London in February

Thursday / Feb 14 / 2013

Rochelle Canteen
Fig Rochelle Canteen

Before leaving for London, I realized I had not been there in eight years! But, like with any other city, after a couples days walking around the cobblestone streets, double decker buses, iconic black cabs, and gray skies seemed comfortably familiar.

The first day we explored gentrifying East London, aka British Brooklyn.

Hidden inside a Victorian school and beyond a brick wall with the sign “BOYS”, we stopped in ROCHELLE CANTEEN, white-washed old bike shed with glass doors and plenty of light where the catering company, Arnold & Henderson (or Mrs. Fergus Henderson fame), serves breakfast and lunch for the artists and creatives renting space in the converted Rochelle School. The light and airy cafeteria serves hearty, farm-to-table meals. For lunch, burrata with incredible winter tomatoes on grilled bread was delicious. The pork was aggressive for lunch, but very popular. The restaurant is BYOB with no corkage fee if you’d like a Bloody Mary for breakfast or wine or beer at lunch.

Hostem's ceiling
Fig Hostem’s ceiling

After lunch, we stopped in the nearby men’s stores below:

PRESENT LONDON: 140 Shoreditch High Street

HOSTEM: 41 Redchurch Street (its cool ceiling, nailed pieces of linen, is pictured here)

SUNSPEL MENSWEAR: 7 Redchurch Street

Next time, I’m going to hit up some of the women’s stores highlighted in Condé Nast Traveler!

The following day, I visited the “Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape,” “Almost Real Art,” and “Mariko Mori: Rebirth” exhibits at the Royal Academy with my godmother before stopping into SUSANNAH LOVIS in the Burlington Arcade for a belated birthday gift. What girl doesn’t love diamonds! Last, but not least, I stopped in DOVER STREET MARKET, but didn’t find anything I loved. I would have to wait for Paris for that!

Dinner at Nopi
Fig Dinner at Nopi

That night, we visited  NOPI, Ottolegnhi’s latest venture in Soho, and an ideal antidote to traditionally heavy British food. Vegetables feature prominently in the Middle Eastern and Asian-inspired small plates. Unlike Italian restaurants’ mozzarella laden gnocchi, the dish here featured five small pieces of gnocchi arranged on a plate with ricotta, pumpkin seeds, and vegetables. Cod used pork artfully and the scallops had an Asian taste. A bottle of dry Grüner Veltliner perfectly complemented the meal.

One of the many perks of having a godmother who works at the Royal Academy of Arts is I get to see any sold-out exhibit, including “Manet: Portraying Life”. One of the best exhibits I have ever seen, it also gave me a newfound appreciation for this too often neglected artists.

After dinner that evening with my godmother and her husband at Brooks’s, my husband and I had a drink at the nearby DUKES BAR. Hidden in an alley off St. James Street, the Dukes Hotel is one of London’s premier boutique hotels. The bar inside, known for martinis, is a comfortable place to catch up with friends or co-workers. Be sure to sit in one of the front two rooms; the back feels like Siberia. Mixed nuts, olives, and addictive crackers will help soak up some of the deadly drinks.