Tagged in: london

London Town

Trafalgar Square by night

How to spend a weekend break in London. As usual Julie-Anne of Oasis Travel organised everything in her inimitable manner including a “surprise” hotel which turned out to be the Cavendish in Jermyn Street and you don’t get much more central than that.

We went directly from Gatwick to the BETT  exhibition in Olympia. This grandstands educational technology which is an important aspect of  my business.  It is amazing to see what is available to the modern teacher and the enthusiasm with which many of them enter into the spirit of it.

Anyway, having completed my imperatives and had a general swan abound the stands we headed off to the hotel to prepare for an evening out with my old (by way of length of time) friends Les and Dot Jones.

The hotel is excellent, positioned directly opposite the rear entrance to Fortnum & Mason, and the service could not be faulted, with one exception which I will mention later.

The Chandos

We decided to walk down to St. Martin in the Fields where we had arranged to meet up in the Chandos Bar a well known hostelry which does a nice line in John Smiths for £2.00 a pint.  This is amazing if you are used to Belfast bar prices!

Great place for a chat and a bit of craic with other clientèle.

Jacksons & Joneses at Veeraswamy's

A couple of pints later we headed off to  Regent Street and the Veeraswamy Indian restaurant, the oldest in the UK having been in the same location since 1926.

For a more detailed account of our visit try this link.

From here we wandered up towards Picadilly for  a nightcap before parting from our friends.

Of course we stopped in the Cavendish lobby bar for a couple before retiring.  Their prices are what one would expect in a hotel anywhere, but, to give them their due, the spirit measures were better than the usual English offering!.

Breakfast the next morning was somewhat of a revelation and our one issue with the service.  One leaves ones name with the maître d’ and sits and reads the paper, Daily Telegraph is free to all, until there is a table free.  This can take up to half an hour.  I had a chat with the said maître and he told me that the only way to miss the “rush” was to be down before 8.30 (or after 11.00 – they serve until noon) or use room service. The choice is excellent and the quality unbeatable, however, they ran out of scrambled egg and it took nearly 15 minutes before a refill arrived.  Of course all eggs are free range they were worth the wait.

From breakfast we headed out to Forntum’s for a quick look round their sale. Suckered into buying an apple cake and Christmas sweets (will be in date for next year) and a jar of cognac cream (which was confiscated at Gatwick).

From there we walked up Picadilly to Liberty’s, my favourite London shop, beats Harrods into a cocked hat. I acquired three new Liberty Print bow ties at a saving of £120 from the retail, happy days indeed. Unfortunately the shirts I liked only came in slim fit and, as  those of you who know me will vouchsafe, that is not a fitting to which I could aspire.

Real Ale list at the Clachan

All this shopping gave us a bit of a thirst so we walked round the corner into Kingly Street and were confronted by the Clachan Bar a Victorian Pub with a huge array of real ale and a very appetizing Great British Lunch menu which, but for our late breakfast, we may well have partaken.

Refreshed we wandered on and Josephine found a nice pair of boots in Canvas and I invested the money I had saved in Liberty’s plus a heap more in a pair of Russell and Bromleys casuals.

Caffé Concerto

We found ourselves back in the Nash Arch and outside the Caffé Concerto.  One cannot pass this patisserie; it has a magnetic force. So that was a millefeuille and juice for Josephine and the soup of the day and a Pinot Grigio for me.

We retired to the hotel and had wash and brush up and a couple of hours rest before heading off once again.  This time for dinner at the Café des Amis in Hanover Square which is the subject of a separate post.

From here we walked the short distance to the Lyceum Theatre to see the Lion King. I am not a musical fanatic but this was spectacular, if not for the music then for the technical brilliance. There was a row of kids behind us who were up and down like Jacks-in-a-box until the curtain went up – then mesmerised into silence. In my book well worth the money.  Pretty good reviews all round.

We walked back up to the hotel and nipped into the bar where we got into conversation with some other guests so a pleasant end to a busy day.

Unfortunately the fire alarm went off at about 7am so we were all evacuated into the courtyard.  Long way down the stairs from the 9th floor. Apparently it was triggered in a room on the 10th. Finally got back in after 20 minutes waiting for the fire brigade to clear the building. Could have been worse.

Due to the usual breakfast debacle we had to leave to catch our flight without food but made up for it at the Armadillo in Gatwick.

Flight home on time concluding a very enjoyable weekend.



Café des Amis, 11-14 Hanover Square, London WC2P 9JE

Café des Amis

The Café des Amis is tucked away up a very narrow side street, designated as Hanover Square, between the Long Acre and Floral Street.  We had come across it on the Top Table website where they were offering half price on food which seemed too good to miss.

It has a downstairs bar and the restaurant is at ground level. We arrived fifteen minutes early and were shown directly to our table. Eeven at 5.30 it was beginning to fill up! A waitress brought menus and the wine list and asked if we would like a drink.  Beware if you order shorts and mixers.  We are not used to the bulk dispensers, common in London bars, so did not think to ask for the whiskey with just a splash of ginger.  Josephine got a full glass.  It was not a problem with my gin as I would always use the full bottle of tonic.

We ordered starters, Josephine the French onion soup, whilst I opted for the classic steak tartare, which is not something one sees too often these days.  These arrived with astonishing speed. The soup was thick with onions and topped with cheese on toast and very satisfying.  The steak tartare was served with crisp toasted french stick, salad and a drizzle of dressing.  It is chopped with onion rather than minced which gives it a smoother texture that I have had before.

The house red was Le Bosq Rouge, which was from a variety of grape types and would suit just about any palate.  Definitely a good choice.

Our main courses were sirloin steak with a pepper sauce, served with chips and vegetables for Josephine and calves liver with smoked pancetta on a bed of mash for me. The only complaint would have been that, compared to Irish mash or champ, it was a little watery.

Service in general was very good and the waiters efficient and smiling.

All in price including the now mandatory service charge £72.00.

Veeraswamy, 99 Regent Street, London

Veeraswamy Regent Street

The oldest Indian restaurant in the UK, Veeraswamy’s has been in the same location in the Nash Arch, Regent Street, since 1926.  It has recently been refurbished and is far more open-plan than I remember from my last visit back  in the ’60s. There is still a doorman, but he no longer the enormous turbaned Sikh.

We had joined up with Les & Dot Jones for an evening out on the town and as we are all Indian food fanatics had booked a table for 4 at this famous hostlery.

Having passed coats, etc. on to the concierge, we took the lift to the first floor restaurant.  Our table had been booked months ago and even then we could only get a 7.15 time slot.

The service is smooth and unobtrusive. We ordered the “non vegetarian” platter all round for starters. This consisted of a spiced lamb kebab, a beef “burger”, and chicken accompanied by a dip.  Exceptionally tasty all round.

We picked a variety of main courses, sea-bass wrapped in banana leaves, a chicken chatpatta, paneer in a fruity sauce and for me a duck Vindaloo.  It would be hard to pick a favourite as they were all so different.  The duck vindaloo was outstanding and not, as one might have expected, fiery. The sea-bass was firm and the complimentary spice brought out the favour perfectly.  Too often fish curries are mushy and the fish is lost in the sauce. It was all accompanied by a bowl of simple rice and a basket of breads.

For wine three of us had an Italian Bardolinowhilst Dot tried their ginger cooler, which she assured us was delicious, and gingery!

It is not the cheapest place to eat in town but the quality of the food and the service certainly compensates for this. The cheapest bottle of wine is £24.00 The overall bill, including service which is automatically  added at 12.5%,  for the two courses, a bottle of wine and the cooler was a little under £220. I have paid more for a less satisfying evening.

If you are an Indian cuisine fan it is a must.

Well Fed!