Sunday, April 18, 2010

More than 12 hours in London

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.

First stop on Friday night after arriving from Paris via EuroStar was an amazing Italian dinner with friends at Locanda Ottomezzo (2-4 Thackeray Street, London W8 5ET, +44 (0)20 7937 2200,  This small restaurant on a quiet street in Kensington makes incredible, fresh Italian food, has a great wine list and a lovely staff.  Not to be missed is the mushroom risotto served from a carved out parmesean rind...amazing. 

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,, 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...

As I was close to Oxford street, shopping was next on the agenda.  A compulsary visit to TopShop, a breeze through Selfridge's and then a pop into Ted Baker...a pair of flats here, a sweater there and that was about it.  Until I headed towards a beautiful Tudor building where I could only see a pretty flower shop spilling out onto the sidewalk and I almost walked by but I took a glance sideways to see the interior of this grand building...and that is where it all started.  Two hours later, I walked out of Liberty (Great Marlborough Street, London W1B 5AH, closest tube stop Oxford Circus, with two pairs of shoes and a box of chocolates, plus a new membership card now that I am a frequent shopper! 

Afterwards, we walked back through Heddon street looking for a well-deserved happy hour and found plenty to choose from on the pedestrian area around Heddon Street.  Next time I'll be sure to book a table at Aubaine (4 Heddon Street, 020 7440 2510, for a light lunch.

On a sunny Sunday morning, we headed up to Notting Hill for brunch and found 202 (202 Westbourne Grove W11 2RH, 020 7727 2722) which is actually a concept store/restaurant combo.  The upstairs area is a big, open white room for eating amazing brunch items like the sweet potato hash with chorizo and spinach (yum!) while the downstairs is a clothing and home d├ęcor shop by Nicole Farhi.  They also have a location in New York.

The rest of the day was spent stolling, first through Notting Hill on the way to Portobello Road.  One involuntary stop was Ottolenghi (63 Ledbury Road, London W11 2AD, 020 7727 1121, which is filled with incredibly amazing looking food and cakes.  I walked out with a bag of their housemade granola and the most amazing chocolate cake with mascarpone filling and Bailey's shreadded chocolate on top.  Yeah, it was as good as it sounds.  They also offer cooking classes and a brand new cookbook coming out this May (see Resources below).

Portobello Road is known for antiques, but it is a great place for a coffee, window shopping and cupcakes.  We did it all!  In my never-ending search for a good coffee, I followed the pack and got in a long line of people that looked like they knew their coffee.  And they did.  It was Coffee Plant (180 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11 2EB, 020 8453 114,, the sefl-described "funky coffee shop" that makes a really good double latte.  It offers organic and fair trade coffee and imports, roasts and blends its own imported green coffee beans.  I saw one guy come and buy all the green tea they had left, so this place has some passionate fans.

Maybe the cutest place in all of London is the Hummingbird Bakery (133 Portobello Roud, Notting Hill, W11 2DY, 020 7229 6446,  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.


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1 comment:

  1. Na'ama's Fattoush: A recipe from the latest Ottolenghi cookbook - - and my new favorite salad!