Answers to life, the universe and everything - but mostly on how to live with style
I get this question A LOT.
Here are my top recommendations:
1. Citadines hotels is a good chain of hotels (they do standard rooms, studios and rooms with kitchenettes). I recommend the one at Bastille/Marais (www.citadines.com/en/france/paris/bastille_marais.html) Prices are decent for Paris. There are also other centrally located branches.
2. Otherwise, if you are looking for a boutique-style hotel, Le Pavillon Saint Louis Bastille is a good and well-priced option (www.pavillonsaintlouisbastille.com/) It’s near Bastille and Republique - so conveniently located for the hip and happening bars of Oberkampf and browsing around the market on Sunday morning.
3. Finally, for those looking for a more romantic experience with an edge then look no further than the Hotel Amour in historic Pigalle (www.hotelamourparis.fr. Founded by the artist André (also responsible for Le Baron and Paris-Paris clubs) and one of the Costes family members (yes, as in Hotel Costes) - this place continues to attract the hip and cool.
My best recommendation is to combine the dinner and dancing into one venue (otherwise you will inevitably end up losing people along the way, waste time queuing to get into the club, wish you hadn’t left in the middle of the party just to get to the next place on time, etc.). Who needs that on their birthday?
My top picks for fun venues to dine and eat in are typically enough all Brazilian (cool, informal, and boy do they know how to party - bring on the 2016 Olympics!:
1. Guanabara (www.guanabara.co.uk). Situated in the heart of Covent Garden this place is the ultimate destination for live Brazilian music: amazing cocktails (try the famous caiparinha), great dancefloor, well-catered for large groups. You must book ahead for any chance to get a table!
2. Favela Chic (www.favelachic.com/london/). The team behind the Paris branch of this very cool joint finally decided to cross the Channel and introduce their unique brand of Brazilian dilapidated chic to Londoners. Situated in the heart of the Shoreditch this bar/restaurant serves up an ecclectic mix of music (think My Sharona meets Brazilian drum and bass meets Balkan Beats) which will have you dancing the night away. Also a must to book ahead to get any chance of grabbing a table.
3. Floridita (www.floridita.co.uk/london/) - ok, ok. So Floridita is neither Brazilian nor cheap nor particularly informal - but it is a hell of a place to celebrate a birthday. Featuring live music and dancing, the best mojitos and daiquiris in town (though sadly no more cigars), this Cuban bar and restaurant in Soho is a gorgeous sight to behold.
It’s Samba time!
My top 7 picks of the moment in this category include the following:
1. Chowki (www.chowki.com) on Denman St (Piccadilly) - Modern Indian; fresh flavours, good vegetarian options, with a constantly changing menu featuring different regions of India
2. Yalla Yalla (www.yalla-yalla.co.uk) on Green Court (next to Brewer St in Soho) - small but perfect Lebanese. This place is really nice.
3. Cha Cha Moon (www.chachamoon.com) on Ganton St (off Carnaby St in Soho ) - Chinese street food by Alan Yau (the guy from Wagamama and Hakkasan)
4. Princi (www.princi.co.uk) on Wardour St (in Soho) - fab canteen-style Italian (also Alan Yau). A colllabortion with a famous Milanese place. This guy has the Midas touch.
5. Kulu Kulu on Shorts Gardens (off Neal St) - conveyor belt sushi; still the best value Japanese in town (and so conveniently located!)
6. Wahaca (www.wahaca.co.uk) - Chandos Place (in Covent Garden) - authentic Mexican.
7. Garlic and Shot (www.garlicandshots.com) on Frith St (in Soho) - the name says it all.
Oh, and the answer is no, I did not purposely choose restaurants whose names are so good they had to name them twice. ;-)
(Yalla Yalla in Soho)
This can be a tricky question to answer, as finding the right combination of high-end, yet trendy, and also very good (i.e. it’s not just about the reputation) places in London is not as easy as it may seem. Having said that I have a few places to recommend which are perennially trendy, and therefore classics, and which deliver on the food front.
First up is The Wolesley (www.thewolseley.com). Brought to you by the gang who first introduced us to The Ivy (doesn’t make this list). This is a beautiful place (used to be a car showroom) on Piccadilly (just up from The Ritz) which delivers classic food to a top-notch standard. It’s particularly well known for power breakfasts, afternoon tea Viennese-style, and it’s easy all-day menu. Great for celeb-spotting (my friend once was squeezed between Anna Wintour and her daughter and Jefferson Hack and Nanette Lepore). Her husband didn’t understand what the fuss was about (!).
Next on my list of must-experience restaurants is Hakkasan (www.hakkasan.com). Once owned by the legendary Alan Yau (nearly every restaurant this man has started has turned to gold), this place still stands as the most gorgeously outfitted place in town (all dark Chinese wood panelling and embroidered silk, with the longest bar in town). Think In the Mood for Love. I prefer this place at lunchtime for its absolutely divine dim sum menu (don’t forget to order the tofu and aubergine claypot), but if you’re in the mood to go all-out then dinner is a spectacular affair (watch those lethal cocktails though!).
For more trend than high-end (the fatigue will eventually set in I promise you) then I would head to lovely Marylebone High St (near the must-visit bang-on trendy Selfridges department store). It has a lovely village feel to it, and after a bit of shopping there is nothing better than to pop into Providores (www.theprovidores.com). Run by the Kiwi Peter Gordon this tapas-style place (downstairs is more casual and fun than the restaurant upstairs) features all manner of ingredients spanning the globe. Normally I don’t go into this sort of thing but in this case it is worth all the fussiness. Great wine list, and also the best coffee in town (this coming from a coffee snob is indeed a compliment).
Finally, I grudgingly recommend L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (www.joel-robuchon.com). It really doesn’t get more trendy/high-end/fab food than this latest outpost of Joel Robuchon. Conveniently located in the heart of theatreland (next the The Ivy - which again I am not recommending) it delivered on the food front (two Michelin stars), and delivers on the buzz (I would stick to the darker, cooler downstairs).
An easy place for the girls to meet up is the Jewel bar (www.jewelpiccadilly.co.uk/). Though part of a small chain, and despite being situated next to a Burger King on Glasshouse St (!) this is still a good choice to start things off. Spread over three themed rooms you are bound to find a spot to share a first round of cocktails.
From there is only a short walk (even in heels) to one of my all-time favourite cocktail bars - Lab Bar on Old Compton St in the heart of Soho. (www.lab-townhouse.com). Don’t spend too much time fussing over the extensive drinks menu. Best to have a chat with the friendly bartenders who will come up with a cocktail to taste (I recently got a a bourbon-based cocktail flavoured with passionfruit and with a dash of champagne).
By this time the girls will be ready to take it up a notch on the glamour scale. Floridita on Wardour St (www.floridita.co.uk/london/) is a great place to have a mojito or two, while getting things moving salsa-style on the small dancefloor which features a live band every Saturday night.