Insider’s Tips to London

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Mar 01, 2017

Simon Thomas, concierge at The Lanesborough, London, reveals the city’s oldest secrets and contemporary hotspots.

Haunted hotel

When my friends are in town, I take them for a drink at The Grenadier (18 Wilton Row, Belgravia; +44 20 7235 3074). It’s notorious as one of London’s most haunted pubs – they say the ghost of King George IV frequently visits. I love it for the atmosphere and everyone bonds over a beer.

Oldest restaurant

The restaurant that best shows off London is Rules, the city’s oldest, which opened in 1798. Its pheasant curry is superb and the sticky toffee pudding is a must-try.

Michelin-starred dining

I’m going to be biased and say the restaurant that’s a real hotspot for locals right now is Céleste, here at The Lanesborough. It recently got its first Michelin star and locals absolutely love it. 

Seal the deal

For a business lunch or dinner, book a table at Wiltons on Jermyn Street. The booths are ideal for discreet tête-à-têtes – one can only imagine how many big business decisions have been made within these walls.

Boogie nights 

If you want a great nightclub experience, go to Tramp, also on Jermyn Street. It’s legendary as a haunt of the glitterati of the ’60s and ’70s.

Breakfast buzz

My favourite place for breakfast is The Wolseley, on one of London’s most famous streets, Piccadilly. Their full English breakfast is the best in town and all of their pastries are baked daily on the premises. The atmosphere is always buzzing. I advise booking in advance, especially on weekends. 

Keep-it-real coffee

For a caffeine fix, I go to Flat White in Soho. It’s a small hipster-meets-coffee-connoisseur den that has taken things back to basics and refuses to comply with the mocha-choca-chinos that have become so common. A sign as you enter sums it up: “No wi-fi – chat with a stranger.”

Gourmets’ market

Borough Market, on Southwark Street, is where you can buy the best produce – not just from England and Europe but also from around the world. Don’t miss the street-food courtyard at this sprawling market. 

Antique shopping

For the city’s best flea market, make your way to Notting Hill’s Portobello Market. It’s a great place for bargain antiques and it also has some topnotch eateries.

Designer threads

For designer fashion, visit Dover Street Market, which is no longer on Dover Street. Because of its popularity, it needed a larger space and moved to Haymarket.

Garden romance 

Couples looking for a romantic experience should head to Kew Gardens in Richmond; it exudes romance. The Treetop Walkway through lime, sweet chestnut and oak trees – some of them 200 years old – offers an incomparable view of the gardens and London’s skyline. 

Old-world inns

London’s best-kept secret is Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Take a stroll around this historic part of the city, far from the usual tourist hotspots. You’ll find some beautiful architecture and old pubs, such as the Cittie of Yorke (22 High Holborn; +44 20 7242 7670), which has had an inn on this site since 1430, and Ye Olde Mitre, built in 1546 for the servants of the Bishops of Ely. My favourite is The Seven Stars (53 Carey Street; +44 20 7242 8521), hosted by exotic-sounding landlady Roxy Beaujolais. 

University town

The best daytrip is Oxford. It’s just over an hour out of London and is full of British charm. The university dates back to the 12th century. Be sure to visit the Ashmolean Museum of art and archaeology, the world’s first university museum.

Top image: Tramp

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