When I told people from home at the end of 2018 that I was relocating to London to pursue a career within the art market, I was met with a variety of responses. Typically, it was confusion. Why would someone want to move somewhere where the days are colder and darker, the pound in comparison to our dollar is almost double, and the only real beach within driving distance is Brighton, which upon inspection, is hardly a beach at all by Australian standards.
In hindsight, relocating in the lead up to the Christmas frenzy, and basically going from winter into winter maybe wasn’t the smartest of choices. Whilst watching instagram stories of my sun kissed, rosé sipping friends galavant around Melbourne, I was settling in and setting up. In the very brief period I had between leaving home and diving head first into work in this nocturnal city, I wanted to see, do and most importantly, eat, anywhere and everywhere before the craziness of the working year really began.
Now as we are suddenly welcomed by March and the dreaded feeling that the year is already escaping before our eyes, I can pretty confidently say I am getting the swing of things. I have mastered the ability to dart through the bustling crowds of the London underground whilst sending emails from my phone, and managed to quite happily secure my new ‘local’ for good coffee and free wifi. It is said that New York is the city that never sleeps, however in reality, the word sleep isn’t even a part of London’s diction. No matter the hour or the weather, there is always something happening here, so I have compiled my very own snapshot guide to London so far…
London is sprawling, with every suburb engulfed in its own identity and microclimate. Brixton is where I now call home, and let me tell you, it is the furthest place from the refined elegance of what I had thought London was to be. Brixton is a creative boiling pot 15 minutes out of the central madness of London with some of the best Ethiopian food and many popular emerging foodie hotspots. Brixton could be described as an eclectic mix of shabby chic, where quite frankly, anything goes.
If you want a KILLER coffee, as well as a great spot to fire up your laptop check out Stir Coffee. This is my favourite place to get work done. It’s a fuss free cafe, with great coffee ( arguably better than my favourite spots in Melbourne.) Dog and laptop friendly, this spot is popular for good reason. My partner and I find Stir Coffee perfect on a Friday when we are both work from home, and need to get out of the house. ps. I must mention they have The best carrot cake ever!
Brixton Village is my next go to. Made up of approximately 100 local traders, this indoor arcade brings together cafes, champagne and cheese bars, local artisan stores and some of the best local produce in the area. On my favourites list is Burnt Toast Cafe, with a sibling cafe being in Melbourne. If you’re looking for a cosy glass of Red wine to finish the week and a killer cheese board to share for £20, go no further than Champagne + Fromage. This place is humble and understated, like you’re stepping through to a small bistro in Paris.
For a slightly more vibrant and buzzing night spot, I’d head to Canova Hall. Set to the backdrop of its very own micro distillery, Canova Hall is my recommendation for delicious wood fire pizza and a cocktail. Saturday nights here will find the place buzzing and always boasting a crowd, but come sunday mornings, you will find the booth style tables adorned with proseco and smashed avo. Its a bit of a jack of all traits, and surprisingly, it ticks all the boxes.
Just a tube ride away…
As Brixton is only at the end of the Victoria Line, my journey into neighbouring areas is super simple. Most weeks, Im darting to Old Street, Shoreditch, or into the mayhem of Piccadilly Circus. Here I’ve listed some of my must do’s in London.
Here my days are filled with art; working with Otomys Contemporary my spare time is spent exploring the big guys over here: The Tate Modern, The Tate Britain, The Serpentine and The National Gallery… but what I’ve found to be most interesting is the smaller galleries. They are at times hard to spot but are like little nuggets of gold when you stumble across them. I was recently introduced to the app ArtRabbit, which for me, has been invaluable. Determined by your location, the app tells you what’s on and around you, and then gives you snippets of info into the galleries or exhibitions. It’s great for exploring the London art scene including art talks and events on any given day.
Every Saturday morning, in almost every park around the U.K is a fantastic free event called Park Run. Started as a way so promote a healthy active lifestyle throughout the country, Park Run is a free 5km run open to any level and age. Doing the run most Saturday mornings has become somewhat of a routine for me now. Its a way to really kickstart my weekend and do something active. I recently ran the Hyde Park route, and it was spectacular running through the park past the incredible architecture that scatters itself along the perimeter. Kicking off at 9am, the fun run is a fantastic way to meet people and see neighbouring areas.
My favourite place to visit; Shoreditch. Filled with the coolest of the cool, Shoreditch is home to some of the best restaurants, cafes, bars and shopping (in my opinion) in London. For great shopping head to Redchruch St for brands, or check out Goodhood for the best collections of curated streetwear and cool things for your home, that you didn’t realise you need. Not to far away is the iconic Brick Lane Beigel Bake where you can pick up a smoked salmon and cream cheese beigel for £4. Shoreditch, much like Brixton, has the appeal of not being too precious but also boasting some of the best design and art conscious hang outs. If you’re in the area, check out The Ace Hotel London. The Ace, second to its partner hotel in New York, is truely a spot for people watching. Whether you park yourself in the Lobby with your laptop, or pull up a chair in @hoipalloi for brunch, this place is always buzzing. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting with Otomys artist Ian Rayer Smith here and we brunched to the backdrop of a string quartet playing Beyonce, what more could you want on a Saturday morning?
Its hard to just pick one restaurant to recommend in London. If I had to choose a place that would be suitable for a work lunch, visiting relatives, a date night or even just a quick bite before heading to a show, it would have to be Dishoom. Scattered all over London, Dishoom is a modern take on traditional Indian, with a bubbling and electric atmosphere to match. The food is delicious, the wine list is full but not over the top and for London, it is very reasonably priced and open for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Like most of London’s restaurants, walk-ins only at dinner means a bit of a wait, but they certainly make up for it with the complimentary spiced chai tea in line whilst you wait.
Slightly outside of the central London area is a neighbourhood worth visiting for a night – Clapham is home to the discrete and seductive Wine and Charcuterie Bar. Transformed from an old toilet block (hence the clever double title and abbreviation) W.C is a moody, dim light wine bar, right next to the underground entrance. Warm and inviting, this little gem has nibbles on the menu too if you get too comfortable to leave. We visited here with friends late one Saturday and found this to be the perfect spot for a rainy afternoon.
Kricket – Similar to Dishoom but without the wait and the fuss, this place was designed by the team at Run For The Hills and is another favourite spot of mine for dinner with restaurants in both Brixton and Soho.
South London Gallery – Situated just outside of Peckham, this gallery is split over two locations and always has interesting and thought provoking exhibitions.
Colombia Road Flower Market – What better way then spending a Sunday morning stopping to smell the roses?
Afternoon tea at Claridges – The traditional afternoon tea of London in the heart of Mayfair. Booking ahead is essential.