Weeks into 2023, London is buzzing and already there is so much to look forward to. From sexy new hotel bars and never-before-seen images of The Beatles, to new Indian eats, spa treatments for kids, and what may be the next theatrical sensation…London correspondent Emily Goldfischer says it’s time to book.
Here are our top five reasons to head across the pond and visit the English capital.
1. Art: National Portrait Gallery Reopens After Three Years
The National Portrait Gallery, which has been closed since 2020, is reopening this summer with two blockbuster exhibitions—never-before-seen photos of The Beatles by Paul McCartney and a Chanel-sponsored exhibit by Yevonde, the pioneering London photographer who spearheaded the use of color photography in the 1930s. For the McCartney show, the portraits were taken by him between December 1963 and February 1964, a time when The Beatles were transitioning from a British sensation to a global phenomenon. He thought the camera had been lost, and the images offer a uniquely personal perspective on what it was like to be a Beatle at the start of "Beatlemania"—and adjusting from playing gigs on Liverpool stages to performing before 73 million Americans on The Ed Sullivan Show. As for Yevonde, the exhibit, “Life and Colour,” tells the story of a woman who gained freedom through photography and features portraits and still-life works produced over a colorful 60-year career.
2. Drink: Cool New Cocktail Bars
As part of The Dorchester’s complete overhaul of the lobby and guest rooms—the property’s largest renovation in 30 years—it has added a new James Bond-themed Vesper Bar, which just opened last week. With soft velvet banquettes in light blues and gold, Bond surely would feel at home. When we popped by, a DJ was spinning classic tunes and the crowd of well-dressed hotel guests and locals was busy sipping, chatting and chilling. The classic Martini is on point, as are the bar snacks—the shrimp tempura, so light and crispy, is a must. We also loved the 90s throwback Espresso Martini, slightly sweet and delicious.
Also on our radar is the new David Collins-designed Velvet bar at The Corinthia, which opened at the end of 2022. The hotel has partnered with mix master Salvatore Calabrese, aka “The Maestro,” the award-winning former president of the United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild who has written some 10 books on the subject. He is all about the theatre of cocktail-making. Slip into one of the sultry sofas and get ready to sip something truly unique; the cocktail menu is split into five categories (1920s Classics, 2020s Modern Era, Velvet Martinis, Salvatore’s Signatures, and Golden Era Vintage cocktails). It will likely be hard to choose.
3. Eat: Incredible New Indian Cuisine
Where to eat great Indian is something constantly asked, so it is great that two celebrated chefs have new outposts. Manthan in Mayfair is the latest London venue of Michelin-star chef Rohit Ghai. His pedigree includes stints in India with Oberoi Hotels and Resorts as well as The Taj Hotels and Resorts, before moving to London where he worked at leading eateries Benares, Trishna, Gymkhana, Hoppers and, most recently, Jamavar. Chef Ghai is the first Indian chef to have won a Michelin star for Jamavar within ten months of the restaurant’s opening. Manthan is an intimate, sexy spot on Maddox Street, and the food is off-the-charts delicious.
Also just opened is Darjeeling Express in Soho by famed chef Asma Khan, who got her start doing dinners for 12, then appeared on "Chef’s Table," and is now a celeb favorite (looking at you Paul Rudd and Dan Levy). Her original Darjeeling Express closed during the pandemic but has just reopened again in Soho’s Kingly Court with a stellar all-female team. Advance booking is essential.
4. Hotel: New Spa for Kids
The Pan Pacific London is quickly becoming a favorite for families. With its stunning pool and Wellbeing Floor, the hotel is an oasis for parents that want to balance exploring the city with relaxation and family fun. Now, the hotel has upped the ante by partnering with luxury children’s brand Bonpoint, creating three signature spa treatments for kids aged six to 16, giving them the chance to dip their toes into the world of wellness. Each of the three signature treatments exclusively uses Bonpoint’s skincare products, specially formulated for children’s skin, using natural and hypoallergenic ingredients.
General Manager Anne Golden tells us families are one of their biggest markets. “We welcome children with a special amenity pack, complete with ‘Singa’ soft lion toy, activity book and a treasure map," she says. "Kids love swimming in our pool and trying our immersive D-WALL, [where] players can choose from skiing and shooting through to flying. Each game is designed to challenge and stimulate, whilst also helping to train the child and gain valuable balance, agility and perception skills.” Now, kids have their own spa experience, too; choices include a fairy tale-themed facial, a “dreamy” massage treatment with a parent, or an intro to skin care.
5. Theatre: Could "Sylvia" Be the Next "Hamilton?"
Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst’s life and work is the subject of "Sylvia," a hip-hop musical by director and choreographer Kate Prince, which aims to enlighten a new generation about a crucial chapter in the fight for women's equality. It previously ran at the Old Vic as a work in progress in 2018, and is back in full with a stellar cast including world-famous soul singer Beverley Knight as Emmeline Pankhurst and Sharon Rose (who appeared in "Hamilton") in the title role. Speaking of Hamilton, the combo of energetic music and a historical theme, "Sylvia" definitely gives similar vibes!