Answers from Our Experts (4)
The Attraction: The Shard. Head there for awe-inspiring, 360-degree views of the city and its bundle of iconic and ancient sites from dizzying heights. The London Eye stills spins over the banks of the River Thames and warrants the queues it attracts, but The Shard is the shiny new kid on the block to visit.
Which moves us nicely on to The Restaurant: Restaurant Story, the first outpost from 26-year-old chef Tom Sellers — whose CV includes NYC’s Per Se, world-famous Noma and London Michelin-star Tom Aikens — boasts views of the aforementioned Shard. Housed in a former toilet block on Tooley Street, SE1, Restaurant Story has undergone a glamorous transformation: floor-to-ceiling glass, specially-commissioned crockery, and quirky animal illustrations. Sellers's personal journey from childhood to present day is told through an inventive menu, with signature dishes including ‘Bread & Dripping’, served as an edible candle. One to book ahead.
The Hotel: Coined ‘The World’s First Great Railway Hotel’, Great Northern Hotel originally opened its doors in 1854. So why is it included here, I hear you cry? Well, following a 12-year closure, the Grade II listed, 91 luxury-roomed abode in the heart of King’s Cross opened its refurbished doors this spring. Dexter Moran Associates, which boasts a portfolio of well-designed luxury hotels under its belt, is the brainchild behind the new look, which makes use of the original features — high ceilings, sash windows, sweeping staircases — to create what is set to be one of this year’s most exciting newcomers.
There's always something new in London and 2013 is no exception.
The biggest opening of the year is the Shard. The View from the Shard viewing gallery is 300 metres up above London Bridge and allows visitors to see all of London spread out beneath their feet, from Wembley Stadium and Windsor Castle in the west, to Canary Wharf and the Thames Barrier in the east, and to the Tower of London and the Houses of Parliament directly below. Not to be missed, if you can spare the £24.95 per adult admission charge.
In theatreland the big news is the opening of Book of Mormon, the musical about Mormon missionairies from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of South Park. Tickets have become like Willy Wonka's golden ticket and are hard to come by but if you can get hold of one, you won't find a better evening's entertainment in the West End at the moment. And speaking of that golden ticket, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: the Musical also opened in May.
New bars are also always opening up and the latest place to be seen is BYOC. The entry charge of £20 gets you corkage of whatever beverages you choose to bring with you — mixed by expert bartenders in what is arguably London's most speakeasy-like atmosphere.
As a vibrant, cosmopolitan capital, London is ever-changing. Here are just three big things that have already happened in 2013.
The tallest building in Western Europe will soon be home to premium office space, restaurants, a hotel and a spa. But the only thing already open is the five-story public viewing gallery at its apex, dubbed The View from The Shard. Almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in London, it offers inspiring panoramas of the city, smartly brought to life with a range of multimedia displays.
There are three hotels set to open in 2013 that are creating a big buzz. The first is the new Shangri-La Hotel in the aforementioned The Shard, which will take up floors 34 to 52 in the eye-catching tower. The second is The Old Fire Station in Marylebone, a discrete 33-room boutique which marks the first European project of world-renowned property developer Andre Balazs (of Chateau Marmont fame). And the third is The Great Northern Hotel in King's Cross, which originally opened a century-and-a-half ago — the first purpose-built hotel in London — and just reopened after a 12-year closure.
This year has already seen the opening of several restaurants for the discerning diner. Our favorites so far include Brasserie Chavot in Mayfair (a brasserie-style restaurant by the two Michelin-starred French chef Eric Chavot), The Malt House in Fulham (a gastropub by Claude Bosi, who also owns the Michelin-starred Hibiscus), Bo London in Mayfair (an 'extreme Chinese' offering by renowned Hong Kong chef Alvin Leun) and Balthazar in Covent Garden (a bistro-cafe by New Yorker Keith McNally).
Each summer the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park becomes home to a bold new temporary structure from a respected international architect. Previous years have seen commissions by Jean Nouvel, Ai Weiwei and Frank Gehry, but the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 is arguably the most striking to date.
At 41 years old, Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto is the youngest person to take on the prestigious commission. Fujimoto is known for his 'inside-out' houses, homes that break down the boundaries between interior and exterior, public and private. His Serpentine Pavilion, a cloud-like structure made from interconnecting lightweight steel poles, takes this idea and runs with it. Visitors to this multi-purpose social space (which includes a cafe) will have the sensation of being outdoors and indoors all at once, while the structure of the pavilion itself appears to change depending on the angle of approach. It'll be in situ until October 20.
Another exciting novelty is Oblix, the restaurant and bar on the 32nd floor of The Shard, London's newest skyscraper. Oblix is the baby of Rainer Becker, the man behind the international restaurant brands Zuma and Roka, while Michelin-starred Fabien Beaufour is in charge in the kitchen. The all-day menu is big on rotisserie and grill dishes, plus breads and pizzas from what must be the highest wood-fired oven in the world, as well as a good range of retro desserts. Needless to say perhaps, but this place is all about the view, so check the weather forecast before you book.
Back down at street level, the most exciting news on London's shopping scene is the arrival of & Other Stories, the upmarket sister brand of Swedish retailer H&M. You'll find womenswear, shoes, accessories, jewelery, lingerie and swimwear at the two-story British flagship store on Regent Street, which opened this spring. The high-end label has a funky, minimalist feel to it — think Acne and Sandro — and includes collaborations this season with the likes of Clare Vivier and Alyson Fox. Beauty is represented too, with brands from Dr. Bronner to Wash With Joe.