London. One of the most vibrant, interesting and arty capitals of the world. Now, I’ve worked in London for many years. Always in retail, so just rushing from store-to-store and not really taking in and appreciating the wonderful city around me. I left my retail career as a regional manager in 2012 to retrain as a nurse, and have only returned a couple of times since. London was the source of a great deal of anxiety and stress in my old career. I spent so much time away from my family there.
The last time I was in London was to support Jon who ran the Virgin London Marathon, so spent all of my time frantically trying to spot him amongst the runners, so when Jon told me he’d accidentally bought us a meal at Petrus by Gordon Ramsey in a silent auction, I thought this would be a great excuse to go back and see London as a tourist.
We were lucky enough to have chosen the last weekend in February to visit, which happened to be the warmest February days on record, with the temperature hitting around 18 degrees in London.
We travelled on the Megabus from Cardiff, which at £15 return was a steal. If you’ve always baulked at the thought of bussing it, don’t…It’s brilliant!
At the Premier Inn Hub hotel St. James.
“The hub is just a two minute walk away from St. James tube station”
Premier inn describe the
hub by Premier Inn as smart, stylish rooms across London and Edinburgh at great prices. Great prices they definitely have, as we stayed in a’bigger’ room for £80 a night! This was a must as Jon is 6ft 2″ and needs the king size bed.
You can help yourself to tea and coffee in the stylish lounge downstairs, you can even have a full continental breakfast for a fiver!
Bloody loads! I literally didn’t stop eating the whole weekend. Starting with a big dirty chicken burger at Bill’s in Soho. You’re probably thinking “why go to a chain restaurant when there’s so much choice in London?” Well, we had a £50 Bill’s voucher as a Christmas gift, so as we were supposed to be doing London on the cheap, we’d though we should put it to good use. I’m a huge fan of Bill’s, the food is just perfect for a casual Saturday lunch.
This is the Bao I was obsessing about during Phantom. Bao+Burger+Beer is situated on Haymarket just a couple of doors up from the Theatre. Bao originated in China, and a famous staple of Taiwanese food. Bao are normally small steamed buns with fillings such as BBQ pork inside them. It was only a matter of time before someone decided that a burger would be a great idea. I had the Chicken Karaage burger, that was dressed with Sriracha mayo and fragrant coriander. It was delicious…only £5 too!
The main reason for this trip, was to go and enjoy our dining experience at Petrus in Belgravia which as part of the Gordon Ramsey group of restaurants, offers a Michelin starred dining experience. We’re lucky enough to have been to a Benares and James Sommerin in the past, so had a good idea of the level of service to expect, however this was something else, and in my opinion, not in a good way either.
The dining room was quiet for a Sunday lunch, with more staff than patrons. I felt like I couldn’t relax and enjoy my food and conversation with Jon as there was no atmosphere. On arrival, we opted to have a Hendricks and Tonic whilst we looked at the menu.
Whilst we were looking, they brought out an amuse bouche of cheesy balls. That’s the only way I can describe them. They were very tasty cheesy balls though!
We had another amuse bouche of warm Jerusalem Artichoke mousse with what looked like a ruffle on top. Tasty but a strange texture.
“Do you have any Hardy’s or Barefoot?”
The Sommelier, gave Jon the wine list, which I though in this day and age of equality, a little sexist, even though he was paying. You can see the look of terror on his face when he realised the cheapest bottle they have is £60!
Jon opted for a Chablis, which at £65, was one of the less expensive wines. You can see by my face, I enjoyed this Chablis very much. I was trying to savour every mouthful as I knew we would not be getting another bottle. Not in here anyway!
Starter consisted of an Ox-cheek raviolo (there’s only one!) with roast onion broth and thyme. The broth was delicious and the ox-cheek melt-in-the-mouth.
Main course of Sea Bream with salsify, leeks and mussel cream. Not a huge fan of mussels as they are often overcooked and chewy, however there were amazing!
Dessert was Yorkshire Rhubarb and goat’s milk cheesecake. This had a beautiful texture and was gone in 60 seconds!
I thought this was pretty good value for Michelin starred food at £90 for two, however, Jon paid considerably more than that at auction. They clearly make their money on drinks, as our drinks bill came to an eye watering £175, that’s correct, £175 and I wasn’t even pissed! The G&T’s cost £15 each. The Chablis conveniently turned out to be the £90 Chablis that they had served us. No wonder the Sommelier was saying “excellent choice sir, it’s one of my favourites”. We didn’t challenge this, we just did the British thing, paid up and went on our merry way, grumbling our way out of the door!
Wales show England how to play rugby…Now you all know that I’m a reluctant rugby fan, and my husband inflicts this egg chasing sport upon me at every opportunity….But I really enjoyed watching the game! Yep, I said it out loud, now in the public domain. We managed to get a table at Riley’s Sports Bar, which happened to be right next to the theatre we were going to. couldn’t bring myself to get involved in the pitchers of beer though so looked like a right tit with my glass of merlot!
Phantom of the Opera. I booked this pretty late, so only had the cheap seats left (still £75 each mind!)
As you can see, the view was awful, and we spent most of it moving our head from side to side to see around the pillar!
The production as expected, was spectacular, however, to the horror of Lloyd-Webber fans around the world, I found it a little boring and couldn’t wait for the creepy phantom to sod off so I could get out and get my Bao bun that I’d been lusting after for hours!
Enter Sunday morning…After our hearty carb fuelled breakfast of bagels, croissants and pain au chocolate (not me…honest!) we went for a walk around St. James park. The sun was shining and it was glorious. Who knew there were wild Parakeets in London?
Then we became proper tourists. I don’t think I’ve seen the Changing of the Guard since I was very small. It’s great to see this tradition continue. The royals continue to be as popular as ever, with a flurry of Americans, Japanese and Europeans flocking to see the event
I carried out extensive research online on how we could spend our Sunday night. Most of the big shows are closed on a Sunday, so I thought we’d do something a bit more underground.
We spent our evening at The Phoenix Arts Club in Soho, for an evening of Cabaret called ‘A Night in Soho: The Stars of London. I purchased VIP front row tickets for £25 which included a cocktail. The club is tiny and only hold about 50 people, so this was a total waste of money, especially as you only have a choice of two cocktails. Ticket only is £10, and you’ll still not be too far from the front. The Cabaret, consisted of a drag queen host, a comedian, a singer, a burlesque performer and a magician.
As you can see, Jon had a great time getting involved with a bit of audience participation with a Jessica Rabbit look alike singer. I loved the rawness of this club, and actually enjoyed it more that a huge West-End production. Is that bad?
This busy weekend ‘on the cheap’ actually ended up costing us a small fortune, and I didn’t even buy anything to bring home.
When looking for a city break, we all often look to the big European cities to fulfil our needs, especially if you often visit London for business. It was lovely to revisit as a tourist and soak up the sights we often take for granted when rushing about on business.
I felt I had unfinished business with London, as it held memories of many unenjoyable moments from my business trips. I feel I’ve now made some new happy memories in this chaotic but wonderful city!