TAKE A BREAK: LONDON

A quick luxe guide to city stopovers. Take in the sights of the Big Smoke, its holiday hotspots and its cultural highlights...
TAKE A BREAK: LONDON

STAY HERE…

The Arch London

Go to The Arch London for Georgian glamour, VIP service, spectacular food and drink, posh treats and a bit of doggy day care. It’s a hotel that does it all and caters for everyone, paws ’n’ all.
The five-star boutique hideaway, which spans seven Grade II listed Georgian townhouses, can be found tucked away on a quiet, leafy street in Marylebone – a stone’s throw away from Bond Street, Hyde Park and the West End.

It recently won Forbes’ 2017 Travel Guide Recommended award, but we’re not surprised – a stay here is nothing short of dreamy.

Decor-wise, it merges old and new, brilliantly. A real fusion of English heritage and contemporary boutique design. Inside, it’s clean and slick; glossy marble floors, shining glass and a specially-curated collection of bold artwork from British talents. Outside, it’s all about the white stone, olive trees and a giant Union Jack flag above the door. Super inviting.

TAKE A BREAK: LONDONLaying your head here means you can choose from one of the hotel’s 82 guest rooms, or one of its 11 suites – all of which are individually decorated and dripping in luxury (think hand painted wallpaper, complimentary treats from the  generous mini bar, tons of designer toiletries, duck down duvets and the finest Egyptian cotton) and not to mention packed with everything you need for a chilled-out stay.

Ours fit the bill very nicely indeed; two jumbo single beds, a large, glistening, marble bathroom, complete with walk-in-style shower, a tub with its own flatscreen TV and oodles of vanity space (they even have anti-steam mirrors), and our very own private outdoor terrace for our end-of-the-day G&Ts.

Visiting in celebration of our birthday meant we were surprised with many complimentary treats throughout our stay, from a plate of dainty desserts waiting for us in our room when we arrived (there’s nothing like seeing ‘happy birthday’ written in chocolate icing to get your trip off to a good start), to a spot of after-dinner cocktail tasting in the evening. The staff here couldn’t have done more for us – and proved time and time again that they definitely know a thing or two about stellar customer service.

We felt so at home, in fact, that once nighttime did arrive, we could barely bring ourselves to venture outdoors. You really feel well looked after.

In the end, it’s a good job we didn’t stray, because dinner was sublime – one of the best meals we’ve ever had. We took a private booth, veiled with floor-to-ceiling silk drapes, in the Le Salon de Champagne; a separate, intimate dining area just off from the hotel’s softly-lit restaurant, Hunter 486, named after the 1950s dialling code for Marylebone.

It’s one of those restaurants that doesn’t look or feel like a typical hotel restaurant; a seriously good-looking spot that could easily stand out on its own as a separate venue in the city’s buzzy centre. Think designer red velvet chairs, sparkling blown glass chandeliers and a sleek and deliciously moody bar. Very glam.

The kitchen is open-plan and airy, allowing you to see its skilled chefs at work, rustling up dishes from its ‘best of British’-style menu. It changes regularly, but on this occasion, we tucked in to two posh salads to start; one that tossed vibrant nuggets of heritage beetroot with lentils, paprika-spiked butternut squash, quinoa and feta, and another that showcased marinated, beautifully-pink tuna and pickled veggies. Our mains of monkfish, straight from the stone oven and wrapped in crispy, air-dried ham, with dahl and silky button onions, and comforting pumpkin cannelloni, smothered in creamy, delicate sage butter and almond sauce, sent us to culinary heaven. Just outstanding.

Cocktails were had in the Martini Library – an opulent lounge area filled with cosy armchairs and a stone fireplace. Taking advantage of the room’s ‘press to refresh’ service button means the fizz flows all night long. We fell in love with the bar’s ‘Hunter Around the Clock’ tipple, which muddles gin, elderflower, cucumber syrup, lemon juice and mint. Basically a gin-flavoured mojito, served in a martini glass. Very, very good.

As hoped, brekkie didn’t disappoint either. Healthy eaters will love the options; choose a ‘nutritious’ or ‘grain-based’ breakfast and you’ll get fresh fruit plates, egg white omelettes with feta and spinach, sun blush tomatoes and tumeric, veggie smoothies and bowls of porridge, made with either organic oats, quinoa or spelt. Nice bruschetta-style avo on toast too, topped with oozy mozzarella and beefy tomatoes.

The only thing we missed out on during our stay was the hotel’s popular Royal Afternoon Tea offering – but we aim to rectify that in the near future. People come from all over to get their hands its fancy finger food, and with treats like buckwheat blinis topped with smoked salmon and lemon butter, chocolate orange tea cake and cheddar and apple and raisin chutney on sourdough, who’s surprised.

We might also bring the pooch next time. The Arch is dog-friendly, treating its furry guests to luxury dog beds, bowls and cooked-to-order meals. It even offers dog-walking services, meaning you can kick-back or hit the shops while your canine pal explores the 350 acres of nearby Hyde Park.

50 Great Cumberland Pl, Marylebone, London, W1H 7FD; thearchlondon.com


EAT HERE…

We could go on all day about where to grab a knife and fork in the capital, we only have so much space in this magazine. What we will say is that, if you do your research, there are some real tasty gems to be found – whether you find yourself in the city centre, or on the outskirts.

Balans Soho Society does brekkie and brunch really well – perfect for groups, too. They’re dotted all over, but the recently-revamped one in Soho has never disappointed. Start with Bloody Hell, Mary – a big box of everything you need to make your own Bloody Marys – then dive into the menu. Try the ‘eggs in hell’ (their version of shakshuka, with extra spice), black bean tostadas with garlic houmous and roasted salsa, or poached eggs with lobster.

Over in gorgeous Covent Garden you’ll find Native Wild Food, which is a must-visit if you’re into your locally-sourced, seasonal grub. Its menu is rustic and innovative, bringing together the best forged foods and game, all native to the UK, to give guests a hearty feeding. Stop by for lunch or enjoy a three-course dinner for a purse-friendly £35. Stand-outs include crispy pig ears (trust us) with burnt apple béarnaise, wild hare ragu, Dorset mackerel with salt-baked beets and caramelised honey truffles with marshmallow ‘fluff’ and Kentish wood ant fudge. Stuff a certain Mr Blumenthal would be probably be proud of.

Ask for Janice is a new find – a bar-meets-restaurant that’s open morning to night, with a late-night bar in the basement. The evening menu is designed for sharing; small plates that include steak on bone marrow toast, hake with yellow pea dahl and ox check, white beans and wild garlic kimchi. Local gin is the thing here – it has more than 50 gins on the shelf, all with their own perfect serve recipe. Weekends are for bottomless brunch.


SHOP HERE…

We all know that London is one of the globe’s most sought-after destinations for shopping, home to a number of fashion’s hottest HQs when it comes to designer labels and world-renowned department stores, filled with the biggest names in fashion and beauty. But it’s the markets that steal our hearts on every visit.

TAKE A BREAK: LONDONSpitalfields Market is one of the city’s most popular – go there for vintage clothing and expensive-looking nick-nacks. Brick Lane’s cool too; really buzzy and full of surprises. Somewhere to pick up retro furniture.

Borough Market is a foodie’s paradise, packed with stalls full of artisanal goodies and hard-to-find ingredients. Tons of fresh veg, cheese and meat and cracking pop-ups, serving sensational street grub from around the globe.

Colombia Road Flower Market packs a Victorian cobbled street with bargain blooms every Sunday.

Come Christmas time, there’s plenty of markets to be visited. The annual London Bridge City Christmas Market is a favourite of ours; get your mitts on handmade crafts and peruse pop-up food stalls and bars serving Christmas cocktails, mulled wine, hot cider and craft beers.


GO HERE…

Celebrate the city’s cultural diversity at a number of free events in Trafalgar Square come the autumn – things like Diwali Festival and Africa on the Square.

Open every weekend until the end of September, Skylight is one of London’s most imaginative rooftop bar experiences with some of the finest views of the city. Located above Tobacco Dock in Wapping, and set over three levels, this 600-capacity space is a must-do, offering delicious street food, imaginative cocktails and unique lawn games.

The city hosts the NFL International Series Game in October, kicking things off with footy-style celebrations on Regent Street.

Have Afternoon Tea at The Mint Gun Club, over in Hackney. The tea house, bar and deli combines modern European and Scandi elegance with rustic, whitewash furnishings and splashes of exotic detail, including Moroccan tiling, Polynesian artefacts and Indonesian house boards. Choose to take either the smaller ‘Tiffin Tea’, served in a hand-painted Indian layered lunchbox – a tiffin tin – lined with banana leaves, or a spot of High Tea, served with English sparkling wine. Both menus feature three or four layers of exotic sweet and savoury treats, including ‘mochi’ – Japanese rice cake – proper marshmallow, Turkish delight, semolina cake, cucumber kimchi sandwiches and the venue’s twist on the staple club sarnie.

Drawing inspiration from the heritage and community spirit found in Roman spa culture, the Mondrian Hotel’s cool Spa Social events are designed to be fun and relaxing – it’s health-minded socialising for London’s cosmopolitan fitness lovers and combines healthy food, mini massages and ‘skinny’ prosecco. Catch-up with chums to the tune of the spa’s Glamrock soundtrack as you sip your bubbles in the spa lounge, slap on a mud mask and eat healthy food bowls from Sea Containers restaurant.

October is a good time to visit if you’re a foodie – London Restaurant Festival runs all month long, offering tasty one-off menus and fun events.

The city is sprinkled with festive magic throughout November and December; Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is worth every penny and returns this year from November 17 up until New Year’s Day.

Get your nails done one of the city’s Cowshed Spas – there’s one on Carnaby Street, in Selfridges and in Primrose Hill.


 

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