With fond memories of the whirlwind 12 Hours in London tour last summer, I headed back for a leisurely full weekend and found an entirely new side of London.
No pubs, not even a pint, during the whole weekend was my first realization that this trip was something different. Then, I noticed the Prada shoes in my suitcase which were purchased in a store I had never seen before in an area I had never visited. Finally, the sun, a real Italian latte, a healthy breakfast and shop after shop that reminded me of San Francisco was the last straw...where the hell was I?
Turns out, it was London, but as the Brits would say, a "posh" weekend getaway versus the blurry pub crawl ridden, greasy English breakfast weekend I usually do...which by the way isn't that bad at all. Without trying, I happened upon incredible shopping, excellent restaurants and a sun-filled weekend made for strolling through newly discovered neighborhoods.
Next morning, by mistake, I landed at what seems to be, by concensus, the best Italian cafe in the city. Princi (135 Wardour Street, +44 020 7478 8888, http://www.princi.co.uk/), most importantly, serves a great espresso, but if you look for a good pastry to go along with it, this is the place for you. My favorite that I have never found outside of Italy is "sfogliatella" an amazing triangle of many very thin layers of cripy dough filled with sweetened and flavored, usually lemon, ricotta cheese. (Found information about these lovely pastries on Kitchen Unplugged and a recipe on Epicurious, but note that everyone says they are really hard to make.) They also had an array of salads and savory breads almost tempted me to stay for lunch. But...
Maybe the cutest place in all of London is the Hummingbird Bakery (133 Portobello Roud, Notting Hill, W11 2DY, 020 7229 6446, http://hummingbirdbakery.com/). They sell the most expensive cupcakes in the world, I think, at around £2.50 (or $4) but they are really good. In fact, I never liked Red Velvet cupcakes until I tried one of theirs.
Just to clear the air here, I did not, as I said earlier, have a pint, but at the Eurostar I did enjoy a half-pint of Bass in the train station before I departed for France. That isn't at all the same as a pint in a traditional London pub, but none of this visit was typical and finding another side of London was truly the highlight.