Shop. Eat. Drink. Repeat.
Christmas Time. Mistletoe and Wine. No, don’t worry- we’re not about to burst into a festive sing-along. Before we can even think of letting loose around log fires and fairy lights, we’re having a serious gift giving brainstorm. Mistletoe probably won’t cut it and wine’s always a tricky one. So it looks like our only option is to bite the bullet and put some welly into finding perfect presents or be faced with the last minute crew clawing over novelty socks at M&S.
But wait, we’ve discovered the best hacks to avoid the high street hysteria. This year, we’re coordinating our gifting habits with our top spots for great grub, tipples and treats. Stop off at any of these eight sites before, during or after the bag laden madness for a guaranteed escape from the shopping storm.
Selfridges Forest on the Roof
If your gifts are brimming out of bright yellow shopping bags then you’ve hit the heart of central London craziness. We do admit that Selfridges’ festive offerings are always a spectacular present searching highlight. Especially when any lingering is done on their seasonal rooftop. Especially when that rooftop has been transformed into a golden winter forest. Especially when we can dance in that winter forest to the tunes of live DJs alongside glittering mirror balls. And especially when our dancing follows feasts of Beef Wellington with truffle jus and slurps of choctails and ‘Skinny’ Prosecco. Enough said.
Beyond the Waterfall, Westfield
Those that turn their gifting attention West will likely find themselves in Westfield’s shopping mall minefield. When we were tots jingling bells once marked the arrival of our festive field trip to Santa’s grotto. Today they simply remind us of ringing tills as we lay down some dollar. But wait- Westfield’s collaborated with legendary gastronomers and theatrical extraordinaires Bompas & Parr to let us live out our grotto dreams once again. Picture a fantastical scene including journeying aboard a small boat, crossing a 20m lagoon meeting merman and mythical creatures, passing a mysterious waterfall and ending up on enchanted island complete with undersea cocktails. No, you’re not tripping. This is Bompas & Parr’s real life translation of the legends of the sea. The merman mixologists’ cabinet of drinks distillates include deep water mineral ingredients promising ‘psychological, emotional and physiological reactions’. Well if that’s not one way to escape the Christmas crowds, we don’t know what is!
Bourne & Hollingsworth
Ever been mid present hunt and thought how much you’d prefer to just kick back in homely comfort whilst the crowds rush by outside? More to the point, ever hoped you could be hanging at your cool, arty media friend’s pad with their dab-handed cocktail skills and suspiciously never ending supplies of booze? Well if you haven’t already, it’s time you met Bourne & Hollingsworth. Located in Fitzrovia’s Rathbone Place, just five minutes above Oxford Street and to the side of Tottenham Court Road, this basement bar feels like stepping into an incredibly stylish sitting room. B&H’s recent renovation sees antique chairs upholstered in vibrant, eclectic prints sitting beside bold hand-painted wallpaper, floral arrangements, a marble bar and wooden fireplace. The team has a ‘their home is your home’ approach complete with the warm delivery of inventive serves. Our favourites include the deconstructed Pornstar Martini with passionfruit champagne jelly and the ‘Blue Wray’ falernum-laced Daiquiri. The space has been opened out so natural window light reigns supreme. Yet with cocktails in hand, we’re far too busy imagining ourselves lounging in our dream apartment to even contemplate pounding the pavements again.
Balls & Company
If you’re going the whole hog and hitting Oxford Street in general then you’re definitely going to need some sustenance. Who could be more apt at keeping energy levels up and tastebuds thriving than an ex Masterchef winner? Balls & Company founder Bonny Porter made it to the final 6 of the Australian version of the show and this Soho spot is certainly a prize winner. Balls of energy are sure to be found in this classy meatball diner (see what we did there). Choose from pork, chicken, salmon, quinoa or shortrib to go with your pick of tomato, bechamel, romesco or pesto sauces. If the yuletide tunes ringing in every hook, nook and shop cranny haven’t completely soured you into Scrooge, Balls & Company’s special edition Roast ham and stuffing with maple and mustard glaze keeps the festive hits going.
Once the stomach lining has started, if you’re anything like us then your shopped out legs really aren’t up for any more of a slog. No worries as you don’t need to move very far at all. Balls and Company have you all sorted as they’ve recently opened Company Below in their basement. With the same concentration on sustainability and provenance, this herbal cocktail lair is ripe with a fresh sense of Christmas spirit! Fir tree liqueur anyone? Or how about plum vodka and pear and bay tree syrup? With ingredients like these we feel a million miles from the hustle and bustle of outside Greek Street.
Venturing further into town, the Regent Street rush is broken up by a handy little side passage known as Heddon Street. Whilst we admit the alley’s no secret, Sakagura’s practise of Japanese ‘omotenashi’ hospitality allows this Sushi and Sake spot to exist in a parallel universe to the busy bag bashers outside. It seems the presents have arrived early at Sakagura as every morsel of sushi is impeccably wrapped. Picture-perfect plates such as maguro avocado tartare flavoured by yuzu lemongrass pack a punch for post shopping pick me ups.
The Gate, Seymour Place
A little further from the madding crowds (yet still near enough to avert post shopping trekking), newly opened vegetarian restaurant and bar The Gate gets top marks for revitalising grub. Seymour Place is fast becoming a foodie haven with Deliciously Ella’s Mae deli and wine bar Vinoteca being just some of the other joints in the (admittedly rather posh) ‘hood. With a concentration on taste over the regimental boundaries of cultural origin, the menu is a kaleidoscope of flavour fusions. Meat lovers need not fear as The Gate’s got every palette catered for. The experimental, varied menu offers dishes such as the intriguingly titled plantain chip and green dragon salad alongside more familiar eats such as schnitzel and aubergine teriyaki. Drop all those weighty bags at the door and tuck in for the night.
If you’re planning to shop in style, then Bond Street is probably your best bet. Here the Oxford Street march diffuses into more of a soft stroll but our claustrophobia still remains. So Jamavar’s Indian hideaway is just the escape route we’re after. Taking inspiration from India’s sacred temples, the menu’s sizzling spices and majestic dining rooms warm us right up from the Winter Freeze. Lounge back with authentic Indian bites and forget the frenzy outside and enjoy our very own palatial Taj Mahal. Crowds… what crowds?
You can now plan and discover all your Christmas escape routes using our interactive Just Opened Map.
Words by Charlotte Brohier