Discover the UK: London

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Samuel Johnson. 

I love London! The hustle and bustle, the unlimited things this amazing big city has to offer (maybe not so much the packed tube with the sweaty armpits in your face and lack of air), the cultural opportunities, the fabulous places to dine and drink, let’s not forget the fantastic retail therapy too. I was extremely lucky to spend the majority of my summer residing in a magnificent riverside flat overlooking the River Thames in Putney where the Thames Clipper docks …… location, location, location as the saying goes, is everything!

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As well as the expensive tourist attractions and West End shows, there’s lots of free activities in this city. From walks along the river on Southbank to huge beautiful green parks that are perfect picnic venues and of course the art galleries that are free to enter such as Tate Modern and the Saatchi Gallery. We were certainly busy visiting places on my to-do list but there’s still plenty left for my next visit. Here’s s a little round up of our trip and I didn’t event get to Shoreditch or some of my other faves this year.

Some of the things I did……..

Located in the East Wing of the fabulous Somerset House the exhibition showcasing the Jam entitled ‘The Jam: About The Young Idea‘ was excellent! A real joy for any Paul Weller and Jam fans like myself. I spent a good few hours at visiting, watching the old footage and browsing all the memorabilia on show provided by the three band members themselves. Read my full review of the exhibition here.

Kew Gardens has been on my London to-do list for a while as it’s a London institution. You know what they say about expectations don’t you? We were underwhelmed by the upkeep and overall state of the gardens, the gin bar was closed, the glasshouse was in need of some tender loving care and the Temperate Glasshouse was closed for renovation even though it was the heigh of the summer season. The Princess of Wales Conservatory saved the day as it was the best exhibit. Read my full review here.

I went to this year’s Royal Academy of Art Summer Exhibition with an arty friend of mine. A fantastic mix of amateur artists have the chance to get their work exhibited alongside those more well-known creatives. Read my full review of the large exhibition here.

We got our West End fix at The Mentalists, a comedy written by Richard Bean starring Stephen Merchant and Steffan Rhodri at the Wyndham’s Theatre, read my full review here. We also got to see some live music with tribute bands The Jam Movement and Absolute Bowie at the well renowned Half Moon pub in Putney and Indie rockers the Kaiser Chiefs at Sandown Racecourse in Surrey. Read Musical Summer here for a full round up.

Made famous to millions by the movie of the same Notting Hill (starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts), was a must do this summer. We visited on a Saturday afternoon and after a marvellous much at Recipease we took a stroll down Portobello Market that runs along Portobello Road. This bustling stretch of street market where antiques market stalls jostle for popularity with wacky clothing stalls, tacky souvenirs and fresh fruit and veg. Portbello is also home to the ecceletic Electric Cinema that is well known for its to the plush sofas and bar service. We stumbled across the White Rabbit and Alice in Wonderland as you do, brought whole fresh coconuts and pineapples to sip and declined the offer of a primary coloured knitted rasta hat.

Putt In the Park is a fabulous way to spend a sunny afternoon on an immaculate little putting course set in the beautiful Wandsworth Park alongside the River Thames in Putney. An adjacent licensed clubhouse cafe has an outdoor seating area thats serves a range of delicious hot and cold dishes, snacks, coffee, drinks that includes Pimms, yes Pimms (hooray for that). We certainly didn’t smash any course records with our feeble golfing abilities, but I did win overall, just saying! We then took advantage of the unexpected sunny day and had a picnic with our Pimms in the very popular park. A second Putt In The Park venue has just opened in Battersea Park at the former One O’Oclock Club. This venue also has a cafĂŠ, pizzeria and a bar.

A wander down Southbank is always good for a spot of people watching, a bite to eat, some culture and sightseeing. This year was no exception with ridiculous crowds queuing at the London Eye, street performers and London Wonderground, a mishmash of trendy street food, bunting, fairground rides and attractions. We visited a busy Tate Modern for some art and culture, treating ourselves to some refreshments in the Tate cafe.

The Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea was our next cultural stop, two galleries in one day thrilled the teenager no end. Perfectly placed just off Sloane Square this gallery is located in the beautiful Duke of York HQ building, the perfect place to browse contemporary art for a couple of hours before a stroll down the Kings Road for some retail therapy, placating the teenager with a visit to her favourite London shopping haunt Brandy Melville.

Where I ate and drank…..

Sky Garden is just fabulous, literally a garden in the sky. Swamped in controversy since its  launch for not being the accessible public garden it promised to be it attracts a plethora of visitors to its viewing areas and three eateries. The perfect venue for second son’s graduation meal I would recommend you give it a try for the views alone. Read my full review here.

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Tayyabs is probably the busiest Indian restaurant ever! Serving the finest Punjabi cuisine it’s particularly well known for its mixed grill, speciality lamb chops and spicy curries. Even with a booking we had to wait a while until we were seated at this popular family owned restaurant in the heart of Whitechapel (first for me). Tables were crammed in, the atmosphere lively and the service fast and furious. Quite an experience!

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Cahoots is the post-war Britain drinking establishment located in a disused underground station at Kingly Court just off Carnaby Street. A great evening of indulgent cocktails, forties memorabilia and bloody good fun. Read my full review here.

Afternoon Tea is the quintessential British thing to do and London is awash with venues serving the over-indulgent treat. I went to two different ones this summer with different friends. The first was the quirky Mad Hatters affair at the Sanderson Hotel and the second was Kettners in Soho with some rather lovely Laurent-Perrier champagne. Read Review: Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea, Sanderson Hotel and Review: Afternoon Tea at Kettners

Pizza Pilgrims came to Abu Dhabi for the Street Food Festival with their green three-wheeled pizza van complete with a pizza oven in the back. Their own take on Napoleon pizzas were so delicious that we just had to visit their newest and third restaurant in Kingly Court, good news it didn’t disappoint. An open kitchen with lively chefs, green check trattoria style table cloths, quirky interiors (including wall art of rival pizza companies takeout boxes) and of course the delicious pizzas themselves.

Jamie Oliver’s Recipease located in Notting Hill gives everyone an opportunity to get involved with food on some level. Novice cooks and those of a more professional nature can learn new skills, get inspired and make some great dishes under the guidance of the resident Recipease chefs. Others, like us can mearly enjoy the cafe that surrounds the chefs stations on the first floor or shop in the well-stocked deli on the ground floor. A great place buzzing with enthusiastic food lovers, families learning new skills together, couples on romantic cooking dates and children learning how to make pesto.

Under the arches in Putney lies Putney Pies, a quirky restaurant serving savoury pies, tastes and quiches, bangers and mash and desserts. The ground floor has a small dining area and the cool underground vaulted bar serves great cocktails, draft and craft beers, ales and ciders. Alongside the food and wide selection of beverages there’s live music and in good weather a large outside terrace adjacent to the River Thames. After a few cocktails, we sampled both meat and vegetarian pies served with creamy potato mash washed down with a very nice bottle of red, happy days!

A touch of Venice in London, Polpo is a small restaurant in Beak Street serving small plates of Italian food and good wines. The brainchild of Russell Norman, Polpo has reinvented the Venetian bacaro (Venetian tavern) offering a cicchetti (small plates) menu of dishes, tapas style that’s perfect for sharing. Visiting with second son and the teenager we sampled a few of the savoury and sweet dishes. The Beak Street location, which has an additional downstairs bar, was the first of many restaurants for Norman who now has his own mini empire with five locations in the capital and new venues planned in Brighton and Harvey Nicholls in Knightsbridge and Leeds.

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Chelsea’s Goodlife Eatery is tucked away off the Kings Road offering nutritious and healthy food and a range of cold pressed juices and smoothies. We popped in for a late lunch, the teenager had a tasty salad while I indulged in some banana bread and a much needed cuppa. The menu offers a range of dishes including breakfast, superfood salads, sandwiches and wraps, warm bowls, soups and small plates, protein add-ons, breads and baked treats. The menu is perfect for vegetarians and vegans too, the restaurant’s ethos is to make its customers happy and healthy.

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Ice Bar was as expected a tad chilly! More of a tourist attraction than a place to chill (sorry couldn’t help myself) with some cocktails it was definitely a different experience. My advice were closed in shoes as sandals are not a good idea and our feet were freezing, arrive wearily to sample the cocktails in the main bar which were very good. Read my full review here.

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Another great summer in good old London town, so good to catch up with friends and enjoy lots of fun times. I ate too much, I drank way too much and I laughed a lot! I’m now compiling my next to-do list in preparation for next summer and maybe a cheeky visit in-between, if I’m lucky!

All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page Š Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.

Read more about London in my previous post Legendary London