As soon as anyone expresses the slightest doubt in the worth of London, the usual response is to quote that of 18th-century essayist, critic and creator of the dictionary, Samuel Johnson: “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”
The 2019 Michelin Guide added another 10 stars to London’s roster, and clubs and bars are appearing on every corner, from the indulgence of Mayfair to the rebelliousness of Dalston and Shoreditch. Having had my fair share of epicurean experiences in the capital, I’m here to humbly suggest an indulgent itinerary that will put your last after-work drinks to shame.
Forget the East for now; the weekend I have in mind has a decidedly West feel to it. As we all know, Thursday is the new Friday. Your first stop, therefore, is a Thursday jaunt to the American Bar at The Savoy. This art deco beauty has been the cause of, and solution to, many of West London’s problems, having served innovative and classic cocktails to the glitterati for nearly 130 years. It was the best bar in the world last year and live jazz each night gives it the kind of relaxed feel you need to warm yourself up for the weekend. Watch out, though; the martini trolley can all too easily go to your head.
Let’s ignore the existential struggle that a hungover Friday encourages, and skip straight to after work. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options, but there aren’t many better places for a post-work tipple than the Connaught Bar. Nick Savage, editor at London’s premium luxury concierge service Innerplace, and font of hedonistic knowledge speaks of the Connaught in almost spiritual tones: “Visiting the Connaught Bar was personally quite a rite of passage for me when it came to getting a handle on London’s luxury cocktail bar scene. Designed by the late David Collins, there’s something timeless about the bar, with cocktails that are equally as transporting. Make sure you order from the martini trolley or try their reimagined Bloody Mary, which is topped off with aerated celery foam.”
I would trust my weekends to Nick without a second thought, so for Friday night food, I’m going with another of his suggestions, Hide. A hop from the Connaught, this Green Park restaurant is fronted by superstar chef Ollie Dabbous, collaborates with Hedonism Wines (perfect), and covers three floors, with ‘Below’ housing the venue’s walk-in wine cellar. It’s all connected by an otherworldly staircase, and there’s a car lift to the private dining room. Of course.
It would be criminal to finish a night in Mayfair without taking a boozy pilgrimage to the area’s celebratory heart, members’ club Annabel’s. It was bought last year by Richard Caring, owner of The Ivy, and moved from its home of 54 years at 44 Berkeley Square all the way to 46 Berkeley Square. The interior has remained somewhat faithful to the original with added greener y, and the clientele remain as exclusive as ever; expect to see minor aristocracy sharing a bottle of Grey Goose with Rihanna. It’s simply the place to go in Mayfair. My hedonistic friend Jamie Davison-Lungley, director at E.B. Meyrowitz, calls it “unadulterated maximalism at its finest”. Good luck getting in the front door. Mentioning me will absolutely not help.
It’s Saturday morning. Give yourself a break. Watch some TV. Have a peppermint tea. Maybe pop a paracetamol in your mug in anticipation of the day ahead. You’ll be hungry by lunchtime – time for Cecconi’s. Open seven days a week, the modern Italian restaurant serves handmade pasta just like mama used to (not) make. It has outposts in the coolest cities around the world, so they’re doing something right. The restaurant is also across the road from the Royal Academy of Arts, and a leisurely walk from Savile Row, making it perfect for indulging the mind and your tailor.
After a wander around the RA, nip back across the road to Maison Assouline. The coffee table bookstore is situated in an old bank, with enormous ceilings, thousands of books lining the walls and housing the Swans Bar that’s my home away from home, either for mid-morning coffee or the perfect negroni.
Don’t worry about wandering too far – dinner is just around the corner at Park Chinois. We’re staying in the Jazz Age here. The opulent Chinese restaurant pays homage to 1930s Shanghai, as you’ll immediately see once you walk through the imperial red doors. The food is magnificent, but the entertainment – live music and unabashed cabaret – is what makes Park Chinois a must during your unhinged weekend.
Turn back towards Piccadilly and immediately into Mahiki. New member of the Royal Family, Jack Brooksbank, used to run the stalwart Mayfair club, a hotspot for aristocracy and celebrity alike. It has an open door policy and no VIP rooms, so you’re likely to bump into someone you swear you know from somewhere (a magazine). Its Tiki-themed cocktails will have you dancing on the tables and ordering a Hawaiian shirt from Mr Porter. If Mahiki sounds a bit too much like hard work to you, there’s always The Ritz a few yards away, which seems like a thoroughly acceptable plan B, especially if you feel like going all Casino Royale at the Ritz Club.
If you feel like you haven’t quite reached end-days-of-Rome levels of indulgence, make a quick stop at Chiltern Firehouse. By this point, word will have spread about your exploits, so you shouldn’t find it difficult to get in, and once you are, you’re likely to stay for longer than you thought – Noel Gallagher was there until 4am after the Q Awards, after an evening at Annabel’s. You can keep up with a Gallagher, right?
Sunday morning needs a big breakfast. Since Channel 4 cancelled the show 16 years ago, you’d better go to Grange & Co, founded by Australian restaurateur and food writer Bill Granger, and suggested by sartorial expert Mats Klingberg, founder of Trunk Clothiers: “It’s a great place for easy breakfasting; the hotcakes have been a breakfast favourite since I visited Bill’s first restaurant in Sydney many years ago.” Mats is in good company – the editor of this very publication recommends the kimchi rice and Bloody Mary at Grange to dissuade any hangover, and I’m inclined to agree with him. He’s much more of a hedonist than I’ll ever be, and don’t let him deny it.