The pizza and salad chain, Rocket, brings its newest addition to the West End
Rocket's famous rare beef and chip salad is included on the new Holborn location's menu.
Upmarket restaurant chain Rocket recently debuted a new Holborn branch, the company’s fourth location in London (with one other Rocket in Nottingham, England). Rocket’s three other London locations are skewed east in the city’s financial districts, making its Holborn addition the lone star in the West End.
Like its counterparts, Rocket Holborn houses a slick décor in a classy-casual space, with a lively bar scene and a spacious dining layout. Frequent guests of the other locations will recognize the same extensive menu at the same price—a robust wine and cocktail list, and all the California-inspired starters, mains, and desserts.
If you’re a first time diner at Rocket and are thinking about giving the Holborn location a go, be sure to try an item from their signature “Rocket Stone Baked Pizza” menu. Their original creations include—but are not limited to—tandoori chicken and raita pizza, chili-con-carne pizza, and smoked black pudding pizza with butterfly king prawns and pancetta, all served in monstrous portions that easily feed two. Their equally sizeable (and novel) salad entrees, such as the famous rare beef and chip salad topped with rocket, fried green beans, radishes, cherry tomatoes, fried chili, black bean dressing, and a ginger-mustard mayonnaise, are also highly recommended.
The Best Brunch In London
Breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, but it’s not always the most glamorous. Finding the best brunch in London, however, is an exercise in putting a little magic into mealtime. Brunch combines all the high points of its hybrid parts to form the perfect way to kick off a weekend. It takes place late enough to allow for a lie-in, but early enough that afterwards, the day still stretches ahead of you, full of possibility. Plus, day drinking is as good as encouraged. What’s not to love?
After years of coming up short in the eggs Benedict department, brunch in London now rivals the offering in New York – and with slightly shorter queues than those in Manhattan. There are plenty of classic, Bloody Mary-filled options, from celebrity haunt Chiltern Firehouse to AA Gill’s old favourite, the Wolseley. For something less traditional, feast on bagels and latkes from the Jewish-inspired menu at Monty’s Deli, or treat yourself to brioche French toast with honey, ricotta and quince at the always delicious Dusty Knuckle. Or, for a truly decadent outing, head to Ollie Dabbous’s Hide in Mayfair, where the brunch menu includes everything from Porthilly oysters with Amalfi lemon to buckwheat waffles topped with foie gras parfait and Moscatel chutney. Read on for Vogue’s definitive guide to the best brunch in London, and once you’re done, take a look at the Vogue guides to the best coffee in London, best cocktails bars in London and the best afternoon tea in London.
Top 10: Picnic Hampers in London By Angelica Malin
What’s summer for, if not a little picnic in the sunshine? Save yourself the effort of making all those bland sandwiches which are soggy by lunch time, and instead indulge in one of London’s best made-to-order picnic delivery hampers. From Italian deli feast to traditional English delights, there’s something for everyone this summer in the capital:
Nothing says ‘happy summer’ like antipasti. Embrace the nice weather with homemade, fresh Italian dishes from Carluccios. They’re great for veggies, too – choose between the classic and vegetarian option, which feature an antipasti selection, homemade olive focaccia, a delicious, nutritious salad of pearl barley with grilled aubergine and rocket, as well tarts filled with pancetta and taleggio. Follow with chicken supreme and courgette, mint and ricotta frittata and a fresh salad of leafy greens with aged, Italian balsamic dressing – just what summer needs. Dessert is a slice of indulgence with individual strawberry shortcrust tarts and traditional Piedmont biscotti to finish. Add a bottle of fruity Italian red and drink yourself happy.
Chapters, the modern South London brasserie, has just launched a special takeaway picnic menu, which includes a selection of charcuterie with piccalilli, shredded salt beef and green beans and bread with houmous. The main event comes in the form of slow roast belly of pork with salsa verde and mange tout with fennel, orange and hazelnut salad. For pudding, dig into chocolate brownies with English strawberries and cream, and watch the sun set. Chapters is located in the heart of Blackheath Village and opposite the glorious heath – a perfect picnic site looking Canary Wharf in the eye and a stone’s throw from Greenwich Park.
Price: £45, which includes the wicker hamper.
For a fantastic bespoke Italian hamper, try Valentina Fine Foods, one of the UK’s biggest selection of Italian deli products. You can build your own picnic, with a wide range of Italian meat, cheeses, wines, to decide from. Every hamper is bespoke – no leftover sandwiches here – so you choose exactly what you want for your picnic and create a fantastic summer hamper with a lovely traditional wicker hamper basket around your favourite foods. Choose from a selection of fresh parmesan, the finest prosciutto, freshly baked ciabatta, white truffle honey and giant olives. And, of course, the perfect tipple – we’d suggest a bottle of limoncello to wash it all down.
Price: starts from £25 for hampers
Firmdale’s Oscar Restaurant makes lazy picnics in the park a veritable delight. They’ve got a hamper for everything – their hampers are filled with a selection of sandwiches and sweet treats, as well as fresh fruit juice, iced tea and top-notch tipples. For breakfast, try the Breakfast Hamper with croissants, muffins, smoked salmon and cream cheese – and amazing sandwiches, such as ham and Gruyère and egg mayonnaise. The sweet fix comes in the form of granola bars and fruit salad. For lunch time, try the Bloomsbury Hamper with tuna and watercress, chicken roll, Rueben, cheddar and tomato sandwich, as well as healthier options of caesar and tomato and mozzarella salad. Finish it all off with a mixed berry salad chocolate tiffin, cupcake, fruit tart and macaroon. You can’t have too much of a good thing, right?
Price: £40 for Breakfast Hamper, £50 for Bloomsbury Hamper
The Churchill at Hyatt Regency allows you to create a personalised picnic hamper, with a host of perfect English snacks, including chilled cucumber and mint soup, Scotch eggs, ham hocks, finger sandwiches and a selection of meats and cheeses, all available alongside fresh-baked breads and an assortment of homemade preserves. Those with a sweet tooth can end their experience with a trifle or Eton mess, which, I can assure you, are very good news. It’s easy, too – select the dishes you’d like to enjoy and these dishes will then be delivered to the table in a carefully packed picnic hamper. Perfection.
Price: varies on order
A fancier option, each picnic hamper from Mayfair’s Corrigan restaurant is freshly prepared to order and contains not one, not two, but seven seasonal dishes, as well as homemade bread and hand churned butter. There’s no fuss here, as the crockery, cutlery, glassware and a blanket are also included, for the ultimate picnic. Expect only the finest British food – fishes include grilled sardines, new potatoes, Heritage beetroot, goat’s curd, and smoked mackerel. No picnic is complete without an English pudding and this one includes summer berries, shortbread and creme fraiche. How very refined.
What could be nicer than whiling away an evening in London’s tranquil Lincoln’s Inn Fields? Pizza, that’s what. Rocket Holborn’s new picnic in the park pizza delivery service allows you to enjoy the oasis of calm away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city, with the additional of melted cheese. The purveyors of some of London’s leading pizzas will put on a perfect al fresco dining experience this summer – sending picnickers in the park cocktails, pizzas, chilled water as well as a blanket to sit and enjoy it all on. Pop into the Holborn restaurant which backs onto Lincoln’s Inn Fields to place your order and Rocket will bring you a cocktail and pizza each, as well as a bottle of water, cutlery and glasses to your chosen picnicking spot for only £20 per person.
If you are staying at Sofitel London St James this summer, order a mouth-watering French inspired picnic hamper that includes Secretts Farm heirloom tomato salad with tapenade and basil, Forman’s smoked salmon and cucumber with dill cream in a seeded baguette. There’s also Cannon and Cannon sausages with pickles and delicious Camembert cheese and crackers, if that wasn’t enough. To round things off, indulge in sweet madeleines and refreshing fruit salad – the perfect accompaniment for hotel guests to enjoy in the neighbouring Royal Parks. Don’t miss their weekend brunch, too, it’s the stuff of legends.
Price: £50 for 2, with £75 deposit for non-guests
If you fancy a break from London, escape to Ascot’s Coworth Park and try their new picnic basket menu. Set within 240 acres of picturesque Berkshire, with a beautiful wildflower meadow, it’s the ideal place to enjoy the very British treat. The picnics are open to guests and non-residents alike there are three basket options, which range from sandwich picnic menu to deluxe. For a real treat, try the deluxe hamper, which includes half of Scottish lobster, English cheese, Waldorf salad and freshly baked rolls. Finish it all off with English strawberries and chocolate and orange mousse for the full experience. And, of course, a glass of champagne.
Price: £65 per person for the Deluxe Hamper
The iconic Tate Britain restaurant, Rex Whistler, has launched a brand new seasonal picnic menu to enjoy, which comes complete with Clovelly hamper and picnic blanket, as you laze out on its lawn. The delectable picnic hampers are filled to the brim with the best of British produce, all handpicked from artisan suppliers from across the country. Expect Dedham Vale beef and horseradish sandwiches, Burford Brown scotch eggs with leeks, Pinney’s of Orford smoked salmon and cream cheese and a selection of British cheeses. Picnickers can also enjoy the fine-wines from the restaurants’ award-winning wine list, as well as specially-crafted Rex Whistler Pimms – the perfect summer tipple.
Price: £28.50 for two people and wine starts at £14.00 for a half bottle
Top 5 salt beef sandwiches in London
Salt beef, as New York-style corned beef is known in the UK, is a Jewish deli meat made from beef briskets cured in brine. The salt breaks down the tough brisket meat while letting its flavours emerge. Salt beef ought not be an exercise in aerobic mastication, as some London purveyors would have you believe, nor should it be stringy and dry. The residual salt is already enough to build a two-pint thirst.
In a good sandwich the meat surrenders instantly to the chew, melting in the mouth and flooding it with flavour. There’s an easy test for tenderness: Pick up a single slice of salt beef, hold each end between thumb and forefinger and slowly pull the ends apart. If the meat stretches like rubber, that’s bad. If the meat breaks apart easily, that’s good.
When sourcing briskets that have already been cured, as most London salt beef bars do, meat texture comes down to cooking, conditioning and carving. First, the cured briskets should be patiently simmered for several hours. Second, the meat should be kept hot, wet and tender in a hot bath or steamer to within minutes of the time it is trimmed and carved – preferably hand-carved. Prolonged exposure to heat lamps will demoisturise the beef as surely as it would your skin.
It’s also important to have a crusty rye bread with enough density and chew to support the meat, an opinion not shared by the salt beef bars who seem to prefer thin slices from fluffy ryes better suited to afternoon tea. When you hold a sandwich you can feel the contours of the fillings through the flimsy bread. This is layer-upon-layer of sweaty brisket we’re talking about, not a single neat row of thinly sliced cucumber.
5. Selfridges Brass Rail
The department store location is upmarket and so is the price: At £7.50 it’s the lone sandwich in the London top 5 that can’t be had for under a fiver. All the same, I love the fact that even after the recent move and refurnishing the Brass Rail salt beef bar has retaining its authenticity. It’s a London institution. Knowing regulars jockey for position on the queue, sitting back as an untested carver allocates the scrappier bits to others and pushing forward as an old hand cuts into pristine parts of a juicy new brisket. (Novelist Howard Jacobson wrote brilliantly about this moral minefield in this opinion piece for the Independent). That no two servings are exactly the same might be a greater source of anxiety were it not for another given: a Selfridges salt beef is never worse than extremely good. Now, if they would only upgrade the limp rye bread…
Selfridges Ground Floor, 400 Oxford Street, W1
4. Tongue & Brisket
24-26 Leather Lane, EC1N 7SU (map)
3. Salt Beef Bar
Not one for uncertainty, Chris Christopoulou named his son Chris and raised him to take his place at the salt beef bar called The Salt Beef Bar. The unambiguous name of this eatery in North West London did not, however, deter a man in a tracksuit from popping in and asking about vegetarian options. Chris Christopoulou the Younger must have figured he was about to outdo his father and become the first in his family to sell a mustard and gherkin sandwich. But the Adidas bloke walked out and Chris resumed what he does best: carefully trimming the briskets and carving the sort of pristinely pink slices of salt beef that make carnivores giddy. If only the rye bread were not so lacking in substance.
2 Monkville Parade, Finchley Road, NW11
2. B&K Salt Beef Bar
You don’t have to be Jewish to get the most out of this nonkosher deli, but it does help to know how to kibbitz. If John Georgiou, one of the Greek-Cypriot co-owners, is assembling your sandwich, be sure to stand close to the counter and tell him you think his brother Michael is more generous with the pristine house-cured salt beef. If Michael is wielding the carver’s knife and fork, advise him that John’s portions are a lot bigger. If you aren’t sure which brother is which, just make it known that nobody piles on the meat like Dina, John’s wife. Then, when one of the Georgious wraps up a sandwich too large to fit in anyone’s mouth whose name isn’t Lily Allen, ask for two extra slices of rye and have yourself two SBs for the price of one from one of the last salt beef bars left in London that brines its own briskets.
11 Lanson House, HA8
The Clove Club
Named after the supper club that brought its three founders – Daniel Willis, Isaac Mchale and Johnny Smith – together, this modern British restaurant has been serving arguably the best tasting menu in London since 2013. Seasonal ingredients sing in the Shoreditch dining room, and service is so impeccable that The Clove Club is more than deserving of its Michelin star. It’s one for a special occasion, rather than a midweek meal. - CMH
Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old St, Hackney, London EC1V 9LT
Our guests will embark on a gin journey, learning all about the history of this British spirit and how it is made, with the opportunity to enjoy a tipple or two along the way!
The Gin Bar
The Gin Bar at Holborn Dining Room offers London's largest collection of Gin, with over 500 Gins and 30 tonics.
The Pie Room
The Pie Room at Holborn Dining Room is a one-stop destination dedicated to one of Britain's most iconic dishes.
Dine al fresco with seasonal brunch and dinner menus, surrounded by lush greenery that evokes the design of a quintessential English garden.
During 7th and 8th September 1940
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With Bomb Sight you can discover what it was like in London, during WW2 Luftwaffe Blitz bombing raids, exploring maps, images and memories. The Bomb Sight web map and mobile app reveals WW2 bomb census maps between 7/10/1940 and 06/06/1941, previously available only by viewing them in the Reading Room of The National Archives.
How to use the Map
- Use the search box to find a street or postcode of interest
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What information is available?
- Locations of bombs which fell:
- Between 7/10/1940 and 06/06/1941
- Week of 7th to 14th October 1940
- First 24 hours of the Blitz (7th September)
- Images from the Imperial War Museum Collections
- Memories from the BBC WW2 archive
- Location of different defences built to prevent a German Invasion
Types of Anti-invasion Site
- Anti-invasion site
- Several anti-invasion sites (with quantity)
- Anti-tank site
- Anti-personnel site
- Anti-plane site
- Ancillary site
Types of Bomb
- Several Bombs (with quantity)
- High Explosive Bomb
- Incendiary (Oil) Bomb
- Parachute Mine
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Top 20: London’s Best Cheesecakes By Felicity Spector
There’s nothing finer than a cheesecake. Soft, creamy, with a crunchy base, there’s simply nothing a cheesecake can’t solve. Whether you like it baked, covered in salted caramel or with a sprinkling of berries, here’s where to find London’s best cheesecakes:
Best For: Salted Caramel Cheesecake
What: The range of cakes and desserts here is, justly, the stuff of legend – but chief among them are the cheesecakes. They come in individual size, sometimes topped with decadent salted caramel and macadamia nuts, or sour cherries: in season, you might be lucky enough to get a pumpkin one. And if you’ve had a plate of the glorious salads first, a cheesecake for pudding is totally justified.
Where: Throughout London
Best For: Cheesecake Brownies
What: This Chiswick cafe, run by two self-taught American bakers, David Munis and David Lesniak, is the place to come for proper, US-style desserts. The cheesecake comes in vast slices, but is really too good to share. And if you can’t make it to the shop, their stall at Southbank Centre Market or the Real Food Festival at Kings Cross sells sour cherry cheesecake brownies. As good as they sound.
Where: 83 Chiswick High Rd, London W4 2EF
Best For: Vanilla Baked Cheesecake
What: It’s become their signature dish: a creamy, unbaked cheesecake on a katafiyeh base, a drizzle of honey and a salty unexpected hit of feta. It’s always impossible to choose which dessert to have among the cornucopia of baked goods: impossible sometimes to get beyond the call of the chocolate hazelnut babka. But imagine the lure of a vanilla baked cheesecake topped with rhubarb compote or even a Nutella one. Yes. You will need find room for seconds.
Where: 25A Warren St, London W1T 5LZ
Best For: Classic Cheesecake
What: If there is one dessert I’d go back for again and again at any of the Corbyn and King establishments, it’s the cheesecake: always impeccable, creamy, smooth, the base properly crunchy, enriched by subtle flecks of vanilla. It’s a classic for a reason, and this is the place to have it.
Where: 55 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BB
Best For: Individual Cheescakes
What: Muswell Hill might seem like a long way to go for a piece of cake, but this tiny neighbourhood cafe run by Dorchester chef Chris Honor, is worth the trek. Yes, there salads and hot food, but the vast table groaning with cakes is why you’re there. Cheesecakes are baked in individual tins and sold by the half – just the right size for one.
Where: 7 Tetherdown, London N10 1ND
Best For: White Chocolate Cheesecake
What: White chocolate cheesecake, people. Oh yes. Buttery biscuit base, thick, rich cheesecake, job done. Plus a brunch menu which offers everything from mushroom, spinach and fried egg on toast to wholegrain veggie salads. At breakfast, the chocolate almond croissants are especially good. And don’t get me started on the merits of the sour cream and pecan cinnamon crumble cake.
Where: Throughout London
Best For: Pistachio Cheesecake
What: These guys run the most incredible market stall in Crystal Palace on Saturday mornings. Their cakes are impeccable the double carrot cake is an absolute winner. And they’ve created a few masterpieces in baked cheesecake form – think rosewater pistachio cheesecake with fresh figs. Be warned: they tend sell out early, so turn up first thing to avoid crushing cheesecake disappointment.
Best For: Butterscotch Cheesecake
What: Another food market pioneer, Birmingham born Nick Fu has stalls at the Duke of York Square and Brunswick Centre Markets and sells to a range of independent coffee shops. His raspberry white chocolate brownies are one of the best things ever, also the triple layered carrot cake and the baked cheesecake with macadamias and oodles of sticky caramel butterscotch sauce. It’s messy. Take a napkin.
Where: 218 Long Ln, London SE1 4QB
Best For: Baked Cheesecake
What: These guys have mastered the perfect sourdough: there are few loaves better than their Hackney Wild. But if you make it down to their cafe, tucked inside a railway arch near Mare Street, you will find an absolute feast. And yes! They do a baked cheesecake, as unctuous and creamy as you like, a pleasingly thick biscuit base with plenty of crunch. Hackney, you are blessed.
Where: 395, Mentmore Terrace, London E8 3PH
Best For: Blueberry Cheesecake
What: Yes, a box of roasted carrot salad costs more than a first class air fare to JFK, but this is where to find the baked blueberry cheesecake of your dreams. Also, seasonal fruit crumble brioche. And cinnamon spiked, sugar drenched whirls of morning bun. Just add coffee.
Where: Throughout London
Best For: Cheesecake Slices
What: One for the south Londoners: this Brazilian cafe in Brixton village might not sound like the natural home of baked cheesecake. But it is! The banana caramel cake is like a sort of sticky toffee pudding in cake form. And the cheesecakes, in massive slices, are beautifully, lovingly made.
Where: 25-27 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8LB
Best For: Jewish Cheesecake
What: If it’s proper, Jewish baked cheesecake you want – this is where to find it. Huge slabs, cut to order, a sweet shortcrust pastry base, with raisins or without. If you didn’t know what the word ‘zaftig’ meant before, you will after you’ve tried this cheesecake. Jews like zaftig.
Where: 222-226 Jubilee St, London E1 3BS
Best For: Baked Vanilla Cheesecake
What: Prada for your larder it might be, but the salads and cakes at the two North London branches of this uber-grocer are faultless. The date and oat bar is perhaps the sine qua non breakfast food (wake up at the back, we’re in Hampstead now). And of course there is a baked vanilla cheesecake, in individual size or a larger version which you can buy to take home. If it makes it that far.
Where: Throughout London
Best For: Simple Cheesecake
What: Continuing the posh-person’s guide to cheesecake theme, this oh-so-stylish cafe in the Nicole Farhi shop in Westbourne Grove might be full of leggy girls with ironed-chestnut hair and Bill Amberg sheepskin baby carriers, but it is also home to amazing desserts. And in keeping with the New York feel to the menu – a rather good cheesecake. Take pity on the yummy mummies pushing rocket round their plates as you tuck in.
Where: 202 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London W11 2SB
Best For: Salted Caramel Pretzel Cheesecake
What: Echoes of America ring loud in the in house restaurant of Holborn’s Hoxton hotel. Hey, you’ll even think you’re in Brooklyn! Or you will when you tuck into a plate of the salted caramel pretzel cheesecake. Creamy, salty, sweet and utterly over the top.
Where: 199 – 206 High Holborn, London WC1V 7BW
Best For: Baked New York Cheesecake
What: What’s an almost-vegetarian like me doing at London’s premier steak house, you ask? It’s not for the red meat. Obviously there’s the lobster mac and cheese to negotiate first. Obviously. Feel those arteries screaming for mercy as you follow it up with a hefty slice of cheesecake. And then clamber into your taxi home for a long snooze.
Where: 86-90 Park Lane, London, W1K 7TN
Best For: Giant Cheesecake
What: The Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane houses a naughty secret. No, not that kind of naughty secret. On the dessert menu is what must be London’s most enormous cheesecake, a vast creation which I think two people are supposed to share. If you’re the kind of person who never shares dessert, you might want to go with an appetite. This cheesecake will be bigger than your head.
Best For: Banoffee Cheesecake
What: If you’re in a branch of Whole Foods Market, head for the chiller cabinet – where you’ll find boxed up slices of this small London bakery’s expertly made baked cheesecake. It’s hard to choose between the salted caramel and the banoffee: either way, you’ll be happy.
Where: Throughout London
Best For: White Chocolate Cheesecake
What: This Belgian-based chain is rapidly expanding across London: the generous bread baskets at breakfast come with jars of spreads including a white chocolate one and a hazelnut praline which is like a supercharged peanut butter on steroids. But beyond the tartines and healthy ‘superfood’ salads, there are tempting wedges of cheesecake. My kind of superfood.
Where: Throughout London
Best For: Oreo Cheesecake
What: Russell Norman’s diner describes itself as a “kind of New York deli, with cocktails”. And hence, there’s a cheesecake, a good creamy baked version with an Oreo biscuit base. I mourn for the departure of the peanut butter jelly version, but this one is almost as good. Start with the chicken soup, and end with this. It’s almost New York.
In London, Blue Plaques Mark the Noted and Notorious
Head south: past the gas station, the chicken shop and the bodybuilder gym, through a thicket of enormous public housing estates, constructed in varying shades of beige and beiger and brown. It’s quiet on this stretch of Vallance Road in London’s East End, a concrete artery connecting disparate neighborhoods. A short walk northwest brings you to Bethnal Green Academy, from which three British schoolgirls fled to Syria to join the Islamic State last year. An equal distance southwest lands you at Fournier Street: home to a different kind of enfant terrible — the British artist Tracey Emin, whose most famous work, “My Bed” (1999), featured Ms. Emin’s own authentically unmade bed, strewn with cigarettes and used condoms.
And yet here’s your destination: an unremarkable brown brick building, affixed with a circular, cobalt blue plaque: “Mary Hughes, 1860-1941 / Friend of All in Need / lived and worked here 1926-1941.” Was there ever such a lovely descriptor? Mary Hughes was once a stalwart champion of East London’s poor. She bought the Vallance Road building in 1926, and quickly converted it into a center for education, Christian Socialism and trade unionism. There, she passed many productive years. But her final days were spent as an invalid, after she was injured by a tram while marching on behalf of the unemployed.
This year, London celebrates 150 years of Blue Plaques: these tiny, ceramic homages to London’s greatest and most eccentric — and on rare occasion, most achingly virtuous — city dwellers. The capital boasts over 900 official plaques, nodding to notable figures and important historical sites. There are plaques at the home of the World War II code-breaker Alan Turing the house where John Lennon wrote his songs in 1968 the home of Sir Winston Churchill the home of Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill the former hayloft where, in 1820, conspirators plotted to assassinate the prime minister, Robert Banks Jenkinson, the earl of Liverpool, and his entire cabinet. (They failed.)
The Blue Plaques offer the historically inclined London wanderer a useful means of navigating the sprawling city and its layered history. To mark the 150th anniversary year, the English Heritage trust, a registered charity that manages the country’s historic buildings and monuments, unveiled a Blue Plaques app (free for download) that locates nearby markers and offers historical context. For locals, the plaques function as collective memory prompts — boldly insisting, in all their blue shininess, that great people did great things here, even if that particular “here” has long since lost its significance.
But what make the system special are those plaques that honor lesser-known London toilers, like Willy Clarkson (Theatrical Wigmaker), Prince Peter Kropotkin (Theorist of Anarchism) and Hertha Ayrton (a physicist, she invented a fan device used in trench warfare for dispersing poisonous gas).
At 7 Bruce Grove, in the Tottenham neighborhood of North London, a plaque marks where “Luke Howard, 1772-1864 / Namer of Clouds” lived and died. Howard, the son of a Quaker businessman, earned his pennies as a pharmacist, but his passion was the skies — and he soon became an accomplished amateur meteorologist. In 1802, he wrote a modest 32-page pamphlet that proposed a classification system for clouds: cumulus, stratus and cirrus. The paper was eventually published in an academic journal, and he was catapulted to scientific fame. His many admirers included Goethe, who went so far as to send Howard gushing fan mail.
English Heritage continues to accept nominations for plaques. This year, the playwright Samuel Beckett got his due — as did Fred Bulsara, a.k.a. the Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, whose family moved to west London in 1967 after leaving Zanzibar. A blue plaque now marks the home where a young Mercury reportedly spent hours in the bathroom styling his hair.
Since 1984, the plaques themselves have been made by the ceramists Frank and Sue Ashworth, who kiln-fire and glaze each nameplate — 19.5 inches in diameter, 2 inches in thickness, using a base blend of ball clays, feldspar, sand and grog — in a studio in Cornwall, where they replicate the original lettering used by long-ago plaque designers. In this physical process, tradition trumps novelty.
But in other ways, the plaque program is bending to the times. This year, it was revealed that only 4 percent of London’s Blue Plaques commemorate black or Asian individuals, and just 13 percent are dedicated to women. In an era of contested memory and memorials, critics have accused Blue Plaque commissioners of doling out posthumous pats-on-the-back to Great British Men. In response, English Heritage has acknowledged its “historic blindness” and called on the public to nominate more diverse candidates — so that future London walkers can ramble through a more inclusive, cobalt blue-laid nostalgia.
Graphic Bar, Soho
There are over 180 different gins available at this buzzy Soho bar. If you’re in the market for a martini, you’ll be spoilt for choice, but the bartenders will gladly whip you up just about any gin-based cocktail you can or can’t name. Cocktails are mostly £10, but watch out for the G&T section of the menu, where a few specialist gins — Kyro Koskue barrel-aged, Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry — could take you into £15-per-tipple territory.
This plush Mayfair hotel bar was frequented by Ian Fleming and is said to be the inspiration for Bond’s classic ‘shaken not stirred’ line. A martini here will set you back around twenty quid.
Boasting their own cordials and infusions, this small, neighbourhood bar and bistro in Chiswick puts local gins front and centre.
A temple to mother's ruin is a highly unexpected find on Whitechapel's Leman Street, but there it is. A genuinely lovely place with over 100 types of gin to choose from.
A spirit-led cocktail bar off Bow Lane in the City of London, Merchant House has a decent collection of awards to its name. Its tucked-away location merits the phrase 'hidden gem' but within, there's a sprawling selection of over 350 gins (and rums too).