From Shake Shack, which will start imperilling the waistlines of Covent Garden this summer, to haute brasserie Balthazar, where even minor royalty would have a hard time getting a table, it’s true that there’s no shortage of familiar American names gracing the Big Smoke this year. But how much more fun to check out these new and notable London originals?
Eat and Drink
Named not after man's best friend but rather one of the locomotives that used to thunder overhead in times gone by, the Beagle lives within three renovated railway arches adjacent to Hoxton Station. It's set to go places with its British grub (pigeon and prune terrine, anyone?) courtesy of James Ferguson, whose work previously lured Hoxton's diners into Rochelle Canteen, a BYOB spot hidden within a converted bike shed.
With its blackboard, a peeling periodic table, and pegs on which to hang your jacket, Monikers pub has taken decorative inspiration from its former schoolyard location and run with it—there's even part of a bus, complete with London Transport network upholstery. Food is robustly comforting, and the eggs are Scotch; head chef Jimmy Goldstone has been poached from the wildly successful Hix restaurants.
Working-class staples such as ham, egg, and chips have been given a shot of social mobility at this new, low-lit hideout on Soho's Poland Street. The sister to Pollen Street Social down the road in Mayfair, it's the third restaurant from Jason Atherton, the first British chef to complete an internship at Spain's famously demanding elBulli. Make room for goat curd ice cream, or just a thermonuclear daiquiri at the Blind Pig bar upstairs.
Often imitated but never equaled, Tatty Devine is the original purveyor of street-savvy Perspex jewelry that could only have come from East London’s mean streets. The latest collection of designs by founders Harriet Vine and Rosie Wolfenden includes a cartoon speech bubble pendant that you can (dis)grace with whatever’s on your mind.
Mary Portas is the perma-legginged retail consultant whose TV shows have used her experience tarting up stores such as Harvey Nichols to help hapless independent shopkeepers across the UK. She also has a chain of high-end thrift stores to benefit Save the Children, and the latest, in leafy Chiswick, sells art alongside the usual designer bargains. Hence the more than 500 paintbrushes that hang from the ceiling.
Running alongside the V&A Museum’s incredibly popular exhibition charting the career of Britain’s kookiest rocker ever, this special area of the famed department store stocks all the V&A merchandise. Goods for sale include cheap cotton totes, limited edition prints, and a selection of 2013 threads for men and women that are a little bit "Starman."
One buzzy commercial gallery that’s always worth a visit is this Eastcastle Street favorite. It's currently home to work by Chris Bracey, the light artist dubbed one of the "kings of neon" (see what we did there?) for his kitschy signage, inspired by the streets of Soho back in the 1970s. If his pieces look familiar, it might be because you’ve seen them adorning the photos of David LaChapelle.
What happens at the museum when the staff and visitors have called it a day? Parents and kids can find out at this blisteringly popular sleepover event, where visitors get to spend the night in the world-famous paleontological hall. There’s a torch-lit dinosaur trail and slap-up breakfast included. There’s a grown-up version, too, which includes lectures detailing the sex life of insects. Bonus: You’re skipping one night’s hotel bill.
Champagne Experience at London Eye
Now that spring’s a-springing, rare is the experience that can’t be improved by a cool glass of champagne (the ones that can’t be are illegal, remember), and the London Eye is no exception. This book-in-advance package includes a flute of Pommery Brut Royal, served by an in-pod host. A private capsule costs considerably more, and probably deserves an in-flight proposal.