Thursday night in London?
May 9, 2005 9:37 AM   Subscribe

My gal and I have a long layover in London on our way to Berlin, and it will be our first time in the UK, so we want to do more than just wander around Heathrow.

We arrive at 9pm on Thursday (May 12) and depart at 7am the next morning. I guess the best thing would be to get a bite to eat and then have fun for a couple hours before going back to the airport to sleep/wait for our flight. Can anybody recommend a particular area to visit, or specific restaurants that are open late and not too expensive? Ideally these would be well-connected to Heathrow. Thanks!
posted by hartsell to Travel & Transportation around London, England (20 answers total)
Don't take a cab into London - very expensive. Be sure to grab the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station.

Gosh - so many great places in London. I'm sure MeFi Londoners have some suggestions.
posted by ericb at 9:51 AM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: Just a quick point about the "well-connected to Heathrow" part of your post. Whatever you do, don't rely on the Piccadilly Line tube train - it will take an hour in each direction, and you stand a reasonable chance of service interruptions. It's expensive, but if you actually want to get into town before you have to turn round and leave again, then spend the extra cash and use the Heathrow Express or get a cab. The tube takes you straight into Soho, and looks like a tempting option, but I seriously wouldn't recommend it. Heathrow Express is 15 minutes to Paddington, which is in turn a 5 minute tube journey from the same destinations.

For late night activity your options are slightly limited, although Thursday is quite a big night out for office workers in London. Realistically, if you just want to take in a couple of drinks in a fairly relaxed fashion, do some passive sight-seeing and eat somewhat inexpensively, then your best bet is probably going to be around Soho. However, if there are particular things that you really like that are outside the mainstream (eg arabic food, reggae music etc), then it might be possible to suggest something else - let us know if so.
posted by bifter at 9:53 AM on May 9, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the transportation advice, that's something else I was wondering about.

We aren't looking for anything in particular, although now that you mention it, living in New Orleans we don't get much good "international" food. And lately I've been listening to a lot of acid (like Ceephax), so it would be nice to find an appropriate club for that.

Mostly we just want a fairly interesting neighborhood that is safe enough to walk around a little, eat some food, and drink some drinks, from around 10pm to 2am.
posted by hartsell at 10:06 AM on May 9, 2005

I'd offer different advice on the transport situation -- since the Heathrow Express is £18 pp each way and leaves you in Paddington, I always think that one is better off to call and book a mini-cab that can bring you into London and then book it to go back as well. Should be able to do it for £30 each way (my place in Fulham is £21 each way) -- you save a lot of hassle by just hopping into a cab on both ends of the journey IMO. Whatever you do -- have a blast!
posted by lazywhinerkid at 10:24 AM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: The Heathrow Express only makes sense if you are planning to take a cab from Paddington. People who are doing that is who it is targeted at and priced for.

Saying that the HEx only takes 15 minutes only tells part of the story, since you will have to wait up to 15 minutes to get it, and then once you get to Paddington you'll have to get on the Tube or a bus and be subject to the same kinds of waits and delays you would have at Heathrow.

Using times from the Transport for London Journey Planner I calculated once that the HEx is only 3 minutes faster on average to get from Heathrow to Piccadilly Circus. I don't think that's worth an extra £10.20 each way per person, but your mileage may vary.
posted by grouse at 10:44 AM on May 9, 2005

grouse, you are right, however, the HEx is much more dependable than the tube. I don't mind taking it when I arrive in the morning, it gives me that needed lift after an overnight flight.

However, yes, it takes fifteen minutes from the terminal to the track, and then if you sit at the back, you have to walk all the way down the track at Paddington and then get on the tube.

One thing to keep in mind, hartsell, Heathrow closes at night, and there's nothing worse than being stranded there at midnight. No taxis, no nothing.

From experience, if your flight does get in at 9, it'll be 10 until you get out of customs, then get your luggage, then walk down to the HEx, so you're at Paddington around 11 - 11:30. And SoHo is the only thing happening at that hour.

You guys aren't doing much, I'm afraid.
posted by jsavimbi at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: Gotta say, this seems like a crazy idea. As jsavimbi says, you're highly unlikely to be able to hit central London before 11:00 - ish, which is closing time for ordinary pubs (i.e., those without an extension, which will be most of them). Don't forget you'll have to do the immigration desk thing as well as customs and that can slow you down quite a bit.

I suppose you could hit a club for a couple of hours but... is it really worth all the hassle to spend a brief time in some random club in a dark anystreet, London, UK? And then be exhausted for your morning flight?

I dunno... maybe you think so. If so, good luck! You could always just go grab a curry in Southall, I suppose. You realise Heathrow is a long way outside central London, right?
posted by Decani at 12:01 PM on May 9, 2005

One of the common north-american-in-london misconceptions is in regards to hours - stuff just isn't open really late during the week there, the way it would in a big american/canadian city.
If i were you i'd just try and find a cheap hotel near the airport. Sorry dude.
posted by Kololo at 1:40 PM on May 9, 2005

Also don't forget the tube doesn't run between midnight and 6-ish.
posted by blag at 2:29 PM on May 9, 2005

Well, as people have mentioned, your transport options are restricted somewhat, but please, no matter what you do, don't take a minicab.

That said, if you've managed to store your bags, I'd suggest you get over to the Baker St Tube, walk over to Marylebone High Street and then just head south. There are a few bars/pubs that remain open past 11 along the way, and when you get down around Oxford St, you'll also find things open late. Not many things, but a few. That might be the time to have a bit of a wander into Soho, where you ought to be able to find at least a couple of clubs.

You'll get a good walk this way and won't waste your night just waiting around Heathrow. Personally, I'd rather wander around in London than spend my night in a hotel.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:22 PM on May 9, 2005

I'll put my neck on the line and recommend a couple of minicab firms if that's what you want to try. I live mid-way between Heathrow and Central London, and have travelled for business a lot, so while I've had my share of cab no-shows, I've also managed to find a couple of firms that are reasonably dependable. If you find yourself wanting to do this, it's important to pre-book (the ones waiting at the airport are mostly unlicensed and / or scammers), so email me (in profile), and I'll try to hook you up with a couple of numbers.

You will find bars open in Soho with no problem at all on a Thursday night, but as others have mentioned there isn't really a 24 hour midweek social thing going on. Having said that, Thursday is an okay night for clubbing oddly enough, so you can always keep a couple of options in mind in case you do manage to get into town in reasonable time and both feel up for it. Check Time-Out in advance if you can, or a couple of club listing sites exist, but I can't speak to their quality eg this one from a random googling.
posted by bifter at 3:01 AM on May 10, 2005

I should clarify that in no way did I mean you should take one of the unlicensed minicabs that solicit at the airport, I meant you should call and book one to go each way. I have to admit that I've never had a single problem with the minicab service that I use (usually once a week to Heathrow). I hesitate to be their shill here though, so email me if you'd like their contact details.

One possible option (and the notion may make some cringe, but I'll throw it out there anyway) would be to hit a place in West London so you have more time there to enjoy. Ealing Broadway has a few decent places and you'd also be more out of the tourist-zone of Central London. Now, you're not gonna find any amazingly incredible clubs there, but you can certainly find some place cool and okay for a few hours -- it'll also be cheaper being outside Central London. Some suggestions: avoid the Broadway Boulevard at all costs, the Red Room is pretty cool. There are also some awesome pubs -- The Red Lion being one of the best in London IMO. Just some thoughts -- good luck!
posted by lazywhinerkid at 3:53 AM on May 10, 2005

Another defence of London minicabs here. Sure, as others have said, don't use the lurking touts - that rule applies pretty much anywhere in the world, of course - but if you pre-book a typical London minicab you can save a lot of money.

Example: when I return to NYC from my flat in SW16 my local minicab firm charges me 28 pounds flat before tip(irrespective of traffic delays) to go to Heathrow. If I get a black cab it's typically anywhere between 55 and 65 quid depending on traffic. Black cabs are cool and comfortable, but very expensive.
posted by Decani at 6:00 AM on May 10, 2005

You live in Ealing lazywhinerkid? Er... represent! Or something like that... Mefi pseudo-celebrity and royal stalker Frasermoo was round here too until a year or so ago.

Can't say that I could second your recommendation of Ealing for a night out mind you! Lazy drinks in the sunshine, enjoying the parks, maybe, but it always seems packed to the gills with Gary Lagers in the evenings to me.
posted by bifter at 10:31 AM on May 10, 2005

Represent -- woot woot! I actually live in Fulham now but I lived in South Ealing for a year and a half and really liked it a lot. Ealing's deffo as you describe in many places (The Spinning Wheel and Duffy's on Northfields Ave. as well as most places near the broadway come to mind), but there certainly are some gems -- the South Ealing Tavern on South Ealing Road (my former local) is really really awesome and they have one of the best beer gardens around IMO. Baroque on the Uxbridge Road used to be owned by a friend of a friend and was really cool and chill (but I've heard it's gone downhill recently after a change in ownership, but can't confirm.) And the Red Lion -- ahhh The Red Lion, what a great pub. Man, I hope it's not ruined now -- haven't been in ages. Okay, I'll admit that it'd be a stretch to really heartily recommend Ealing as a wonderful night out but I had some big and fun nights out there!

Thanks for the opportunity to reminisce a bit -- I'm hoping to be at the next London meetup, maybe we can make it in Ealing! :-)
posted by lazywhinerkid at 1:01 PM on May 10, 2005

Yeah, I was in South Ealing for a couple of years too - just off Popes Lane. Am in a substantially larger, but substantially less nice place up towards the A40 now though. The Red Lion is still a cracking pub, and The Grange can be nice too on a nice sunny day, when you can spill out onto the common. A lot of my friends used to go to Baroque, but it did little for me - waiting for 15 minutes to get the cap taken off a bottle of beer, while the barmen did cocktail gymnastics to impress the laydeez used to drive me wild. Now where the hell is the South Ealing Tavern? Something must have had a name change... Did it used to be called The Penny Flyer? Down between South Ealing and Brentford?

Haha! meetup in Ealing! Good luck getting the Hoxton crew out to zone 3...! Although having said that, an al-fresco frisbee, five-a-side and coolbox meet-up in the park would be pretty ace.
posted by bifter at 2:23 AM on May 11, 2005

Ah, right on -- I was basically at the corner of Murray Road and Junction Road. The South Ealing Tavern is indeed the old Penny Flyer just by Monty's on South Ealing Road. (Now Monty's is a place that makes me pine for Ealing!) The S.E.T. is a fantastic place -- you should definitely check it out. More of a wine bar than a pub but good food, good beer and great atmosphere -- and as I mentioned, the beer garden is wicked.

I'd definitely be down for a day out gathering as you suggest! Meeting up in the pub is certainly a good way to hang with Mefites but a day in the park would be awesome as well! Are you going to go to the meetup at the Bierodrome on the 28th? (That's the plan now as I understand it.) Maybe we can plan something then.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 5:45 AM on May 11, 2005

Monty's eh? I was always a Tandoori Delight man myself (now back to its best after an ill-advised fancification and renaming to "The Coriander Leaf"). I've probably been in the SET since it renamed itself - just didn't notice that the sign had changed.

I'd like to get out for the meet-up, but I'm notoriously bad at getting out of the house at weekends, and may also have a birthday commitment that weekend. I'll try to make an effort though. Which Bierodrome was planned? Islington?
posted by bifter at 6:18 AM on May 11, 2005

Yeah -- Bierodrome in Islington. The posting with all the info is buried in MetaTalk somewhere. Hope to see you there -- we can raise a glass to Ealing . . .

P.S. Do yourself a favour and try Monty's. They're all individually owned and of various quality -- the one on the South Ealing Road near Brentford is by far the best. What amazing food, man.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 8:28 AM on May 11, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, everyone. As it turned out, our flight arrived late, so by the time we got out of our terminal it was already 11pm. We decided to spend the night at Costa Coffee in Terminal 2.
posted by hartsell at 8:36 AM on May 17, 2005

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