Every Thanksgiving week for the last fifteen years has been spent in London. We have dear friends who put on a feast every season that is one of my favorite traditions of the year, the Christmas lights and windows are starting to give the whole town a festive feel, and it is an opportunity to discover new spots and favorite venues every November. These were some of the highlights this year.
Eats: My favorite discovery this trip food-wise was the Shed in Notting Hill. Our dear friends Jamie and Elizabeth Byng raved about it and we were so pleased to find such a unique place. Run by two brothers (the third brother provides most of the produce and meat from their farm in Nutbourne, West Sussex) the spot really is like a refurbished and rambling potting shed but the setting only adds to the authentic, bustling and charming feel. The menu is perfect for sharing: we loved the individual “mouthfuls” of beetroot crisp, goats cheese, confit egg yolk, and Maldon oyster to start, and dishes like golden candied beetroots, almonds, crème fraiche and hake with smoked cauliflower, red onion and mussel salsa. The food was outstanding and the atmosphere so much fun; it will be on my list for future trips too. I only wish I lived down the street so I could make it my regular. Oldies but goodies: Breakfast at the Art Deco Wolseley is always a must and we never miss a long and delicious dinner at the inimitable River Café.
Shops: I am completely in love with Couverture & the Garbstone, a wonderful store on Kensington Park Road near Portobello Market. Their edit of women’s, kids, and housewares is impeccable, I honestly find myself wanting to buy everything. There are beautiful clutches from Claire Vivier, wonderful pillows, soft throws, as well as whimsical notecards and great toys. This time I got a gorgeous gold bracelet from Lizzie Fortunato in addition to some smaller purchases. I was also so excited to hear from the beautiful and talented swim and eyewear designer, Anna Laub, behind Prism, that she is opening a standalone shop just in time for London’s fashion week in February–down from Andre Balazs’s soon to open hotel in Marylebone. Can’t wait to suit up there. Oldies but goodies: I always pop into Caramel Baby & Child for cozy sweaters for my son, Bodas for their flattering bikinis, and the pop up Kensal Flea for great vintage finds.
Stay: We are very lucky to have close friends who lend us their house (kitted out for a boy my son’s age) each year but for the first two nights we stayed at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Location location location. I walked out and there was Harvey Nichols right in front of me (bad for the wallet) and behind beloved Hyde Park, with its trees full of beautiful autumn colors. From our room’s window we could see the twinkling lights of the Christmas Ferris Wheel, and I had a fabulous lunch at Café Boloud. They will be unveiling a new spa and pool soon.
Kids in tow: I really do love London (we lived there for two years when I was a kid) but somehow when we travel with Jacopo it is even more magical, the lights of the city through his eyes, the rides on tubes and double decker buses, the walks in the parks feeding the ducks, like I did with my mother. This year we also took him to Winter Wonderland, the annual Christmas market with its stalls, amusement rides, and his first Santa’s grotto. He ended up going three times and here’s a good tip, if you go in the morning during the week,when London kids are at school, there is no wait for the rides, even for the beloved Ferris Wheel. He also adores the Science Museum and visits to many incredibly well maintained playgrounds like the Diana Memorial. I am honest about which cities are not so great with children (I am glad I left him home when we went to Marrakech) but London, I find, is just perfect.