A Guide to Christmas in London 2017

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…

Other thought-provoking Christmas trees include the Singing tree at the V&A, its branches made up of thousands of illuminated words collected from the public…

#WreathWatch-related activities continue to be a joyful way to spend a free afternoon, whilst window-shopping has never been more exhilerating – courtesy of the fabulously-festive displays decking the streets of London.

Of course, it’s often 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!

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 (Find out more, here).

There’s plenty of mulled wine and festive fizz going around too, with favourite watering holes like Fogg’s all decked out in the spirit of the season… 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!

Speaking of pick-me-up’s, The Four Seasons Spa (tucked away the top of Park Lane) is one of the city’s best-kept secrets for a spot of me-time; or if you happen to be around St Martin’s Courtyard, you might as well make an afternoon of it (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.


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! The area is also hosting #CookforSyria’s Christmas pop-up, where you can find an array of pastries, cakes, mince pies and more – from London’s top bakers.

*THANK YOU* @esgoingout @lecorgi @melissa.hemsley @daveburt @robsonbarista @lily_vanilli_cake @tregothnan & friends of @cookforsyria for coming down to support the launch of our #CookForSYRIA & #BakeForSyria pop-up cafe @7dialslondon (36 Monmouth Street) || We are OPEN DAILY (10am to 7pm Mon-Sat & noon-6pm Sundays) until Xmas Eve so tell your friends to come and visit us ~ with all proceeds donated to @unicef_uk & @nextgenlondon in aid of children impacted by war || There's plenty of delicious mezze by @imadssyriankitchen, coffee by @lamarzoccouk & @ozonecoffeeuk, tea by @pukkaherbs and cakes on offer from top bakers in the UK ❤ …plus copies of our not for profit #CookForSyriaRecipeBook || ➡ We are currently looking for volunteers with cafe, FoH and barista experience || To get involved, please email hello@cookforsyria.com || Love this 📸 by @lukecabrahams . . . . #Charity #Cafe #PopUp #London #ThisIsLondon #Londonisopen #ChooseLove #CommunityFirst #CookForSyriaCafe

A post shared by CookForSyria 🍴📚🍃 (@cookforsyria) on

More on Seven Dials (including its quirky mix of cafés, bars and boutiques), here.


Foodie Festivities

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.

Other top picks include the terrific toasties at The Blue Posts – the Chinatown pub recently reopened by the Palomar team (they do a rather grand Mac n Cheese here too); and the devilishly-decadent white truffle menu at Harry’s Dolce Vita – the glamorous new Italian behind Harrods, spinning off from Harry’s Bar in Mayfair. Their tiramisu is simply the stuff of dreams too… (More on new & noteworthy restaurants this winter, here).

For the vegans still reading, Camden’s Vegan Christmas Night Market (15 December) is reason a-plenty to rejoice, with the likes of vegan cheese & mince pies in the offing.

But if Christmas classics aren’t your jam (and let’s be honest, you either love or loathe 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. The InterContinental Park Lane are upping the ante with a Taste of a Nordic Christmas inspired by Scandi flavours and traditions. What’s more, there’s a dedicated vegetarian menu on request including the likes of a cheese & cranberry bauble; cranberry and cinnamon scones; ‘Glögg’ mulled wine jelly and a cinnamon-infused eggnog panna cotta tart…

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!


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.

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 enthrall 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. In fact, London’s only Marina is truly enchanting this time of year with twinkling lights casting their spell over the tranquil waters and cosy boltholes lending warm shelter, with soul-warming menus to match – from hot Pimm’s at The Dickens Inn (an institution among institutions) to the truffle & mushroom bisque at Victor Garvey’s Bravas Tapas.


… 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.

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!

x


 

Author: The Foodie Diaries

A food travel & lifestyle journal, chronicling my culinary and other adventures around town.

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