Hello December… We’ve been waiting for you.
Christmas lights are shining bright. Hot-tails are the new hot chocolate and mince pie cookie cups are officially a thing. You can finally tick dining in an igloo or a snow globe off your bucket list, or enjoy the simpler pleasures of a winter chalet. And with Christmassy grottos and emporia in full swing across London, shopping has never been more fun either.
As my overly-enthusiastic preamble – not to mention all the festive finery adorning my recent Instagram feed – might suggest, this is definitely one of my favourite times of the year in London!
Here’s what I’ve been up to; and all that’s still on merry list of things to do, now that I’ve cancelled my travel plans to stay on in the capital for the holidays. Let’s make it a December to remember!
Lights, camera, Instagram!
There’s really nothing as scintillating as the sight of Christmas lights lending a shimmery glow to the moodily dark skies of a cold, winter’s night.
On Bond Street, feathery peacock plumes (glittering with over 250,000 lights) rise gracefully over the equally lust-worthy boutiques; whilst The Spirit(s) of Christmas have returned to nearby Regent Street, harking back to Central London’s first festive lights display in 1954!
A Christmas Carnival is exuberantly underway in Carnaby, just as mistletoes add a traditional touch to the picturesque market buildings of Covent Garden.
And then there’s The Shard, pulling out all the stops for its annual light show (4 Dec – 31 Dec) to festoon the city’s skyline with a coruscating kaleidoscope of colours and patterns from dusk until dawn (the peak time to visit would be at midnight).
For me, it’s always my neighbourhood lights switch-on (at Mount Street) which is a stand-out affair. This year was no exception, with Louboutin doling out La Durée hot chocolate to passers-by; The Connaught spinning clouds of cotton candy; and Tracey Emin CBE herself, making an appearance to unveil her Christmas tree for the hotel. Adorned with neon signs synonymous with her style of work, the words string together to spell a poignant Christmas love poem…
1st December sunlight on Tracey Emin’s Connaught Christmas Tree, a Christmas love poem for London,topped with a glowing angel, a nod to her mother Pam, who died last year #loveletter #yoursmile #thegreatestgiftofall #christmas #mayfair #connaughtchristmastree #traceyemin bravo @londonlifestories 🎄❤️
If you’re around on 7 December, veteran actor John Cleese will be switching on the lights in Mayfair’s original village, Shepherd Market. With treats from Kitty Fisher’s and No 5. Hertford Street; and activities such as build-a-human-snowman – it promises to be a very jaunty evening indeed!
Fabulously-festive window displays are also upping the ante this year, with some outrageously OTT (over-the-top) results. I always find that it’s the understatedly-heartfelt efforts, which go the longest way in making life a little cheerier. Wouldn’t you agree?
To Skate or Aprés Skate
Ice-skating rinks are popping up all over London’s landmark settings from Hampton Palace to the Tower of London. SKATE at Somerset House remains a perennial favourite, although I must admit that I continue to be all about the aprés-skate – cosily ensconced indoors in Fortnum’s Lodge with a (boozy) hot chocolate and fondue!
First SKATE of the season with @Fortnums @SomersetHouse… and what a wonderfully-wintry evening for it! I’m leaving my pals @Megan3889 & @KlaraNorri on the ice and heading indoors for Fortnum’s legendary hot chocolate (given my lack of balance, it’s probably safer for all parties involved!) #FestiveFeels #Fortnum #SomersetHouse #TisTheSeason #SundayFunday #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
Winter-warming wonders are in no short supply this season; and in true London-fashion, we have our pick of drinks from around the globe – Mexican cocoa, cutting chai and Turkish Salep included! There’s plenty of mulled wine going around too or for a warm twist on classic Christmas cocktails, head to master mixologist Mr. Lyan’s Hot-Tail bar at Il Tetto on the rooftop of Selfridges. It’s just the mid-shopping boost you need!
Of #Salep & chocolate cakes @KahveDunyasiUK 😻😻😻 // I’ve only just discovered this quintessential winter-time drink from Turkey, made from white orchid powder and topped off with cinnamon. It’s deliciously silky in texture and laden with all kinds of comfort… In my case, it’s almost always accompanied by a Turkish Delight or Kahve Dunyasi’s signature chocolatey treats! #TurkishDelight #WinterIsComing #KahveDunyasi #WeekendFun #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
To really #TreatUp your day, visit Bailey’s Treat Stop for spiked lattes and Baileys cocktails served in chocolate reindeer (Dec 4 – Dec 17). And since you’re in St Martin’s Courtyard already, you might as well make it an afternoon of pick-me-up’s (as I did recently), indulging in a quick back-rub or glossy taming-of-your-tresses ahead of that next Christmas pahtie. Explore more of St Martin’s Courtyard, here.
WHAT a day // An epic brunch @Dishoom. A masterclass in flower power @CoventGardenAcademyOfFlowers. A massage @RelaxSpaLondon (which did exactly what it says on the tin) followed by the hair-do of my dreams @BlowLTD. Somewhere in between I found time for a visit @TheEastIndiaCompany (because, tea) and I’m now sipping fizz and tucking into burrata @DallaTerra… All told, it’s been a rather wonderful afternoon @StMartinsCourtyard, and one which has set the bar quite high for my birthday tomorrow! #BirthdayWeek #AfternoonWellSpent #StMartinsCourtyard #LondonLife #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
Gift Gathering for Gourmands
Ambling over to neighbouring Seven Dials, you could quite efficiently get ahead of your Christmas shopping list, particularly for the gourmands among your friends and family.
From Rococo’s luxurious hot chocolate to Swedish mulled wine; cookbooks to kitchen essentials; not to mention all manners of deliciously-unique stocking fillers – I’ve curated a gift guide suffused with the culinary magic of this colourful part of London! So if you know someone who would love waking up to find tahini madeleines or Marrons glacé in their Christmas stocking; or if you’re simply in search of some kitchen inspiration for the next time you entertain at home, do have a read here.
More on Seven Dials (including its quirky mix of cafés, bars and boutiques), here.
Hi folks! It’s @The_FoodieDiaries here, making a start on my #ChristmasShopping in Seven Dials! But first, breakfast at @26Grains where I’m indulging in the fabulously festive quince #porridge! The new cookbook by the café’s founder, Alex Hely Hutchinson, is such a perfect gift for budding chefs who love experimenting with unusual recipes … For more gifting ideas (including an eclectic range of cookbooks!), follow the link in bio to read my full Christmas Gift Guide to Seven Dials! #SevenDialsChristmas
Cheese definitely seems to be all you need this Christmas, with fondue a festive draw across most winter terraces. For the best rendition this side of the Alps, I’d still head to London’s oldest Swiss restaurant – St Moritz on Soho’s Wardour Street.
If you’re really keen to dial up the decadence, on 7 December Borough Market are hosting an entire evening dedicated to our favourite form of dairy, with twenty cheesemongers and a gin-soaked rendition of Ubriaco – ‘Drunken Cheese.’ And let’s not overlook the soul-warming effects of a terrifically-truffled Mac n Cheese or a gloriously-greasy cheese toastie…
For the vegans still reading, there’s reason to rejoice as a Vegan Christmas Night Market is coming to Camden on 15 December, complete with vegan cheese & mince pies!
But if Christmas classics aren’t your jam (and let’s be honest, you either love or hate mince pies) – Blondies Kitchen at Selfridges Foodhall have introduced a game changer with their mince pie cookie cups (because, Blondies Kitchen), while Bread Ahead have devised christmas pudding doughnuts.
Other seasonal treats to make the most of run the gamut from Nutella-poffertjes (mini Dutch-style pancakes) at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, to Pierre Marcolini’s Casse-Noisette (hazelnut) spread for a marvellously-rich lift to your morning toast. Speaking of the haute couture chocolatier, his celestial collection of chocolates are *almost* too ethereal to eat, while Fortnum’s wooden advent calendars are serious collectors items!
Of course, what the holidays really call for is an afternoon of unrestrained-indulging at London’s iconic hotels. Top picks this year include the Diptyque-inspired tea at the resplendent Oscar Wilde Bar in Piccadilly’s Hotel Café Royal, which captures the sensory essence of winter. The Dorchester remains a classic, with live carolling and a gingerbread house completing the magical experience.
Tea enthusiasts will also find much joy in Harrods’ new Bake Hall & Roastery where a Tea Tailor is on hand to create a bespoke blend to suit all your festive fancies. Paired with head pastry chef Alistair Birt’s picture-perfect creations, you’d be forgiven for forgetting your shopping agenda to stay on for an epicurean extravaganza instead!
The Knightsbridge blend & a rather grand chocolate pastry @Harrods’ new Roastery & Bake Hall // Utterly smitten by the new space (officially opening tomorrow) – will DEFINITELY be returning soon for my next customised loaf of sourdough (engraved with my initials and freshly baked on order!) and to restock up on my bespoke blend of vanilla & ginger tea – ask for a Foodie’s Chai and try it for yourself, or have a gander at making your own blend when you visit. The Tea Tailor will guide you through it! #Harrods #ATasteRevolution #MondayLikeThese #FoodieLife #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
Other #ChristmasIsComing Moments..
Ding Dong Merrily on High under the Norwegian Christmas Tree at Trafalgar Square (11 – 22 Dec); attend a Christmas concert at Royal Albert Hall or join carollers in one of London’s iconic churches (I’m especially excited about an evening at Westminster Cathedral soon!).
In fact, with all sorts of festive fun brimming across London – there’s never been a better time to go forth and explore different areas in the capital…
The Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House & Gardens promises to enchant with its larger-than-life lanterns styled in all shapes and sizes (including an ode to the ‘Ancient city from the Song Dynasty’!).
Embrace the Nordic holiday spirit at Southbank Centre’s Christmas market, where you can quite literally let off steam in the Finnish rooftop sauna looking out on to the Thames. I’m particularly excited about the interactive ABBA exhibit opening here soon…
The area running between Tate Modern and the Thames will be transformed into a traditional Christmas market too. Even London’s tallest skyscraper, The Leadenhall Building, is joining the party with a Cheesegrater Christmas Market. Think German-style wooden chalets, handcrafted gifts and a Prosecco bar to escape the stresses of the City!
And while an outdoors cinema might seem a tad unconventional for this time of year, St. Katharine Docks Floating Film Festival sets the stage for a superbly-snug evening. Expect cosy bean bags and blankets, with heaters and plenty of hot chocolate to warm the cockles of your heart as you sit back to enjoy Christmas classics screened atop a floating pontoon!
… And Relax!
Having just spent a gorgeous day at Coworth Park in Ascot, I’d definitely recommend this stately country-house (which is part of the Dorchester Collection) for a Christmas day-cation or overnight staycation.
Chef Adam Smith’s Michelin-starred restaurant here is as much a gustatory thrill, as it is an intensely-comforting affair. There’s an abundance of other attractions to keep you merrily occupied too – from chocolate and wine masterclasses to Santa Segway racing, falconry displays and horse-back riding as you explore the extensive grounds.
Barbecued cabbage with chestnuts, Baron Bigod (U.K.’s only raw milk farmhouse Brie), sprouts and ALL the black truffles @CoworthPark. WOW @ChefSmith1987, this definitely ups the ante for vegetarian fine dining… especially on a Michelin-starred level 👌🏻 #DCMoments to treasure with @MillyKR @PeteDreyer @GBChefs @RenateLuiseRuge @Ally_Aspinall @DorchesterCollection. Already plotting my revisit! #CoworthPark #VegetarianLife #TopLondonRestaurants #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
As for those homey nights, thank goodness for Netflix to see us through our sofa suppers! Aside from eagerly anticipating the return of The Crown, I’m also quite looking forward to the glamorous makeover of Little Women (airing on BBC One, on Christmas Day).
Other childhood classics brought to life this month include the new Winnie The Pooh exhibit at The V&A Museum. I don’t know about you, but as this incredibly eventful year draws to a close, I could certainly take a leaf or two from the book about our favourite bear, who’s perfected the fine art of doing nothing!
After all. Isn’t the true hallmark of the holidays, a well-deserved time-out as we take a breath to reflect on another year gone by; and look ahead to new and exciting things…
Happy December-ing everyone!