How to do London on a budget in style
There are very few cities that can compete with London. From culture and nightlife to dining and shopping, the British capital comes out on top time and time again. The bad news is that all this comes at a high price – London is an undeniably expensive place to visit. Luckily, with a bit of planning, you can experience the best of the city – fancy cocktail bars, West End plays, designer labels, the whole kit and caboodle – without breaking the bank.
SHOP LIKE A CELEBRITY
As well as the excellent January sales, there are lots of ways to bag a designer bargain in London if you know where to look. Aquascutum, Joseph, Pringle of Scotland and Anya Hindmarch are just some of the glamorous labels with outlet stores in Hackney, east London. You’ll find 16 shops, plus The Box, which hosts events and sample sales, at Hackney Walk.Even more designer brands are on offer at Bicester Village, a retail outlet village in the Oxfordshire countryside that’s just 46 minutes on the train from Marylebone Station. British and international designer labels give discounts of up to 60 per cent, making Bicester Village well worth the journey – your only challenge will be squeezing all your purchases into your luggage for the journey back to London.
The other route to getting hold of designer goodies for a fraction of the price is via charity shops. These shops, which sell donated clothes, books and homeware on behalf of charities, tend to be rather unglamorous, but Mary’s Living & Giving Shops, a successful chain founded by the British retail consultant and TV star Mary Portas, break the mould. There you’ll find one-offs donated by luxury brands and retailers including Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. There are 22 of Mary’s shops in London, the latest having opened in Bermondsey last autumn; all proceeds go to Save the Children.
www.hackneywalk.com; www.bicestervillage.com; www.savethechildren.org.uk
A FEAST FOR A KING
All that luxury shopping will have given you an appetite, and why not keep things classy with a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant? Ordering à la carte at an establishment such as Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House in Soho, which was awarded a Michelin star back in 2014, will cost you a pretty penny, but book a table at lunchtime on a weekday and you can take advantage of a three-course set menu for just £26.50, or £33.50 if you throw in a cocktail.
Similarly good-value deals are available at other swanky eateries across the capital. The options for the three-course lunch at Peruvian restaurant Lima in Fitzrovia includes ceviche, Andean potato stew, king prawn stew and dulche de leche ice cream. This menu, which is also available as a pre-theatre option, costs £24. Just down the road at Yauatcha, the dim sum teahouse from the team behind Hakkasan, you can get eight dim sum, plus a selection of macarons and teas, for £19.
www.socialeatinghouse.com; www.limalondongroup.com; www.yauatcha.com
A NIGHT AT THE THEATRE
Top-price tickets to plays and musicals in the West End can cost up to £200, but you can see these shows for a fraction of the cost. All year round, you can pick up tickets for as much as 70 per cent off by queuing in person on the day of the performance at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. Around 40 different West End shows are typically available, including Les Misérables and The Play That Goes Wrong.
The Get into London Theatre scheme, which runs from 1 Jan to 9 Feb, offers further chances to catch these shows, with tickets available for £10, £20, £30 and £40 at specific performances.
DRINK TO THAT!
A lot of skill goes into making delicious cocktails – especially ones packed with innovative flavours and made using techniques popular in the capital in recent years. So it’s not surprising that a night out at a London cocktail bar can have a serious impact on your wallet. It doesn’t have to be that way, however, if you head along at happy hour (timings vary from venue to venue but tend to take place on weekdays, from mid-afternoon to early evening) to take advantage of drinks so inexpensive you’ll want to try everything on the menu.
Caipirinhas and mojitos are among the selected cocktails available for just £5.50 at Amigo Hour at Latin-themed Barrio, which has bars in Soho, Islington, Shoreditch and Brixton. Happy hour at London Cocktail Club’s seven locations means two cocktails for £12 across the enormous list. Founded by the award-winning bartender JJ Goodman, the LCC has some quirky offerings including a bacon and egg martini – smoked bacon-infused whisky, with maple syrup, orange bitters, lemon juice and egg whites. Selected cocktails, meanwhile, are only £5 at the four locations of Dirty Bones – we can’t get enough of the Littlest Hobo, a delicious combination of gin, lemon, passion fruit and cider. So order another round, and raise a toast to doing London on a budget, but in style.
www.barriobars.com; www.londoncocktailclub.co.uk; www.dirty-bones.com