Great location on a quiet street of 19th century Jacobean brick terraces just off Sloane Square. The hotel itself had notices posted that it had recently changed management, and was about to undergo renovations. It definitely needed it. We stayed in the most expensive room, which was quite large with a king size bed, but it was rather run down. The carpets needed replacing, and paper on the bathroom ceiling and walls was peeling. For these prices, I can't really recommend it. Perhaps after renovations it will be better.
All restaurant prices are for two people, with one bottle of (non-house) wine.
Wonderful Italian restaurant, slightly (but not much) off the beaten path in Soho. When we went it had been open for a week or so. The staff is young and enthusiastic, and the wine list is fairly priced with selections from France, Italy, South America, California, and even the Northwest USA. I recommend the scallops with squid-ink risotto if it's available.
Trendy place in Camden Town to eat moules frites and drink Belgian beer in a beautifully designed space. The food was very good, and the beers made me want to return just to try more of them. A very good value for the price. There's another one in Covent Garden at 50 Earlham Street.
This is a good wine bar for a light snack or complete meal, with many wines by the glass. You can even try some English wine here, although we did and I can't recommend it.
Excellent brasserie-style seafood restaurant, with fish available cooked just about any way (or not cooked if we're talking oysters). A very good wine list and a friendly staff make it a very pleasant place to spend hours. Try the sardines or one of the raw/steamed platters.
Excellent Chinese cooking from various regions on a great street for ethnic restaurants and shops. A good place to get pretty authentic (not too Westernized) food in a nice atmosphere with very friendly and helpful staff. Some of the best Chinese food I have ever eaten anywhere.
"New British" cooking in a beautiful space with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the Thames. The food was good, and occasionally excellent. The staff (mostly Italian) was very solicitous, if a bit formal.
This was one of the best restaurant experiences of my life. The wine list is superb, so I would recommend going during the day (because of its views of the river and Tower Bridge) and having simple foods with great wines. We had oysters with St. Aubin (a French white) and Scotch sirloin with a South African Merlot, plus a cheese plate with two dessert wines. The wait staff is very, very good and the atmosphere is relaxed. The price listed above is at the high end, because we tried some of the more expensive wines, but it was worth every penny.
Very good place to eat after going to see a play at the Pleasance London upstairs. The space is huge and airy with a relaxed atmosphere, and the staff is friendly. You can have burgers, complete meals, or just a drink.
It has two restaurants: a more formal (and more expensive) one on the first floor (which is the second if you're American) and a casual bar/rotisserie on the ground floor. The food is good, not astounding, but the rotisserie is a good place to people watch, especially if you get one of the tables next to the sidewalk. The crowd is also much more fun downstairs. The menu is generally Provençal, with some other Mediterranean dishes thrown in.
If you're a theatre and performing arts fanatic that prefers something other than big West-End productions, I recommend you pick up a copy of Time Out as soon as you arrive and browse the listings. Almost all places will let you make a reservation by phone with a credit card and pick up your tickets at the box office on the day of the performance.
Don't be scared off by seeing "British Rail" in my directions. It's quite easy to take the BR and if you have a 2-zone pass, there's no extra charge. Just go to Victoria and look for Clapham Junction on the big signs listing destinations. It only takes about 10 minutes once you're on the train, and they run quite often.
That said, it's definitely a place worth checking out for good new theatre. There are several theatres, an art gallery, a book and gift shop, and a pub in the building, which was once a grand marble-staircased municipal building. We saw a play called Sunspots by Judy Upton which was excellent.
The ENO is known for its daring productions. We saw a wonderful performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. For someone from New York, the ticket prices are very reasonable. The most expensive seats sell for 50 pounds, and the cheapest sell for 5 pounds.
A good place to check out for "fringe" theatre with a bar and art gallery inside, and one of the best fringe theatre spaces I have seen. We saw an adaptation of Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener by the Scottish troupe Red Shift, fresh from their performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was a very moving and effective take on the story, with a great cast. After the show (or before), I recommend the pub/brasserie called Shillibeer's downstairs from the theatre.
An eccentric museum and home created in the late Georgian era out of three town houses by the brilliant architect John Soane. The house itself is beautiful, and his collection of objects ranging from Hogarth prints to ancient Greek sculpture makes it a place not to be missed.
Shakespeare's thatched-roof theatre is being rebuilt, using mostly the techniques of its time, 380 years after it burned to the ground. When we went, there were no performances scheduled while more work was being done, but there was a fascinating guided tour and exhibition. It's not big, so if you're going to London, call beforehand to see if there are any upcoming performances. There's also a bookstore, with a planned education center, research library, and additional theatre space.
Highly recommended for one-of-a-kind hand-made leather bags and shoes. The prices are excellent.
CD shop with good selection of unusual classical music (including 20th century), jazz, and world music. There's a good amount of 20th century opera, but you need to know what you're looking for - it's all in one section.
The best place to go in London for lesbian and gay books and magazines. There's everything from the latest fiction to art books and a great biography section. The staff is very well-informed and helpful.