Jo Caird

Correspondent

  • London, England, UK

Born and brought up in London, Jo Caird is a correspondent who covers the city for Forbes Travel Guide. She writes on travel and the arts, reporting on a range of issues relating to the international culture scene, including theater, visual arts, film, literature, food and drink. Her travel stories, city guides and arts features appear regularly in newspapers, including The Guardian, The Independent and The Sunday Telegraph, and magazines, such as The Economist, Condè Nast Traveller and World of Interiors. Caird is never happier than when exploring her native city, except perhaps when telling people about the things she’s discovered there.

  • On February 2, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    Where is the best shopping in London?

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    You can tell a lot about a place by its markets, and London has some of the best in the world. Borough Market is the place for food and drink, head to Portobello Road for antiques and vintage fashion, and find all three at Spitalfields Market depending on the day of the week, plus bric-a-brac, accessories and collectable vinyl.

     

    Nearby Brick Lane has an enormous number of shops selling vintage clothing and accessories, while Covent Garden and Carnaby Street both have an excellent selection of high street retailers. They’re an altogether funkier and more pleasant shopping experience than other high street destinations such as Oxford Street.

     

    That said, Oxford Street is still the place to go for department stores (Selfridges and John Lewis are my favourites), as well as Top Shop’s London home.

     

    You’ll find designer fashion and big brands on Regent Street and Bond Street, men’s tailoring on Savile Row and Jermyn Street, and antiquarian books on Charing Cross Road.

     

    If you’re into shopping centres, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, with their combined total of over 500 shops, will keep you entertained for hours.

     

    And London’s quirkiest shop? It has to be the petite north London establishment that sells Sylvanian Families figurines and nothing else.

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  • On January 31, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best restaurants in London?

    Barely a week goes by in London without the launch of a hip new restaurant with a top international chef at the helm. This makes for a thrilling dining scene, but it’s not always easy to keep up with the pace of change. When venturing into territories new feels too much like hard work, sometimes falling back on old favourites is just the thing. Here are some of mine.

     

    Chinese

    Eschew Chinatown’s myriad Cantonese restaurants and opt instead for sizzling Sichuan at Barshu. Almost everything is served on a bed of chillies, but don’t be afraid, they’re the numbing rather than the fiery variety and bring out the subtle flavours of this wonderful cuisine. Ba Shan, across the road, is under the same management. 

     

    Vietnamese

    On a funky east London high street home to over a dozen Vietnamese restaurants, Song Que is famous for the brilliant value of its cheap and cheerful food and the rudeness of its staff. There are queues out the door every night, but you’ll never have to wait more than 20 minutes for a table. 

     

    Japanese

    Tokyo Diner is open from midday until midnight every day of the year and serves a range of Japanese food from sashimi to curry, as well as dishes less familiar to British diners, such as salmon don (where salmon sashimi and other ingredients are served on top of a bowl of warm rice). As is customary in Japan, tips are not accepted. 

     

    American

    In the basement of a nondescript building on a narrow Covent Garden backstreet hides Joe Allen, late-night canteen to London’s theatre crowd. Dishes are unfussy and generous (including the amazing Joe Allen burger, which you have to ask for as it isn’t even on the menu), prices are reasonable and the staff are discreet. 

     

    Italian

    Of the handful of outstanding Italian restaurants in London, Trullo stands out for its unpretentiousness and reasonable prices. Go for the fantastic fresh pasta, rich meat dishes and inventive deserts, plus an excellent wine list.   

     

    Turkish

    Mangal Ocakbasi is an east London institution, serving simple, authentic Turkish food from succulent kebabs to filling vegetarian meze dishes. The Mangal brand is so good that London art legends Gilbert & George have eaten at the sister restaurant, Mangal 2, almost every day for years.

     

  • On January 30, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    Where is the best shopping in London?

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    You can tell a lot about a place by its markets, and London has some of the best in the world. Borough Market is the place for food and drink, head to Portobello Road for antiques and vintage fashion, and find all three at Spitalfields Market depending on the day of the week, plus bric-a-brac, accessories and collectable vinyl.

     

    Nearby Brick Lane has an enormous number of shops selling vintage clothing and accessories, while Covent Garden and Carnaby Street both have an excellent selection of high street retailers. They’re an altogether funkier and more pleasant shopping experience than other high street destinations such as Oxford Street.

     

    That said, Oxford Street is still the place to go for department stores (Selfridges and John Lewis are my favourites), as well as Top Shop’s London home.

     

    You’ll find designer fashion and big brands on Regent Street and Bond Street, men’s tailoring on Savile Row and Jermyn Street, and antiquarian books on Charing Cross Road.

     

    If you’re into shopping centres, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, with their combined total of over 500 shops, will keep you entertained for hours.

     

    And London’s quirkiest shop? It has to be the petite north London establishment that sells Sylvanian Families figurines and nothing else.

  • On January 28, 2013
    Jo Caird answered the question: Jo Caird

    What are the best activities to do in London?

    London’s culture scene is arguably the best of any city in the world, so museums, galleries and theatre shows should be high on visitors’ lists.

     

    A great place to start when it comes to museums is South Kensington, home to the Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and Science Museum. You could spend days exploring each one. The Bloombury/Holborn area is also a good bet, from the glories of the British Museum, to quirkier establishments such as Sir John Soane’s Museum and the Hunterian Museum.

     

    For art galleries, head to Trafalgar Square for the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, or down to the River Thames for the Tate Modern. Cork Street in Mayfair is home to dozens of small contemporary commercial galleries.

     

    The West End is London’s Theatreland, with a huge range of options for all tastes, from jukebox musicals to straight plays. Go further afield into the Off West End and fringe scene and you’ll be rewarded with top quality theatre for less than the price of a central London cinema ticket. Check out the Arcola in east London, the Bush in the west, the Finborough down south and the Tricycle in north London.

     

    For less high-minded pursuits, green spaces and waterways offer fantastic opportunities to explore a different side of the city. Hampstead Heath is the ultimate city park, whether for bracing wintertime walks or summer afternoons swimming in the ponds. The River Thames and Regent’s Canal provide engaging walking routes through the capital that require no map reading.

     

    London’s markets are another must. Overindulge at foodie paradises Borough and Broadway Market, shop for cut flowers and plants at Columbia Road and stock up on vintage fashion and accessories at Portobello Road and Brick Lane.

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  • On January 24, 2013
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    What are the best attractions in London?

    Image © Julian Shoquette

    There are an almost overwhelming number of fantastic attractions in London, enough to fill up countless visits to the city, whatever your holiday inclinations. Here are three that’ll not only amaze, entertain and educate in their own right, but will also work together to give a sense of what the Big Smoke is all about:

     

    1. The city’s newest major attraction (opening on 1 February) is The View from The Shard, a 360-degree viewing gallery at the top of the Shard, Renzo Piano's London Bridge skyscraper. 244m up, it offers unrivalled views across the whole of London, up to a distance of 40 miles. On the day of my visit the weather was terrible – rainy with very poor visibility – but I was still completely enthralled by the experience. From this height the tracks leading into London Bridge station beneath you look like a child’s train set, you get a sense of the curve and scale of River Thames that you just don’t get elsewhere, and you can spy over the rooftops of other attractions, including Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast and the Tower of London. It’s also a great way to get your bearings in the city.

     

    1. Once you’ve seen the Thames from above, it’s time to go down for a closer look. The river is the reason the Romans founded Londinium here 2000 years ago and it’s as important to the city today as it was then. Many of London’s best attractions are located along the Thames and a sightseeing cruise is a cunning way of learning about them in one fell swoop. Go for one of the operators that offer hop-on, hop-off tickets so that you can be spontaneous about your itinerary.

     

    1. One of the most striking aspects of the capital is the way that different historical periods overlap to create a hotchpotch of architectural styles. Balance out your visit to London’s newest, most futuristic building with an immersion in the past at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Built in late 17th century, this awe-inspiring monument somehow survived the terrible bombing of the Blitz while everything around it was destroyed. Admire the extraordinary dome from ground level, then climb to the Whispering Gallery to experience the bizarre acoustic, then up to the Golden Gallery for lovely views across the City. Try and time your visit to coincide with a Sung Eucharist – there’s something very affecting about the sound of voices filling this enormous space. 

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