Where to eat in London

October 22, 2012

My Secret London with Dan Jones

Freelance writer Dan Jones has lived in London for years – and he’s got around: Shoreditch, Herne Hill, Hackney, Victoria Park, Stoke Newington and now Clapton. He’s written for i-D Magazine as shopping editor, ASOS.com as senior men’s ed, is media consultant to fashion brand Antipodium, and was Time Out London’s Shopping & Style editor for four years (where he was also my mentor and boss), covering everything from LFW to funeral parlours – so he’s acquired a big list of London’s best/weirdest bits.

You can follow Dan on his shiny new blog dedicated to London stores and style, JONESTOWN,  and on Twitter @jonessecret. In the meantime, here is Dan’s Secret London. Enjoy!

Best shop in London for atmosphere?
My mum is a bit of a witch. When I was a kid she’d take me to her favourite New Age shop, Mysteries, on our day trips into London. Being a young cynic, I’d roll my eyes at the dreamcatchers and chakra candles, but when I rediscovered the shop a few years ago, I finally saw how special it is – especially if you suspend all irony. Fancy an amethyst geode as big as your head? Done. Books on faeries and spells? Smudge sticks? Angel cards? Got it. In the market for a polished crystal that looks a bit like Gandalf’s dildo? You’ve come to the right place. Hidden at the back of the shop is a slightly slimy-looking grotto with a babbling water feature, encrusted with crystals and icons, and upstairs you can get your fortune told by Mysteries’ psychic staff and Tarot readers. Magic.

Best in London for vintage?
Princess May Car Boot Sale
Just north of Dalston, opposite Beyond Retro’s huge Stoke Newington High Street store, is one of London’s best car boot sales. The mix of sellers is intriguing – from local trendies selling off their Topshop Unique cast-offs, to seasoned car booters (who tend to drive a hard bargain) selling knick knacks. It all makes for a great breadth of tat to pick through. On a hot summer’s weekend the sale is packed with browsers and sellers who cram themselves creatively into every corner of the grounds, selling from trestle tables and blankets.

Scoring a great car boot bargain is one of my greatest turn ons and Princess May rarely disappoints. On my last visit I picked up a Death Row Records cap, a Florida Gators sweatshirt, an old leather Camel cigarettes wallet – and possibly my best ever car boot find – a large ceramic bust of Arnold Schwartzenegger as The Terminator for £8. I didn’t even haggle. As I walked away from the stall the seller said, in a creepy Austrian accent, “you’ll be back.” No shit.

Best shop in London for gifts?
Donlon Books
Navigating Broadway Market on a Saturday is sometimes a bit overwhelming – you might not always be in the mood for the crowds and gluten-free cakes, squeezing through the shoppers and poseurs, squinting so your eye isn’t poked out by a chocolate eclair. Donlon Books makes it all worth it.

At the north end of the market and usually manned by Conor Donlon, you can browse an excellent selection of art, fashion and culture books (new and old), and magazines, fanzines and cards. It’s great for gifts. I always find something that’s relevant to a friend’s dubious obsession, whether it’s a book on 1970s Australian drag artists or film ephemera from the collection of John Waters himself – Cry Baby tissues or a Serial Mom baseball cap.

Best shop in London for food?
Lina Stores
It’s not much of a secret – Lina Stores has held its own in Soho’s red light district since the ‘30s – but the Italian deli just keeps getting better. The small shop had a bit of a makeover a couple of years back – and achieved the impossible: updating the place to feel thoroughly contemporary but preserving its traditional quirks.

You can have a quick snack or a coffee at the standing tables or buy up big from the impressive stock at the fresh counter (cheeses, charcuterie, etc) or the shelves (biscotti, Venchi treats). The homemade bits are best: pumpkin and sage or veal tortellini, pesto. The fresh pork and fennel sausages usually make the shelves in the early afternoon (amazing rolled up into meatballs at home).

Your number one London shopping secret?
Casa Mexico
I discovered Casa Mexico last year – although I’d walked past it lots of times on my way to the Antipodium studio in Bethnal Green. A few earthenware pots at the entrance had always made me think the place was a ceramic store, something to do with tiles or garden furniture – a bit boring. Still, I decided to try it out one day and it’s good I did.

Inside it’s all Day of the Dead dolls, handwoven rugs, pinata and paper fiesta decorations, bottled sodas and beers, fresh tortilla – and those ceramic garden pots. The Casa team have opened a Mexican pastry counter next door that’ll be selling tacos come September. In the main store, check out the genuine Caballeros cowboy boots, shirts and hats and Lucha Libre wrestling masks, or pick up some religious candles (£4.50 for Jesus) and proper Mexican sweets. Steer clear of the hot salted tamarind candies though – the packaging’s great but they taste like death.

The London trend you’re loving right now?
The Grill
Okay, it may not be the best news for the nervous eater, or those prone to bouts of heartburn or animal welfare, but this past summer in London was all about the grill. Dirty burgers, chunks of bone marrow, pulled pork, barbecued ribs… Alongside the stars of the BBQ scene – Meat Liquor, Meat Market and Pit Cue Co. – there are a few relative newcomers that are worth checking out: Burnt Enz at the Climpson Roastery (currently closed for winter) is less about classic BBQ sauces and more about using the grill to cook posh things like scallops, quail and more traditional stuff like lamb ribs with mint or beef brisket. Elliot’s Cafe at Borough Market collaborated with Raw – Borough’s wine fair – in the form of a pop-up burger stand selling aged beef patties with beer-braised onions, Comte and a brioche bun… it’s totally dirty – in a good way.

Thanks Dan!

Click here for a Wee Birdy map of Dan’s Secret London, complete with all the addresses and contact details.
Click here for more Secret London posts

Image sources: Mysteries; Donlon Books; Lina Stores; Lina Stores.

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August 6, 2012

My Secret London with Sarah Drinkwater

It’s back! By popular demand! My Secret London! This is where I pin down prominent London style/design/food insiders and ask them to share their favourite London addresses and secret destinations with Wee Birdy readers. This is London by locals – and knowledgeable, super-stylish locals at that. Here we go…

Sarah Drinkwater (pictured top right) grew up in the countryside with a postcard of London above her desk and moved there to study. After careers as a vintage clothes buyer and a journalist, she turned her favourite hobby – exploring London – into a career and now works as a community manager for Google Plus Local, helping users find great new places to go to through their friends. Sarah also blogs (sometimes, honest) at www.theenchantedhunters.com.

Best shops for vintage homewares?
I love coloured glassware, and Vintage Heaven on Columbia Road is, as the name suggests, rammed full of pastel glass ice cream glasses, deep green vases and piles of mismatching saucers. The Old Cinema in Chiswick is one of those treasure troves where they have everything from red velvet rows of cinema seats to industrial steel lockers and kitsch Seventies porcelain. And I’ve picked up some great midcentury bargains at The Peanut Vendor, a tiny shop on Newington Green.

Best shops in London for clothes?
I feel like high street fashion’s never been better for us early thirty-somethings who are simply not into Topshop’s mesh crop tops anymore. I own lots of Whistles, who balance great quality basics with quirky prints and luxe leather jackets. Cos lets me pretend I’m an extremely trendy architect with their sculptural shapes and great jewellery (I love oversize jewellery) and Hobbs’ NW3 range can be cool, too – I just bought a grey merino wool tight-fit jumper in the sale with an orange paperclip print.

Aubin & Wills also turned up some sale goodies, like a balloon print silk shirt dress, and Liberty has the very best selection of pricey brands including Carven, which I wish I could afford. I’m also pretty excited about Folk‘s new womenswear range…

Best shops in London for accessories?
The only jewellery I wear are necklaces, but I wear one every day, and I’m always looking out for them! Tatty Devine is the classic quirky London jeweller, and I own plenty of their cheerful pop art pieces. Luna and Curious on Calvert Avenue stock some really unusual items by independent designers, and they’re right opposite the queen of enormo jewels, Mawi. My burger locket necklace by Lazy Oaf is my current favourite, and I’d love one of Jessica de Lotz’s wax seal initial pendants.

Best shops in London for buying gifts?
I really like giving books as presents, and both Broadway Bookshop and Daunts in Marylebone have the best recent novels and those gorgeous coffee table books you don’t buy for yourself. I just bought a friend a design-your-own-banner kit from Nook on my local high street, too. They do craft workshops which I think make a great gift.

Best shops in London for perfume, make-up and skincare?
At the risk of sounding poncy, I wear Diptyque’s Vetyverio, which smells like the velvet-lined inside of a wooden box, and their Marylebone shop is a bit of a treat. For most of my beauty and skincare products, I head to Space NK, a micro-chain that stock both unusual brands and big hitters like Laura Mercier and Nars.

Best places in London for food?
Between my job and my insatiable curiousity, I’m a bit of a tart and always keen to try new places. I’d definitely take any visitor to two places; Bob Bob Ricard, a luxe restaurant dishing up Brit classics that’s decked out like an Edwardian gentleman’s club, and Spuntino, a cool-as diner with bourbon cocktails, bone marrow sliders and peanut butter and jelly icecream for pudding. I’d also nudge them in the direction of Pitt Cue Co’s trailer on the Southbank which is dishing up macaroni cheese and pulled pork patties, and Mark’s Bar below Hix in Soho for some mighty fine cocktails.

You’ve got 24 hours in London. Where do you go? What do you see? What do you buy?

That’s so hard! I’d start with breakfast at Towpath Cafe overlooking the canal and then pick up a Boris bike so I could avoid the crowds. First stop would be the Barbican, a Brutalist arts centre that’s endlessly interesting, whether you want to see their current Bauhaus exhibition or just wander around the grounds. From there, cycle to the Southbank and stroll past The Globe, The Royal Festival Hall and the London Eye.

Grab lunch at Pitt Cue’s Trailer and haul your bike over the bridge to Liberty in Soho, for the best collection of British design in one place. A nice cup of tea at Kaffeine will prepare you for cycling up to Hampstead Heath for a ramble with the best view of the whole city. I’d pick up a beer and a burger at Dach and Sons, then head to the Everyman Cinema there to watch films how they should be watched; on a sofa, with waiters bringing you mojitos!

Where do you go for a good coffee in London?
I’m a coffee fanatic so this changes all the time; my current favourites include Ozone Coffee Roasters right by Silicon Roundabout and arty cafe The Russet. But for the best coffee and breakfast, try the avocado on sourdough (so hard to get in the UK!) at Wilton Way Cafe, where they run London Fields radio in the corner, or the bircher muesli in a jam jar with passionfruit at my beloved local, Mouse and de Lotz.

Your number one London shopping secret?
Never judge a book by its cover; the shop next to Wilton Way cafe looks a little challenging from the outside, but sells an amazing collection of vintage glasses (for not junky prices).

Thanks Sarah!

Click here for a Wee Birdy map of Sarah’s Secret London, complete with all the addresses and contact details.

Click here for more Secret London posts.

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August 5, 2012

The 12 best places for kids in London – from toddlers to tweens

I get asked a lot of questions about the best places to go in London. And one question that keeps cropping up time and again is where to take kids. I visited London and travelled around the UK several times throughout my childhood – when I was two years old and when I was 10. In these snaps from our family album you can see that (a) I look rather pleased with myself in my natty pinstripe shirt with bow tie in front of the Tower of London; and (b) the duckpond in St James’s Park proved to be a popular destination for toddlers and tweens alike.

There are the obvious tourist attractions such as The Tower of London (can’t miss the Crown Jewels and Henry VIII’s plus-sized armour), The London Eye and Madame Tussaud’s (it’s ridiculously expensive and tacky but I remember loving it when I was 10-years-old), but there are loads of other things on offer in London that offer a real point of difference for kids than any other destination. I’m not sure if I was a particularly nerdy child (this is a real possibility) but I adored visiting museums, and was particularly fascinated by archaeological discoveries. And London has no shortage of world-class museums and galleries. Best of all? They’re free.

So with the London 2012 Olympics in full swing, I thought it would be a good time to take you on a little tour of London for kids, Wee Birdy style.

1. Need to let the kids run wild after a morning at the museum? Head to the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens for one of London’s best playgrounds. There is an enormous wooden pirate ship to explore, as well as tee-pees, sandpits and sculptures. Don’t miss the darling Peter Pan statue further along the garden path. Check the website for opening hours, which vary throughout the year. Image via Playground Adventure UK.

2. For a museum that the whole family will enjoy, check out the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. You’ll rediscover your old childhood favourites and there is always a schedule of events and activities for kids. Admission is free.

3. Got a late-tween/teen girl who loves to paint her nails? If you’re OK with manicures (go on, Mum, you’re on holiday!) make a beeline for London’s legendary Wah Nails for the coolest nail art in London – and let her choose the design of her dreams. Wah Nails has a concession located in Topshop’s flagship store at Oxford Circus, so she can go shopping for mad accessories after her nails are done. Bookings are recommended.

4. Afternoon tea is a British institution, but sometimes kids get bored in the more traditional London hotels. For a family-friendly afternoon tea, head to the Mercer Street Hotel in Covent Garden where kids can enjoy the Stupendous Afternoon Tea. Inspired by the Roald Dahl children’s classic Matilda (the musical version is currently playing in the Cambridge Theatre opposite the hotel) the tea includes Ludicrously Lovely lemon-loaf cake and Tremendously Terrific trifle. Prices are £13.75 per child and £29.50 per adult, and every child takes home a complimentary copy of Matilda. Bookings are essential.

5. Older girls will love a more sophisticated afternoon tea with a playful twist, like Prêt-à-Portea at the Berkeley, which includes exquisite cakes and biscuits inspired by the latest fashion collections. Meanwhile, the Sanderson has launched a Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea (pictured, above) that takes guests on a fantastical food adventure, including blueberry lollipops that turn your tongue from hot to cold and hazelnut praline ice cream lollipops that explode after a single bite. Fabulous. Bookings are essential for both afternoon teas.

6. Keep it simple and head to St James’s Park for a picnic and some squirrel-sighting. The grey squirrels may be one of the UK’s biggest pests, but you could almost forgive them for keeping young ones fascinated while they scamper around and chase each other. There is also the popular duck pond and you can play ‘spot the species’ thanks to the handy bird identification charts. The cafe near the duck pond, Inn the Park, is also very family-friendly and you can either eat in or get takeaway. The park makes a good pit-stop to break up some serious sight-seeing, as it’s right in the middle of the Buckingham Palace//Westminster/Trafalgar Square triangle.

7.  Go treasure-hunting on the shores of the Thames! This is one that’s strictly for older kids and tweens, as it involves negotiating broken glass and jagged rocks. Just make sure you go at low tide and take the right precautions (wellies, antiseptic wash and rubber gloves are essential as Weil’s Disease is a real threat). Read more about mudlarking on the Thames – including how to declare treasure (!) – here. One of my favourite spots is the little beach right in front of the Tate Modern on South Bank. Over 10,000 years of history gets washed up on the shores of the Thames, and you can easily find Tudor roof tiles, Elizabethan clay pipes and Roman oyster shells. It’s best to go with a tour group, so you know what you’re looking for. London Walks does a good Thames beachcombing tour. Image via My 5 Boys.

8. Bounce on Stonehenge. In the middle of London. Really. The brainchild of artist Jeremy Deller, this life-size inflatable replica of Stonehenge, named ‘Sacrilege’, is touring around London during July and August 2012. Under 12s must be accompanied by an adult. For all locations and dates, check Time Out London.

9. It’s hot, tempers are frayed and you’re knackered – nothing a good ice-cream can’t fix. For a real retro treat, take the kids to The Parlour Restaurant at Fortnum & Mason for a Knickerbocker Glory (pictured above), which they’ve been serving to Londoners since 1955. The £12 ice treat boasts vanilla bean ice-cream, strawberries and 12-year old balsamic vinegar, as well as frosted strawberry and shortbread ice-cream with raspberries, pineapple chunks and raspberry coulis.

10. Get your Hogwarts on and head to Warner Bros. Studio for the Making of Harry Potter tour. Located around 20 miles north-west of London, it’s easily accessible via public transport. See all the original sets and learn how some of the Harry Potter (film) magic was created. Want more Harry Potter? Check out this free self-guided tour to the film locations around London. Kids will love discovering the real-life Potter landmarks, and you could also squeeze in a bit of real-life London history. Win-win.

11. If your daughter is interested in fashion and accessories, include these must-visit London shops in your itinerary: Lazy Oaf (pictured above, for pop-tastic graphic tees and playful accessories); Tatty Devine (for the most original and fun perspex jewellery – think giant watermelon necklaces, bow rings and cat bangles); Urban Outfitters (for cool clothes and awesome gifts); and Topshop‘s flagship store at Oxford Circus (it’s the biggest fashion store in Europe and has an entire floor dedicated to accessories). Image via Time Out London.

12. Take the kids to The British Museum and make a beeline for Rooms 62, 63 and 64. These rooms, located on the third floor, are home to the museum’s extensive mummy collection, and the exhibits are guaranteed to interest the most jaded of tiny tourists. Don’t miss the mummified animals – especially the cats. Kids are fascinated by them. (I also liked the peat bog man.)

Want more tips for kids? I heartily recommend An Uncle’s Guide to London by Herb Lester (pictured above) and checking out Time Out London‘s weekly listings for kids, as well as their book London for Children.

Have you seen Wee Birdy’s Facebook page? I’ll be posting more amusing photos featuring questionable ’80s fashion from the Wee Birdy family album this week. Come over and say hello.

N.B. All details are correct at time of publication. Some exhibitions and events  included in this post are temporary or for a limited time only. Please double-check all details, (especially opening and closing times) with each exhibition or event at the time of your visit, as I’d hate to hear about disappointed little ones.

What are your best tips for kids in London? 

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July 19, 2012

It’s Wee Birdy’s 5th Birthday! Win a bottle of Penhaligon’s Peoneve!

To celebrate Wee Birdy’s 5th birthday, I’m giving away FIVE fabulous prizes over FIVE days. Each prize is something I truly love and hand-picked especially for you, my dearest and most lovely readers.

Today’s prize is a 100ml bottle of Penhaligon‘s beautiful new fragrance Peoneve, valued at £120, which is most thrilling as peonies are perhaps my most beloved bloom, and Penhaligon’s is one of my favourite heritage British brands. With lush green top notes courtesy of violet leaf, a heady core of peony, Bulgarian rose and hedione with a base of earthy vetiver, musk and warm cashmere wood, Penhaligon’s have succeeded in capturing an English garden in a bottle. It reminds me of the heady summer’s day I spent at Vita Sackville-West’s garden, Sissinghurst, in Kent three years ago. Not a bad fragrance memory at all.

While history is at the heart of Penhaligon’s brand, it’s anything but traditional when it comes to perfume-making. Penhaligon’s master perfumer (love that job title) extracted the dominant peony note using the very latest in fragrance technology – a technique that comes with it’s own registered trademark, and which I won’t attempt to explain because I don’t have a science degree. In addition, both the vetiver and Bulgarian rose were obtained using CO2 extraction; an ecologically-friendly process that captures every last drop of scent from the ingredient.

Peoneve launched exclusively at Harvey Nichols this week, and to celebrate, the Fifth Floor Terrace on Knightsbridge has been transformed into a “multi-sensory garden” with a cocktail and dessert menu inspired by the notes in the fragrance. There will be huge overgrown peonies and laser-cut insects alongside traditional garden furniture and the fragrance of sweet nectar. It’s everything you’d expect from a typical English garden in high summer, and since Britain’s weather refuses to co-operate, you may as well play tea parties at Harvey Nicks.

I love the sound of Penhaligon’s Peony Punch, which blends William’s gin with a bespoke tea blend inspired by the fragrance. It’s served in a five litre Penhaligon’s perfume bottle and will serve six. Impressive. Or there is the The Rose Garden, with Kentish raspberries, fresh white peach, Naked Chase vodka, and pressed apple juice, served over a frozen sphere of ice.

Don’t get me started on the dessert menu. There is white chocolate and peony mousse as well as gooseberry fool with elderflower and English custard. Oh god. And then there are a selection of ‘Boozy Pops’, a grown-up version of ice-lollies. See? You really can have your sunny English summer – you just have to get it on a stick.

Peoneve will be available exclusively at Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge from 16th July 2012 and then in Penhaligon’s boutiques, concessions and online from 13th August 2012.

Harvey Nichols
109-125 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7RJ
Nearest tube: Knightsbridge


Follow these two steps to win:

1. To qualify to win, you must follow or ‘like’ Wee Birdy on either Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter – or all three if you like! If you’re already following me on one of these platforms, you are automatically qualified to win.

2. Leave a comment in the comments section of this post and ensure you enter your email address in the space provided (your email address will not be published).

The competition closes on Saturday 21 July, 2012 at 5pm AEST. Winners will be drawn at random on Sunday 22 July. Winners will be announced and contacted by email on Monday 23 July, 2012.
Winners have one week to respond to the initial email from Wee Birdy confirming that they have won. If Wee Birdy doesn’t hear from the winner of each prize within a week, the winner/s will forfeit their prize and Wee Birdy will randomly draw another winner/s.

Have you entered the other competitions this week?
Click here to win a fine bone china mug and birch tray set from Howkapow.
Click here to win an Alex Monroe ‘All the Best’ crown necklace.

Click here to win classic Tatty Devine Name Necklace.

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November 10, 2011

Wee Birdy’s London favourites

I did this magazine interview a while ago and it never eventuated, so I thought it shouldn’t go to waste. Enjoy reading about some of my all-time London favourites!

What are your favourite local stores, boutiques or markets for great fashion finds and bargains?
I adore Liberty. It’s quintessentially London and the most stunning shopping experience. I’ve been known to while away entire afternoons on just one floor, and it has the best Christmas shop in town. It’s the first place I drag visitors from overseas, and the buying team have done a damn fine job with the most incredible mix of fashion accessories, stationery, cosmetics, homewares, and crafty things. It’s my one-stop London present-buying shop.

If you’re after cutting-edge, avant-garde designers, head straight to Dover Street Market in Mayfair (which is more department store than market). You can also lose yourself in there for many an hour (and don’t forget to revive yourself at the Rose Bakery on the top floor).

You really can’t go past Britain’s high street fashion chains, and COS, the older, more sophisticated sister of H&M, is my absolute favourite. Think Marni-style cuts and gorgeous fabrics at moderate high-street prices. They do men’s clothes too, as well as a small children’s collection. (Forget about Zara, I want a COS shop in Sydney!)

If you’re up for a day trip outside of London, you’ll be rewarded with serious designer bargains at Bicester Village, which includes outlets by the likes of Alexander McQueen, Burberry and Marni.

Liberty Great Marlborough Street, W1B 5AH. Tel. 7734 1234.
Dover Street Market 17-18 Dover Street, W1S 4LT. Tel. 7518 0680.
COS 222 Regent Street, W1B 5BD. Tel. 7478 0400 (go to the website for all locations).
Bicester Village 50 Pingle Drive, Bicester, Oxfordshire. OX26 6WD. Tel.1869 323 200.

Best local hairdresser for a Saturday night blow-dry or a colour touch-up?
If I’m just after a blow-dry, I go to Headmasters in Mayfair. It’s centrally located and offers a seasonal ‘menu’ of on-trend blow-dries and pretty going-out ‘dos at very reasonable prices (from £24). They’ve never put a hair out of place.

But I also have to mention my London hairdresser, John Vial at Realhair in Chelsea, who does an amazing job with my pretty ordinary long-bob. The man is a cutting genius! Of course, I’m not the first to think this, as he also looks after many a Conde Nast editor, as well as the likes of Gwyneth, Elle and Vidal Sassoon’s wife’s hair (he worked alongside Vidal for years). He comes at a price (£200) but he’s worth every penny.

Headmasters Mayfair 11-12 Hanover Street, W1S 1YQ. Tel. 7408 1000 (go to the website for all locations).
Realhair 6-8 Cale Street, SW3 3QU. Tel. 7589 0877.

Local salon you’d suggest for waxing?
Otylia Roberts Beauty Centre 23 George Street, London, W1U 3QA. Tel. 7486 5537.

The best place to get a facial?
Vaishaly Patel at the Vaishaly Clinic is considered the best facialist in London.
Vaishaly Clinic 51 Paddington Street, London W1U 4HR. Tel. 7224 6088.

Where to go for the best spray tan?
I never do spray tans! But I AM a threading convert (I know it’s got nothing to do with tans, but it’s my must-have beauty-maintenance procedure.) I’d never had it done before I moved to London, and now I get my brows threaded and tinted every six weeks. I like Malika salons (great prices, too), but whatever you do, don’t let them put you in the chair next to the window at the Westfield Shepherd’s Bush salon. I once sat there and attracted a small audience, including a little boy who was mesmerised by my grimacing performance while I was getting my upper lip done. His eyes just about popped out of his wee head.
Malika at Trevor Sorbie, 27 Floral Street, WC2E 9D9. Tel. 0844 445 6901 (go to the website for all locations).

Best affordable mani/pedi?
I love Cowshed near Carnaby Street for immaculate manis and pedis (a mini shape and polish is £17). But a little secret find is the salon at the London College of Beauty Therapy, just down the road from Liberty. Students do all the treatments but they’re supervised by experienced staff. You can get a mani for £10 (unheard of in central London!), as well as a host of other beauty treatments. Inside the actual treatment area, it looks just like any other beauty salon. And they do a really great job. Just leave a bit of time because while the students are super-careful, they can sometimes be a teensy bit slow, and they have to get their supervisors to sign off on each job.
31 Fouberts Place, W1F 7QG. Tel. 7534 0870.

London College of Beauty Salon 47 Great Marlborough Street, W1F 7JP. Tel. 7208 1302.

Day spa or massage parlour you’d suggest for relaxing body therapy?
The Agua bathhouse spa at The Sanderson is incredible, but the Elemis flagship Day Spa is an all-time London favourite.
Elemis Day Spa
2-3 Lancashire Court, W1S 1EX. Tel. 0870 410 4210

Agua Spa at The Sanderson 50 Berners Street, W1T 3NG. Tel. 7300 1414.

Your favourite café for a weekend brekkie/brunch?
I love a traditional full English breakfast at Tom’s Deli in Notting Hill. Especially when it’s snowing outside.
Tom’s Deli 226 Westbourne Grove, W11 2CH. Tel. 7221 8818.

Your favourite restaurant?
Andrew Edmunds in Soho is perfect for a romantic dinner – expect flowers on the tables, candles and a modern European menu. It’s by no means the best restaurant in London, but I love its cosy atmosphere. And Lexington Street just might be one of my favourite little streets in London. I love Bocca di Lupo for dinner with friends, where you can share delicious tapas-style Italian dishes. Oh god, the scallops there are melt-in-the-mouth.

Bocca di Lupo 12 Archer Street, W1D 7BB. Tel. 7734 2223.
Andrew Edmunds, 46 Lexington Street, W1F 0LW. Tel. 7437 5708.

Your favourite pub?
I’ve had some rather tasty Sunday roasts at Charles Lamb in Islington, which is a small and cosy pub in Islington. It’s a tad off the beaten track but it’s popular with the locals, which is always a good sign.
Charles Lamb 16 Elia Street, N1 8DE. Tel. 7837 5040.

Where to go for a scenic run/walk?
I love the walk along the canal tow path from Little Venice to Regent’s Park. The colours in autumn and the blossoms in spring are incredible. And it’s fun looking at all the narrowboats moored at the side of the canal, with their own carefully-tended mini gardens.

Otherwise, head to Hampstead Heath’s Parliament Hill or Greenwich for superb London views.

Is there a great yoga or Pilates class to check out?
I’ve been to Triyoga in Primrose Hill a few times. It has a beautiful spacious studio, as well as its own (healthy) café and some of the best yoga teachers in London.
Triyoga 6 Erskine Road, NW3 3AJ. Tel. 7483 3344.

Where to go for alterations/dry cleaning
Designer Alterations is in South London, but they can do fittings at your hotel, work or home. Head to Celebrity Cleaners in Soho for pristine dry cleaning.
Designer Alterations 220A Queenstown Road, SW8 4LP. Tel. 7498 4360.
Celebrity Cleaners 30 Brewer Street, W1F 0SS. Tel. 7437 5324.

What’s the best hotel in terms of location (close to bars, restaurants), great facilities, good rates etc
The Hoxton in London’s East End is brilliantly located near all the best shops, markets, bars, pubs and restaurants in Shoreditch, as well as Old Street tube. Sign up to their newsletter and keep an eye out for their crazy (but rare) £1 room specials.

Alternatively, if you’re staying in London for an extended period, consider renting an apartment. Ivy Lettings has an excellent reputation with really lovely options in fantastic locations.
The Hoxton Hotel
81 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3HU. Tel. 020 7550 1000.

Best time to visit London?
I love the UK in early April, when all the blossoms are out, the new spring/summer collections are in store, and Londoners are cheery after the long cold winter. And the field of wild buttercups in Greenwich is pretty special, too.

All photography by Wee Birdy, except photos by Headmasters.

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October 11, 2011

London must-eat: Knickerbocker Glory at Fortnum & Mason

Londoners, may I suggest a little ice-cream to relive that glorious Indian summer you were enjoying last week? The retro delight of Knickerbocker Glory at Fortnum & Mason’s Parlour Restaurant is beckoning, and it’s been doing so since 1955.

The Parlour is located on the first floor of Piccadilly’s 300 year-old department store, and the Knickerbocker Glory arrives in a tall glass on a stainless steel tray, with a long spoon to scoop up every last skerrick of chunky-creamy goodness.

The £12 ice treat, which boasts vanilla bean, strawberries and 12-year old balsamic vinegar, as well as frosted strawberry and shortbread ice-cream with raspberries, pineapple chunks and raspberry coulis, is an updated version of the original recipe, which F&M first served to curious Londoners in 1955.

While today’s creation isn’t exactly traditional, it succeeds in transporting me to 1950s-formica-and-soda-fountain heaven at Morellis and the Kentish seaside (and if you just clicked on that link, you’d be transported to Wee Birdy circa 2009 – check out the smaller column and photo format! Awww, look at that: blog nostalgia.)

The Beekeeper sundae is also a winner, featuring stem ginger with borage honey, vanilla bean and praline ice-cream topped with Fortnum’s honey (from the rooftop beehives) and honeycomb chunks. It’s not on the menu at the moment, but hopefully it will make a return in spring next year.

Just as delightful was the cappuccino, which arrived with a bonus mini icecream cone attached to the saucer. My one small complaint? While the Parlour attempts to replicate a relaxed‘50s vibe, it somehow lacks some of the old-fashioned elegance of the Fountain Restaurant downstairs, or the loveliness of the classic mirrored walls and glass sweet jars on the ground floor.

I guess the café table set-up just feels a tad ‘ordinary’ by comparison. Still, it’s a gorgeous light and bright space overlooking Piccadilly, so head to one of the tables by the window, or if you have kids, perch on the stools at the bar.

The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason
181 Piccadilly
London W1
Tel. 020 7734 8040
Nearest tubes: Piccadilly and Green Park
Click here for a Wee Birdy map.

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 10am-7.30pm
Sunday 12Noon-5.30pm
Bank Holidays 10am-5.30pm

Dress code: The Parlour requests that “both sexes lean more towards elegance”. Quite.
For reservations tel. 0845 602 5694 9am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday or book online.

{Photography by Wee Birdy.}

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