Back home in Singapore! You know its home when you touch down and you start thinking about all the boring stuff you have to do in the week ahead. Luckily its a 3 day working week due to Singapore’s National Day on Friday – 4 day weekend – yeah baby!
I had a brilliant time in London – the sun was shining (most of the time) and the sales were on. London’s a great place when you experience it as tourist and I would definitely recommend visiting it in the summer. It just feels totally different. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch any theatre because I booked the wrong dates in my jet-lagged haze but I did do lots of shopping and ate out a bit.
So this post is mainly for my Singaporeans (and non-Londoners) and it’s my recommendations on some things to do if you find yourself in London especially if your time is limited.
(Of course I have to start with this for my Spore peeps lah)
1. WESTFIELD SHOPPING CENTRE (WHITE CITY/SHEPHERDS BUSH TUBE STATION)
I highly recommend this shopping centre for all in one day shopping. It has a good combination of high street stores like Bershka and luxury brands like M Missoni and Miu Miu. My favourite stores here are Apricot (tea dresses), Carlo Pazolini (ballet pumps) and Whistles (very ladylike and grown up – think more affordable, English Prada). The great thing about the UK high street is there are so many branches of the same stores so don’t worry if you don’t get a chance to do everything. Go to any major high street like Oxford st or Regent st and you’ll see the same stores. Westfield has fantastic restaurants and cafes and is one of the few shopping centres to offer free wifi (cheapskates)
2. THE SOUTH BANK (WATERLOO, CHARING CROSS TUBE STATION)
My absolute favourite hangout, its full of artists and artisans. Arty-farty pretentious types basically but right up my alley. Enjoy the walk from Waterloo station, past the IMAX 3D cinema, and you have so much to choose from – the British Film Institute (BFI), the National Theatre (NT), the Hayward Gallery, to name a few. Enjoy a stroll along the river and take in the London Eye, the river boats, people sunbathing and skateboarding, have some ice cream and soak up the 3% annual sunshine. I’ve added it in this section because of the book market and the NT and BFI’s excellent bookshops.
3. THE KINGS ROAD (SLOANE SQUARE TUBE STATION)
Ah, a relic from my past…this was one of my teenage jaunts, back in the day when I was trying to keep up with the Hugos and the Floras from my boarding school days, before reality thankfully knocked me on the head and back to my African senses.
It’s still lovely on a summer’s day from The Royal Court Theatre next to the station (expect mostly white, middle class plays by white middle class playwrights for a white, middle class audience – just saying), the Saatchi Gallery, and a leisurely, stress-free shopping experience down a long avenue. If you’re going to shop here though, Id advise you dress smartly to ensure good service and avoid the withering stares of the Dolce & Gabbana doormen if you head down Sloane street to Knightsbridge (which you should). What am I saying, Singaporeans don’t do scruffy – you’ll be fine.
4. OXFORD STREET, REGENT’S STREET AND BOND STREET
Of course you have to visit Oxford Street, but there are so many branches of the same stores on this street (and Regent St) that you cant really go wrong. I’d def recommend Selfridges cos it’s just so cool (although like the geek I am I spend most of my time in the foodhall and stationery department on the ground floor). But the luxury fashion departments are very inspiring and the shoe mecca is really fun.
Selfridge’s window displays are lengendary:
I also love South Molton’s cobbled street (Bond st) but take heed cos you’re entering expensive territory. If you can pluck up the courage to go into Brown’s, please do – it’s fabulous dah-ling.
(Skinny as you Sporeans are you have to eat)
An affordable delicious Thai restaurant. Great for spotting Bollywood celebrities. There’s one in Soho (always v busy) but my favourite is on Stall street near Goodge Street tube station. Very handy after shopping on Oxford street. I used to treat myself here when I was a broke student at drama school so that tells you the pricing is good! ($$)
Charlotte Street is also a good place for restaurants after some West End shopping, and its also a stone’s throw from Goodge Street tube.
A fantastic, stylish, Michelin starred Cantonese restaurant that I definitely didn’t frequent in drama school! There’s one in Mayfair which Ive never been to before, but I like the one tucked away in Hanway Place (again near Goodge st – there’s a pattern here). ($$$$)
This is a rubbish photo that does it no justice. (Best apple martini, btw)
An Argentinian steakhouse which hubby highly recommends as one of the best steak places in London. There are branches all over London but he likes the one in Hampstead. ($$$)
LE PAIN QUOTIDIENNE
Love this place. Warm, cosy, delicious French brioche, great soups, healthy salads and a sinfully good dessert menu. Also the tea just tastes so good in their white, handless cups. Pretentious? Moi? ($$)
PRET A MANGER
My home from home. Madeleine Peyroux playing, free wifi, avocado and prawn salads, hot meatball ragu sandwiches, wholegrain muffins, fresh mango smoothies, sweet&salt popcorn – OK SO I KNOW THE MENU BY HEART!
All their salads, sandwiches and soups are made fresh everyday, and this plus the excellent and consistent customer service makes this my No.1 lunchtime spot. Now when you think about it Pret isn’t cheap-cheap ( a sandwich and a drink will set you back about £8, and Id never dream of spending $16 on a quick lunch in Spore) but it’s tasty food, familiar surroundings and quality you can depend on. Good, healthy food is worth spending on. Pret can be found all over London (thankfully) ($$ish)
If you’re missing the hot fresh food from your food courts, Japanese canteen is great for food on the go. Try their bento boxes e.g chicken teriyaki or pork katsu curry with rice, salad and miso soup.
It can be found all over the West End and the City. ($$ish)
So those are my recommendations. There are so many more so do check out Time Out London, its great for keeping you up-to-date on plays, films, restaurants and new stores and events all over London. It’s a go to even for Londoners and def much better than Time Out Singapore (sorry-lah!)
I’ll post soon on my shopping purchases and of course on the upcoming National Day. Very excited.
Enjoy your 3-day week!