Here are the latest festive Absolute London discoveries to satisfy all your eating, drinking, cultural and retail therapy needs, found all over the beautiful city of London this wonderfully wintery season.
The Ivy, Tower Bridge.
This beautiful restaurant is right on the river by Tower Bridge in a truly super location with great views, and just a short walk down the river from London Bridge station.
There are a range of Ivy grills, brasseries and cafes in the Ivy Collection, and every Ivy I have visited feels wonderfully unique and each is adorned with beautiful botanical décor giving the feel of a small oasis in the heart of a bustling town or city.
On my recent visit we skipped the starters as tempting as they were and went straight for the superb main dishes. There is always a wonderful mix of seasonal dishes along with popular classics created with clever twists. So, if you fancy a burger or a steak and fries, then that’s exactly what you can choose. On this occasion I opted for the classic fish and chips with mushy peas and tartar sauce (£16.50). Then for pudding I ordered the amazing chocolate bombe (£9.50), which was a divine melting chocolate dome filled with vanilla ice-cream and honeycomb covered with hot salted caramel sauce. The Ivy also serves a great choice of delicious non-alcoholic cocktails. My favourites are the Elderflower Garden (£5.95). This is a delicious mix of Seedlip Garden non-alcoholic aperitif, with elderflower cordial mixed with Fever Tree Elderflower tonic, and garnished with cucumber ribbons and edible flowers. But if that’s a little too much elderflower for your tastes, then my other favourite is the equally delicious Farmhouse Fruit Bowl (£5.95), which is quite simply a mix of pear, morello cherry, lemon and apple fruit flavours mixed with London Essence Co Rhubarb and Cardamom Soda.
The service at the Ivy is always impeccable, with delicious menus and each dish arrives beautifully presented. It’s everything you would expect from the infamous Ivy brand. The Ivy Tower Bridge also offers a glorious space perfect for private dining, events and parties. There are also superb vegetarian menus, set group menus and brunch menus as well as afternoon tea.
The Ivy, Tower Bridge.
One Tower Bridge, Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 2AA.
100 Wardour Street is a super location for drinks, dinner and good music all in one venue. I have been here lots over the years for birthday dinners, brunches and to visit the huge club downstairs that hosts live music and DJs at the weekend to help you dance the night away.
On a birthday dinner night out last month, we ordered from the 3-course set dinner menu which is fantastic value at just £20 and you can add free-flowing wine for just an extra £10 per person. The starter was a delicious and warming bowl of seasonal pumpkin and chestnut soup garnished with pumpkin seeds and croutons, followed by a hearty main course of pan-fried seabass with broccoli in a citrus butter sauce. Finally, pudding was a tasty warm vanilla crème brûlée with a peanut butter cookie. The meal was great and then of course we had just had to spend the rest of the night at the club to dance it all off.
I have been for lunch here several times and the dishes are delicious, and the service is always brilliant. The decor is a fantastic feast for the eyes, and it feels as though you are entering a beautiful blossom filled oasis tucked away in the heart of pretty Marylebone.
My favourite dishes on the menu are the indulgent starter of Scottish Scallops Carpaccio (£16), and the delicious main course of smoked aubergine with roasted buckwheat and feta cheese (£20) with a side of wilted spinach (£5), all washed down with a couple of gloriously crisp glasses of Whispering Angel rose wine. A truly sublime meal, and a great restaurant that’s certainly worth a visit.
The Brasseries of Light restaurant is a stunning art deco restaurant found in Selfridges on the first floor. This light and airy space offers fresh and seasonal dishes for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and supper. The delightful bar area is perfect for cocktails and the chic dining room is the ideal space for private dining events or parties.
Recently I indulged myself with one of their amazing passion fruit Cosmopolitans (£9.75), while taking my time to ponder over the delectable dinner menu. Eventually I settled on the light and tasty starter of popcorn shrimp with a spicy sauce (£9.50), which was followed by a huge portion of butternut and saffron risotto with goat cheese, king oyster mushrooms and rocket (£13.95). I ate every crumb obviously. It was amazing!
The O2 is renowned for hosting some of the best concerts in that world. The 2020 line-up is currently showcasing Santana 27 March, Country to Country 13-15 March, Cirque du Soleil 24 June to 5 July, Diane Ross 8-9 July, and Celine Dion 17-18 September.
The O2 is also where you can find The Icon, the designer shopping outlet destination home to over 60 fashion and lifestyle brands with up to 70% off including Gant, Tommy Hilfiger, Fat Face, Dune, G-Star Raw, Guess, Jack Wills, Karen Millen, Nike, Kurt Geiger, Levis and Miss Sixty, and plenty of other stores that are all full to the brim of discounted designer items just waiting to be snapped up.
As well as shopping, it has a huge array of well-known eateries, restaurants and bars, including Byron, Frankie & Benny’s, Five Guys, Gaucho, Garfunkel’s, TGI Fridays, All Bar One and Snowflake Luxury Gelato.
The O2 is easy to get to by bus and by tube on the Jubilee line. I normally always suggest public transport for anywhere in London but we often drive to the O2 as there is so much parking and when you have kids it’s sometimes quicker, easier and less hectic to just bundle the whole family, plus the kitchen sink into the back of the car for a day out.
One of my family’s favourite parts of the O2 is the Oxygen Jump Park. This trampoline park is huge, safe, well organised and reasonably priced. They have a toddler session on a Sunday morning 10am-11am which is perfect to take your kids if they are three years and under, and its good exercise for parents as well!
The O2 London.
Peninsula Square, North Greenwich, London, SE10 ODX.
The Wallace Collection is a beautiful collection of fine art displayed in the former townhouse of the Seymour family in the heart of Marylebone. It’s free entry, with several limited exhibitions holding a small entry fee.
December 2019 and the start of 2020 promise a host of exiting exhibitions, one of which is the Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company, curated by renowned writer and historian William Dalrymple, from 4 December 2019 to 19 April 2020. Tickets are on sale now, adults £12, concessions £9 and under 18 years are free.
On my last visit I was lucky enough to view the Manolo Blahnik exhibition, which sadly finished at the end of October, but do keep an eye on the website for all the latest exhibitions appearing in the new year.
The Enchanted Woodland returns at Syon Park this Christmas. Take your whole family through a magical festive stroll in infamous Syon Park on a Christmas family adventure. Follow the illuminated trail around the lake and through the twinkling festive grounds of Syon House. Tickets are on sale now, with adult tickets between £10-£12, children’s tickets £5 and family tickets from £18.
Syon Park. Enchanted Woodland.
Syon Park. London Road, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 8JF.
Visit Petersham Nurseries and enjoy a beautiful meal or afternoon tea in the heart of Covent Garden within this beautiful floral oasis.
All the dishes are fresh and seasonal, and the menu is Italian inspired using the finest British produce and packed with wholesome, clean and colourful dishes. The Petersham Restaurant has a great value seasonal set lunch menu with two courses for just £29.50 or three courses for £34. Favourite dishes on this menu include the starter of risotto with wild mushrooms and Parmigiano Reggiano, followed by an exquisite main dish of fillets of Hake in puttanesca sauce with Mayan gold potatoes. Finally, if you have room, treat yourself to a moreish plateful of raspberry and almond tart with pistachio ice cream.
The Ned is infamous. Everyone has heard of The Ned. It’s the glamourous hotel in the heart of the city with 5-star service, restaurants and bars. If you haven’t been yet, then you really must visit. The space is vast, with huge windows and high towering ceilings. This stunning cavernous venue is filled with chic bars, popular restaurants and luxurious comfortable velvet booths and lounge areas perfect for sipping cocktails with friends or also an impressive place for a date, while watching the excellent jazz singers and bands perform on the central stage.
The Ned proudly boasts 250 elegant guest rooms and ten irresistible restaurants which sit in 3000 square meters of a former banking hall. There’s also luxurious spa and gym, six private events spaces, and a private members club.
Afternoon tea at The Library at Marriott County Hall.
This season, treat yourself to a decadent afternoon tea at The Library at Marriott County Hall. This elegant afternoon tea venue offers great service, stunning views overlooking the river, and a beautiful array of delicious and perfectly crafted afternoon tea delights all to be enjoyed as you relax in the library’s plush furnishings and chic 1920s glamorous décor, surrounded by huge oak bookcases lined with classic literature.
This afternoon tea is reasonably priced with the classic afternoon tea just £41, then add a glass of champagne for £49, or free-flowing champagne for £65, and the afternoon tea for two with a bottle of champagne is £95.
The Library at Marriott County Hall.
London County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7PB.
This season make sure you visit the beautiful botanical themed bar in The Trafalgar St James hotel for wonderful cocktails. This pretty floral sanctuary is found at Trafalgar Square just a stone throw from Charing Cross and is one of London’s newest cocktail bars. There is an extensive list of tasty floral themed and imaginative cocktails to choose from. My favourites are the Hummingbird Hyssop (£13), a glorious delicious mix of Wry vodka, lemon juice, citrus jam, combined cleverly with a British white wine cordial, and mixed with refreshing soda water. Then there’s not forgetting the British Boxwood (£13), a thoroughly scrumptious cocktail combining Plymouth Dry Gin and raspberry wine with flavoured syrups.
It’s never a good idea to devour cocktails on an empty stomach, and as such The Rockwell serves a mouth-watering array of tasty bar food. Feast on brioche sliders from £10, dishes of tasty tacos from £11, and filled flat breads just £10. There are also moreish sharing platters of chicken skewers (£10), salt and pepper squid (£12) and triple cooked chips (£5).
Need something more substantial to line your stomach? Then the all-day dining menu offers hearty classic main course dishes, including London Ale battered cod and chips with tartar sauce (£16), a grilled sirloin steak and salad for (£28) and a grilled salmon, rocket and parmesan salad (£18).
The Rockwell cocktail bar, at the Trafalgar St James.
This festive season celebrate Christmas with a whizz round the ice at one of London’s most popular ice-skating destinations, Somerset House. This charming historic venue is celebrating its 20th year as home to one of London’s most iconic ice rinks and its stunning 40ft Christmas tree. Sign up for skate sessions, ice-skating lessons, as well as Skate Late themed club nights. Tickets available now online with prices starting from just £11.
Skate at Somerset House.
Somerset House Trust. Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA.