Insider’s Guide to LondonEngland, Tours & Attractions — By Mary on October 13, 2011 at 10:27 am
It will come as no surprise to hear that London natives do not spend their free time in Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Like the residents of any capital city, given the choice, Londoners avoid the tourist areas like the plague. So where do they go instead? Having lived in London for 8 years now, and having been based in all different corners of the city, I think I have a fair idea- here are some of my favourite hidden gems!
Situated just north east of the city centre, in ‘Zone 1’ on the Transport for London tube map, Islington is very close to all the central attractions, yet far enough removed to give it a laid-back almost village-like feel. Centred around the boutiques, cocktail bars and cake shops of Upper Street, Islington is trendy but not pretentious, buzzy but not bustling. Look out for cocktail bar Keston Lodge, which offers a penny saving happy hour offer of buy 1 cocktail get 1 for a £1, and the award winning restaurant/deli/bakery in one, Ottolenghi, where the meringues are simply mouth watering.
Insider tip: Just off the high street, hidden from the unknowing visitor, is Camden Passage – a cobbled laneway which hosts vintage clothes sales every weekend. It is also the home of the Islington Breakfast Club, a kooky cafe that serves pancakes, eggs Benedict and the famous English fry up all day long.
Brick Lane is probably an area that features regularly in London guide books – and rightfully so. In a grungy part of urban East London, Brick Lane has an eclectic mix of retro clothing stores, modern day punks and spots for delicious curry. If you come to Brick Lane prepared to barter with Indian restaurant vendors, you are sure to secure a great deal. Some restaurants allow you to bring your own alcohol, whilst others offer free wine to tempt large groups. This is a great way to start a night before heading to more laid back joints like Big Chill Bar or Vibe Bar.
Insider Tip: Ten minutes off the main stretch, down a less than salubrious looking street, you’ll find Beyond Retro, a warehouse full of vintage clothes and the best costumes imaginable. Don’t let the trip scare you off it’s totally worth the walk!
Clapham is an area in South London notorious for being home to recently graduated students and Aussie and Kiwi expats. Consequently it makes for a great night out! With bars and restaurants for every taste, and clubs complete with fish tanks and light up dance floors, don’t expect to be getting home at a decent time.
Insider Tip: I have two insider tips for this area! The first is a weekend institution in Clapham called Breads Etcetera. Breads Etcetera is, unsurprisingly, all about the bread! They bake various fresh loaves throughout the day, including their famous traditional sourdough, and for £5.50 you can eat as much as you like. The novelty factor comes via the toasters which are placed at every table for you to brown your bread to your preferred level. They also have every spread imaginable – from vegemite to peanut butter – with unlimited bread you can indulge in them all.
My second insider tip is very, very insider. Blind Tiger is a secret even to Londoners. Billing itself as a purveyor of ‘Illicit dining and forbidden beverages’, Blind Tiger is a prohibition style restaurant, which has no address on its website and no sign above the premises door. Rather, upon making a reservation there the address is revealed. Upon arrival a waiter ushers you behind a hidden door into a 1920s style attic full of candles, chandeliers, plush leather sofas and lashings and lashings of glamour. The food is exquisite and the entertainment marvellous – imagine jazz singers taking on modern pop songs and a tap dancer that springs out of the closet.
Jayne admits to being a travel obsessive. For her, travel blogging is a hobby, a passion and a career. She runs a website called 40before30.com which is about her desire to visit and blog about 40 countries before turning 30. Jayne hopes to inspire others to discover more of the world by documenting her experiences and lessons learned, and sharing her impressions and advice for worldwide destinations. Find out what Jayne is currently up to on twitter @jayneytravels.
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