London's Best Food And Drink Spots For Warming Up Over Winter
Chocolate. Doesn’t the word make you feel warmer and cosier already? Then imagine what a hot chocolate can do for you on a cold winter’s day. The finest in London, some say, is to be found at Rococo Chocolates’ flagship store in Belgravia. You can buy its award-winning truffles, take a chocolate-making class or simply sit back and relax with a steaming cup of liquid delight. There’s a glass window in the floor so that you can watch the chocolatiers hard at work in the kitchens below (5 Motcomb St, SW1X 8JU).
Paul A Young is known as the ‘Chocolate Alchemist’ for his unique truffle flavours, such as Marmite, Welsh goat’s cheese, Pimm’s Cocktail, and, wait for it, peanut butter and raspberry jam. His original Camden Passage venue was voted as one of the Top 10 Best Chocolate Shops in the World by National Geographic this year. His Wardour Street store in Soho, meanwhile, is decked out in purple, reinforcing the impression that he is something of an eccentric Willy Wonka. While there’s no café, staff will serve you a hot chocolate to take away – you’ll smell it as soon as you walk in (143 Wardour St, W1F 8WA).
The Waterside Café, a canalboat in Little Venice, only fits 40 people – so it’s guaranteed to be cosy whatever the weather. Warm up over seasonal drinks such as mint or cardamom hot chocolate, cinnamon coffee and mint mocha (Warwick Crescent, W2 6NE).
If what you’re after is a fun, child-friendly place to sit in for a while rather than a gourmet taste experience, head to Choccywoccydoodah near Carnaby Street in Soho. The décor is hilariously over the top, with multi-tiered cakes covered in iced flowers, teapots and lips in the downstairs shop, and a huge café with red walls upstairs. The hot chocolate is as extravagant as the interior, as it comes topped with whipped cream and piled high with marshmallows (30-32 Foubert’s Place, W1F 7PS).
Pubs With Fireplaces
Take a stroll across Hampstead Heath, a picturesque nature reserve in north London, then make your way to The Spaniards Inn.
This 16th-century pub is one of the oldest in London and has a roaring fire (Spaniards Rd, NW3 7JJ). South London’s 17th-century The George is the capital’s only remaining galleried coaching inn. A haunt of novelist Charles Dickens, it was mentioned in Little Dorrit (George Inn Yard, SE1 1NH). Follow in the footsteps of Mark Twain and Dr Johnson at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a 17th-century pub in the City (145 Fleet St, EC4A 2BU).
London is hot with ideas for seasonal tipples. Just a stone’s throw away from busy Oxford Street, The Arch London hotel bar is in a prime position for when you are shopped out. For a novel way to re-energise, try a drink that will warm your hands and cockles: the Joie de Vivre is made with flamed Drambuie liqueur, fresh winter berries and hot apple juice. The classic hot toddy is more than just a popular tipple as it’s historically noted for its medicinal qualities. Typically, it’s made with whisky, sugar and spices – and served hot (50 Great Cumberland Place, W1H 7FD).
The floor-to-ceiling windows of KuPP, a Scandinavian restaurant and bar, make the most of its view, as it’s right on the canal in Paddington Basin. Warm up with a hot toddy – spiced apple cider and whisky flavoured with lemon juice, honey and cinnamon. Try glögg – Scandinavian mulled wine – made with red berry wine flavoured with cinnamon sticks, cardamom, star anise and cloves, as well as oranges, sultanas, ginger and flaked almonds (5 Merchant Square, W2 1AS).
Even if you gave a corgi a bowler hat and taught it to howl God Save the Queen, you couldn’t get more British than afternoon tea. This doesn’t refer merely to the drinking of tea from china cups – possibly with your little finger pointed skywards – but to a light meal artfully sandwiched between lunch and dinner. The Duchess of Bedford popularised the concept in the first half of the 19th century, admittedly when lunch itself was uncommon. The ultimate tea is at The Ritz. It’s served in the Palm Court, with its ornate gold ceiling and the sound of a piano tinkling in the background. It has all the key ingredients: finger sandwiches, tea cakes, pastries and, of course, scones with jam and clotted cream. Ties are required for men, and booking is essential (150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR).
Other traditional teas include The Goring hotel (15 Beeston Place, SW1W 0JW), where you can relax on banquettes by a roaring fire; Claridge’s (Brook St, W1K 4HR) serenades guests with a pianist and cellist; at The Dorchester (53 Park Lane, W1K 1QA) you sit on a balcony overlooking the lobby; Lancaster London (Lancaster Terrace, W2 2TY) has views of Hyde Park; and Bulgari Hotel London (171 Knightsbridge, SW7 1DW) is famous for its pastries.
London being London, you can also find teas with a twist. Take a trip back to the 1940s, complete with vintage jazz, at Soho’s Secret Tea Room above The Coach & Horses pub (29 Greek St, W1D 5DH). Fashionistas will love the stylish Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley London (Wilton Place, SW1X 7RL), which comes with cakes shaped like designer handbags and high heels.
Brits love comfort food so much, we even have our own affectionate slang word for it: grub. In a cold climate, you need some warm grub in your belly. There’s nothing like a full English breakfast to kick-start your morning. On Piccadilly, The Wolseley’s breakfasts are legendary; a book has even been written about it. The full English comes with egg, bacon, sausage, baked beans, tomato, mushroom and black pudding (160 Piccadilly, W1J 9EB).
For lunch, try Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood London, a short walk from The British Museum, where classic comfort food gets an Indian twist. Try the tikka club sandwich with a fried hen’s egg and masala chips (252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN).