image of covent garden

MEET YOUR MATES: Spend an afternoon hanging out in Covent Garden.
photography by Michael Jenner

 

LONDON CALLING: Long known as a culinary wasteland, London’s reputation for subpar food has improved dramatically in recent years. A good meal awaits around almost every corner. HIDE IN HYDE PARK: The award-winning London Hilton on Park Lane, located in the heart of Mayfair, has been a favorite for business travelers. But significant renovations in the past two years have transformed it into a haven for leisure travelers as well. The hotel boasts three restaurants, three bars, and jaw-dropping views of Hyde Park, not to mention five-minute walks from the Green Park and Hyde Park Corner tube stops. EAT IN: Dining at the top-floor Galvin at Windows is a good choice, considering Michelin-starred brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin are running the kitchen. Expect modern French cuisine (think seared foie gras and “pot au feu” of black leg chicken) with a romantic 360-degree view of the city. If you’re in the mood for more cocktails, head to Whisky Mist at Zeta on the first floor, a frequent hangout of the princes. GRUB STREET: Covent Garden has long been a popular spot for tourists, and it’s also home to the flagship location of Carluccio’s restaurant and delicatessen. Chef Antonio Carluccio imports authentic Italian products and also sells coffee, cheeses, pastries, and more (don’t forget to pick up a box of Carluccio’s Amaretti, made by a family in a small Italian village). From there, follow your nose to Neal’s Yard Dairy, a small cheese shop packed with dozens of different cheeses made from small producers and farms around Britain. Fortunately, sampling is free and encouraged. HALL PASS: Two food halls are must-stops for the culinarily-inclined. The first is John Lewis Food Hall, located in one of Britain’s most popular department stores. This 17,000-square-foot hall is located in the basement, and features imported specialty foods and plenty of to-go options. For the ultimate luxury, make a trip to Fortnum and Mason’s food hall. Established in 1707, this gorgeous building is five-stories high and carries the finest wares, from makeup to perfume to home décor. The food hall is exquisite, filled with exotic teas, caviar, charcuterie, baked goods, and more. It’s the perfect place to shop for food lovers who didn’t get to make the trip. STARRY NIGHTS: Nahm, located in the Halkin Hotel, is the first Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in Europe. Chef David Thompson’s cuisine is unorthodox, but adventurous souls will enjoy trying duck salad with Thai basil and cashews, kanom jin noodles with crab, prawns and chilli jam, or the green curry with chicken and Thai aubergines, all in a sleek, modern atmosphere. CHAMPAGNE DREAMS: Stopping by high-end department store Selfridges & Co. might have already been on your list, but with the opening of the Wonder Bar, it shouldn’t be missed. The sleek, two-level space features an Enomatic Wine System, with more than 50 types of wine ranging in price from five to 150 pounds. They also offer bubbly by the glass or bottle, as well as cheese, charcuterie, and other bites, all which can be enjoyed while watching the spectacle of commerce happening below. CHOCOLATE SECRETS: A trip abroad will no longer be complete without a sample of chocolate from Paul A. Young, winner of the 2007 Best New Chocolate Shop in London award from the Academy of Chocolate. His newest shop, located in the financial district, is a chocoholic’s paradise, with gooey brownies, thick drinking chocolate, and Paul’s famous truffles (with unusual flavors such as Marmite and goat cheese, as well as more traditional salted caramel), all made fresh daily.

 

photography courtesy of The Berkeley
Tea for the (Fashion-Forward) Two

Taking time for tea while visiting London is a tradition many take part in, and until recently, stuffy has usually been the most accurate way to describe the traditional English service. Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley Hotel has changed all that. Served in the luxe Caramel Room, this tea service is for the fashion lover, but it will amaze and delight even those who haven’t ever picked up a copy of Vogue magazine. Pastry chefs at the hotel visit London’s Fashion Week for inspiration, and they create tiny treats that look amazingly like the creations they are modeled after. Think yellow exotic fruit mousse based on a Valentino creation, cookies modeled after Michael Kors dresses, and a chocolate bavarois based on one of Zac Posen’s designs. Teas include English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and herbal infusions like wild blossom and berries, all of which are served on signature Paul Smith china. Once there, you’ll realize champagne is a must, and it’s served in Baccarat crystal flutes. If the treats are too pretty for you to eat (and that would be very understandable), take them to go in an adorable handbag-style, pale mint green to-go box, complete with pink handles.

 

FAST FACTS
WHERE TO STAY
London Hilton on Park Lane
22 Park Lane, London, United Kingdom W1K 1BE
Tel: 44-207-4938000 
www1.hilton.com
Located in the heart of Mayfair overlooking Hyde Park, the Hilton offers a large health club and spa, as well as high-speed Internet access in all rooms.

 

RATES
$500–$1,600

 

HOW TO GET THERE
Nonstop flights to London’s Heathrow Airport:
British Airways (britishairways.com)
American Airlines (aa.com)