Here is Violaine’s London city guide! You’ve been asking for a London guide for a while and I thought you’d like to have my friend Violaine’s best spots. She is the fashion director of Velour Magazine, and she’s lived there for 9 years… The girl knows what she’s talking about !
How would you describe London to someone who has never been?
It’s big, grey, arty, busy, young with lots of parks and pubs and most importantly you have to get used to people saying “sorry” all the time for no reason, which leads to funny situations in public transports sometimes: Wait a second, why did I just say sorry to the crazy lady who stomped on my shoes?!
What is your neighborhood, why did you choose to live there ?
Bethnal Green in East London. I love it there because it’s situated between Victoria Park (feels like a village) and Shoreditch (the busiest area of East London where my office is). It means I can walk to work and on the week-end I can walk to the park and to the Flower Market on Columbia Road.
What are your other favorite neighborhoods and why?
I love Notting Hill as it has great vintage and antiques and apart from the week-end when it’s absolutely crazy, it’s not really touristy and really feels like the London you see in the movies. It has a great cinematic atmosphere.
This city is huge ! How do you get around ?
That’s the main problem in London. People stay in their area as it’s so difficult to get around. Taxis are very expensive, so most of the time going out in a different neighborhood feels like an adventure. My advise is live where your friends live!
High Street is really big in London, which stores are your favorite and how often do you go ?
I go to Topshop once in a while. I like Zara too but most of the things are too big for me… They do great pants so sometimes I grab a few pairs and have them tailored. They also do great shoes but I’m a size 2 and they never have shoes small enough for me! Zara, if you hear me?
And how about the department stores ?
Harvey Nichols is the best for browsing as they do great buying and the selection is not too overwhelming. They also have a great food hall on the 5th floor and on the ground floor the beauty brands that you can’t find anywhere else. Also, they have a Brow Bar where I get my eyebrow shaped for almost 6 years now. It’s the best place for threading! The staff is gentle and experienced, to give your eyebrows a clean natural look.
Your favorite spot to buy vintage?
London is one of the best cities for vintage. Hunky Dory on the corner of Bethnal Green Road and Brick Lane is my favorite. The two owners travel all year round through Europe and have the best eye for 40s and 50s dressing. This era is the best for me because of the small waist.
They also have great antique jewelery in Camden Passage in Islington (no to be confused with Camden market which is still mainly for questionable tattoos and cyber/goth clothing) and Spitalfield market every Thursday for clothes and furniture.
Where can you always spot the fashion crowd?
East London is where lots of fashion PR companies have been relocating recently. It always have been the gritty part of London. (When I used to go out there 9 years ago when I moved to London I remember thinking how dirty it was!). But now it’s becoming the place where everything happens, where all the designers live and there’s even a Fashion Street!
Where do you meet boys (I am talking for my single friends) ?
Hmm that’s a tough one to answer without being all Carrie Bradshaw about it.. “I couldn’t help but wonder…Where can you meet men?” Haha To be honest, I’m still wondering. I met my boyfriend at Shoreditch House if that helps anyone ha!
Is everybody crazy about One Direction? Are you?
Hahaha No. I think they’re actually even bigger in America.
The one cool bar?
Like in NYC it changes all the time. At the moment I would say that I love Bodega Negra on Old Compton Street in Soho. The front entrance looks like any other peep show you’ll find in this street but you go downstairs and discover this super cool Mexican restaurant, busy and dark with a massive bar in a middle for delicious tequila cocktails.
The coolest club?
I like The Scotch in Mayfair. It’s a bit far for me to go to but this old member’s club that recently reopened, it’s the best club right now. Small space, great music, great crowd.
What is the one touristy place you still love to visit?
The Tate Modern.
What should I bring back from London? Is a Queen’s teapot the best option? I have to say I love them.
Haha yes. And Also some tea from Fortnum & Mason to put in it.
What joke should nobody make in the streets of London?
Never make jokes about the Queen. The English love their Queen. So I hope the teapot wasn’t a joke…
Whats the best way to have a full London experience? A beer in the streets after work?
If you come in for a week-end, you should definitely start with Borough Market in London Bridge and have lunch there then walk by the Thames all the way to the Tate Modern. On Sunday you can enjoy the Flower Market on Columbia Road and have a typical Sunday Roast at the Royal Oak, then walk back to Brick Lane for some vintage shopping. And I think you should definitely go to Harrod’s!
Where can you find the best fish and chips? And what if you want to eat healthy?
For the best Fish and Chips go to Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden. I’m not a big fan of anything fried but for some reason I can stomach theirs any day. When I eat out I don’t really look for anything specially healthy. If I want a salad I’ll just make myself one at home!
Do you have a favorite spot for a London staycation? Where do you go to escape the business of the city?
Hampstead Heath in North London is a great place to escape. It feels like you’re in the middle of the countryside.
What is your favorite restaurant?
For a date: The Rivington Grill in East London
For breakfast: The Breakfast Club on Old Street
For the best Pho: Cay Tre on Old street
For a fun dinner with friends: Pizza East in Shoreditch
To impress: Bob Bob Ricard in Soho
Where is the best spot for lunch with girlfriends?
The Albion on Redchurch Street.
A place for high tea ?
The Delauney in Covent Garden.
Where are you most likely to spot Will and Kate?
I have no idea.
Where do you get you hair cut ?
Hob Salon. Ask for Stan. He’s the one who cut my hair short the first time. Since then I never looked back. And he’s the only hairdresser I know that doesn’t talk when he’s cutting you hair!
Where do you get your nails done ?
I usually do it myself or at the Chinese place just down the road from me. But for pedicures I go to Cowshed Spa in Shoreditch House.
Where can we buy Velour ?
Selfridges, Harrod’s, Harvey Nichols and every bookstore.
Is there a hotel you recommend to your friends ?
The Covent Garden Hotel. It looks very French and… they do the best daiquiri!