From swim spots and pick-you-own sunflowers farms to hotels with unbeatable views, Rosie Paterson tells you how to make the most of London while the sun is still shining and where to stay
Where to stay
Until the end of August, guests at Treehouse Hotel London — surely one of the capital’s most underrated hotels? — will receive a pair of wellies, umbrella, Cath Kidston pomegranate-print tote and picnic blanket, Sipsmith gin and tonics and enamelware cups. All designed to help you make the most of the capital, whatever the weather.
It’s easy to overlook Treehouse, perched at the top of an unassuming, purpose-built block, a few steps north of Oxford Circus, its lower levels currently surrounded by scaffolding. But to do so would be a shame.
This is a place for the young and young-at-heart.
There’s a complimentary pick n’ mix bar at check-in and sloth and Paddington Bear cushions in the bedrooms. Some of the ensuite bathrooms are separated off by floor-to-ceiling crittall windows, and a curtain if you fancy something more private, some have freestanding, copper baths in them.
Wood dominates. This is meant to remind you of a treehouse after-all (albeit one with sensational urban rather than wooded views). Clamber to the very top and you’ll find The Nest, the hotel’s own bar, with plants trailing from the ceiling and a 360 degree vista. Order a rhubarb margarita. For something more private, curl up on the window seat in your room with a good book.
There’s a Mexican-style restaurant on the 15th floor and a casual pizzeria on the ground one — try the courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta and the tomato-less goats cheese pizza. Alternatively, Regent’s Park is a ten-minute walk away and the perfect place to make the most of your new picnic blanket in.
Summer is still in full swing further south too, especially at The Berkeley which boasts a rare rooftop pool, recently refreshed and with unobstructed views over Hyde Park. It’s only open to guests so maximum privacy comes guaranteed.
Like a moth to a flame, I’ve always found myself irresistibly drawn to The Berkeley — it’s porch illuminated by hundreds of blazing bulbs, it’s pillows the comfiest in town and it’s breakfast worth a visit alone — but more so now than ever before.
There’s a new alfresco restaurant on the ground floor, Il Giardino (the cacio de pepe and peach sorbet cones are strong highlights) and a string of refurbished rooms and suites to catch up on your sleep in. And French patisserie legend Cédric Grolet is still holding court in The Pastry Lab, busy busting out batches of croissants so good that there are queues along Knightsbridge each morning.
Where to eat
The Buttery, a restaurant that calls to mind the kind of farmhouse-style kitchens and kitchen gardens we all secretly hanker for, has extended its offering and now serves an all-day brunch and lunch menu every day and is open late for cocktails and small plates on Fridays and Saturdays.
It’s part of Belgravia’s Lime Tree Hotel — my favourite affordable London hotel — and famous, in my eyes at least, for its porridge (why is it so hard to find decent porridge in this city?) and Nutella French toast. The allotment breakfast isn’t to be sniffed at either.
On a balmy summer evening, little can beat Fitzrovia’s Charlotte Street, named after King George III’s wife and once home to artist John Constable.
It’s always been known for its array of restaurants and bars that spill out from the flat-fronted, mostly Georgian buildings and onto the pavements, as well as the Charlotte Street Hotel, but has really come into itself, thanks, in no small part, to two new additions: Carousel (I’ve waxed lyrical about the chocolate mousse before) and Lisboeta (don’t miss the amberjack ceviche, served with ribbons of zesty orange and onion).
Where to swim
Given the unreliable weather, London is home to a surprising number of lidos and swim spots.
Hampton Pool is best for children, Brockwell Lido for early morning dips (the pool-side cafe serves warming toasties from 8am) and Oasis Sports Centre in Covent Garden for proper lengths.
Solo female swimmers should seek sanctuary in the Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath and anyone trying to escape the Serpentine crowds should make for the stretch of River Thames west of Teddington Lock. There are multiple spots on the north bank, around Hampton Court Palace, that slope down gently into the water.
Getting out and about
If the centre of town gets too hot and heavy, the obvious escapes to the metropolis’s open spaces are all justly famous — whether you’re boating at Regent’s Park, wandering Hampstead Heath or watching dogs have the time of their life in Richmond Park.
Sunflowers are at their best in August and although you’ll be hard pressed to find any in London’s centre, there are fields upon fields of the sunny-looking flowers on the city outskirts.
There are three, huge sunflower fields at Garsons Farm in Esher, Surrey. Entry is £4 and the cost is deducted from your ‘pay and weigh’ bill at the end.
Sunflowers and lavender grow side by side at Hitchin Lavender in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Entry is from £5.50; remember to pick up a paper bag at the entrance and take a pair of scissors.
Chichester Festival Theatre’s revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific is in London at Sadler’s Wells until August 28, as part of a UK tour, starring Julian Ovenden of Downton Abbey fame.
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