1. PETERSHAM NURSERIES
This little oasis away from the city is the perfect day trip for anyone who wants to escape for a local lunch. Petersham Nurseries is a veritable treasure trove of plants, flowers and garden supplies, but for me, the real reason to take the tube or boat out to Richmond is The Café. New Head Chef Damian Clisby, previously head chef at HIX Soho and Cotswold House, works alongside Culinary Director Lucy Boyd to create seasonal menus of fresh, local produce, beautifully presented and impeccably cooked. The setting is in one of the greenhouses, populated with mismatched wooden tables and chairs and surrounded by greenery.
Church Lane, off Petersham Road, Richmond
Tube stop: Richmond Station / Thames River Boat from Westminster Pier
2. HAMPSTEAD PONDS
Who needs a beach? Slip on your finest swimwear and head up to Hampstead… Ok, maybe not your finest swimwear as we’ll be diving into the wild ponds on the Heath. The water is a little muddy (but regularly tested for cleanliness) and your fellow swimmers may include swans, but there’s nothing more refreshing on a scorching summer’s day than a quick dip in the chilly waters. There are three ponds – Men’s and Women’s single sex on the east of the Heath and a Mixed Pond at the south, near South End Green.
Tube stop: Hampstead / Belsize Park / Overland train to Hampstead Heath
3. THE PHOTOGRAPHERS’ GALLERY
Often overshadowed by the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate and the Tate modern, the tiny Photographers’ Gallery, just north of Oxford Street, is well worth a visit. Not only does it not have the crowds of the bigger names, but it showcases a thoroughly interesting roster of exhibits from classic and modern photographers. There are three exhibition spaces, as well as a bookshop, print sales room and cafe, and the gallery also runs regular talks and workshops.
16 – 18 Ramillies Street, Soho
Tube stop: Oxford Circus
4. GOOD SOHO RESTAURANTS
Soho is teeming with tourist traps, and without doing your research you are almost guaranteed to be disappointed. However, amid the hustle and bustle, hidden between the tacky cafes and personality-sucking chain restaurants are some excellent places to eat: for a start, try late night small plates at the industrial-chic bar of Spuntino (61 Rupert Street), excellent regional Italian sharing plates at Boca di Lupo (12 Archer Street), a daily changing menu of seasonal specialties and natural wines at Duck Soup (41 Dean Street) or Pisco Sours and modern Peruvian cuisine at Ceviche (17 Frith Street).
Tube Stop: Oxford Circus / Tottenham Court Road / Leicester Square / Piccadilly
5. TRY OUR AWESOME INDIAN RESTAURANTS
Forget fish and chips – much as I love London, I am yet to find a satisfactory chip shop that has the classic, newspaper-wrapped charm of a seaside resort or Midlands town. However, London does tap into another favourite British cuisine: Indian. One of the best places to find authentic Indian cuisine is around Brick Lane – pop into any of the restaurants and you’ll find something good, although Tayyabs is always a favourite (ignore the ’70s decor – the food is worth it). For something a little smarter, head into Mayfair, to Tamarind, the first Michelin-starred Indian fine dining restaurant. It’s a completely different experience, the flavours and spices that you thought you knew are completely re-invented in a series of impressive dishes.
Tayyabs: 83-89 Fieldgate Street | Tube stop: Whitechapel
Tamarind: 20 Queen Street, Mayfair | Tube stop: Green Park