I was once a Londoner, born and raised. That was until I moved to Stockholm six years ago. Now, each time I go back to London, I feel more and more like a tourist. London is an incredible city – in fact, I’d say it’s the best city in the world – but it’s a tricky one, too. It changes almost constantly, it’s bloody difficult to navigate, and there are tourists EVERYWHERE ready to whack you with a selfie stick.
Every time I go back, I resist the urge to do those iconic touristy things (London Eye and Buckingham Palace, we’re looking at you), because, really, the things that make the city special are often hidden from view.
So here’s some of my favourite lesser-known gems in London. Just don’t tell too many of your friends, okay?
I think this is possibly London’s best barbecue. Carnivores (myself included) have been raving about Smokehouse ever since it opened and is it really any wonder: gutsy but sophisticated food are served fresh either from the charcoal grill or its own oak-fuelled smokehouse (there’s a clue in the restaurant’s name). The results are finger-lickingly delicious.
Yeah Borough Market is great but, boy, can it get crowded. Rather than fighting through the throng to get their groceries, in-the-know locals slip down the road to a small, off-shoot market at Maltby Street, where some of Borough’s best loved food suppliers, such as Monmouth Coffee and Brindisa, have opened up their warehouses to the public.
A night out in Peckham?! A bar on the top of a multi-story car park?! I hear you. But don’t leave just yet. This much-maligned south London borough has had a renaissance of late, thanks in no small part to the seasonal, open air bar, Franks Cafe. Great drinks and food, a view to die for and buckets of that elusive cool factor have even lured over the hard-to-please east London hipsters.
Climpson & Sons was one of the first to bring Australia’s smoothest coffee to London. Located in the busy and buzzing Broadway market, it caters to East London’s fashion crowd on the weekends and is a great place to chill-out during the week. It may be terribly trendy, but they’re still very serious about their coffee: they make their own in the roastery just behind the café, where you can also pick up a range of beans.
Now if any place deserves the tag “hidden gem”, it’s Dennis Severs’ House. What lies inside this beautiful early Georgian house is part museum, part theatrical experience. This labour-of-love from the late, eccentric Dennis Severs invites visitors into the home of a fictional family. Interiors are painstakingly recreated – including a half eaten breakfast and opened letters to read – and accompanied by the smells and sounds of the era. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
Oh, do I love this concept store. It’s in the most unlikely of places (hidden in the basement of an old warehouse in trendy Dalston) but LN-CC boasts one of London’s best collections of high-end, avant-garde fashion. Visits are by appointment only, but don’t be intimidated: the owners are warm and helpful.
If you want more insider tips from those in-the-know, check out GuidePal’s London guide.