My London Bucket List

It's official! This March, I'll be winding down my stay in London and returning stateside. We've had an amazing time here, but 'Murica has been and always will be our home. Not only will March mark our 2 year anniversary in London, it'll also be my last month at Google. After 6 amazing years, I've finally decided to call it quits. I'm trading in my nap pods and free lunches for the "glamorous" life of a small business owner. I've learned so much and worked with so many amazing people, but I can't wait for the adventure ahead. 

Reality hasn't quite settled in just yet considering it's still a few months away (employees are expected to give 3 months notice in the UK). For now, I just want to make the most of my final few months living in London. There are so many amazing places to visit and things to do in this city. I feel like we've hardly scratched the surface. With that in mind, we've come up with a bucket list of must do's before we leave. Some are pretty obvious, others are more obscure. Regardless, all of them have made London the one-of-a-kind, world-class city it is today!


Must Do

Arguably, no city in the world offers as many diverse attractions as London. From Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace to Tate Modern and the British Museum, the options are truly endless. Even if we were to live here for the rest of our lives, I doubt we'd be able to see everything. With limited time left in London, we've selected a few "must do's":

  • Explore Richmond Park: I just wish we hadn't waited until the depths of winter to visit the largest of London's Royal Parks. 
  • Tour Kew Gardens: Another destination we should have visited much sooner. At least we can escape the cold by exploring the indoor tropical greenhouse. 
  • Climb to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral: One of the largest cathedrals in the world also happens to offer one of the best skyline views in London. 
  • Watch a movie at Electric Cinema: Food, champagne and leather reclining sofas? Not a bad way to catch a movie. 
  • River cruise on the Thames: Catch a unique view of London en route to Greenwich. 
  • Ride the Emirates Air Line: No, we won't be flying to Dubai on Emirates. This scenic cable car takes riders from Greenwich to the Royal Docks and back. 
  • Catch a concert at The Royal Albert Hall: I was lucky enough to snag tickets to watch one of my favorite bands, CHVRCHES, perform at The Royal Albert Hall on March 31st. Can't imagine a better way to cap off our time in London! 

You might be surprised to see no museums on our list. Thankfully, we've managed to to visit many of London's world-class museums. When nearly all of them are free to enter, museums are pretty easy attractions to check off the list!

 

Must Eat

For the first few months in London, we were pretty disappointed in the food scene. All that changed once Michael discovered Hot Dinners. Disregarding the awkward name, this food blog has been absolutely indispensable in guiding us around London's best culinary experiences. Assuming we can actually score a reservation, here are a few more restaurants we're eager to try. If we manage to get into all of them, we'll have successfully blown all our remaining savings. Yay!  

 

Must Drink

This is the category where we've probably fallen the shortest. Outside a handful of amazing hotel bars and local pubs, we're really not all that well-versed in London's dynamic bar scene. I guess it's time to drink up! 

  • Dukes Bar: This London institution has long been recognized for serving up the city's best martinis.
  • BYOC: Bring your favorite bottle of alcohol and the bartenders will concoct a variety of inventive cocktails. 
  • Happiness Forgets: Proof that London can match NYC when it comes to tiny, hipster, basement cocktail bars. 
  • The Spaniards Inn: Historic pub just outside of Hampstead Heath

London Eats: Summer 2015

When it comes to fine dining, London gets a bad rap. Food here is either too bland (read: too British) or too expensive. After a year and a half here, we can confidently say that London has one of the most diverse and innovative food scenes in the world. Thankfully, you don't have to shell out your entire paycheck at a Michelin-starred restaurant to get a good meal. Below, Michael shares some of our favorite restaurants we've visited in the past few months. As we continue to eat our way through London, we'll continue to share our top picks! 


Palomar

Bookings for this modern Jerusalem brasserie are hard to come by, so plan far in advance. Trust me, it's worth it. The small space is separated into two areas: the long front bar with views of the energetic kitchen and the wood clad dining room with dark blue leather banquets. The interiors of the space rival the food, which is brought out on individual wooden trays filled with mini silver casseroles and personal serving pieces. Each aspect of the meal is well thought out and delivered to perfection. Highlights include the Kubaneh, a pot baked bread with sides of tahini and tomato jam and the Jerusalem polenta topped with truffle oil. The pork belly tajine with couscous and Onglet steak with latkes, fried egg and bone marrow are perfect mains to share with the group. Make sure to order a second round of the Kubaneh to help soak up all the extra juices and sauce. 


B A O

Originally a popular food stall in Hackney, BAO has found a new, permanent home in Soho. Don’t get too excited when you arrive and manage to walk right into the shop. The sweet maitre d' will direct you to the ominously long queue forming across the street. As you take your place at the back of the line, take some time to review menu. Here is a tip, order everything. In addition to the restaurant's namesake baos, don’t miss out on delicious small dishes like the Taiwanese fried chicken bites and the guinea fowl chi shiang rice. Compliment your meal with some Taiwanese beer or tea. The foam milk tea is a revelation, so don't be surprised if you end up ordered two or three.


Dinings

This is one of the first restaurants we heard about before moving to London. It's frequently touted as the best Japanese restaurant in the city. God knows why we waited until last month to visit. Don't let the mundane neighborhood, nondescript storefront and modest interiors of this restaurant deter you. The talented team at Dinings have put their unique spin on traditional Japanese cuisine, serving a variety of nibbles, cold or hot tapas, sushi, open-face rolls and rotating daily specials. They pare the freshest seafood with inventive flavors like ponzu jelly, summer truffle, kizami wasabi, yuzu kosho and carmalized onion soy jam. Just make sure not to leave without ordering the seared waygu beef and pan friend foie gras sushi. You’re welcome. 


Lima Floral

Lima Floral (sister restaurant to Michelin-starred Lima in Fitrovia and Central in Lima, Peru) serves up modern Peruvian cuisine in a relaxed and unpretentious space. Ceviche may not be new to your palate, but the range of lesser known ingredients such as alarrobo, yacon and kiwicha will have you asking your server “what is that?” more often than you are used to. The sea bream ceviche with tigers milk, avocado, crispy onion and cancha corn is both flavorful and light. Hot yellow potato causa with avocado and organic chicken will have you scraping your plate. There are a wide array of main courses including chicken chalaca, organic lamb, sea bass, fillet pachamanca or Andean suckling pig with corn and Olluquito potatoes. It all sounds and tastes so exotic, especially when chased with a pisco cocktail, the national drink of Peru.