All eyes were on this chic capital in 2012, and the spotlight shows no sign of fading. From the most desirable hotels to the bars to be seen in, this is our ultimate city guide.
For the chic crowd: The Dorchester, Mayfair. An old favorite, and for good reason. So bewitching is this Park Lane grande dame – Alain Ducasse and China Tang restaurants, an exceptional spa and the most impressive concierge staff in London – that even the most discerning guests (everyone from Kate Moss to Dustin Hoffman) stay here. New for 2013, Alberto Pinto’s exquisite art deco Ballroom has been restored to its original glory – make sure you sneak a peek.
For character: The Stafford London by Kempinski, St James’s. Tucked away on a genteel side street, The Stafford radiates Englishness. With 380-year-old cellars and carriage-houses-turned-five- star-suites, you feel like you’re in the countryside rather than in one of the busiest cities in the
world. It’s also the first hotel in London to launch a “horcierge”, catering to all your equine needs.
For culture: The Ampersand Hotel, Kensington. There’s something of a museum appearance to The Ampersand, with framed feathers and botanical sketches decorating the walls – but it is the very opposite of stuffy. By day, chic French women fill the patisserie; by night, the exposed brick and tile underground cocktail bar and Mediterranean restaurant comes alive. Perch at the bar for rounds of Inigo J cocktails, a delicious wintry concoction of gin and spiced berries.
For breakfast: The Delauney, Covent Garden. No power-breakfasting intellectual would be seen anywhere else, and during London Fashion Week its position opposite Somerset House means it’s filled with the fashion crowd. European in style, for breakfast (bright and early from 7am) you can choose from all manner of viennoiseries, egg dishes and pancakes, or even a good kipper with mustard sauce.
For lunch: Colbert, Chelsea. Colbert is one of three new restaurants from renowned Wolseley and Ivy duo Chris Corbin and Jeremy King – the others being Brasserie Zédel and The Delauney. On iconic Sloane Square and just a skip from The Royal Court Theatre, Colbert espouses a 1930s-style Parisian moodiness with dark woods and leathers, while the menu offers the best of French cuisine, from croque monsieurs to moules frites.
For tea: Claridge’s, Mayfair. The timeless art deco beauty nails the top spot in afternoon tea taking – and the matrons at The Tea Guild agree, bestowing awards of excellence each year for the devilishly good detail: the tea-infused jam, the elegant jade and white striped fine china, the 30-tea menu and the delicate finger sandwiches. The in situ violinist is the icing on the exquisite cakes.
For dinner: 34, Mayfair. Sexy, smart, seductive and with a muted masculine aesthetic, 34 on Grosvenor Square is the brother restaurant to the starry fish restaurants Scott’s and J Sheekey’s. This new Mayfair offering specializes in upscale comfort food, American style: steaks from the Argentinean parrillas, champagne risotto, killer sides and a dessert list that includes donuts in lemon curd.
EXPLORE BY DAY
For culture: Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, Tate Modern, Southbank. A serious tranche of pop-art legend Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-inspired paintings, sculptures and lithography is coming to London. The Tate has assembled an ambitious retrospective with definitive paintings, as well as some previously un-exhibited drawings and collages. From 21 February – 27 May; tate.org.uk
For pleasure: ESPA Life at Corinthia Hotel, Westminster. Dark and sultry, with a silver steel swimming pool and a wall of fire fringing the relaxation area, ESPA Life is the Rolls-Royce of spas. With acupuncture, naturopathy, osteopathy and nutrition appointments also on offer, this is holistic luxury at its best.
For inspiration: The View from the Shard, London Bridge. Freshly opened, the 69th floor of Renzo Piano’s lightsaber-esque Shard in London Bridge boasts the highest vantage point in any Western European building – London’s own Empire State Building. The 40-mile panorama is a layered carpet of metropolitan magnificence.
For the vibe: Mark’s Bar, Soho The subterranean drinking den to Mark Hix’s Soho outpost, Mark’s Bar exudes easy style – welcoming Chesterfields, smoky mirrors, billiards table – and an easier atmosphere. There’s no attitude here, though you might find Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst propping up the low-slung zinc bar enjoying a cocktail.
For decadence: Crystal Bar at the Wellesley, Knightsbridge. The lavish 1920s style Crystal Bar, with its wall of whiskies and Cognacs, is the centerpiece of this new ultra-luxe Knightsbridge hotel. Take a seat at the bar and watch the mixologists create Prohibition-era cocktails. The whisky sours are a must-try.
For the view: Radio Rooftop Bar and Restaurant, ME London, Westminster. Opening on March 1, Norman Foster’s latest unveiling is the ME Hotel, a reincarnation of the BBC Marconi building near Somerset House. The 10th-floor bar is more Miami than London with its pale banquettes and alfresco breeziness.
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