If you live in London, you might be, like me, eager to open your mailbox on Thursday morning to read the latest newsletter from Urban Explorer. It’s about what’s fun / cultural / artsy / educational to do with the family over the coming week end. The content is very well balanced and edited, 10 ideas only. It’s like a good friend giving you some tips on the less talked-about events and activities for children in the city. For now it’s only London but it’s only a matter of time before Ana, the founder, launches it in more urban places in the world…With the opening ceremony this Friday, Thursday’s newsletter will be all about the Best of London during the Olympics. Meanwhile, here are Ana’s favourite places in London specially curated for BozAround. And from the list, one can guess that the family knows a thing or two about eating well too…
MEET THE URBAN EXPLORER FAMILY:
I am Ana Potter and I arrived in London from Canada 13 years ago as a stopover for a few months. 24 hours after my arrival, I met my husband and plans changed. I have fallen head over heels in love with London as well and feel it only gets better and better. We have an entertaining seven year old daughter (with the best giggle) and a Miniature Schnauzer named Hanwell. We decided that having a child would not restrict us to ‘family-friendly’ places and restaurants. We explore everything together and choose things to do based on mutual enjoyment and interest, fortunately our daughter has grown to love just hanging around with us.
MY LONDON INSPIRATIONS:
The Top Ten Weekend guide is an edit of the ten most interesting things to do spontaneously for the upcoming weekend with kids. It is based purely on merit and a subjective selection of places and events that we love (no paid placement / advertising). We email to subscribers first thing every Thursday and subscription is free. There are so many amazing places and events in London that families can do at any budget – it’s an incredibly inspiring city to grow up in.
MY FAVOURITE AREAS IN LONDON
Invariably, when we are discussing favourite places, food is always a huge part of the conversation.
We have lived in Soho (Central London) for over 13 years and it is a wonderfully varied neighbourhood. It is a hub of creativity filled with ad agencies and film studios, plus some of London’s best restaurants and shops. We love Lina’s, which has been here for over half a century and stocks delicious homemade pastas, cheese, meats and also prepares fresh sandwiches and salads for lunch. Gelupo just around the corner is our gelato parlour of choice. The flavours are inventive, not too sweet and ‘grown-up’. Bocca di Lupo over the road is terrific for an Italian dinner. For shopping, we have a sparkly new Whole Foods supermarket (photo below). Liberty and Fenwicks are both visited frequently by us with well edited, irresistible kids departments. I love that our dog Hanwell is welcome inside Liberty too.
We are often in this central London neighbourhood for meat at the Ginger Pig – a superb butchers and the huge sausage rolls always find a way into our shopping bag. Next door, the Fromagerie is our favourite London cheese shop with a great café and on a nice day, we get some snacks and head over to the Paddington Street Gardens playground that is just a few steps away (photo below).
THE EAST END:
We spend many a weekend wandering the East End. On a Sunday, in Spitalfields, we begin with a coffee at The English Restaurant (formerly Market Coffeehouse – they make fantastic roast beef sandwiches). Verde next door is a Dickensian dream and one of the prettiest shops in London. They are one of a very few worldwide stockists of Pierre Marcolini chocolates which are perfection. We wander to UpMarket and through the various other marketspaces along Brick Lane selling everything from homemade teddy bears to vintage clothes. Kids and adults alike find the variety bewildering.
The Beigel Bake is a ‘must’ stop-over (ask for hot ones – photo above). A few blocks away is the charming Columbia Road Flower Market in operation since the 1800’s and a definite ’must-see’. My daughter adores Bob & Blossom; it’s a very cute kids shop and has buckets of little pocket money toys that must be inspected on every visit. Don’t leave before checking if photographer Ryan Seamus is in his Ezra Street studio. His themed projects allow anyone to pose and become part of the day’s special shoot. The images are uploaded a few days later and a print can be purchased, but there is no obligation. It is fun to participate and kids really get into the spirit.
PLAY in LONDON:
We tend to do a lot of wandering and accidental discovering. There is always something new or that we did not notice before. Independent children’s theatres are one of our favourite activities in London. I could gush for hours about the lovely sets, costumes, songs and fun imaginative nature of kids’ theatre. London has many in all areas with some of our favourites: Little Angel, ArtsDepot, Jacksons Lane and Polka have great productions year round. The South Bank Centre has become a fantastic venue for smaller productions as well recently with the added benefit of so many other things to do before / after along the South Bank.
Apart from the countless workshops aimed at families offered at art galleries and museums we really enjoy smaller venues such as the Sir John Soanes Museum. They host unique workshops during holidays in a small class setting with a kid’s tour for inspiration beforehand (photo below).
The summer offers the opportunity for outdoor theatre at parks. These are a great way of introducing kids to Shakespeare or Opera albeit in a more relaxed environment. Some are interactive with the audience participating and following the actors around the gardens, while others are fun to watch from a blanket enjoying a picnic. A few of our picks are coming up in the Top Ten soon..
And if the above section EAT in SOHO was not enough, here you are for more favourite addresses!
The Riding House Café (although now annoyingly popular) is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Informal with a cosy shabbly-chic interior and modern British classics on the menu as well as tasty American style pancakes (pop over the road to Kaffeine for proper coffee & banana bread). 10 Greek Street is teeny but is our most frequently visited casual, local restaurant. If you arrive soon after opening and before 7pm, it’s rarely a problem to get a table (no bookings). Princi has recently opened a pizza restaurant next to the bustling bakery next door – a much better option to the pizza chains and the same price bracket (order one to split for younger kids as the pizzas are quite large).
If wandering through Soho over lunch, Pizza Pilgrims have a mobile wood-burning oven in Berwick Street market and the pizzas are great – this is my daughter’s favourite stop over after half days at school (photo above). For super casual options, we love burritos at Benito’s Hat, or for a quick sushi picnic (in St.Anne’s Churchyard or Pheonix Gardens), the small Yoshino takeaway on Shaftesbury Avenue is fresh, cheap and offers organic fish. Incidently, my favourite coffee is from Flat White (and sister café Milk Bar).
Urban Explorer has a Special Olympics edition coming out this Thursday July 26 for anyone who may not have tickets but still wants to get in the spirit of the games. Sign up now!