(Reuters) - Planning a spring fling in London? There’s no better season to visit the British capital, when longer daylight hours and clement weather make for fun and easy frolics before the coach-loads descend in summer.
What's more, London is so hot right now in the figurative sense, too. Strident confidence in its hotels and restaurants, as well as the resurgence of "villagey" neighborhoods and artisanal pride have breathed fresh air into the Smoke.
There's nowhere quite like it for sheer quality and range of hotels. Be it heritage bucks like handsome Dean Street Townhouse (deanstreettownhouse.com), the understated and rakish Dukes (dukeshotel.com), or icons Claridges, The Savoy and The Connaught -- this city gives promise of a stylish spot to rest your head.
A standout for us right now is the new Rosewood London (rosewoodhotels.com). This Grade II neoclassical doll set in a tranquil courtyard has been revamped in vogueish monochrome with five star perks; it’s gorgeous, plain and simple. And once you’ve imbibed at Scarfes Bar and grazed at mod-Brit Holborn Dining Room, there are stacks of other eating and drinking options just a quick trot away in Covent Garden.
London’s passion for seasonal, locavore food shows no sign of simmering, with restaurateurs endorsing locally sourced and homegrown produce -- some, like the Grain Store’s Bruno Loubet literally raiding his own vegetable patch.
Seasonality star and former queen bee of Petersham Nurseries, Skye Gyngell, recently opened her debut restaurant Spring at Somerset House (springrestaurant.co.uk). With its swanky marble and pillared surrounds, it couldn’t be more different from rustic Petersham (nor from its original incarnation as the offices of the Inland Revenue), but Gyngell’s honest zesty food, which draws on Italy by way of Australia, is as always spot on. We’re expecting a reservation list as long as a bureaucrat’s red tape, so ensure you book ahead.
When it comes to food shopping, the widespread farmers markets (lfm.org.uk) continue to pull in the punters, as does longtime foodie haunt Borough Market (boroughmarket.org.uk). However London’s in-the-know gourmands are venturing further along the river to Bermondsey’s eclectic Maltby Street Market (maltby.st) to fill up on top-notch artisan bites and sips from producers like The Cheese Truck, London Honey Company, and eighth-generation butcher O’Shea’s. A wholesale market on weekdays, Maltby is only open to the public on weekends.
From Borough and Bermondsey to wider afield, the trend for championing local craftsmanship and independent retail has truly taken hold in London town -- pockets of which offer welcome respite from the "chainstore-itis" of shopping strips like Oxford Street. Marylebone’s Chiltern Street may be notorious for André Balaz’s celeb magnet Chiltern Firehouse (chilternfirehouse.com; good luck getting in), but its row of lovely, red-brick one-off shops are equally well worth a browse.
Further east, true scenesters may have migrated to Hackney and Dalston, but the original east-is-cool neighborhood Shoreditch retains its fashion credentials with some of the city’s most directional stores. We love gents go-to Present London (present-london.com) for its well-edited collection, from American sportswear Gant Rugger to British stalwart Mackintosh, plus quirky stationery, books and knick-knacks – they also brew a mean espresso. The original pop-up store Boxpark Shoreditch (boxpark.co.uk) is always worth a gander for new trends, kooky workshops and an exceptionally high beard count, while newbie Goodhood (goodhoodstore.com) is a veritable treasure trove of niche and now labels for women, men, kids and home.
(This article was contributed by LUXE City Guides. The opinions expressed are their own. www.luxecityguides.com)
Editing by Michael Roddy/Jeremy Gaunt