The Z-List

London: Where to Eat, Drink, Stay & Play

By Claire Coleman  |  June 30, 2014

Welcome to the Z-List, your always-up-to-date guide to London. From celeb-frequented restaurants and hidden bars to a truly one-of-a-kind hotel, consider this your must-do itinerary.



1. Fischers
The people behind The Wolseley have just opened this Mitteleuropean cafe in Marylebone, an area of the city that's having a real culinary renaissance at the moment. Expect prime people-watching (Nigella Lawson and Salman Rushdie were recently spotted), plus hearty fare like chicken-liver brötchen, Wiener schnitzel and Sachertorte. (Marylebone)

2. Fera at Claridges 
Gordon Ramsay's departure from Claridges left a fairly significant restaurant-sized gap to fill. Enter Simon Rogan, whose beautifully plated dishes at his Lake District properties and Roganic pop-up have been drawing foodie raves. Do note: it's all set menus, and the cheapest, the lunch menu available Monday to Friday, is £45 for three courses ― not including drinks, coffee or tip. (Mayfair)

3. Duck & Waffle
In a city that doesn't offer much in the way of 24-hour dining, this restaurant on the 40th floor of a skyscraper should be the go-to for those who don't want the night to end just yet. Time your visit properly and you'll see the sun rise over London from the huge floor-to-ceiling windows. But what to eat? The clue is in the name: opt for crispy duck confit served on a waffle, with a fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup. (City)

4. Cellar Gascon
If you don’t have time for a quick trip to Paris, you can get all the Gallic charm, and none of the attitude, at the this low-key restaurant from the Gascon group. At the recent Taste of London food festival, chef Pascal Aussignac took top honors for the third time in four years. The prize-worthy dishes to watch out for: the Duck & Truffle burger; Marmite Royale and Soldiers (duck flan and Marmite on toast ― you love it or you hate it); and this year’s winning dish, the Croque Gascon, crispy barbecued foie gras. (Farringdon)

5. Beigel Bake/The Beigel Shop
You might call them bagels, but on Brick Lane, they’re beigels, baked Jewish-style and served plain or with a variety of fillings including pickled herring, smoked salmon and salt beef. Two competing bakeries, The Beigel Shop (known locally as The Yellow One because of the color of its sign) and Beigel Bake, dish out their doughy goodness 24/7, making them a favorite haunt of club kids and taxi drivers ― it’s not unusual to see lines out the door at 3 AM. (Spitalfields)

6. Beast (pictured)
You'll love this grown-up sibling to Burger & Lobster, the fixed price surf 'n' turf restaurant that’s seduced London ― or at least you will if someone else is paying. The three-course prix fixe menu, including the likes of Norwegian king crab and Angus steak, runs £75 a head. And that’s before you start looking at the 150-bin list of premium wines. Don't expect much in the way of privacy either: all seating is at communal tables in a candlelit basement dining room. Still, it’s definitely one of 2014’s most talked-about newcomers. (Marylebone)



1. Mahiki
There’s no VIP room at this Piccadilly nightclub, meaning you could well be rubbing shoulders on the dance floor with the young Royals who've been spotted there. It's themed like a Hawaiian island, all bamboo and exotic flowers, an appropriate setting to sip the Treasure Chest, a massive drink that combines rum, brandy, peach liqueur, lime juice, sugar and a bottle of Moët. The price? Just £150. (Piccadilly)

2. Frank’s
On the top of a car park in what was once a fairly edgy neighborhood, you'll find this summertime-only, no-bookings pop-up. Depending on your perspective, it's either the zenith or the nadir of hipster boozers. On warm evenings, hundreds of twenty- and thirtysomethings make their way to the roof for impressive views over London and the capital’s current favorite drinks ― Negronis and Aperol spritzes. But be warned, the lines are legendary. (Peckham)

3. Milk & Honey
While ostensibly a members club, if you e-mail in advance, you can normally snag a booth at this unassuming-from-the-outside Soho haunt. Once you’ve rung the bell by the anonymous-looking door, you’ll be ushered through into one of the low-lit rooms and onto a leather banquette. Slick staff who know their cocktails can advise on house specials, or make excellent renditions of classics — and the music’s cool, but not so loud you can’t talk. (Soho)

4. Ape & Bird
The latest project from Russell Norman, the man behind the hugely successful Polpo restaurant group, this Shaftesbury Avenue pub manages to blend all the traditions of an old boozer with something a little more cool and contemporary. There’s a basement cocktail bar, and a first-floor dining room, but the ground-floor pub is where you want to be with its tin-tile ceilings, green leather banquettes and selection of beers and ales. (Covent Garden)

5. Gordon’s Wine Bar
This basement spot, said to be London's oldest wine bar, spills onto a ramshackle terrace during the summer months, which means you’re more likely to be able to find a seat to swig some well-priced vino. But it’s actually more fun when the weather is horrid, when you can teeter down the steep steps, through the bar papered in historical newspaper cuttings and faded memorabilia and find a corner of the candlelit cellar to stake a claim to. (Charing Cross)

6. Bar Italia
There are undoubtedly cooler coffee shops now that the antipodeans have colonized much of London with their flat whites, but few date back to 1949, or will serve you an espresso nearly any time of the day or night (it’s closed between 5 AM and 7 AM). It’s not flashy, but it is a lot of fun, and the people-watching is an added bonus. (Soho)



1. Ham Yard Hotel
The latest star in the Firmdale firmament (they're responsible for the Soho Hotel, Covent Garden Hotel, Charlotte Street Hotel, etc.) is decked out in the sort of modern country-house style the group is known for. It offers a real-deal 1950s bowling alley imported from Texas, and a residents-only roof garden you'll most likely just have to imagine. (Soho)

2. Chiltern Street Hotel
Ever since it opened earlier this year, Andre Balazs' first London hotel has been a magnet for anyone worthy of a paparazzi picture. Politicians and pop stars have flocked to the Firehouse restaurant and its adjacent bar, making it nigh on impossible to get a table, unless, of course, you're a guest. If you do manage to wiggle your way in, the crab doughnuts are an absolute must. (Marylebone)

3. Shangri-La at the Shard
Lifts at the back of London Bridge station silently glide up to the 34th floor of this vertiginous glass and metal edifice where the Asian luxury hotel group has just taken up residence. The rooms are as flashy as you might expect — think bathrooms with flat-screen TVs and bathtubs angled for the best view of the city. Don’t miss a drink at the 52nd-floor bar. (London Bridge)

4. The Windmill
This pub with 42 boutiquey bedrooms, which recently had a revamp, is perched right on Clapham Common, an expanse of green space dotted with ponds that hosts many festivals as well as London’s oldest bandstand (where on Sundays you’ll often find an orchestra playing). (Clapham)

5. The Connaught
The Connaught is one of those hotels that has been there forever —  well, since 1815  — and you just feel like nothing bad could ever happen there (or that if it did, the staff would know exactly how to fix it). It’s not cool, it’s not modern, it’s just everything done right. From the Martini Trolley in the art deco bar to the cashmere blankets in the room, lovers of luxury will not be disappointed. (Mayfair)

6. A Room for London
What could well be London’s smallest hotel is a boat perched on top of the Southbank Centre, overlooking the Thames. Nights are allocated via quarterly ballot, but those successful will ― for one night only — have the en-suite double bedroom, kitchenette, library and viewing deck all to themselves. (Southbank)



1. James Smith & Sons
You know how the British are obsessed with the weather? Well, this quirky shop on New Oxford Street is where Brits in the know have been buying their umbrellas since 1830. The handmade brollies come in a playful selection of colors and handles. Just don't leave leave one of these on public transport — they're not your usual flimsy contraptions, and they're priced accordingly. (Holborn)

2. Duke Street Emporium
Chelsea’s popular Shop at Bluebird has spawned a more central offshoot right by Bond Street station. This cool boutique runs the gamut from clothing (women's and men's) and toiletries to books and stationery. It also serves as the new West End flagship of Brit brand Jigsaw and houses a branch of cool coffee shop Fernandez & Wells. (Mayfair)

3. Selfridges
When it comes to department stores, London boasts many, but Selfridges is the only one you really need to worry about. More modern and less showy than Harrods, it offers stuff you can’t get anywhere else — think Charlotte Tilbury’s makeup and Lamborghini mobile phones. Make your way to the roof where you’ll find a secret garden and Q, a pop-up restaurant and bar. (Marylebone)

4. Hema
This brand-new Dutch import in Victoria Station is getting thrifty shoppers terribly excited. It sells virtually everything from quirky sweets and brightly colored kitchen accessories to whimsical stationery and high-quality, cutting edge cosmetics ― all at reasonable prices. If you like bargains and European style, you’ll love it. (Victoria)

5. Daunt Books
Your Kindle may well be more convenient for traveling, but if you’re hankering after a proper book, you’re rather spoiled for choice in London. The original location of Daunt (which has since spawned a mini-chain) is an Edwardian temple to the things that will charm all bibliophiles. Think oak galleries, vaulted ceilings, stained-glass windows and staff who really know their stuff. (Marylebone)

6. Fortnum & Mason
Skip the restaurants at this department store and head straight downstairs to the poshest food hall you’ve ever seen. Be sure to pick up some Fortnum’s Relish, their take on Patum Peperium (a terribly English anchovy paste) — it's both beautifully packaged and delicious when spread on hot buttered toast. (Piccadilly)


1. Swim in the Ponds on Hampstead Heath
On a sunny day — yes, we do occasionally have them — take a picnic and a towel up to Hampstead Heath for an experience that's both utterly London and feels a million miles away from the city. The three ponds aren't the easiest to find, but are worth seeking out. At weekends the place can be packed, so be sure to get there early. (Hampstead)

2. See Titus Andronicus at The Globe (until mid-July)
Shakespeare's open-air Globe theater, rebuilt from medieval plans on the site of the original 1599 structure, is well worth a visit at any time. But this summer, it's playing host to one of the Bard's goriest plays — alongside the rave reviews have been reports of people fainting. Seats aren't so comfy, so be sure to pick up a cushion. (Southbank)

3. Forget the Food Markets and Head to Street Feast instead
While it's lovely to amble round Borough Market, why buy ingredients when you can let someone else do the work? London is currently in the thrall of several food collectives that pop up in various places. StreetFeast holds events throughout the summer on Friday and Saturday nights in Dalston Yard and Lewisham. Don't miss Breddo's Tacos ― fans rave about them. (Dalston/Lewisham)

4. Cricket at Lord's (pictured)
It’s the national game — well, it was once anyway, and if you can’t watch it in some bucolic village, the next best thing is going to Lord’s, the home of cricket. Take a seat and enjoy the whack of leather on willow and the customary refreshments, ale and pork pie. Just check the weather, as not all seats are under cover. (St. John's Wood)

5. Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern
The Matisse show at this must-visit museum, located in an old power station, requires an extra ticket, but it's well worth it. It's focused on the latter part of the artist’s life, when ill health saw him turn to cutting painted paper, and more than a hundred examples are on view here until September. (Southbank)

6. Zoo Lates at London Zoo
If tripping over pesky kids isn’t your thing, but you’re still a fan of an old-fashioned zoo, then this will be right up your alley. Every Friday night of the summer, London Zoo stays open late, and as well as offering an opportunity to peer at the animals, you can take part in a silent disco, watch comedy, tuck into food from the mini street-food festival, and even do a spot of wine tasting. (Regent's Park)