January 24, 2019
Planning a visit to London this spring? Now the lighter evenings are almost here it’s time to ditch the winter wardrobe, come out of hibernation and witness the city come alive again. Check out our pick of London’s finest hotspots for gourmet British food, riverfront views, and the best of the new season’s glamour.
Yes, it’s the pub Guy Ritchie and Madonna once owned, but following a major makeover and entry to the prestigious Epicurean Collection, the Punchbowl became much more revered for its food and wine than its celebrity clientele. The pub, of course, was already well known. The Grade II listed building has been a Mayfair institution since 1729, serving its own house brewed ale and bringing a taste of the British countryside to this privileged London neighbourhood for centuries. But the renovations gave the venue a new edge, particularly in the sunny first-floor dining room which is so fresh and uplifting it seems a particularly good bet for new season lunches – especially if you happen to be caught in one of London’s predictable April showers. Even on the dullest of days, natural light pours in through the large Georgian windows, and the gold ceiling bounces a warm, flattering glow around the room.
The real star, however, is the food – both here and in the darker, cosier pub downstairs. With an admirable commitment to an entirely British menu, you can feast on traditional dishes featuring ingredients sourced from all around the country, like roasted wood pigeon or pheasant; pine-smoked Yorkshire venison; rare breed steaks, or exquisite hand dived Scottish scallops. Without a doubt, this is gourmet fare designed to indulge the sophisticated tastes of the Punchbowl’s regular patrons, but local or not, you’ll be welcomed with open arms.
The Punchbowl, 41 Farm Street, Mayfair, London W1J 5RP
It’s been a while since the much-trumpeted arrival of Ham Yard in a previously scrappy corner of Soho, with the fashionable hotel and its adjacent boutiques taking over a chunk of bomb-damaged land just north of Piccadilly Circus.
In the few years since opening, Firmdale Hotels‘ snazziest London property has established itself as the venue of choice for the city’s event planners and creative types, largely due to its eye-catching and covetable private spaces – a cinema, theatre, bowling alley and rooftop garden for starters.
But you don’t need a lanyard or expense account to experience the Firmdale aesthetic for yourself. Non-guests will find more to relish here than at any other Kit Kemp-designed property – and the others are pretty special too – so if you’re in town this spring, be sure to stop by for dinner, coffee or just a spot of window-shopping. Most of the action revolves around the central, tree-lined pedestrian courtyard; a bright and breezy space that is always one of the most appealing in this packed part of London over the springtime months. For a special occasion and a deeper sense of the hotel’s vibrant interior design, consider booking afternoon tea in the fabulously eclectic drawing room.
Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, London W1D 7DT
When Sea Containers (formerly Mondrian London) arrived with great fanfare on the South Bank, much of the chatter revolved around the views from the hotel’s rooftop bar, which – it was claimed – were hands down the finest in the city. Now the hotel is under new management and the former Rumpus Room has become 12th Knot, but it’s still one of the best places in the capital for al fresco drinking on the river. The venue has long since cemented its position as the capital’s premier destination for a glamorous rooftop rendezvous, with Champagne cocktails, striking magenta and royal blue chairs, and floor-to-ceiling windows opening out onto a wide terrace overlooking St. Paul’s and the City of London skyline.
Can’t tear yourself away? Stay the night. The Tom Dixon-designed hotel – which occupies most of the former Sea Containers building – is a masterclass in big-statement interior design, mixing maritime heritage with showstopping installations like the giant copper ship’s hull-shaped reception desk that curves its way through most of the ground floor. Down below the waterline is a futuristic spa and in-house cinema, and there’s an airy restaurant fronting the Thames Path plus the Dandelyan bar, a Virgin Atlantic favourite. Add to this the 359 dapper, well-executed rooms and suites in moody shades of charcoal and hot pink, and it’s easy to see why Sea Containers is still a place to be seen this spring.
Sea Containers, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PD
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