An English summer

An English summer

There’s always a reason to visit London. Now, there’s the World Cup, too. Here’s what’s hip and happening in the British capital, writes Prachi Joshi

Westminster Palace, London

With due apologies to Audrey Hepburn (and Paris), we have to say that ‘London is always a good idea’. And the summer of 2019 gives you another reason to book your London trip. England and Wales will host the ICC Cricket World Cup, which will kick off on May 30 with England facing South Africa at London’s venerable The Oval. The tournament will culminate on July 14 with the finals being played at Lord’s. Apart from all the cricketing action, there are new hotels and restaurants to try, old favourites to revisit, and plenty of cultural attractions to take in. So, make the most of your stay with this London round-up.

Luxe stays

London may already seem jam-packed with hotels, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for more. A former Baroque church in Holborn in Central London has been converted into a lavish boutique hotel, L’Oscar (loscar.com), complete with velvet and leather interiors, a seven-storey chandelier, and deep-hued rooms with gilded accents. Paddington got an exciting new hotel in The Pilgrm (thepilgrm.com); no, that’s not a typo! Spread over four Victorian townhouses across from Paddington Station, the hotel has a pared-back aesthetic. London’s Southbank saw the opening of Bankside (banksidehotel.com), a design-forward, boutique hotel with eclectic artworks in the rooms.

If you’d rather stay at an old classic, there’s nothing quite like the quaint charm of The Ritz London (theritzlondon.com). The hotel recently opened Ritz London Cigars, the only luxury cigar-sampling lounge in Central London. Savour a range of hand-rolled Cuban cigars in a relaxed lounge ambience with wood panelled walls and elegant sunflower-yellow hardback chairs. Another firm favourite with Indian travellers is The Landmark London (landmarklondon.co.uk) with its iconic brick façade and stunning eight-storey, glass-roofed atrium. The hotel has recently given its incredibly spacious rooms a contemporary update. And finally, The Lanesborough (oetkercollection.com/destinations/the-lanesborough) at Hyde Park has opened a sprawling club & spa that has been awarded England’s Best Hotel Spa at the 2018 World Spa Awards. All three hotels are part of Leading Hotels of the World (lhw.com), so you’re assured of the highest standards of quality and service.

Bite size

London’s ever-evolving food scene makes it one of the most exciting cities for gourmands. With a slew of new openings, from tapas bars to vegan cafes to modern Indian restaurants, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into. Bringing some Latin flair to South London is Pirana (pirana-london.com), an eclectic South American-inspired bar and restaurant in Balham. With bold splashes of colours and a bespoke jade terrazzo floor, this is one good-looking space. And the food matches up, too — try the feijoda (black beans and chorizo stew), quinoa croquettes, and Argentinian rib-eye steak. Head to Kudu (kudu-restaurant.com) in Peckham for reimagined South African fare like the eponymous kudu bread (served with a choice of bacon butter or seafood butter, or both), mussel potjie pot, peri peri duck hearts, and more. Shoreditch gets another buzzy bar, Smoking Goat (smokinggoatbar.com); their breakfast rotis are very popular as are their inventive cocktails. Speaking of cocktails, London’s hottest opening on the bar scene has been The Parrot at the Waldorf Hilton (hilton.com) in Covent Garden. And the man behind this intimate, tropical-themed bar is none other than Idris Elba. The bar has a secret cocktail menu and cool music shows, including frequent DJ sets by Elba himself.

Appetising fare at Kudu Restaurant
Appetising fare at Kudu Restaurant

Vegetarians and vegans, there’s a whole bunch of new places for you to try, from the plant-based, GMO-free, organic burgers, tacos and hot dogs at Genesis (eatgenesis.com) at Shoreditch to NYC’s by CHLOE (eatbychloe.com) that recently brought its fresh salads, sandwiches and awesome weekend brunches to Covent Garden. If you’re the sort who misses Indian food when you travel, there’s no better place than London to satisfy that craving. Delhi’s favourite Indian Accent (indianaccent.com) opened in Mayfair in early 2018 and has been wowing Londoners with its multi-course tasting menus. Little Kolkata (littlekolkata.co.uk) started as a pop-up supper club that morphed into a Covent Garden restaurant in late 2018. And finally, Farzi Café (farzicafe.com) debuted early this year on Haymarket with its inimitable food theatre.

Tea party

What’s a visit to London without a spot of afternoon tea? Nothing beats the old-school glitz of The Ritz London’s many-mirrored Palm Court where you will be serenaded by a live pianist and the gentle tinkling of polished silverware. Another classic afternoon tea is at Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Piccadilly’s Fortnum & Mason (fortnumandmason.com). Decked out in the trademark eau-de-nil colour (reminiscent of the blue-green Nile) from the walls to the tea plates, the salon offers no fewer than 43 blends of tea. The English Tea Room at Brown’s Hotel (roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/browns-hotel), with its dark wood panelling and vintage armchairs, was a favourite of Queen Victoria’s. Here, apart from traditional tea, you can try the recently introduced Tea-Tox Afternoon Tea, which comes with healthy options like sandwiches on gluten-free bread, and mostly sugar-free desserts.

Museum watch

2019 is a busy year on the art circuit and there’s much to see in London’s main museums. The National Gallery (nationalgallery.org.uk) will showcase the Spanish Impressionist painter Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida. Known as the ‘master of light’, this is a rare opportunity to see Sorolla’s most complete exhibition outside of Spain (March 18-July 7). The Tate (tate.org.uk) will unveil ‘Van Gogh and Britain’, a major exhibition of 40 artworks that reveal how the Dutch Impressionist was inspired by Britain and how he, in turn, inspired British artists (March 27-August 11). The Tate Modern will showcase Austrian abstract artist Franz West’s punk aesthetic in a major retrospective exhibition (February 20-June 2).

2019 marks the 500th death anniversary of the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci and museums across the world have planned special exhibitions. London is not to be left behind with the Royal Collection Trust putting up hundreds of his drawings on display across 12 simultaneous exhibitions in the UK, including one at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace (May 24-October 13; rct.uk). The Royal Academy (royalacademy.org.uk) will put its 16th-century copy of ‘The Last Supper’ on permanent display in the Burlington Gardens from May 2019.

Vantage point

Sure, you have seen London from the top of the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus, but to really get a feel of the city, jump into a beautifully restored classic Mini Cooper for a zip around town with Small Car Big City (smallcarbigcity.com). If you’re pressed for time, the one-hour ‘Landmarks of London’ tour will give you a whistle-stop look at the main attractions. For a deeper exploration of the city, there are half-day and full-day tours, which include hidden gems in the city (like the fabulous street art at Leake Street Arches, a defunct pedestrian tunnel under Waterloo Station), and stops at some cool cafes and gin bars.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Looking for a day trip out of London? Try the newly launched Stonehenge Tour from Take Walks (takewalks.com), which includes a visit to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, plus a bit of virtual reality touring on the side. You will be whisked from Central London in a private car or small coach to visit the Neolithic monuments near Avebury (which is quite off the tourist radar at present), and then head on into Bath for a guided tour of the Roman baths. Don the VR goggles and get a peek at what the baths would have looked like in their full glory. Then, onwards to Stonehenge and another VR trip back into time to unfold the mysteries of this 5,000-year-old monument.