I've always been shocked by the cost of living in London: $70 to taxi into town from Heathrow, $50 for a memorable dinner, $600 for a much-needed raincoat (I'd left mine at home). So over the past months, I grilled my most stylish Londoner friends about everything from the reasonably priced hotels they recommend, to restaurants where a meal doesn't eat up your entire day's budget, to shops that have real sales. Here are a few of their favorites.
Suite Deals for Less Than $300
Over in Maida Vale, near the canals of London's romantic Little Venice neighborhood, the Colonnade (2 Warrington Crescent; 44-207/286-1052; www.etontownhouse.com; doubles from $264, including the value-added tax—a whopping 17.5 percent in the U.K.) is like a mini-Connaught: posh public salons; 43 bedrooms done in traditional but not stuffy British style, with rich fabrics and large-scale paintings. Its Enigma restaurant is the place to see and be seen. • Across town, in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum and the shops of Oxford Street, the Colonnade's sister hotel, the Academy (21 Gower St.; 44-207/631- 4115; www.etontownhouse.com; weekend doubles from $190, including breakfast and VAT), has 49 rooms in five interconnected town houses. In addition to its clubby lounges, the hotel has two small gardens. • Better known for her upscale properties, like the Covent Garden and the Charlotte Street, Kit Kemp has pioneered the chic B&B concept with her new Knightsbridge Hotel (10 Beaufort Gardens; 44-207/584-6300; www.knightsbridgehotel.co.uk; doubles from $295, including breakfast and VAT). All 44 rooms epitomize Kemp's signature great taste: designer fabrics and wallpapers, collages and prints by top British artists, sleek granite and oak baths—but at decidedly lower rates. • In nearby South Kensington, Kemp has used the same formula in her total redo of the venerable Number Sixteen B&B (16 Sumner Place; 800/553-6674 or 44-207/589-5232; www.numbersixteenhotel.co.uk; doubles from $268, including breakfast and VAT). • In Notting Hill, steps from the trendy boutiques of Westbourne Grove and the antiques shops of Portobello Road, Main House (6 Colville Rd.;44-207/221-9691; www.themainhouse.co.uk; doubles from $183, including VAT) is a new small inn, with three spacious floor-through suites. • London's often overlooked town-house hotels can also offer surprising comfort without breaking the bank. For example, the recently refurbished Cranley (10-12 Bina Gardens; 44-207/373-0123; www.thecranley.com; weekend doubles from $226, including breakfast and VAT, two-night minimum), a Victorian in South Kensington, has 38 rooms with poster beds and handpicked antiques. • In Marylebone, 10 Manchester (10 Manchester St.; 44-207/486-6669; www.10manchesterstreet.com; doubles from $229, including breakfast and VAT) is an unpretentious hotel with 46 compact rooms, near both Oxford and Bond Street shopping. • For more familial accommodations, At Home in London (44-208/748-1943; www.athomeinlondon.co.uk) lists private houses with rooms for rent in prime areas like Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Kensington, Chelsea, and Notting Hill. Rates—from $80 to $130 for a double—include breakfast and VAT. A two-night minimum stay is required.
Lean (Haute) Cuisine
Lunchtime deals abound at the city's high-end restaurants, allowing pence-pinchers to indulge in fine dining. At Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's (Brook St.; 44-207/499-0099; three-course lunch for two $76), you can sample rillettes of salmon, breast of quail, and Baileys brioche pudding from London's most acclaimed chef. • Start with three different preparations of foie gras, continue on to roast brill in bouillabaisse sauce, and finish with raspberry soufflé at the Michelin-starred Foliage (66 Knightsbridge; 44-207/201-3723; lunch for two $60), in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. The views rival the food. For $10 more per person, add two glasses of wine to your meal. • London's hottest new restaurant, Racine (239 Brompton Rd.; 44-207/584-4477), is dazzling diners in Knightsbridge not only with its straightforward bistro food— roast cod, steak béarnaise, grilled rabbit—but also with its down-to-earth prices: a two-course set lunch is $19 per person; three courses are $22.50. • If you can score a lunch reservation at the legendary Nobu (Old Park Lane; 44-207/447-4747), order the bento box ($38) filled with chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa's most popular creations, including black cod, seared tuna salad, and five types of sushi.