FROM LEFT: St Martins Lane lobby; St Martins Lane exterior
Truly one of the world’s most exhilarating and enduring destinations, London is the perfect vacation spot, no matter the season. Obviously, the first decision is where to stay. Two excellent hotel choices are the St Martins Lane London and the Sanderson London—both very hip yet friendly, comfortable and in great locations.
Located in Covent Garden near Trafalgar Square, St Martins Lane was designed by Philippe Starck with dramatic touches echoing the stages of the surrounding West End theater district. Highlights include the Asia de Cuba restaurant and the state-of-the art Gymbox health club, featuring Olympic-size boxing rings, as well as all the usual cardio and resistance equipment. Starck also put his stamp on the Sanderson (another Morgans Hotel Group establishment), transforming a 1950s landmark just steps from the Oxford Street shopping district. Once a wall-covering showroom, the building has retained two of its most striking features: an amazing stained-glass window and sweeping central staircase.
Don’t miss the Long Bar, with eyes on the back of each bar stool, or the Purple Bar, where they mix up martinis inspired by the original, The Martinez, a recipe dating back to the mid-1800s. Suka, where Malaysian delicacies meet French technique, is a great dinner option. The Agua spa includes a wide range of holistic-themed treatments in addition to James Read, London’s favorite celebrity spray-tanning artist—a must for those desiring a guaranteed glow in often-cloudy London.
Representing 37 countries, the Sanderson’s staff are happy to provide suggestions on Bond Street restaurants, Oxford Street shops, the latest West End theater offerings or exhibits at such awe-inspiring museums as the Tate (Britain and Modern), V&A South Kensington, The British Museum or the National Portrait Gallery. Given the British capital’s notoriously dicey weather, just make sure you have the means to layer your wardrobe up or down, especially in the springtime, and always carry a travelfriendly “brolly.”
Dishoom’s chicken berry biryani
London long ago shed its reputation as a city of gustatory mediocrity; these five establishments drive the point home.
Jamie Oliver’s Jamie's Italian, focusing on the celebuchef’s obsession with all things fresh and local
La Famiglia on Langton Street in Chelsea (try for a table in the tented rear garden), with traditional Tuscan fare that never disappoints
The Wolseley on Piccadilly, a former car showroom with fabulous continental cuisine, is a favorite lunch choice of London celebs (I spied John Cleese the last time I was there).
Sketch on Conduit Street, with its Gallery, Parlour, Lecture Room and Library, East Bar and Glade lounge, offers hip and easy choices for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner.
The legacy of Britain’s colonial past, myriad restaurants serving vibrant cuisine from around the globe, especially India, abound in London. A good choice is Dishoom, a West End reminder of the Bombay cafés of times gone by.