I was asked to write this post below for Move Guides, an expat relocation company, for a new series on their blog called Neighbourhood Wars. This was the first one, published earlier this week. Each Monday, they will feature a guest post from someone in a different London neighbourhood. Stephanie, who runs the blog, was happy to let me re-post here for you as well. These are some of the things I like about my own London neighbourhood. Photos are mine unless indicated otherwise.
I love to travel, which is part of the reason I ended up living in London, but sometimes exploring your own neighborhood can be just as entertaining as a trip abroad. Though I’ve lived all over West London in the last five years, my current neighborhood is in a little corner of Chelsea.
This area was once London’s bohemian quarter, full of artists, writers and musicians. It’s pretty well gentrified now but King’s Road has a history as a central area of activity during the Swinging 60s and the punk movement of the 70s. It’s long been a major fashion hub to one degree or another.
Here’s a list of some of the places I most enjoy in my neighbourhood, which I’ll define as within 15-20 minutes walking distance from home in any direction.
Tomtom Coffee House
FOR COFFEE, TEA & JUICE
There’s a cosy little gem on Ebury Street called Tomtom Coffee House, which is said to have some of London’s most delicious coffee. I’m more of a tea drinker, which is good as well. They have heat lamps outside allowing for some fantastic people watching even when the weather is cold.
One of my favourite places to relax for an hour with a good magazine in hand after shopping is Joe & The Juice on King’s Road. It’s inviting, the seats are comfortable, the paninis are delicious and their fresh juice is healthy and refreshing.
Screenshot from http://www.fernandezandwells.com/
Soho’s infamous Fernandez & Wells recently opened a branch on Exhibition Road near South Kensington station. It’s always crowded with museum-goers, but head there on a week day and you’ll have a much better chance of getting a seat.
Jak’s on Walton Street is another relaxing place to stop by for a coffee or a fruit smoothie. You can sit on a big couch in front of a drum set table and talk the afternoon away. It also serves food, which I haven’t tried yet but it seems to get good reviews!
My favourite place to go for dinner nearby is Sushinho on King’s Road, a Brazilian – Japanese fusion restaurant with melt-in-your-mouth sushi and other dishes with creative use of textures and ingredients. The cocktails are worth a trip alone. We went Monday night and I had a Brazilian Coconut Martini. Yum!
Madsen, just across from South Kensington station serves up some tasty Scandinavian dishes. The décor, as you would expect, is simple. Staff are friendly and welcoming and prices are pretty cheap for this side of town.
The pizza at Rossopomodorro, on Fulham Road, is delicious and they have plenty of topping options to choose from for a more laid back dinner.
For a change, we sometimes order Vietnamese street food from Phat Phuc Noodle Bar, a little kiosk tucked away in a nook off of Sydney Street near King’s Road.
Photo: Screenshot from http://www.phatphucnoodlebar.com/page6.htm
El Gaucho, a little Argentine restaurant, sits in nearby Chelsea Farmer’s Market. The steak is delicious.
American themed Honky Tonk opened last year on Hollywood Road. It’s good for an easy-going Saturday brunch with the girls.
Speaking of American, my favorite place to pick up all of my goodies from the States (like Fluff, Goldfish and Lucky Charms) is Partridges in Duke of York Square. Expensive, as most imports are, but it’s all there. For fresh bread, we have the lovely Gail’s bakery – one on King’s Road and one just outside South Kensington station.
Jorge and I had our first date at Azteca a year ago and we’ve been there many times since. It’s a Mexican themed bar on King’s Road with the best mojitos I’ve had in London accompanied by lively Latin American music.
Photo: Screenshot from http://www.aztecalatinlounge.com/gallery.html
That first night, we also went to Janet’s Bar on Old Brompton Road. This is not your ordinary drinking hole nor does it look like it belongs in Chelsea. It’s fabulously quirky and eclectic with walls lined with intriguing customers’ photos, mirrors, lights and random ephemera.
Down on Walton Street, Eclipse is a dark and seductive cocktail bar with nooks and crannies and creative concoctions to drink (including a delicious gin-based drink called Divine Smoke that actually smokes).
Photo: Screenshot from http://www.eclipsebars.com/chelsea/gallery/
The Sydney Arms, on Sydney Street, is our friendly local with room to sip a gin & tonic outdoors on a Summer’s day.
The Hollywood Arms has one of London’s best quiz nights and free movies on Sundays. They also have board games which are great for whiling away a rainy weekend afternoon.
For a traditional pub experience, I love the Queen’s Head tucked away on a narrow road called Tyron Street off of King’s Road. It has a fireplace and a warm atmosphere.
FOR ART & CULTURE
There are some giants nearby: Saatchi Gallery which has a fascinating collection of contemporary art, the Victoria & Albert Museum which often features design and fashion exhibitions, the architecturally beautiful Natural History Museum and the educational Science Museum as well the elegant and impressive Royal Albert Hall.
Photo: Screenshot from http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/
On a smaller scale, there is a tiny branch of Proud Galleries on King’s Road showing off rock & roll, fashion and pop culture photography. For a rainy day, there’s always the luxe Curzon Cinema on King’s Road. There are only a few films to choose from at any one time, but beats out the nearby Cineworld if they’re playing something good.
The girls at the cheap and cheerful Nail Boutique in the Chelsea Farmer’s Market off of Sydney Street are always worth a visit for a quick and clean manicure and pedicure. The Chelsea Day Spa just off of King’s Road offers a much wider selection of treatments from manicures and pedicures to waxing to massages to facials. They also list a selection of treatments especially for men.
Photo: from http://www.saltandchocolate.co.uk/menu/
If you’re willing to splash out a bit (about £60 for a luxury manicure), try Salt and Chocolate on Walton Street, a project of Russian fashion writer, DJ and socialite Yana Uralskaya. The walls are like galleries, full of original photography prints and the chairs are bespoke Jimmie Martin designs.
FOR RETAIL THERAPY
King’s Road is full of my usual favourite high street shops: Anthropologie, Zara, Massimo Dutti, Ted Baker, etc but there are a few other places that inspire the shopaholic in me.
I have a small magazine addiction, which I regularly feed at Londis, a corner shop on King’s Road with a gold mine of some 2,000 magazines hiding away in the back.
For books, I head to Daunt, a Fulham Road branch of the original Marylebone shop where the collection is organized by country in which the books are set.
Another great place to pick up coffee table-style books (think photography, architecture and interior design) is the Taschen shop near the Saatchi Gallery in Duke of York Square.
For interior design, there’s the simple yet creative white decor of Jonathan Adler, some cool Asian-style pieces at Oka and the innovative Conran Shop right around the corner. If it’s flowers, plants and outdoor décor you’re after, The Chelsea Gardener is one of the best nurseries in London.
The Chelsea Gardener
FOR FRESH AIR
The vast Hyde Park is just up the road, a great place for Summer picnics and bike rides and a short stroll over the Candy Land coloured Albert Bridge will take you to Battersea Park with its peace pavilion and long pathway lining the Thames.
Nearby, we also have the Royal Hospital grounds where the annual Chelsea Flower Show is held and the Chelsea Physic Garden, a walled in sanctuary full of flowers and plants from around the world just off the Chelsea Embankment.
Chelsea Flower Show 2012
A walk through the side streets, like this one from Sydney Street to Sloane Square, can be just as fascinating. Chelsea has quite a few luxurious homes and private members clubs with an insight into the way the other half lives. These make for some entertaining people watching anywhere you go around here!
The garden next to St. Luke’s Church where Charles Dickens was married is a quiet and tourist-free place to lounge in the grass with a good book or bring a bottle of wine to share among friends. We often wake up to the church bells on a Sunday morning or mid-week to the clatter of 20+ horses trotting up the road!
St. Luke’s Church
Am I missing anything good nearby?
Leave me a comment and let me know what you like most about your own neighbourhood and where it is (London or not)!