London’s Hippest Places To Eat Right Now

London‘s food landscape is constantly changing. As new restaurants come and go, it can be hard to keep up with what’s hip and happening. If you happen to be stopping through in the next few months, here are some of London’s trendiest restaurants right now.

Ceviche
This small Soho restaurant is London’s only pisco bar and cevicheria. Besides plenty of Peru‘s national drink and dish, visitors can dine on small plates packed with flavor, including chancha (crunchy corn), yucas (fried cassava), lomo saltado (sirloin marinated in soy sauce and spices), octopus skewers and quinoa salad. Just don’t come expecting servers donning hokey ponchos and serving roasted guinea pig to a background of music on the pan flute: here you’ll find a chromed-out bar that resembles a fish market and walls filled with screen-printed posters from classic and modern Peruvian artists, all of which were handpicked by proprietor Martin Morales. Morales makes sure all of the music is 100 percent Peruvian, from ’60s psychedelic rock to the latest Afro-Peruvian electronic music, and he even goes so far as to put some of the bands out on vinyl under his record label Tiger’s Milk, a moniker that gives a nod to the nickname for leftover ceviche marinade.
17 Frith St., London W1D 4RG


Duck & Waffle

This new restaurant serves tasty British-influenced dishes, but what really draws visitors are the amazing city views. The restaurant is perched on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, a high rise in the heart of London near busy Liverpool Street Station. The building is set very close to London’s famous Gherkin, and from high above you can see all the landmarks along the Thames River. Even better, you can take in the birds-eye-view morning, noon and night: this place is open 24/7, meaning you can stop in late after a night of club hopping or drop in early to get breakfast before a day of sightseeing. If you stop in for breakfast, the steak & egg benedict (above) was perfectly poached and smothered in delicious hollandaise sauce, and you can’t go wrong with an English breakfast, a traditional dish that includes two eggs, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, trotter-braised beans, hash browns and Scottish black pudding.
110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY

Evans & Peel Detective Agency
An American phenomenon is taking a hold on London: speakeasy-themed bars and restaurants set in 1920s prohibition-era hideaways. One such place is Evans & Peel Detective Agency, a restaurant under the guise of a private investigation agency. Visitors need to make an advanced “appointment” with a detective and state their case before even being approved for their reservation. The unassuming entrance is to the side of busy Earl’s Court Road, and diners are buzzed down into a room where a stern detective leads an interrogation about your case (it’s okay if you giggle while lauding him with a made up tale about your search for a runaway husband, like my friend and I did). From there, I won’t ruin the experience for anyone wanting to check this out for themselves, but I will say the owners spared no expense at making this seem like a real, candlelit safe house for illegal boozing. The menu is mostly American-style finger food, plus some inventive cocktails using whiskey as the main ingredient.
310c Earl’s Court Rd., London SW5 9AQ

The Wilton Way Café
This independently owned cafe is filled with young artists and bohemians who inhabit Hackney, one of London’s up-and-coming hipster havens. The tiny cafe is notable because it is also home to London Fields Radio, a station broadcasting podcasts filled with eclectic musical selections and conversations about London’s creative community. If you want to find the pulse of London’s creative heart, this is the place to be. Luckily, the food and coffee match the vision of these creative types; Wilton Way Cafe serves up fresh croissants and cakes from nearby bakeries, and makes their coffee with locally roasted Climpson & Sons beans.
63 Wilton Way, London E8 1BG


Sunday (Up)Market
If you find yourself in London on a Sunday, heading to Brick Lane is an absolute must. Rain or shine, young Londoners flock here to shop for new and second-hand wares, making sure to stop for a bite to eat at what is called the Sunday UpMarket inside the Old Truman Brewery. Here, you’ll find a collection of small but tantalizing food stalls, each with artfully crafted displays of everything from hand-rolled sushi to Spanish paellas and empanadas. You’ll also find Mexican, Ethiopian, Turkish, Indian, Argentinian and more. My suggestion is to bring a friend so you can sample more than just one type of cuisine. When you’re finished, browse more than 140 stalls selling fashion and accessories, also located in the building. If you’re up for more, Old Spitalfields Market is also nearby.
The Old Truman Brewery, London E1 6QL

If you’re looking for additional suggestions on where to eat in London, check out Visit London-I found several of the above restaurants through their website.

[Photo credit: blogger Libby Zay]

7 Free (Or Nearly Free) Things To Do In Hong Kong

free things to do in hong kong

By many measures, Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

But for every five-star hotel, luxury boutique and gourmet restaurant, there’s a budget room, quaint flea market and cheap dimsum stand waiting in the wings. In fact, apart from high accommodation costs, Hong Kong is a great destination for budget travelers, with its cheap public transport, vibrant street food scene and plentiful sights and attractions. Even if you’re low on cash, there is never a shortage of things to do. Here are seven of the best free (or nearly free) ways to experience Hong Kong on the cheap.

Take the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour.

Some call it a commute; others call it a bargain way to cross one of the world’s most scenic harbors. The Star Ferry has been shuttling people across Victoria Harbour for more than a century, with its most popular route connecting Central Terminal on Hong Kong Island to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. The view from either side is breathtaking.

Fares run between HK$2 (US$0.25) and HK$3.40 ($0.44), depending on what day you’re traveling and whether you’re sitting on the upper or lower deck. Drink medicinal tea with healing properties.

Locals line up around the block for a cup of the famed ya sai mei at Good Spring Company Limited, one of Hong Kong’s oldest herbal pharmacies. The bitter tea is said to have immunity-boosting powers, and Good Spring’s formulation is a result of years of experimentation by the pharmacy’s original proprietor, whose grandson now runs the shop. A cup of the cure-all will cost you HK$7 (US$0.90).

8 Cochrane Street, Central

Ride the world’s longest covered escalator.

The Central Mid-Levels escalator system is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, extending 800 meters and connecting the hilltop districts of Hong Kong with the rest of the city. The system, made up of 20 escalators and three moving walkways, acts as free public transportation for Hong Kong’s working classes. Tourists can hop on the escalator at any time, but be advised of its schedule: service runs downhill from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and uphill from 10:30 a.m. to midnight.

Starts at Cochrane Street and Queen’s Road Central and ends at Shelley Street and Conduit Road, with multiple stops in between.

Take a tour of Hong Kong history.

Learn about Hong Kong’s fascinating past through a magnificently curated exhibition called “The Hong Kong Story” at the Hong Kong Museum of History. For just HK$10 ($1.30) you can journey from prehistoric times, to the Opium Wars, to 1960s pop culture, straight through to the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997. It’s the perfect indoor respite from Hong Kong’s suffocating heat.

100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui

Eat at the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant.

Tim Ho Wan might be the only place on earth where you can eat a Michelin-starred meal for under US$10. Chef Mak Pui Gor, formerly of the Four Seasons, opened this non-descript dim sum joint on a back street of the Mong Kok district to bring high quality dim sum to the masses. The waits are legendary, lasting two, sometimes three hours. But if you don’t mind getting squeezed into a table with a family of five, try venturing there solo between the off-peak hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. I did and managed to get in immediately.

2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok

Hit up happy hour in SoHo.

Short for “South of Hollywood Road,” this up-and-coming neighborhood has a more quaint, intimate feel than other parts of Central Hong Kong. But don’t be misled – SoHo comes alive in the evenings, when its trendy bars and restaurants fill with young professionals taking advantage of Western-style happy hour specials. The deals usually kick off at 5 p.m.

The best way to arrive in SoHo is via the Central Mid-Levels Escalator; get off at Staunton Road.

Watch the world’s largest sound and light show.

Hong Kong’s “Symphony of Lights” isn’t just one of the best tickets in town; it’s also free! The nightly spectacle, run by the Hong Kong Tourism Commission, features sound, lights and lasers from 40 buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour. Stake out a spot on the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade for the best view, and toast to the fact that the best travel experiences can still (sometimes) be free.

The “Symphony of Lights” runs nightly at 8 p.m.

[Photo Credit: Jessica Marati]

Budget Hong Kong” chronicles one writer’s efforts to authentically experience one of the world’s most expensive cities, while traveling on a shoestring. Read the whole series here.

A video tour of 1950′s London’s swingin’ coffee bars

Contrary to popular belief, tea is not the only popular beverage served in London. In fact, ever since the first Italian espresso machine crash landed in England in 1952, London has had a swinging coffee culture. Now thanks to the vintage documentary reel above, you can take your own tour back in time to the beginnings of London’s fledgling coffee shop scene.

Hit play and enter a time when coffee was the king of cool, inside a smoky, bohemian coffee bar, packed to the rafters with young Londoners gleefully puffing on cigarettes as a lively soundtrack of jazz wafts above them. It’s as much a tour of the city’s coffee bars as it is an intriguing artifact of a London that has moved on to trendier pursuits and hangouts. This morning, go grab yourself another cup off the pot and settle in for an intriguing cross-section of life in 1950′s London.

4 free street fairs to check out this weekend in New York

new york fall festivalsAs the day turns to night earlier and earlier, we only have a little longer to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather. For those in the New York City area this weekend, enjoy fun in the outdoors by attending some of these street fairs.

Saturday, November 5, 2011:

American Diabetes Association’s World’s Largest Block Party

Explore over 400 exhibitors of art, crafts, collectibles, antiques, fashion, and more, from 10AM-6PM. This free event runs down Madison Avenue from 42nd-57th street, and will also feature free entertainment and over 50 cultural and corporate displays giving information and free samples.

West 4th Street Festival

From 11AM-6PM, stroll down West 4th in between Sixth Avenue and University Place to experience a great outdoor festival in Greenwich Village. Enjoy free music and entertainment while you browse stalls selling arts and crafts, food, housewares, and unique gifts.

Sunday, November 6, 2011:

Bleeker Street Festival

This free street fair will take place from 11AM-4PM along Bleeker Street in between Lafayette Street and Laguardia Place. Explore Soho by perusing the many market stalls and sampling delicious food from local vendors.

Sixth Avenue Autumn Fair

Sixth Avenue will be full of festivity from 10AM-4PM. The free fair will take place in between 34th and 42nd Streets and will feature plenty of great food and vendors as well as fall-inspired music and entertainment.

Trump SoHo puts a spa in guest rooms suites

trump new york hotelTravelers are becoming more aggressive today with their hotel amenity “must haves.” Everything from free WiFi to in-room coffee machines top the list of essential amenities for hotel guests. To help ease the demand, more hotels are offering these guest requests and some are even designing rooms that include everything from Disney characters to luxury car services.

But what if your hotel stay included a spa and fitness center in your room? What if you didn’t have to leave your room to sit in the sauna or get in a quick yoga class? That’s the premise behind Trump SoHo’s new concept, the 24/7 in-room spa suite.

The luxury New York hotel will unveil three new luxury spa suites on May 1 for the guest who needs some serious pampering. The suites include a private treatment room, hydrotherapy showers, and one suite is equipped with a sauna for two.Some more deliciousness from the spa suites:

  • The spa suites plus bedroom and living room suite range in size from 741-825 square feet
  • A 32-inch-deep Jacuzzi tubs with a view of Manhattan cityscapes
  • Stocked mini bar customized with healthy snacks and beverage options
  • Technogym Wellness Rack in your room, complete with custom-sized dumbbells and an in-room yoga kit
  • Private entrance to The Spa at Trump

As you would expect, this lap of luxury comes with a price. The spa suites start at $789 a night and come with a $200 spa credit per night.

How’s that $14.95 a day wireless access looking now?

Readers: Would you prefer to have your spa in your room, or do you enjoy the full experience of a full spa service?