London has so much to offer this winter. Brave the cold, and go check out the new Battersea Power Station, the restaurants of Coal Drops Yard or the iconic Ikoy on the Strand, writes Alex Cheatle
January is always a tough month in London, but amidst the doom and gloom, there is a nascent and growing sense of another great revival in the capital this year. I’d encourage Londoners to cast misery aside, and take advantage of another London spring, with varied, green shoots of recovery, sprouting up all over our city.
Cold, short days, combined with tight budgets after the excesses of December, can encourage a general feeling of negativity. Costs have been rising faster than incomes, and strikes are spoiling travel plans. Westminster is mired in scandal, and many institutions that define London feel, at best, depleted – from the warring Royal Family and the disgraced Metropolitan Police, to the hard-done-by cultural icons, with budgets cut by the Arts Council, including the English National Opera, the ICA, and the Donmar theatre.
But on the plus side, urban renewals are hitting their stride – like the recently opened Battersea development, where the bars and eateries are full, the shops are now mostly open, and the buzz is tangible. Or the still maturing, modern areas of Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross, and even the more gradually transforming Canary Wharf – currently aglow during the Winter Lights festival, E14 is far from the dull corporate desert it once was.
Too many Londoners are cocooned, working from home and missing the dynamism of the city. Others are tempted to high-five strangers on the still-new Elizabeth line, delighted by the elegant speed with which its long, clean trains cut through from east to west and back again. Hours have been taken off many commutes and fun nights out, whilst also freeing up space on the traditionally over-crowded carriages of the Central and Jubilee lines.
Immigration, that great provider of momentum to London, is also staging a renaissance. Bloomberg reported this month that we now have more Italians living in the capital than before the pandemic. Hong Kong’s loss is London’s gain after hundreds of thousands of British visas were granted to people living there, meaning we now also have more Cantonese in town. Apart from the cultural freshness that incomers bring, Italian and Cantonese cuisines are widely regarded as two of the world’s best, so that can surely only help create a tasty culinary future.
Talking of food, restaurant experts are excited about the new openings for 2023, with evidence pointing to a thriving dining scene despite the economic headwinds. The two-Michelin-starred Ikoyi relaunched just before Christmas at a new site on The Strand and sold out immediately for two months, despite a £310 per head menu. HUMO is opening in the next few weeks near Saville Row, bringing smoked food with Japanese and Colombian influences in yet another London innovation. And for an evening of camp Ibiza cabaret debauchery, Lío London will be welcoming audiences from March in the former Café De Paris venue by Piccadilly Circus – itself an iconic site of London resurrection after it was famously bombed out in the Second World War, and then relaunched in the late 1940s.
Hotels are playing their part, too, in London’s ongoing re-birth. The OWO is a new Raffles hotel in Whitehall with 9 restaurant sites helmed by Mauro Colagreco, chef of one-time “best restaurant in the world”, Mirazur. The Mandarin Oriental Mayfair is opening in the spring on Hanover Square, complete with new restaurants by renowned Korean-American chef Akira Back. The Peninsula, in the pocket of Belgravia just by Buckingham Palace, is also preparing for a huge mid-2023 opening.
And, to top it all, today five of London’s football teams are, unusually, in the top 10 of the Premier League.
So, life in London is good in 2023. Put aside any seasonal blues, and begin to plan your adventures in our world-beating, ever-changing city.