You don’t need me to tell you that the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on tourism, travel or even our ability to take delight in the local attractions of our own cities, was profound. While there were some that quickly skipped back to the theatre - even while double masked and socially distanced - to delight in the shows that went on despite the times, there were so many more that shirked invitations to dinner, avoided exhibitions and derived cultural kicks from streaming platforms alone. But Selling Sunset and Love is Blind, while excellent, have not been enough to fill the cultural void lodged deep within our hearts.
Fast forward to Summer 2022 and the UK, in particular the Capital cities, have experienced something of a return to form. We’d go so far as to argue that they’ve entered a new heyday. Free from the shackles of lockdown and just plain over the last few years’ mounting health anxiety, with an urge to shrug off the pressures of political strife and the energy crisis, revellers have taken to the streets of London to put on a display of rebellion, reverence and joy for the arts, of the like we haven’t seen in years.
And there’s no place more brimming with atmosphere and festivity than London’s West End. With over 170 museums and galleries to choose between, host to a majority of London’s 69 Michelin starred restaurants and with more bars than you could visit in a lifetime (although, we’re willing to give it a go), the West End is once again the heady playground it used to be. Recognising a return to the joy of holidaying in your own city, destinations across the West End came together this year to put on a four-month campaign of must sees and dos including Mayfair’s Jubilee street party, the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, Covent Garden’s Ice Cream Festival and a reopening of so many of London’s most beloved and anticipated theatre shows.
And good news for those looking forward to the new season, the fun doesn’t have to stop with the changing of the leaves. The Royal Academy’s autumn exhibitions are shortly to begin, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason will soon reveal their, no doubt bigger and more extravagant than ever, festive window displays and as the cold sets in, we’ll all be looking for cosy and delicious places to huddle up with friends. So, as we let’s take a wander through some of the West End’s best delights for the rest of 2022, so you can plan your next adventure close to home.
Stay In The Eaves
Ok, not the eaves, per se, but if you haven’t yet visited the Capital’s glitziest new hotel opening, The Londoner, you need to get yourself down and experience it in all of its mirrored, art-deco, glamorous glory and, if you can, take a peep into one of the top floor corner suites, which make you feel like you’re in the grandest lofts of London, with views that stretch back across the river and almost as far as the boundary with Kent. If you’ve time for a tipple, ask one of the hotel’s extremely helpful (and extremely well dressed) stewards to show you the secret whisky room, which holds some of the rarest, oldest and most iconic whiskies in the world.
First Word In Fashion
As you’ll have surmised from the bursting forth of frothily dressed influencers getting papped in side streets, London’s fashion week has just been and gone. But while the shows for the buyers and editors might have come to a close, the public-facing events associated with the ‘fashion weekend’ are yet to come. Due to Britain’s mourning period for our late Queen, the London’s fashion weekend - in which many of the brands that showed during LFW, plus other shops and outlets around town will host special events, shows and discounts for fashion fans – was pushed back. Keep an eye out for Covent Garden’s updates here.
If you want to do the fashion weekend like an ELLE editor would, you can read here about all the places to be seen, shops to dip into and post-show bevs to get your hands on.
And, you’re quick off the draw, you’ve still got a few days to head to the Smart Works sale. Covent Garden partnered with the British Fashion Council and Smart Works to bring you up to 70% discounts on designer items, with 100% of the proceeds directly benefitting the charity. The sale, located at 20 Floral Street, runs until September 25.
Failing that, head over to Mount Street to peruse the London flagships boutiques for some of the most renowned designers, like Roksanda, Huishan Zhang, Balenciaga and Oscar De La Renta.
Unwind And Relax
Once you’ve picked up a Rixo dress at a bargain price, you can rest your weary shopping-carrying arms by nipping into nearby Neal’s Yard for a lunchtime massage. Nestled in the backstreets of Seven Dials is the utterly wonderful and colourful Neal’s Yard courtyard, which plays host to healthy eateries, organic remedies and the de-stress haven of the Neal’s Yard massage parlour.
We recommend the flower essence therapy inspired by the brand’s wild rose collection, during which a therapist will work to help you achieve all of your wellbeing goals. Plus, you’ll come out smelling incredible and ready for some therapy of the mind in the form of an art exhibition.
Autumn Art Exhibitions
You can’t beat the Royal Academy when it comes to exhibitions. This summer saw the gallery play host to one of the most impressive American colourists, who greatly furthered the abstract expressionism movement, Milton Avery.
But this autumn brings with it a fresh roster of exhibitions, beginning with the immersive, multi-sensory world of William Kentridge, South Africa’s most celebrated living artist. Prepare yourself for a visual feast spanning drawing, collage, film and sculpture that provokes political sensibilities as much as it takes you on a journey through 40 years of multi-media experimentation. This is one you simply can’t miss.
Velvet Lined Seats
If you’ve failed to get tickets to see Helen Hunt in Eureka Day at the Old Vic, don’t worry, the West End has plenty more to offer. Musical Come From Away has been getting a lot of press, for its depiction of life-after-terrorism in a small Newfoundland town. If you’re a Peep Show fan, there is still a chance to see David Mitchell in Upstart Crow, which originally debuted in 2020, but is back for a post-Covid run. Make sure you grab a bite to eat and maybe a gin and tonic at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London’s oldest theatre. A hidden oasis.
Tuck In and Drink Up
On your way to Floral street for the shopping, grab yourself a brunch pick-me-up from the WatchHouse on Upper St Martin’s Lane and, before you leave, be sure to grab yourself a bag of their Los Huehuentones coffee.
If you’re a foodie looking for something different to drop into drinks party conversations, you’d do well to get a table at Bibi’s in Mayfair, where you will experience the kind of contemporary Indian fusion cuisine we can almost guarantee you won’t have tasted anywhere else. Get the chef’s menu and sample such delights as scallop ceviche in an Indian lemonade drizzle, melt in your mouth aged lamb rump and Khatti Meethi stone bass which is just about the most incredible fish dish in the W1 postcode.
As we near the festive season, the Covent Garden piazza is, as ever, the most delightful place to be and this year they’re welcoming back The Winter Warmer Festival, which will have over 25 varieties of mulled wine, plus all manner of Christmas pop-ups, nibbles and warm, spicy cocktails. While you’re there, Sushisamba’s Covent Garden location is a great way to experience some of London’s best sashimi, without the queues of the Bishopsgate location.
The Sweet Spot
And finally, a word for a little-known, but utterly darling experience nestled quietly inside one of London’s oldest and most prestigious department stores. On the third floor of Selfridge’s, located by the Body studio, near to the SKIMS concession, you will find HIVE, a honey-based bistronomique-concept restaurant run by honey expert and sommelier Khalid Samata. This little nook is impressive for a variety reasons, the first being that Samata managed to persuade Selfridge’s to let him house four real-life bee hives on the rooftop of the department store and you can spy the bees coming and going as you sample the menu. The second is Samata’s incredible ability to tell you which flowers the bees visited to collect their pollen from just a taste of the honey produced. If we’ve piqued your interest, then you simply have to order the honey-cheese pairing platter, which puts together gooey cuts with specialist honeys that sweeten the pleasure and will help you refine your honey tasting prowess in line with the restaurant owner’s.
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