The Athenaeum, Mayfair
Why foodies stay here: It’s all about location (show me a tourist who doesn’t want to be five minutes’ walk from Buckingham Palace and I’ll eat my busby) and family-friendliness: toddlers’ table manners can make travelling and eating out hellish, but not here.
Whether you’ve got 10-year-olds or two-year-olds in tow, everything possible is done to ease your way. Need two cots in the room? A supply of milk in the fridge when you arrive? An age-appropriate DVD to wind down with after a busy day’s sightseeing, with popcorn to boot? All taken care of, thanks to a questionnaire filled out before arrival.
What to pack: ‘Smart casual’ was invented for places like this. Think cashmere jumpers rather than sequined jumpsuits.
Rooms: Marble bathrooms are married with soft lighting, decent beds, Nespresso machines and a minibar pre-stocked with your favourite drinks (the soft ones and snacks are free of charge). With kids to cater for, the additional kitchenette in our apartment was a godsend.
Breakfast: A comb of Regent’s Park honey, a crate of freshly pressed juices and lamb’s kidneys on toast were changes from the norm.
Don’t leave without: Tackling the hotel’s 300-dram-strong whisky bar, via one of its cheese-and-whisky pairings. We went for the washed-rinded Tornegus with a treacly 12-year-old Glenfiddich single malt.
olive’s local guide: Grab the bags of duck feed handed out to young guests in St James’s Park, opposite the hotel, and stroll through Green Park to Inn The Park in St James’s Park for a family brunch. Or, for dinner, hire the hotel’s babysitter and book Kitty Fisher’s in Shepherd Market for lemon sole or lamb cutlets.
Ham Yard Hotel, Soho
Why foodies stay here: This new hotel has emerged from a derelict space in central Soho. For visiting foodies, it’s the equivalent of a child being dropped into an enormous bag of pick ’n’ mix. Walk in any direction and you’ll pass a must-eat restaurant or bar in 30 seconds. Everything works (no creaky floors or drippy showers), but there’s character, thanks to co-owner Kit Kemp’s trademark interiors: colourful, patterned textiles, quirky finds and original artwork.
The dining room, with its soft lighting, is atmospheric (despite a search-and-rescue- like stream of diners using smartphone torches to read menus) and our Dorset crab and brown shrimp on sourdough and Blythborough pork loin with celeriac and swiss chard were delicious, and enormous. In summer, some of the produce comes from the hotel’s kitchen-garden on the roof terrace; if you’re there in season, the blood orange martini jelly with blood orange sorbet is a killer finish after rich mains.
For all its look-at-me styling, Ham Yard is impressively understated. It’s one of the most child-friendly hotels we’ve stayed in, but doesn’t sell itself as such. It’s also one of the greenest, though it doesn’s shout about air-source heat pumps or solar panels.
What to pack: Vans for daytime, Missoni for evening – and little else. Everything from hair curlers to hot-water bottles are available through housekeeping.
Rooms: As stylish and vivid as the rest of the hotel, with big windows, decadent bathrooms and blissful beds. Tea trays aren’t standard, but we asked for one to be made up, and it came free of charge. The extensive, expensive mini-bar range runs from Peppersmith mints to a half-bottle of Krug rosé: we stocked up at neighbouring Whole Foods Market instead. The relatively good-value room service menu swings from tomatoes on toast to roast guinea fowl with Puy lentils.
Breakfast: Antipodean-style eats and smoothies feature alongside the classics. The rarebit with poached eggs and greens (£8) was so good we had seconds.
Don’t leave without: Trying a Ham Yard tonic – Portobello Road gin, Campari, St Germain, grapefruit bitters and homemade tonic.
olive’s local guide: The best places to eat nearby begin with the letter P: Princi for pizzas you can order to-go, and the Palomar for classy Middle Eastern dishes.
Great Northern Hotel, King’s Cross
Why foodies stay here: Mark ‘Sarge’ Sargeant is chef-director, and while he’s not hands-on in the kitchen, his menu of comforting seasonal classics is well executed at Plum + Spilt Milk, the restaurant at this slick hotel. Anywhere that serves anchovy and olive butter and taramasalata while you decide on the menu gets our thumbs-up. Sarge’s other restaurant is on the Kent coast, and there’s plenty of seafood here, too: lemon sole with seaweed butter and monkfish curry are highlights.
What to pack: Anything goes – it’s a very relaxed, all-ages crowd.
Rooms: Three types – Cubitt, Wainscot and Couchette – Cubitt is the biggest. Ours was functional but comfortable, with a freestanding bath (no shower). At the end of the corridor is a kitchen with tea, coffee and cute treats (such as Tunnock’s Caramels).
Breakfast: From smoked salmon with steamed spinach on spelt muffin to avocado and chilli on toast, it’s trend-aware and healthy, but a full English is also on offer. Or buy a take-out continental breakfast from the hole-in-the-wall Kiosk outside the hotel.
Don’t leave without: A tipple in the Snug Bar, off the main restaurant – it’s quieter than the ground-floor bar, which can be busy.
olive’s local guide: Try Bar Pepito, a tiny sherry and tapas bar; walk to Granary Square for a bacon naan
at Dishoom; Caravan offers great small plates, or head to Exmouth Market for piggy treats and craft beers at Blackfoot.
The Hoxton, High Holborn
Why foodies stay here: At the helm of the hotel’s restaurant, Hubbard & Bell, is Nick Jones of Soho House fame, a man who knows how to pull in the punters. A big open kitchen turns out small plates such as octopus, chorizo and capers, kale, caesar, lemon, bottarga and crouton salad, and lamb burger with cumin, feta and tomato in a muffin. Noise levels are high in the busy adjoining bar.
What to pack: No rules here – it’s very relaxed.
Rooms: Small and sweet with names to match: ours was cosy, with just enough room for a double bed (shoebox is even smaller). The bedlinen was crisp, the toiletries cool and the cushions quirky. There’s no room service, but you can buy drinks at reception to take up.
Breakfast: Whipped ricotta with honey, chopped liver with pickled onions and full-on steak and eggs, plus a range of cold-pressed juices. Or get breakfast on the go from coffee bar franchise, Holborn Grind.
Don’t leave without: Trying a Soho Negroni, made from Bombay Sapphire, Suze and Martini Bianco, from the Hubbard & Bell cocktail menu.
olive’s local guide: Covent Garden is nearby, so head to Opera Tavern for Italian/Spanish tapas. Lamb’s Conduit Street is a five-minute stroll away, and home to affordable Spanish Cigala and Italian Ciao Bella.
Shangri-La At The Shard, London Bridge
Why foodies stay here: If The Shard had toes, they would tickle Borough Market, from where the splendidly high-rise hotel sources much of its produce. Main restaurant, TING, has enviable views and food to match: Dorset crab, cucumber, mango, passion fruit and tomato to start; organic lamb loin with sake, soy, Erengi mushroom, apple and shiso to follow. Sommelier Anne Lomas is unstuffy and approachable despite the glam surroundings. The ground floor’s Lang sells yuzu cheesecake to eat in or take away.
What to pack: Smart clothes, swimming gear and bags-for-life for market trawling.
Rooms: Seriously high-tech, complete with Japanese bidet-loos, the best London rooftop views and exquisite macaroons.
Breakfast: Wok-fried noodles, dim sum and congee feature, but full english or bircher muesli are also offered, and a mini yogurt and berry compôte to start is included.
Don’t leave without: Visiting Gong, the highest bar in London; and with a pool, too. Try The Big Smoke, a gin, sherry and vermouth cocktail served in a dramatic, smoked-at-table martini glass.
olive’s local guide: Borough Market is alive with quality traders like Bread Ahead, Brindisa and Cannon & Cannon. For dinner, go to Restaurant Story for chef Tom Seller’s top-class tasting menu, or to food lovers’ haven, Bermondsey Street.
The London Edition West End
Why foodies stay here: Berners Tavern chef and restaurateur Jason Atherton’s stunning dining room is the heart of this slick hotel in the West End. On-trend but easy, this is food you could eat every day, from aged beef tartare, salsa verde, chopped duck egg and croutons to macaroni and cheese, braised ox cheek, brioche and bone marrow crumble.
What to pack: Media and fashion types love it, so heels, trainers and directional glasses.
Rooms: Comfy but basic with a hint of luxe in faux-fur bed throws, black-and-white photography and glossy fashion books. The freshly made, non-alcoholic cocktails are a nice touch, as are bite-sized Victoria sponges.
Breakfast: Go healthy with avocado on toast and a side of poached eggs or tuck into buttermilk pancakes, summer berry compôte and vanilla cream.
Don’t leave without: Sampling a cocktail at The Punch Room, the hard-to-access, beard-strokingly trendy bar just off the main lobby. Ask the concierge to score you a reservation for sharing cocktails: try Once Upon A Thyme, with pineapple juice, thyme, fresh lime and ginger beer mix, or Mead, Myself And Aye, made with 10-year-old Somerset cider brandy, green apple liqueur, honey mead, lemon juice and cherry apple.
olive’s local guide: Try Hakkasan for Sunday dim sum, Fraq’s Lobster Shack for fantastic lobster rolls, or tapas at Drake’s Tabanco.
The Ace Hotel, Shoreditch
Why foodies stay here: Don’t let the hipsters sprawling in the lobby, tapping on iPads, sipping cold-pressed juices or buying branded merchandise from the reception desk make you think this place is all about appearances: in-house restaurant, Hoi Polloi, has serious foodie heft. Behind it is the team from Bistrotheque, the East London restaurant with a reputation for forward-thinking food. Here the menu is reassuringly straightforward: cheeseburgers with dripping chips and chocolate tart, as well as on-trend pig’s head croquettes, and Yorkshire parkin and parsnip ice-cream.
What to pack: You’ll fit in if you have any of the following: directional glasses, headbands, jumpsuits, facial hair and tattoos.
Rooms: Ours had a record player and selection of vinyl, a guitar and a mini bar featuring Pot Noodles and a bottle of Jameson’s, plus a free KitKat. The hooded robe and futon-style bed were super-comfy.
Breakfast: Ace by name, ace by nature. Without the dinner crowd, you can appreciate the beautiful tiled floor, open kitchen and enticing, out-of -the-ordinary menu. Try mushrooms and ricotta on toast, buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup or a Mean Green shake, made from spinach, coconut water, date, agave, maca powder and mint.
Don’t leave without: Eschew the lobby (noisy) and Miranda bars (darkand noisier) in favour of Hoi Polloi’s little bar for a Fantabulosa cocktail: lemongrass and cardamom gin, limoncello, cucumber and mint.
olive’s local guide: Peruvian restaurant Andina is a two-minute walk away for ceviche and pisco sours; for affordable Vietnamese head to Cây Tre or, for exquisite snacks and expertly made cocktails, the bar at The Clove Club.
Bull & Hide, Bishopsgate
Why foodies stay here: Owned by Balfour, the English sparkling wine, this unobtrusive pub has seven rooms and a good restaurant. Dishes such as fennel fritters show chef Kalifa Diakhaby’s eye for trends, but there are decent steaks and burgers, too.
What to pack: It’s super-casual – anything goes.
Rooms: Neat and simply decorated – and one has a little balcony in the shadow of the mighty Heron Tower. A glass of Hush Heath rosé in your room will get things off to a relaxing start. There’s a cute pantry where you can help yourself to tea, coffee, cookies and sweets.
Breakfast: Go for Omelette Arnold Bennett or The Big Bull breakfast: 2 eggs, 2 pork & leek sausages, 2 rashers of sweet-cured bacon, baked beans, black pudding, confit tomato, mushroom and toast, made famous at the owner’s previous pub, The Fox, due to its proximity to Smithfield market.
Don’t leave without: Trying a Jake’s sparkling cider from Hush Heath orchard at the pub’s impressive bar.
olive’s local guide: olive’s favourite high-rise restaurant and bar, Duck & Waffle, is on the doorstep. You’re also a five-minute walk from Spitalfields market: enjoy oysters at Wright Brosor a tarte flambé at Galvin Café au Vin. Nude Espresso coffee and London’s finest chippy, Poppies Fish and Chips are nearby, too.
The Mondrian, Southbank
Why foodies stay here: This is acclaimed New York chef Seamus Mullen’s first restaurant in the UK and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a table. His menu is health-focussed and delicious, with lighter dishes that include tuna crudo or a kale, apple and avocado salad as well as gutsier options such as double-cut heritage pork chop, cooked in a clay oven and designed to share (read the full review of The Mondrian here).
What to pack: There’s a strong fashion, music and advertising industry feel, so dress up, but bring trainers, too, for walking, and an extra suitcase for purchases from nearby Borough Market.
Rooms: Chic and functional with on-trend toiletries by Malin & Goetz. Foodie treat freebies include tiny macaroons and a bottle of verdejo – a Spanish white to enjoy on the balcony with that stunning river view.
Breakfast: The buffet is good value but, if you like to start the day with a good, strong flat white and breakfast New York-style, go à la carte. You won’t find poached eggs served with cheesy grits and kale pesto anywhere else in town.
Don’t leave without: An after-dinner drink with a magnificent view in the top-floor Rumpus Room bar (if it isn’t booked for a private party). The downstairs Dandelyan bar is also buzzing – book in advance to get a table. The clever drinks menu from cocktail supremo Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) is themed around modern botany and includes the Chablis cocktail featuring gin and chalk bitters to reflect the minerality of Chablis’ terroir.
olive’s local guide: For vodka and Polish classics with a modern twist, try Baltic for Sunday lunch. On weekdays, try The Anchor & Hope for hearty British cooking, or House for a glass of wine and a delicious short rib and ox cheek bourguignon.
The Ritz, Piccadilly
Why foodies stay here: The world and his auntie know about afternoon tea in The Palm Court, but true food lovers are more interested in what happens in The Ritz Restaurant. Here, the daddy of all London hotel chefs, John Williams, presides over a beautifully civilised dining room, untouched by modern informality. Penguin-suited waiters glide and bow, and a special Les Arts de la Table menu showcases their skill with dishes such as côte de veau with truffle creamed potatoes and madeira sauce and sea bass en croûte with sauce mireille.
What to pack: Leave your ripped jeans at home. No trainers or sportswear are allowed in any of the restaurants or bars. Gentlemen must wear a jacket and tie for afternoon tea in The Palm Court, and for lunch or dinner in The Ritz Restaurant.
Rooms: As pretty as a chocolate box and indulgently comfortable. A well-stocked fruit bowl, champagne and petit fours can be arranged on request.
Breakfast: In a word, magnificent: a whole smoked salmon, beautiful tête de moine cheese, towers of pastries and carved melon balls, eaten among the room’s stunning frescos and marble columns.
Don’t leave without: Trying an expertly made drink in the art deco Rivoli Bar; make a reservation to be sure of a table.
olive’s local guide: Nearby Keepers House has a menu of updated classics and one of the best ‘secret’ bars in London, Hawksmoor Air Street for terrific steaks, Dukes Bar for martinis and Sake No Hana, for a great-value Saturday lunch, £37 for five courses with sake.
Ask the concierge
More foodie tips from the hotel pros
Tim Bannister and Abban Brennan suggest Heading to Polpo for small dishes and great wine at lunchtime, or to Social Eating House in the evening; try the cocktails at The Blind Pig upstairs.
Paulo Froiio says: ‘Try Magdalen for classic British-French food, or the buzzy Yellow House near Surrey Quays for the best pizza’.)
Ro Kapila suggests nearby Beyond Bread for delicious gluten and wheat-free baked breads.
The Ace Hotel suggests trying the tiny foodie haven, Rochelle Canteen, for ribollita or raclette.
Camilo Parra-Braun of The Modrian reccommends its close neighbour RSJ as a quaint, unique British bistro. Owner Nigel Wilkinson is expert at food-and-wine pairing.
Michael de Cozar recommends the pub The Grenadier – it serves excellent bloody marys, and has a chilling haunted history.
The Athenaeum suggests upmarket French brasserie, Boudin Blanc at Shepherd Market or, for families, Burger & Lobster.
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