Whether you’re after carols in a cathedral or a knees-up in a brewery, we have the perfect Christmas outing for you.
CHRISTMAS CAROLS AT ST PAUL’S
Short of getting a ride in Santa’s sleigh, there can be little more festive than singing Christmas carols in the stunning surrounds of St Paul’s Cathedral. This year there are a number of ticketed concerts, including an event raising funds for WaterAid on 6 December. The evening will include festive readings from actors Sir Tony Robinson, Amanda Mealing and David Morrissey. It promises to be a crowd-pleaser, with the set-list including time-honoured bangers Once in Royal David’s City and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Tickets are still available but get in quick as these concerts tend to sell out.
COVENT GARDEN CHRISTMAS SANDWICH FESTIVAL
Once a hellscape of jugglers and bewildered tourists, Covent Garden has slowly but surely become a part of London a Londoner might actually want to visit. The Christmas Sandwich Festival is a case in point: a delicious excuse to brave the crowds and check out the Christmas lights and big old tree. Some top restaurants are taking part in the festival, including Blondies Kitchen, which is creating a cookie dough sandwich; Lilly’s Cafe, which is serving smoked salmon on dark rye, and Frenchie, which has created a BrillatSavarin, ham and black truffle sandwich. Especially delicious when washed down with a mulled wine.
LONDON CHRISTMAS BEER FESTIVAL
The real spirit of Christmas is, of course, alcohol, and if you’re hoping to get nicely sozzled in the lead-up to the big day, consider crossing the river to Tobacco Dock, where there will be a Christmas Beer Festival in full swing on 16 and 17 December. Breweries from Budvar to Brixton will be taking part, with 50 beer-makers lining up alongside cider, wine and spirits companies showing off their festive wares. Also on offer will be a host of top chefs selling seasonally appropriate grub, and entertainment from a roster of DJs and live singers and musicians.
FESTIVE FOOD AT SKY GARDEN
If you’re after a taste of Christmas in the heart of the City, simply look up – Sky Garden atop the Walkie Talkie has festive menus at both of its restaurants. In Darwin Brasserie you can get three courses and a glass of fizz for £59.50, with roast turkey taking centre stage alongside the likes of prawn cocktail and mince pies. Over at Fenchurch you can enjoy a special festive tasting menu, with six courses celebrating traditional British winter fare, including beef tartare, scallops and spiced duck.
CHRISTMAS GOSPEL CHOIR BRUNCH @ M RESTAURANT
M Restaurant is almost as well known for its special events as it is for its world-beating steak. To get you in the festive mood, M Victoria is hosting a Christmas Gospel Choir Brunch, combining seasonal food, cocktails and live music. The price (from £78.75) will include two courses and bottomless cocktails while you listen to a combination of Christmas classics and funk and soul hits, performed by BASSnote Collective. The festivities start at 12.30pm.
Tis the season when London restaurants pretend like they’re in the Alps by inviting guests to freeze in outdoor areas decked out with faux fur and tinsel. (Only joking, there’s heaters really.) And the City of London destination to book is Coq D’Argent – temporarily called Lodge D’Argent – with festive foliage, Rémy Martin cocktails and alpine food.
THE BISHOP AT THE BERKELEY
Gorgeous Knightsbridge hotel The Berkeley has literally built its own pub for the festive season, it’s so keen to celebrate in style. It’s cosy as anything and all about winter warmers, with pies and puddings of the savoury and sweet varieties. It’s a slice of countryside living in the capital, with chalkboard menus and friendly waiters who know the answer to the pub quiz questions scrawled on beer mats. As for the beer, there’s special drafts up from Sussex. No hipster London breweries here – this is the countryside don’t you know.
FESTIVE FLEET STREET QUARTER
Adding the word ‘quarter’ in front of parts of London where people don’t traditionally hang out has been 2022’s way of making unexciting areas exciting, and who are we to argue? Fleet Street is the latest part of town to have its own vibe as it launches a festive makers’ market this Christmas from 1 to 15 December. Choirs, spoken word events, festive workshops and the opportunity to mull over Christmas presents with mulled wine. See what we did there? A short walk from the City.
DECK THE HALLS AT PERGOLA PADDINGTON
If you can’t get to the Alps this season then don’t worry, eating, drinking and gaming mecca Pergola Paddington have you sorted. The deck that is traditionally reserved for sunshine drinks has morphed into a mountainside ski destination, with secluded chairlift, Alpine chalets, ski equipment and demi-peche, just how the French like it. There’s baked camembert too, perfect after nine or ten demi-peches. Already booked up until Christmas? The pop-up will serve ski culture until the spring so pop to Pagola for a January pick-me-up.
GO ON A MINCE PIE HUNT
London’s rich culinary diversity is finally useful for something: going on a mince pie hunt! Ottolenghi has “enriched” egg yolks in his recipe as well as mincemeat made in August for extra maceration time. Imagine all those delicious dried fruits and spices swimming in rum and brandy. Go brilliantly British with St John, whose mince pies are as straightforward as you’d imagine and three times as addictive. Also see Toklas bakery on Surrey Street in Westminster for a cracking pie.
• ottolenghi.co.uk; stjohnrestaurant.com; toklaslondon.com
BAVARIAN HALL AT WINTER WONDERLAND
Bear with us: for the most part it’s true that Winter Wonderland is chaos to be avoided. But run through the crowds of children hurling candy floss at one another and look out for the Bavarian Hall and you’ll find another side to the tourist destination. One that serves great beer, with great DJs, in one of the most energetic rooms in the capital. Sure, it is full with work Christmas parties, but if there’s one place to succumb to the intensity of the Christmas piss up, it’s here, in a building purposefully built for Tracey from accounts to have a sing-a-long (and perhaps even a snog) with Steve from sales. You always knew they had eyes for one another.