is led by an operator on a bike. For scheduling and pricing, visit here http://londonrickshaws.co.uk/ .

Final Thought

No matter how you get around London, you’ll find it relatively easy to transverse for such a large city. Expect to spend a lot of time on the Tube, and using the Black Cabs on occasion. The Double-Decker and Rickshaw tours are more of an “as-you-wish” option, but enjoyable if it’s something that interest you.

Before you go, our recommendation is to get yourself an Oyster Card (one per person), load it up with perhaps £25, and you should be good for four or five days.

 

 

, ,

Pass the Chips: Exposing the Myth of Bad British Cooking


London’s culinary heritage is as old as the city itself, and just as diversified despite the commonly (and incorrectly) assumed notion that British food essentially begins and ends at Fish and Chips. British cooking is, in equal parts, (admittedly) bizarre, creative, bold, diversified and, above all, delicious.

As with most places, London’s traditional cooking history is a reflection of what the early settlers had available and what the landscape offered. England enjoys relatively short summers, and gives way to a generally cool, wet weather throughout most of the winter months. This created the need to properly preserve what they could find through methods such as curing, brining, pickling and smoking both meats and what vegetables the terrain offered. These dishes were perfected into tradition, passed along family to family over centuries and now exist as a part of the national identity.

Many traditional English chefs have popularized a trend called “snout-to-tail” dining, wherein there lies a concentration of using all parts of the animal, literally from snout to tail. One such chef is the famous Fergus Henderson, a British culinary legend and the founder of St. John on St. John Street in London. He has published three books on the topic of snout to tail (or, nose-to-tail) cuisine and is considered one of the preeminent expert chefs on the subject.

In fact, London has become a sort of a hotbed for the “celebrity chef” movement that really started with Marco Pierre White who moved to London in the late 70s and began his classical training as a commis with Albert and Michel Roux at Le Gavroche. White trained or inspired many currently famous chefs, such as Gordon Ramsey, while becoming the first British chef to earn three Michelin stars (having done so by the age of 33!).

What many who haven’t been to London don’t realize is that there’s another element to British cooking that has become as much of the national fiber as the traditional, country dishes. The foundation of the East India Company in 1601 opened trade between England and India, bringing in not only Indian migrants but the traditional recipes they possessed. Today, in fact, England’s national dish isn’t Fish and Chips, but rather Chicken Tikka Masala!

Britain’s national dish- Chicken Tikka Masala.

Yet, if you think Anglo-Indian cooking is all about Chicken Tikka Masala, you would be quite wrong. Apollo Banana Leaf, located in Tooting in South London, is well-known among British culinarians for recipes that range from classic to the simply creatively stunning in Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisine. You should also try Chai Ki in Canary Wharf, a magnificently-styled restuarant that serves a more casual from dining area to a three-course concentrated back area with convictions in more high-end Indian classics.

London offers much to the senses, and we’ve narrowed down a short list of dishes you simply must try on your next visit if you’ve never been. If you’re inexperienced with the brilliance of British cooking, you can’t go wrong with most of the traditional dishes. There are spins on the old classics, and we’ll point you to where you can get a great modern dish as well as where to find some of the Anglo-Indian classics that add to the texture of the London culinary culture.

  • Fish and Chips- Fish and Chips is a hot dish, that everyone knows, of English origin consisting of fried battered fish (typically cod) and hot chips (fries, in America). It’s often served with a side of slaw made from cabbage, and is a common take-away or pub food that can be found virtually anywhere in London. You really can’t go wrong finding a good Fish and Chips in London. Generally rule of thumb is that if you see a decent number of people at a pub in a somewhat busy part of town, get the Fish and Chips if it’s on the menu.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala- Chicken Tikka Masala is chicken tikka, which are chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt that is then baked in a tandoor oven and served in a masala (spice mix) sauce. Delicious! A tomato and coriander sauce is common, but there are many derivatives. The sauce usually includes tomatoes (frequently as a purée), cream, coconut cream and various spices. The sauce or chicken pieces (or both) are colored orange using foodstuffs such as turmeric powder, paprika powder or tomato purée. Punjab in Covent Garden is an absolute must if you’re looking for creativity and tradition in Indian cuisine.

    A tradition- Bangers and Mash should be on your list if you’ve never had this dish.

  • Bangers and Mash- Bangers and Mash, also known as Sausages and Mash, is a traditional British Isles dish made of mashed potatoes and sausages, the latter of which may consist of a variety of flavored sausage made of pork or beef or a Cumberland sausage. It is often topped with an onion gravy, or paired with fried onions, baked beans or peas. You can get this virtually anywhere in the city, and it will excel in the same type of pub that will give you that great Fish and Chips.
  • Sunday Roast- The Sunday Roast is a traditional British main meal that is  served on Sunday. The dish consists of roasted meat, roast potato, and accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and onion gravy. Vegetables such as roast parsnips, Brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, runner beans, broccoli are included and can be cooked in different styles; for example, cauliflower or leeks accompanied by a cheddar cheese sauce are popular, in addition to the onion gravy. Blacklock in Soho makes a Sunday Roast that is absolutely stunning.
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding- Sticky toffee pudding is a steamed dessert consisting of a very moist sponge cake, made with finely chopped dates, covered in a toffee sauce and often served with a vanilla custard or vanilla ice-cream. It’s fairly dense and normally a large enough portion when ordered to necessitate sharing. It’s very traditional and common, but the one at Hawksmoore Knightbridge in Brompton is probably the best we’ve ever had.
  • Bubble and Squeak- Bubble and Squeak is  made with the shallow-fried leftover vegetables from a roast dinner. One trend you will see is that the English are very wise with their ingredients and make plenty of use from the leftovers, and Bubble and Squeak is no different. The main ingredients are potato and cabbage, but carrots, peas, Brussels sprouts, or any other leftover vegetables can be added. The chopped vegetables are fried in a pan together with mashed potatoes or crushed roast potatoes until the mixture is well-cooked and brown on the sides. The dish is so-named because the cabbage makes bubbling and squeaking sounds during the cooking process. Keep this one traditional, and get it at any pub with a decent crowd in the city center.
  • Scotch Eggs- A Scotch Egg consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked or deep-fried. It’s often served with a curry mayonnaise sauce, and is a popular appetizer or small dish for pub food. There aren’t many derivations on this classic, but we’ve rather enjoyed The Ginger Pig as the source for the sausage is local, and the restaurant itself has an on-site butcherer.

    Scotch Eggs, while simple, are a “must” and one of our favorites.

  • Yorkshire Pudding- Yorkshire Pudding is  made from batter consisting of eggs, flour, and milk or water. It is often served with beef and gravy and is part of the traditional Sunday roast as a side or dessert. Check out Reform Social & Grill in Marylebone to find a great rendition.
  • Meat Pies- The English enjoy a variance of pie recipes, but not the sweetened dessert pies we often think of in America. Rather, these are denser, dinner pies typically made with a combination of meat and other savory ingredients such as mashed potatoes, cream, onion gravy and cheese. Variances include Steak and Kidney pie and Shepherd’s Pie, which is a popular dish consisting of beef, potatoes, peas, onion gravy and often cheese. You can get these simply anywhere from the more working-class areas, to four-star restaurants and even the God-forsaken Tesco, which we’ve found ourselves strangely fond of using for a quick snack.
  • Full Breakfast- Also called the “Full Load,” a full breakfast is a breakfast meal, usually including bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, black and white pudding (a mixed fried cake consisting of blood and oatmeal) and a variety of other cooked foods, with a beverage such as coffee or tea. Any pub worth its salt will have a great Full Breakfast, but so should your hotel. The Breakfast Club in Soho does a great job of staying mostly traditional with this fatty, delicious dish.

You will need something to wash this all down with, and while a British Ale or Lager is always a good idea, you might want to go with a traditional Builder’s Tea. Builder’s Tea is a British English colloquial term for a strong cup of tea, and takes its name from the inexpensive tea commonly drunk by laborers taking a break in the midst of a long and difficult work day. A Builder’s Tea is typically brewed in a mug with a teabag (as opposed to loose tealeaves in a teapot), with full-fat milk and two teaspoons of sugar.

The Breakfast Club is a great London spot, with multiple locations, where you can enjoy a great traditional breakfast.

A proper cup of tea is just as British as the Queen herself, and Londoners certainly have an appreciation for it. You should too. The best way to enjoy your first cup on your next trip is preferably outside, patio-side watching the day move past you. Pick an area that has a little bit of traffic near a historic landmark. You could be all posh with it and go to the Savoy, but you’ll seriously be making a mistake if you do.

Too many people go to London and almost immediately order a Guinness, which is all fine and well, but it’s not exactly a compliment to your thoughts on British brew. British beers have a bit more variety than their Irish counterparts, and run nearly across the entire scale when it comes to all that there is to offer in Stouts, Ales, Lagers or even Bitters. If you’re in the mood for more of a Stout, something to replace the Guinness and get truly British, go with something like a Young’s Double Chocolate or a Harvey’s Imperial. For something a bit milder, a wonderful British bitter is Boddington’s (say that three times, fast) and a great golden lager is made by Fuller’s, which can be found at virtually any pub in the city center. In fact, most of the previously mentioned brands make a bit of something for everyone, especially Fuller’s and Young’s, while Boddington’s stays primarily with it’s core product, the bitter.

As you can see, any previously conceived notion that British cooking is, in any way bad, is hopelessly outdated. The traditional dishes have indeed taken on a life of their own and are not nearly as intimidating as most of us “yanks” might believe. In fact, think about much of the cooking along the eastern seaboard of the United States. Think about the meals your grandmother made. How much more British could it have been? These are far from foreign classics, but rather human classics that have followed American migrants over from our motherland hundreds of years ago.

It’s a short stretch to go from Bangers and Mash to the Sausage and Potatoes breakfasts I had growing up as a child, and it’s really no stretch at all to conceive of Chicken Pot Pie coming from a multitude of popular British Pie dishes. Food has a way of tying together people, and loose ends. It has a way of reminding us where we’re from, and in many ways where we’re going. Whatever you’ve heard about British cooking, whatever you think you know, think differently. Britain, and London specifically, stands culinarily proud on its own, and comes second to no one. Not even New York. Not even Paris.

So go there. See it, taste it, experience it for yourself. Sit outside. Watch the city pass you by and immerse yourself into the awesome culinary tradition that is London.