Date Ideas : 24 hours in London

Last Saturday, my mum came to over to our house to look after Toodles over night. I can’t tell you how exciting that was. No 3.5 hour round trip to drop her off (inc. courteous cup of tea with grandma), no packing for her, and no travelling for us. Win-Win. We were also both equally excited, not tired and raring to go. This is an unusual phenomenon , as ordinarily it’s one coercing the reluctant other. The star’s must have spontaneously aligned on this day.

Destination:

So where did we go? We headed to London. It’s only one hour away from us by train and is as easy as any other major city that’s near to get to. There was also the added drive of Dan who was desperate to get a fix in his new retail heaven, a Scandinavian concept store called ARKET (more info on that later).

Hotel:

We arrived into London at around 2pm, and headed straight to our hotel to dispatch the bags. Knowing this would be simply a case of somewhere to store clothes and lay our heads for a minimum amount of time, on this occasion we went for a more budget option. We were led by location as were on a tight schedule and wanted to maximise shopping, eating and getting ready time. We stayed at the Z hotel, Piccadilly. The Z hotels describe themselves ‘affordable compact luxury in prime locations’, and offer just that. Tucked neatly away behind the melee of Piccadilly, the hotel was small, neat, very cool and perfect for our needs. The room was like a tiny Japanese modular piece of perfection. No room to swing a cat but super clean, and all you could need. I would not list it on the romantic ‘must do’ list, but a great functional option. The bed was super comfy, and I’m worse than the princess and the pea when it comes to sleeping on foreign mattresses. They had also adopted the increasingly popular trend, of offering free wine and cheese for a period of time – here between 5pm and 8pm. What more can you ask for? The only thing I would suggest is getting a room with a window. Ours did not have, and it took me a while to breathe through my mild claustrophobia.

Shopping:

After checking in we were out an on our way to Dans’ happy place – ARKET. This is a store that sells ladies, men’s and children’s wear and some home wears. I would describe it as a Scandinavian version of Muji meets Uniqlo. The clothes are great quality, not all to my taste but I still managed to find some nice knitwear to acquire. Dan cleaned up with his monochrome work staples and we even managed to get something for Toodles. I was really impressed with the children’s wear, and if you ask at the till you get 20% off your first purchase. So, happy all round.

Dinner:

This was not a shopping trip per se, and Dan is not a browser. I did manage a few sneaky peaks into other stores whilst heading in the direction of an early dinner, but no major purchases. Not wanting to eat too late, and having only had nibbles on the train, 5.30pm was the perfect time to eat. We headed to a fantastic little place called Barrafina. There are three of these restaurants in London, but we headed to their newest incarnation on Drury Lane. You can’t book, and reason for that is that there are only about 20 stools sat around a bar that looks directly into the immaculate open kitchen area. You literally have all your food prepped right before your eyes. The menu selection and food were just divine. They serve Spanish tapas, but not as we know it. The beautiful fresh fish, meat and vegetable dishes were all made with such delicate and exquisite flavours – I can’t recommend enough. Washed down with three glasses of Cava, we were totally satisfied and ready to take on the evening. One recommendation I would make is about timing . We seemed to arrive just at the right time (5.30pm). 15 minutes later there was a queue of about 20 people waiting to sit down, post shopping no doubt. Budget wise, our meal came to about £70 with our drinks, plus coffee and about 8 dishes (we totally over ordered) but enjoyed every minute of it.

Fireworks

We were supposed to be on a ‘let’s spend some time together’ 24-hour mini break, however this was speedily hijacked by my younger sister who lives in London and was desperate to introduce the new boyfriend to her family. With that we were coerced into attending the fireworks display at Battersea park. Much to my surprise, we really enjoyed it! It is a fantastic display set to cool music, with hundreds of people gathered for the occasion, creating a great atmosphere. Tickets were around £12 with booking fee, bought online a few days before, which was great timing as they sold out (which apparently, they do every year).

The Pub

With my sister and the new boyfriend in tow we pub hopped around Chelsea until we found a venue not too full as they were all generally rather busy with Battersea Park attendees. We ended up at The Pig’s Ear, Old Church St. This is a fantastic, quite traditional, but fun pub. If you are looking for a table, conversation and some reasonably priced drinks in Chelsea then this is a great venue and (according to my mum) the food is meant to be amazing too.

Here we sat, as the four of us slowly became ten. Friends of my sister and her boyfriend joined. Although meeting the new boyfriend was equally anxious for all parties, it turned out to be a super fun night (and yes, he’s won our vote).

The Club(s)

We had made our own late night dancing plans, but not wanting to break up the party, at around 12am we followed the group to a cool Swedish cocktail bar called Kosmopol. They have an upstairs bar and a tiny bar downstairs that was playing amazing pop, hip hop and R ‘n’ B. It was perfect for our little group of new found friends, and we danced away until about 1.30am.

Dan, suddenly anxious that we should not divert from our original plan suggested that we move on. With that we took flight and jumped into a cab to the Jazz café to see my all-time favourite DJ, Norman Jay. The atmosphere here was great. The music featured his usual cool blend of funk, soul, dance and disco ranging from the 70’s to current day. The night did not disappoint.

Before we knew it the lights were on and it was the end of the evening. I have no idea how we did it as are in bed most evenings for 10pm, but on this day we lasted until 3am, oh yes.
This was not without cost however. The shock of the bright lights came the realisation that I was absolutely starving. The tapas had lasted an admirable 9 hours, but seemingly it was time to refuel. With that was the final stop of the evening.

Mid–night snack attack

There a quite a few late-night snacking treasures around London, but one of my favourites is still Bar Italia in Soho. This place is warm and welcoming, and somewhat of an institution in Soho. Originally established in 1949, it’s a firm favourite with the Italians of London. They serve great coffee, perfect pizza and a very tasty much-needed late night panini.
If you really need to keep dancing, their sister restaurant and bar next door, Little Italy is open to 4am most nights.

Having been fed and watered, we returned to our tiny Z-room and slept well.
I would tell you that that was the end of our adventure, but there is one more place we happened upon quite by chance the next morning when venturing out to hunt for breakfast.

Breakfast:

Two minutes around the corner from our lodgings, we walked past the most inviting place. They kindly squeezed us it to their very busy brunch sitting. The restaurant happened to be one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurants called Nopi. I must confess that I love his food but hadn’t yet heard of this place. It had a gorgeous interior, was buzzing with energy and happy people, and the staff were really welcoming too. The food was perfect. Dan and I both went for the Shakshuka (see menu), which is a baked dish with eggs and tomatoes, peppers and all the lovely detoxifying goodness that you need to deal with a hang over, and a post night-out state of mild self-loathing.

As the food coma crept upon us, and the yawning commenced we saluted our efforts, congratulated our not yet lost youthful stamina, grabbed our bags and headed for home.
One last pit stop into Le Pain Quotidien at St Pancras for a train cake, and our 24 hours of indulgence and fun were almost over.

After a short snooze we had arrived home to the seemingly very relieved and unusually affectionate arms of Toodles. It’s so nice to have the chance to have a moment away from everyday life, but it’s always so very nice to get home.

Here is a quick round-up of the places visited:

1. Z- Hotel, Piccadilly
2. Arket
3. Barrafina
4. Battersea Park Fireworks
5. The Pig’s Ear
6. Kosmopol
7. The Jazz Café
8. Bar Italia (Little Italy)
9. Nopi

Alternative hotel:

If you are looking for something a little more glamorous and romantic for accommodation, our last adventure to London in a similar central location took us to the Ham Yard Hotel. Slightly higher on the budget spectrum, but ideal for a romantic treat and again, great location.

What are your favourite places to go to in London? Do you have a favourite hotel or bar? What are your favourite date night/ date day activities? I would love to hear from you!

I hope you enjoyed this blog, thank you for taking the time to read.
Please don’t forget to share with friends!

Love, KOKOKALM xx

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