Anyone who visited or lived in London in 2012 will remember the year by major international events such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Summer Olympics; both proved to be great excuses to drink proper ale and celebrate Britain, rain and all. While certainly not as grand as 2012, London’s 2013 will serve up a healthy helping of the fresh and interesting, including anniversary celebrations, South American cuisine and night markets.
Fish and chips may not excite die-hard foodies, but London is full of amazing food if you know where to look. Peruvian and other South American cuisines in particular are becoming more prevalent; Coya in Mayfair offers up contemporary Peruvian food with a regular roster of DJs and live bands. And a glass elevator takes guests up to SUSHISAMBA, a pan-South American restaurant at the top of Heron Tower on Bishopsgate in East London with top-notch views of the city. The pricey menu blends elements of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian food.
Independent neighborhood coffee shops have been springing up all over London in recent years, offering alternatives to major outlets such as Starbucks and Caffè Nero. The former Clerkenwell Music record store in Exmouth Market has gone hybrid and is now Brill, a coffee/bagel shop that sells CDs and vinyl and has outdoor seating for London’s sunny days.
St. Martin’s Courtyard is a relatively new retail space in Covent Garden with a mix of small boutiques, big-name shops, yoga studios, spas and restaurants situated close to many of London’s theaters. For budding green thumbs, the Covent Garden Academy of Flowers offers floristry courses there.
More evidence of the rising affluence yet residual grittiness of East London’s Shoreditch area is BOXPARK, a temporary shopping area on Bethnal Green Road made up of shipping containers that can be transported anywhere in the world. BOXPARK — which includes a mix of cafes and international fashion, arts and lifestyle brands — opened in 2011 but has just a five-year lifespan. Much more than a mall, BOXPARK hosts nighttime shindigs offering live music, fashion shows, performance art and more.
In 2013, London will celebrate several anniversaries with events and performances. The Underground, the world’s first underground railway, turns 150 and will host a series of heritage train outings and events. The Royal Horticultural Society will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the renowned Chelsea Flower Show; the National Theatre Company turns 50; and 2013 is the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation, which took place in 1953 when she was just 25. The Olympic Park, viewable from a gallery in the John Lewis store in the Westfield shopping center at Stratford, will be renamed the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, portions of which will open this summer.
If the Olympic Park (or crowded tube platforms) inspires you to get active, cruise around town on a Boris Bike (the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme), which popped up in East London last spring. Bikes will be available in portions of South and West London in 2013.
Finding a good cocktail in London can sometimes feel like a word-of-mouth wild goose chase, but plenty of bars give it a go and fine cocktails certainly do get poured. The subterranean Oskar’s Bar beneath Dabbous in Fitzrovia has an industrial aesthetic and a full cocktail menu starting at £8.50 with modern European food on hand in the restaurant upstairs.
Worship Street Whistling Shop has been around for more than a year, but it’s a good example of a speakeasy-flavored London cocktail bar that wants you to experience your liquor, not just drink it. A Time Out Eating & Drinking Award recipient, the highly stylized (Victorian) Worship Street regularly updates its drink ingredients and has put on Whiskey Theatre tasting shows for enthusiasts.
If lounging is not quite your thing, nighttime markets with an emphasis on local food are trending in London. Check out The Long Table, whose events happen in a secret disused space on Abbot Street in Dalston (“Just follow the sound of bands playing and the smell of great food”). After-hours museum visits are not new in 2013, but worth checking out for the drinks, music, exhibits, art debates and chatter. The British Museum, Tate Modern and British Library are just a few that host evening events.
Photos Courtesy of Archard Architectural Photography, Transport of London and Joakim Blockstrom