Since lockdown, I’ve not ventured further away from my flat than a 40-minute long bike ride. Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve been away from Leeds all year so this weekend just gone was just what I needed. Exercise, walks and social distance meet-ups with friends are amazing but sometimes a complete change of scenery is the best medicine.
I was a little bit worried at first. London is a lot bigger than Leeds, which means more people to social distance from. I managed the whole weekend not having to get a taxi or the tube so the only public transport I used was the train there and back. I was really impressed with how well both train stations handled it (obligatory face covering) and you’re only allowed on to the train with a seat ticket. Every other row is left empty and only window seats are in use. I felt really safe the whole weekend, aside from a short walk in Notting Hill. It was impossible keeping social distance along Portobello Road and the Notting Hill market.
As both of us have been to London plenty before and seen the sight, we only wanted to go for walks, treat ourselves to tasty food and enjoy each others company. A relaxing weekend in London that turned out to be one of my favourite visits to the big city. The fact that summer returned in time for these couple of days helped loads. Being able to wear my summer clothes and spend most of the time outside gave me all the holiday feels.
Where to Stay in London
When I go on a city break, I look at the Premier Inn Hubs and similar hotel equivalents. Because it’s only recently that hotels were able to open up again, none of these have yet. Luckily, there are plenty of cheap hotels in London to choose from. A new to me hotel chain is Z Hotels that have a few locations across the city. We managed to find a room at their location on Gloucester Place, in between Paddington and Marleybone area.
I was pleasantly surprised how spacious and fresh the Z Hotels is. Their Gloucester Place hotel spreads across six townhouses, with a total of 114 rooms. We got a King Size room on the second floor with a large bespoke and handmade bed, en-suit shower room, large HD TV and complimentary Wi-Fi. All rooms also come with a spacious wardrobe, complimentary tea and coffee station and wooden flooring. Our also had two windows overlooking the back garden and an extra room which we still have no idea why it was there. It only has a small stool in it.
I can highly recommend staying at Z Hotels. I loved that we had our own townhouse entrance, meaning we didn’t have to go via the reception aside from checking in and out. Breakfast is available to add on but we preferred finding our own spots to start the days. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in the area.
Where to Eat in London
Thai Food at Monkey & Me
Arriving in the evening on Friday, we only had time to freshen up and head out for a meal. We both fancied Thai food and a couple of blocks away from the hotel, we booked a table at Monkey & Me. The restaurant is really cute inside but with the weather so nice, we opted for one of their two outside tables. Monkey & Me pride themselves in only serving the best Thai food, with a twist. All their ingredients are sourced directly from Thailand and you can tell all their meals are made with the extra spice of heart and soul.
We had Prawn Toast (chicken and prawn on toast with sweet chilli sauce) and Thai Fish Cake (fish and prawn, red curry paste, lime leaf, fine bean with peanut-topped sweet chilli sauce) for starters. I usually never order in prawn toast but these were heavenly. Perfectly toasted and loaded with flavours.
For our mains, we both ordered from the Monkey Signature section. I went for the ‘Bangkok’ Pad Thai (rice noodle, egg, dried shrimp, chive leaf, beansprout, peanut, garlic, tursnip, shallot) and it was delicious. A generous portion so sadly I had to leave some behind. I know, who am I?! Not enough to ask for a doggy bag but plenty for me to have rolled back to the hotel.
The Gaeng Khiao Waan Gai Yaang (Thai style grillled chicken green curry, aubergine, wild ginger, sweet basil, chilli) also got a great verdict. When someone speaks about it the next day, and always order a green curry, then you know it’s high quality food.
Swedish Food at ScandiKitchen
After booking the hotel, I realised it’s close to the Swedish Embassy, meaning a lot of Swedish cafes and shops are nearby. On Saturday morning, we headed down to one of ScandiKitchen’s locations for breakfast. I was so happy to finally eat some Swedish food. It’s been a while. I devoured two open sandwiches: Swedish Meatballs with beetroot salad and pickles and Miso Mushrooms with carrot puree and sesame seeds. Both served on Swedish rye bread.
I also popped down to their store and bought some Djungelvrål (salty licqourice) and Kexchoklad (chocolate wafer bar) for my train journey home. If you ever fancy some scandinavian treats, definetely seek out a ScandiKitchen, or shop in their online store.
Vegan Doughnuts at Crosstown Doughnuts
I’ve only had a doughnut from Crosstown Doughnuts before. They usually have a market stall outside of King’s Cross station and after picking one up before a train journey home one time, I’ve been wanting to head back for more. With the current climate, not all shops have been open and sadly the closets location to our hotel is still closed (for now). Luckily, they also offer a delivery service so we ordered doughnuts to the hotel. It was perfect seeing we had our own hotel entrance. It worked just as well as when you order to your own home.
I was very intrigued about their new launch: Peach & Nectarine but decided on the Lime & Coconut and Chocolate Truffle. I got to try a bite from the Peanut Butter & Blackcurrant Compote one and I can vouch that too is amazing. I’m sure Chocolate & Orange is as well, if that’s your kind of flavour combination. It’s not mine, ha!
Argentinian Grill at ZOILO
ZOILO came up as a result when we searched for nearby tapas places and we managed to get a table booked for the same evening. I think we were lucky because of the current climate. I can see this being a very popular restaurant with an Argentinian seasonal menu, changing on a monthly basis.
The interior is fantastic! Dark blue velvet curtains as you enter, dim lit lights, bar in the center with small tables along the walls. As luxurious and romantic it felt, we wanted to make the most of the warm evening so we got a table outside.
Steak might be ZOILO’s signature but they do so much more. As we were in Tapas mode, we ordered in a selection of dishes from their starter menu and it worked a treat! We had Crab Croquettes with romesco & pickled jalapenos, Provoleta (baked Provolone cheese, almonds & oregano honey) served with a slection of breads, Empanadas (hand cut beef, spring onions & olives) served with spicy criolla and Sea bream ceviche (“aji amarillo”, shallots, turnips & cherries).
It was a great combination of food and flavours and each dish got better and better. We started with the Provoleta to make sure the cheese wouldn’t go hard on us. Melted cheese and bread is a fantastic combination. The almond and herby honey balanced it well. The croquettes bursted of crab flavour. No messing about here. The ceviche was so delicious. A refreshing set of flavours with a bit of tang from the cherries. The Empanades looked very intriguing and the slow cooked beef made me pull a face of positive sensation.
Fine Sandwiches at Souli
Souli Food is a cafe in Marleybone, serving fresh sandwiches across breakfast and lunch. Their window states that their sandwiches has been awarded the fifth best in London. London is massive so there will be lots of places serving sandwiches so we were intrigued. I had their Smoked Salmon & Avocado sandwich with a fried egg served on sourdough bread. You can’t beat a fresh sandwich at a cute cafe. I’m not a massive fan of hot drinks but I love a good Chai Latte. This place makes the best I’ve had. I enjoyed two cups! Now I’m intrigued to try out the other four great sandwiches of London. I guess I’ll be back.
Exploring Notting Hill
The only thing on my to see list for this weekend was to do a bit of exploring in Notting Hill. I love the film. Actually the Notting Hill film is my all-time favourite film. I’ve watched it over and over and I could watch it over and over again. It’s so funny!!! I love the scene when Spike is picking out his date night t-shirt, and the moment when Bernie realises Anna is in fact the actress Anna Scott. Only but a few highlights of the film. The blue door to the flat where William and Spike live has become a must see when exploring Notting Hill. I’m far away from the only one to have had my photo taken outside it.
We took a stroll along Portobello Road and the Notting Hill market. It was hard to keep at social distance here so we never really stopped to look through the stalls but I got a good vibe from this area. I was surprised to see so many colourful buildings. I got snap happy. Walking down towards the main street, it almost felt like being at the seaside.
I’d like to come back to this area and explore more, it’s definitely my vibe. It’s up there with Camden and Shoreditch.
There you have it, a relaxing weekend in London. One of my favourite visits as it was so chilled and no rush to go and see all the to dos. We picked some great food spots and I can recommend staying in the area we did. Central but fairly quiet. John Lennon has lived close by and if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, Baker Street is only a stone throw away.
What’s your favourite place or places in London? Are you due a visit to the capital soon?