This summer is set to break the record of hottest summer ever (what global warming?) in the UK and this weekend the thermometer exploded past the 30 degrees mark in London. Oxford Street might be too hot and crowded to walk around, a train to the nearest beach might be too expensive or you just might want to escape your boiling hot room. So what do you do when you’re melting in the capital?
Get Wet at the Lido
Go dust off that swimsuit, grab a towel and lather up the sunscreen, and you’re good to splash your way through the day. Some of my favourite and easily accessible outdoor swimming pools include the Serpentine Lido, Hampstead Heath Ponds and Brockwell Lido.
Indulge in Frozen Treats
It’s cold, it’s sweet and it will make things better. There’s Chin Chin Labs, which serves liquid nitrogen ice cream in flavours like tonka bean, strawberry hay and burnt butter caramel. Snow Flake gelato have a guilt-free sorbetto range or perk up your ears to listen out for the ice cream van tunes and bag yourself a classic 99 Flake.
That other Ice
When everything is melting outside, the best thing to do is jump into a fridge, so if you are not into the above-mentioned kind of ice why not go to the Alexandra Palace or Queens ice rink to cool off and show off your moves?
Chill Out at the Movies
I don’t know about you but sometimes on a sunny day all I need is a blockbuster in a cool dark theatre, air-con to the max and a big ‘ole bucket of popcorn and a cold drink of your choice. For art house movies, head to Curzon in Soho or Picturehouse Central and for the blockbusters shimmy on down to the nearest Odeon/Vue multiplex.
Check out Museums and Exhibits
Hot days are perfect for exploring a museum and London’s museums have some amazing collections, exhibits and most of them are free, but most importantly they all have air-conditioning systems -for keeping paintings safe that is, they don’t really care about you. The British Museum and the National Gallery are two of the big ones where you can easily spend hours and hours of discovery.
Enjoy a Cooling Drink on a Rooftop Bar
I have to start with saying that water is of course the essential part of staying cool – either drinking it, swimming in it or pouring directly over your head. But at end of the day why not take in the city skyline with a refreshing cocktail or a cold beer or six in hand. Mondrian London, Frank’s and Netil 360 are some of the best spots to do this.
May came and went by so quickly that I forgot to schedule in this post! Here are some things I loved and some things that are a big pass for me – hope it proves useful!
Intercontinental Park Lane
Stumbled upon this place when I was looking for a reasonably-priced afternoon tea that wasn’t too traditional. They were doing a Commonwealth theme one with a lot of delicious flavours to make your way through including Jamaican-inspired chicken sandwich, Australia-style pie and Nigerian-influenced cake. The Park Lane has put a spin on a classic British favourite, and they’ve nailed it!
This urban jungle is the perfect place to spend your Sunday afternoon and dream about all the nice things you could have if you weren’t a serial plant murderer. The best bit? It won’t cost you a cent.
Granger & Co
The brunch menu at Granger & Co is full of delicious goodies, but for me it’s all about the fluffy scrambled eggs with a slice of sourdough bread. I did share the hot buns (Australian pancakes) this time and I think it might be a new favourite. But don’t tell the scrambled eggs.
This quirky museum in Forest Hill houses a lot of stuffed animals, musical instruments from all around the world and African, South American and Siberian anthropology. Also has a great garden and park area where you can spend a lazy afternoon, plus there’s a food market on Saturdays.
Crystal Palace Park
A huge park with a free maze and dinosaur statues. What’s not to love? Did I mention the dinosaurs were designed before Darwin’s “On the Origin Of Species” so they’re slightly … inaccurate. The dinosaurs are also featured in the first episode of the Good Omens TV show.
St Dunstan In The East
A derelict church in a side-street, left to decay and now turned into a little park. You’ll find it on every ‘Hidden London’ list and it’s got crowded since the last time I was there, but it still has its charm and if you find yourself in EC3 then it’s a perfect spot for a pit stop.
Ice Cream Union
It’s a good thing I don’t go to Chelsea often as Ice Cream Union would make me bankrupt. But artisan gelato is something I am ok to splurge on – especially when it is all-natural and handmade. My go-to picks of pistachio and hazelnut were to die for, as was their take on the banana split. They also use compostable cups and wooden spoons. Win.
Wasn’t for me
Oblix @ the Shard
Yes for the view, yes for the mashed potatoes and yes for the raspberry dessert but I don’t think the food was wowing for the price you have to pay. If I ever have the urge to eat at the Shard I would save up and treat myself and my taste buds at Aquashard.
So despite not liking the sorbet watermelon ice-cream last year I felt I wanted to try their rhubarb custard soft serve and went in open-minded and it wasn’t a success: the staff was just rude and I can’t be bothered with their kind of negativity. Ah well.
Before I go into all the awesome things I’ve seen and done in May I need to go cover all the April things I encountered…
I used to love their bread, but since more and more places started doing sourdough I never really visit anymore. Now my only reason is when I crave a cinnamon bun as their offering is buttery but light with just the right amount of puff.
Probably my favourite indoor foodmarket with an outside seating area – plus its in South London! While getting my Mexican taco fix I stumbled across their recently-opened deli where they had not one but four types of Pecorino cheeses! Sadly, when I suggested I was going to put it on pasta they weren’t too impressed.
WANDLE TRAIL WALK
In search of more green moments I embarked on the Wandle Walk. I followed the Wandle from Morden to Wandsworth and saw lots of ducks and moorhens, parks and flowers and mills and more dogs than you can handle. I loved it, until new apartment building works on the Thames made it impossible to reach the end. Ah well.
It wouldn’t be a worthy recap without including a museum or two…I love Tate Modern, but the more contemporary/modern art museums I visit the more I realise the best thing about Tate is the building itself – and the fact that it’s free. I’ll go into this more in the next Museum Musings.
SOFT SERVE SOCIETY
My first ice-cream of the season was at Soft Serve in Shoreditch. Taro and coconut make a great combination flavour wise as well as in terms of aesthetics. Throw on some Pocky sticks, sprinkles or crushed Oreos and you’ve got yourself a party on your taste-buds!
BLEECKER STREET BURGER
These American-style, mouthwatering cheese-soaked patties are probably my favourite in London and I’m so proud they’ve come this far from their food truck origins. They are so soo good you don’t really need any extra toppings or sauces to distract you.
Train stations can be depressing places, but leave it to Herne Hill station to have an actual gelato place – with a lot of delicious flavours to make your way through including a range of tasty vegan options. Definitely worth missing a train for.
V&A CHILDHOOD MUSEUM
Lovely building but the exhibition style, just like the toys on display, felt a bit outdated. However, if you’re near Bethnal Green with a few hours to spare it’s a great way to kill some time walking around and reminiscing about childhood.
Wasn’t For Me
DENNIS SEVERS HOUSE
Dennis Severs House has been on my list for at least 5 years! I used to intern next to the place and was always curious why people queued up on random days. The idea of the historical house is that the inhabitants just left the place and you get to take a sneak peak. It’s only lit by candle light and I did enjoy the details and little touches like actual vegetables and bread in the kitchen. But all in all it was not worth the £10 entrance fee and queue.
As a reasonable critic I returned to this high-rise spot to check if my opinion from 4 years ago had changed. It hasn’t.
March has come and gone and I’ve been trying to make the most of my weekends and evenings. Here is what I have been up to.
BRIXTON VINTAGE KILO SALE Brixton
Every second weekend of the month in Brixton and third weekend in Brick Lane are filled with shirts, blazers and dresses. If you are looking for on trend items like slip dresses, animal print or neon this isn’t the place, but as it’s fairly priced for £15 for 1kg of clothes you don’t have too much to lose.
CHRISTIAN DIOR: DESIGNER OF DREAMS @ V&A Kensington
Despite the hassle to get hold of the tickets I loved it! It’s sold out, but here is how you can still get tickets and enjoy all the dresses you’ll never be able to own.
HALL’S PLACE Bexley
You’ve guessed that I can’t get enough of historic manors, houses and mansions. Hall’s Place proved to be another good pick where I learned about the people who lived in the house from the 16th century onwards and all the changes they made to the place, including the US soldiers who rocked up during the Second World War and stole more than a few hearts. The gardens and greenhouse were a great escape too and I loved the topiary in the shape of animals too.
RED HOUSE Bexleyheath
Another thing you can visit in Bexleyheath is the former house of William Morris (you’ll know his textile prints even if the name doesn’t ring a bell) where you’ll find a selection of wall paintings, stained glass and tapestries that were created by Morris and his art friends all hidden across a lovely period house.
TWO TEMPLE PLACE
I have shared my thoughts on this Gothic revival heaven here. You can visit the place and see the John Ruskin exhibition until 22nd April for FREE.
I had a tour through the Charterhouse building complex that has been around since the 14th century and served as burial ground, monastery, school and housing charity. It’s so interesting to see that these are still around in London after so long.
MUSEUM OF ORDER OF ST JOHN Clerkenwell/Farringdon
Despite being fascinated by the gates for years I only popped into the Museum of Order of St John a few weeks ago. They did a great job showing in an interactive way how the order started and what they do now. I’m annoyed that I missed the tour, so I definitely want to go back to see the historic rooms at St John’s Gate and the Priory Church & Crypt.
SIR JOHN SOANE MUSEUM Holborn
One of those places that I’ve walked past a dozen of times when I worked in Holborn. One of those houses is the former home and office of John Soane, an architect and art collector. He designed it to display the art works and artefacts that he collected during his lifetime. It comes with the boujiest breakfast room, cellar to third floor ceiling statues and a sarcophagus carved from the inside and outside!
Wasn’t for me
I gave up on Leon a long time ago, as everything tastes the same, just a lingering Leon aftertaste after every bite. Still I wanted to try the new meat free love burger and just like with everything at Leon, it was … just ok. The patty itself wasn’t too bad, but all the extras were too much all together and the bun was a bit inspirationless and not worth going back for seconds.
2 for £12 cocktails that have names like Wonky Donky, Malibu Stacey and Ram Berry Jam. But sadly the cocktails were more like mocktails and should have been priced like that. The jalapeño poppers were actually ok, but not good enough to make me want to return.
Now spring has arrived and that means burning all your 200 denier tights, making the most of that extra daylight in the morning and getting your life back from the SAD monsters. I’m looking forward to what Q2 will bring. What are your April plans?
I do love a good historic house and thought I’d seen all the best ones in London already, but how wrong I was! I went in for the Ruskin exhibition and walked out as a Gothic revival fan. Two Temple Place has it all! Mahogany carvings: check. Grand staircase: check. Stained glass windows and ceiling: check. A giant fireplace: check! Marbled floors: check! I mean look at it!
Just when you think the stained-glass ceiling is as impressive as it gets, you’ll walk into the Great Hall to spot not one but two glass stained windows: one designed for sunset and the other for sunrise. You might also recognise The Great Hall from The BBC’s The Bodyguard where it stood in for House of Commons reading room. The Mahogany carvings and golden details also continue in this space.
So who can we thank for this beautiful place? William Waldorf Astor, an American attorney, politician, businessman, and newspaper publisher (also the same guy who restored Hever Castle) who bought and renovated the place and used it as his office space. I can think of worse places to work from.
The place is only open to the public during Open House and their annual exhibition, which is happening now until 22nd April. So you have little less than a month to make it down to Thames Embankment and see for yourself. And don’t forget to go to the Ladies toilets on the first floor … you’ll be in for a treat.
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