Top 10: Things That Makes Us Happy in LondonBy Alicia Grimshaw
As it was International Happiness Day recently – it got us thinking: what makes us happy? Apart from friends, family, when you at arrive at the platform just as the tube in pulling in, and the mini toiletries selection in hotel rooms – we racked our brains and came up with a list of ten things that put a smile on our face in London. Spoiler: a steak bake never fails to make us happy:
The Lowdown: An obvious one, sure – but brunch makes us really bloody happy. Brunch is more that just a plate of eggs; it’s coming together after a night on the tiles, putting the world to rights, and, often, starting the weekend in delicious (and boozy) style.
Where: There are so many amazing brunch spots in London, and there’s always new ones opening. We adore Sunday, this super cute cafe in Barnsbury always delivers. Yes, there’s a silly queue at the weekends, but if you can – visit on a weekday as you can book a table. Their French toast with caramelised banana, berries and cream is all kinds of naughty. Friends of Ours just off Old Street is another classic. Worthy of all the hype, Friends of Ours is an Antipodean cafe that know their beans, and their brunch. The menu is constantly changing, but right now – go for their corn fritters with bacon and avocado. Last but by no means least, we’re crackers for the shakshuka at Nopi. There’s something so simple about this dish – but it wins us over every. single. time. That smoked labneh, perfectly poached eggs and rich tomato sauce is just superb.
2. Daytime Drinking
The Lowdown: Daytime drinking is one of life’s simple pleasures – and London is home to some incredible boozers. In summertime, drinking pints of ice cold cider with a group of pals is unbeatable, and come winter – donning so many layers a la Michelin Man and cozying next to a log burning fire on a lazy Saturday afternoon is like sweet music to our ears.
Where: The Clapton Hart is dreamy AF – more than just a pub, it’s a live music venue showcasing up and coming talent, they host weekly pub quizzes and the food is proper, stick to your ribs, wonderful. And if live music is your bag, give The Shackwell Arms in Dalston a whirl. The Albion in Islington is a great boozer – and their beer garden at the back is cracking during the warmer months (tip: their Sunday roasts are on par with your mum’s), and the Duke of Edinburgh in Brixton is another worthy selection.
3. A Trip to the Flicks
The Lowdown: We love Netflix and we love slobbing on the sofa in front of the TV, but a trip to the flicks is one of favourite weekday night activities. We like the cinema ritual (apart from, at times, the lucrious ticket prices); hitting up the snack stands before, carrying in all the pick and mix, and settling down for two hours to watch all the action on the big screen.
Where: If we’re feeling fancy and care not for the price, we like to venture to Everyman Cinema (either in Angel, or Hampstead). We especially enjoy the waiter service to the cinema seats (which are really ruddy comfy by the way). There’s cheese, wine and other delicious eats that go above and beyond your classic cinema snacks. When the warmer months swing by, we love Rooftop Cinema. Pretty magical to watch a film under the London Skyline – and they provide blankets to keep the chill out. And you can’t beat Peckhamplex. £5 cinema tickets? Yes. Please.
4. A Good Boogie
The Lowdown: We love a dance. A good ol’ boogie. There’s always something fun going on in the capital – whether that’s big DJ residences, special events, one-day events or festivals.
Where: Where we head out in London always depends on our mood: a different venue for different occasions. Sometimes we like to feel classy and head to cocktail bars, and other times we like to let loose and hit up XOYO, Printworks for their lighting and sound system which is on another level, and Tobacco Dock in Wapping. But you can’t beat a Friday night at Rowans, Finsbury Park. It’s hard to pinpoint what Rowans actually is. Sure, it markets itself as a bowling alley, but this place is so, so much more. At night, the tables are push to the side, DJ Smooth takes to the decks and everyone ditches the bowling for vodka slushies and big, club bangers.
The Lowdown: Live comedy is cracking. People lord live music, but you can’t beat a good, proper belly laugh. Good for the soul, we say. Watching comedy in London? Not that’s what makes us happy.
Where: Angel Comedy operate two branches in Islington: Camden Head and The Bill Murray. The Camden Head put on nightly performances from up and coming stand up comedians and emerging talent. Best of all: it’s free. You can also fling in a couple of quid to the nice man at the end with the bucket. Soho Theatre is another place that’s great for a laugh. They offer a diverse programme of comedians, and for a price that won’t break the bank too.
The Lowdown: We love carbs. Carbs are the answer to everything. Is there anything better that warm, freshly made bread slathered with a doorstop of proper butter? Answer: no. Bread baskets in restaurants, hand made pasta, toast, an Indian feast with three different rices and breads, and buttery, silky smooth mash. Carbs are life.
Where: We love bread, and we especially love the carb creations at Bread Ahead – their doughnuts are bites of utter joy. Little Bread Pedlar bake some of the best almond croissants in our fair city, and Gail’s, because they’re always consistently good and their cheese scones are addictive beyond belief. For pizza, some of our favourites include: Homeslice, Yard Sale Pizza, Santa Maria and Icco. For the greatest carb of all, pasta, we get our fill at Mele e Pere on Brewer Street, who serve the finest ragu that’s ever past our lips. Side note: their burrata is a creamy, sexy ball of deliciousness.
7. Nights in
The Lowdown: We also get our kicks from slugging on the sofa and watching an unhealthy amount of Netflix. We’ve lost hours, days, and whole weekends to TV series, and to be honest, we have no regrets.
Where: Programmes that have caught our attention recently include Dark, a German thriller, Mind Hunter, an American phycological thriller focusing on the rise of serial killers in the 1940s, Atypical about a dyslexic boy who’s ready to start dating, Orange is the New Black and Black List for another crime/drama extravaganza. No night in is complete without eating restaurant food from a plastic container. We especially enjoy Pho, and we will never tire of their beef brisket pho and veggie spring rolls with peanut sauce.
8. The Smell of Freshly Baked Pastries
The Lowdown: Forget your synthetic supermarket scents which are piped furiously around the store, we’re talking about the real deal. There’s something so warm and comforting about the sight and smell of freshly baked pastries, bread and other sweet delights.
Where: One of our favourite places in London that smells heavenly is Primrose Bakery – by gosh, it’s like crack for the senses. Their carrot cupcake is agonizingly gorgeous and is their hot chocolate. Try Lily Vanilli in East London, and Fabrique bakery for sweet, sticky cinnamon buns. And Gregg’s, because their steak bakes always heal after a night out/break up/general life problems.
9. Green Spaces
The Lowdown: We love the hustle and bustle of London, and ambling through the restless city, but sometimes its healthy to seek out some green spaces and switch off for a bit.
Where: Primrose Hill is one of our top spots for a little head space away from it all. When it’s a glorious day, we like nothing more than to head to Primrose Hill, picked up an iced coffee from Melrose and Morgan and read a book for a few hours. If we’re around at dinner, we like to head to J Pizzeria for a hearty Italian feed (their portion size is generous to say the least), or to Oka for some fancy sushi. Hackney Downs, London Fields and Brockwell Park are green spaces we seem to gravitate to when the sun decides to shine.
10. Sunday Roasts
The Lowdown: Maybe it’s because we’ve grown up with having a roast ever Sunday – in the baking heat of summer and in the perilous cold of winter – you’ll always find us knife and fork deep into the holy trinity: meat, veggies and gravy. Sunday roasts bring us so much joy, and it rounds the weekend off in style. And if there’s a sticky toffee pudding on the menu, we always have to order one.
Where: The Drapers Arms in Islington serve up one hell of a roast. Come Sunday, this place becomes our second home as we pile in for their well risen Yorkie puds, crispy yet fluffy roasties, and market fresh greens. If there’s a few of your, we say order one of their sharing roasts – it’s the stuff of meaty dreams. Blacklock serves pretty much a whole farm – their all in roast includes lamb, pork, and beef, all served with lashings of gravy and plenty of veggies to feed the whole of Soho, twice over.Try the Marksman in Hackney, we promise you, you won’t be disappointed.