What better way to end my first term back at university than with a short stay in London to get in the Christmas mood? There’s nowhere quite as bustling with festivity as the capital, and considering my boyfriend has NEVER BEEN, the perfect excuse was upon us.
Where we stayed
In the heart of the city (just off Oxford Street) the Mandeville Hotel was the ideal base for us in relation to getting around. With Bond Street station a stones’ throw away, and St. Christopher’s Place round the corner, we were in a great location for shopping, eating and sightseeing.
The Mandeville itself is a vibrant and elegant hotel, with an eclectic lobby and spacious rooms (anywhere that leaves you ‘vanity kits’ in pretty pink boxes goes in my good books). Although not the cheapest for those on a low budget, this was an early Christmas treat so splashing out was allowed. In the grand scheme of things it was definitely worth it for the great service and comfy, relaxing vibes (and a personal coffee machine).
What we did
On Friday night after checking into our hotel we headed straight to the Sky Garden. Possibly one of the best experiences I’ve had in London – and completely free (apart from the cocktails)! Yes, there was a hefty hour long queue despite booking a slot online, but it was one hundred percent forgotten once we saw the breathtaking views as the sun set and the sky transitioned from day to night. Outside you can stand on the balcony, while inside is a functioning plant garden with a restaurant, brasserie and bars all spread over two greenery-overflowing floors.
ADIDAS SUPERSTARS Asos
Saturday saw us spending pretty much all of our day in Hyde Park Winter Wonderland – the most amazing and jolly destination for any Christmas lovers (like myself). It boasts a LOT of German beer, an abundance of food and market stalls, rides and fairground games – and, of course, the glistening ice rink (which we didn’t get to go on because we forgot to book…oops). I’m lacking photos here because our time consisted of having a fab time drinking too much German beer and not actually getting much else done. We found this great little stall selling meatballs, and for me a veggie alternative of halloumi in a tomato sauce sub (10/10 would recommend).
On the way back to the hotel we were fed up of walking past closed tube stations, so found a secret little garden with fairy-light decorated vans selling alcohol and various take-away food. We bought a couple of beers and sat in the rain (the umbrellas were a poor attempt at shielding winter weather) listening to the speakers entice us with Christmas songs. This was the coolest hideaway ever, somewhere between Hyde Park corner and Green Park station, and gave us half an hour to chill out while rush hour calmed down.
DRESS Urban Outfitters
Sunday morning consisted of a lie in and a wander round Carnaby and Oxford Street in a (failed) attempt to pick up some last minute Christmas gifts (and ending up in a Brewdog pub with some guest ale).
Where we ate
After our draining train journey and checking into our hotel we desperately scoured the nearest street for an easy food option and stumbled across Tommi’s burger joint. We were welcomed by its quirky, postered interior and delighted by the tastiness of our choices of burgers. I instantly loved the veggie burger from my first bite, hands down the best I’ve ever had. It had the texture and crunch of a real burger and not just a half-hearted vegetable replica. The cheese melted properly, the relish was the right amount of tangy and the brioshe bun melted in my mouth. We washed our food down with some beer (of course) to start the Christmas day drinking tradition – replenished and ready to go and explore.
Friday night we took up my cousin’s recommendation and tried Vapiano, in Soho. The chain restaurant is a unique twist on modern dining, with various food stations to order from and shared seating with trees and plants emerging from every nook and cranny. I chose the pasta station, and tried Salmone: a delicious salmon dish with cream and garlic; and picked tagliatelle pasta to accompany it from their wide selection.
We started our Saturday off right with a trip to The Riding House Cafe in Oxford Circus. The dark and retro interior is like a country retreat in the middle of the city, inspiring an individual alternative to the traditional brunch menu. I had a ‘Jockey’s breakfast’ of avocado on toast with the added twist of chilli, garlic and tomato. I tried one of their fresh juices – Radio Flyer, a sweet, refreshing mix of watermelon, strawberry and elderflower amongst other ingredients with a kick of black pepper.
We opted for an Italian on Saturday night (as pizza is our undisputed favourite) before we hit the town in Camden. La Porchetta near Chalk Farm is a traditional, candlelit restaurant where pizzas are freshly made and stone baked, with a big menu to choose from. The service was quick and the atmosphere quiet and sophisticated. After this we found our new favourite place in London – The Hawley Arms (Camden) where they play music from artists we actually like: (a very rare surprise as every other bar seems to be dominated by chart hits or heavy dance) such as Arctic Monkeys, Oasis and Amy Winehouse.
Ever the quintessential British pair, I’m a sucker for some salmon and avo, and Jack loves his tea, so Sacred cafe gave the hearty breakfast we needed to set us up for the day, including our dull train ride home.
Our weekend was over too quickly in a blur of Christmas lights and Oyster card swipes, but it certainly set the mood for the holidays and I know I’d recommend it to anyone needing a festive getaway – who said you need to travel all the way to Germany for the best markets?!
PS: Watch this space for a very exciting competition give-away coming up in the next few days, in collaboration with CLC World!