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 🎄❤️
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!
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 (Find out more, here).
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
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!
Creamy burrata & creamier cocktails – or rather #hottails, featuring cold brewed coffee, coffee barrel aged and oodles of whipped cream! Find this and more winter-warming tipples from master mixologist @MrLyan at @IlTetto_Selfridges… it’s really the perfect mid-shopping boost this festive season! Follow the #linkinbio to read more. #WinterIsHere #FestiveFavourites #Selfridges x #MrLyan #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
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.
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.
Popped in to @RococoChocolates to treat my foodie pals to the 70% drinking hot chocolate blend this #Christmas. Of course, I inevitably stayed on for a decadently rich cup of cocoa myself, with a sprinkling of chilli powder on top for a spicy slant! Utterly blissful on a chilly afternoon – @The_FoodieDiaries #SevenDialsChristmas
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 firstname.lastname@example.org || Love this 📸 by @lukecabrahams . . . . #Charity #Cafe #PopUp #London #ThisIsLondon #Londonisopen #ChooseLove #CommunityFirst #CookForSyriaCafe
More on Seven Dials (including its quirky mix of cafés, bars and boutiques), here.
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.
#NOTSPON, just a public service announcement in the spirit of the season… MINCE PIE COOKIE CUPS are officially a thing , thanks to @BlondiesKitchen @SelfridgesFood! Truth be told, I’m not that keen on mince pies – so these are a bit of a game changer. Lots of cookie-dough pastry, and just the right touch of mince … how many do you reckon I’ll get through in one go? #MincePieCookies #BlondiesKitchen #FestiveMood #ChristmasInLondon #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
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!
#Poffertjes 💁🏻♀️🥞🍫 Mini Dutch pancakes smothered with ALL the Nutella… Really the most compelling reason yet to visit @WinterWonderlandLDN! 💥💥💥 It’s a bit of a schlep to find (WW is literally a maze this year!) , so make sure you go with good pals like @CrazyCatLadyLDN & @EatNLondon, who’ll see you through your search (and lend you an extra hand when you need help nailing that perfect ‘gram!). #WinterWonderland17 #ChristmasInLondon #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
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…
Cranberry & cinnamon scones with apple & sultana compote, strawberry preserve & oodles of clotted cream @ICParkLane’s fabulously festive afternoon tea (inspired by a taste of a Nordic Christmas 🎄). The age-old question remains: cream first, or jam? #AfternoonTea #ChristmasIsComing #ChristmasInLondon #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
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.
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.
Such a beautiful afternoon for exploring @StKatsDocks! // Situated just a short walk over from Tower Bridge, St Katharine Docks is London’s only Marina, doubling as a dining destination with an eclectic mix of cosy cafes, atmospheric restaurants (we LOVED @Bravas_Tapas) & other unique spots such #TheDickensInn – a quirky pub, housed in an 18th century warehouse… And it’s simply magical at this time of year, with all the twinkling lights, a gorgeous tree and lots of Christmassy touches! #ChristmasInLondon #StKatsDocks #VisitLondon #SeeMyCity #SaturdayScenes #TheFoodieDiariesLondon
… 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!