Today marks the four-year anniversary of my move to London. I was sent there for work for six months, but managed to squeeze one more month out of the deal and returned to the States just before Christmas in 2008.
So in honor of this momentous occasion, I share with you the top 20 things I miss about lovely Londontown.
1. My office and home away from home were both in Soho, which is such an eclectic and energetic part of the city. I’ve been told time and time again how no “real” Londoner lives in Soho, but I’m not a “real” Londoner, nor have I ever claimed to be. Soho definitely has an edge. Some of my neighbors just so happened to be sex shops (but a church, too!).
2. itsu and I had a borderline dangerous relationship. Really. There was one at the end of my block, which meant it was close to home and work. Sometimes we’d get takeaway from there for lunch and I’d also get it for dinner on my way home. And this would often happen multiple times per week. Luckily I didn’t end up the way of Jeremy Piven.
3. Black cab drivers put U.S. cab drivers to shame. These brilliant folks spend years studying to be a cab driver and it’s worth it. They literally know every single street in London and they never play the, “what route should I take” game.
4. Carnaby Street is a great little area that was within blocks of my flat. There are loads of restaurants, cafes and shops and they have the best Christmas decorations.
5. The Crown and Two Chairmen was a popular after-work spot for my colleagues and me. The used to have a Tuesday special, Two for a Tenner. That’s two bottles of wine for 10 GBP. Don’t mind if I do…
6. Another favorite spot for my work colleagues and me was Couch, just down the street from Soho Square. I believe it was torn down to make way for a bigger, better Tube station in preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
7. Wahaca is the best Mexican restaurant in the city. Period. The food is fresh and fast and the margaritas go nicely with a Friday afternoon lunch. I went there way too many times when I lived in London, most often indulging in the delicious Sonora salad with chicken. I make sure to stop here every time I’m back in London.
8. The Green Park is essentially Hyde Park’s little sister. When I first moved to London, I was living in temporary corporate housing right on Hyde Park, in Knightsbridge. And everyday (okay, most days) after work I would go for a run through the park and tell myself how incredibly lucky I was to be living in such an amazing place. Then I moved to my flat in Soho and thought, now where will I run? The Green Park became my alternative.
9. Admittedly, I didn’t even know Ben’s Cookies when I lived in London, but discovered them while visiting there the summer after I moved back to the States. There are Ben’s outposts in Covent Garden, on Oxford Street and I’m sure elsewhere. They’re best when they’re still warm and the milk chocolate is nice and gooey. (And they deliver! Sadly, not to the U.S.)
10. Living on the top floor of a four-story walk-up, grocery delivery was a must so Ocado and I began a lovely relationship. It only got weird the one time when the delivery man asked to use my toilet.
11. I’m not a big museum person, but every gal needs a little culcha now and again. And whenever those moments struck, I usually went to Tate Modern.
12. The National Portrait Gallery was another go-to for when I was in the mood. Before I left London, there was a pretty incredible Annie Leibovitz exhibit that I’m glad I got to see.
13. The Sanderson Hotel is one of the coolest hotels I’ve stayed at, but the bars there are equally impressive, especially The Purple Bar. It’s a chic spot for a glass (or two) of bubbly, as is Long Bar.
14. When we were feeling fancy, friends and I would go to Refuel Bar at Soho Hotel for bubbles after work.
15. By no means am I a connoisseur of dim sum, but Royal China Club gets high marks in my book. Not only is the dim sum delicious, but the service is superb. I have many fond memories of this place, but one from a sunny Friday afternoon when some colleagues and I had a nice, leisurely lunch, then made our way to Charlotte Street for bubbles al fresco. I’m certain our office was closed for the afternoon and we weren’t just ditching.
16. Scribbler is a great little shop with some really cheeky cards. Always fun to send a little U.K. humor to friends and family across the pond.
17. Why oh why don’t more cities have something like Heathrow Express? It’s a genius way to get into central London from the airport — and fast.
18. Christmastime in London is unlike most places in the U.S., at least in terms of how they dress up the streets. Decorations are spectacular, but not in a tacky, Clark Griswald kind of way.
19. I think it’s safe to proclaim Maynard’s Wine Gums as my favorite candy ever. And it’s the particular Maynard’s variety that are the best. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of others and they’re just not the same. Between my friend in Soham and my husband’s work trips to London, I’m kept in wine gums without even living in London anymore.
20. Whenever I started to seriously think I might get mercury poisoning from the number of times I ate at itsu any given week, I would mix things up by going to Hummus Bros instead. A whole restaurant devoted to one of my most favorite foods? Don’t mind if I do.