Help my wife entertain herself, London edition
January 29, 2014 6:41 PM   Subscribe

My wife will be in London for 2 days in late April. She asked me to ask you some things.

First, what are your recommendations for eating within close proximity of the Paddington Station? She's vegetarian and prefers low-key, casual ethnic restaurants to fancy places with extensive wine lists. She also loves finding her own food at interesting grocery stores or supermarkets, so if there are any that cater to the vegetarian/granola type set in the immediate area, she'd dig it.

Second, where would you suggest she go if she likes things like art galleries or stores with outsider art and/or folk art? She prefers stores and galleries to museums. Similarly, where should she look for a cluster of shops that sell things like zines or urban crafts?

Finally, are there any places she might check out that have what she describes as a "quiet, meditative feel or spiritual feel where she could tune inward" that are close by? She's spending the rest of her time at Avebury, which apparently has stone circles that would meet these criteria.
posted by MoonOrb to Travel & Transportation around London, England (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hi! US art-loving veggie here. I haven't been to London in years, but you really can't go wrong. I enjoyed woodlands restaurant, you'll need to check locations. I would love to be able to check out the brick lane area, but I haven't a clue how convenient that area may be for her. I also enjoyed wagamama.

Even as a NYer, I can't see how you could go wrong in London, but if pressed, I'd say I greatly enjoyed the Tate Modern for its curatorial skills.

Just go and enjoy, it is London, you can't do it all in 2 days, but it will also be hard to go wrong!
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:49 PM on January 29, 2014

She could head to nearby Edgeware Rd and check out one of the many Lebanese restaurants on the strip. My favourite is Sannin. Friendly, cheap and so so delicious.
posted by teststrip at 7:30 PM on January 29, 2014

I love Pret A Manger . Granted, they're a chain, but. Amazing, amazing vegetarian food. I lived off their mushroom soup and toasties when I was in London.
posted by Tamanna at 11:19 PM on January 29, 2014

If she's there on a Saturday, she might like the Columbia Road flower market. It's wonderful.
posted by superfish at 11:59 PM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

So Paddington is pretty central and well connected, which means it is easy to get into town and pretty much anywhere in zones 1-2.

It is a short walk from Paddington to Little Venice. This is an expensive area, with nice little cafes along Clifton Gardens. At the other end of Little Venice, well hidden behind houses, is Clifton Nurseries, an upmarket garden centre with a good shop and cafe. A little oasis of sorts. You can also do a canal trip to Camden, which is fun. Camden is rarely described as meditative, however. It does have its fair share of veggie and granola places though.

As teststrip says, the Edgware Rd is full of Lebanese places and is an easy walk from Paddington. It also has London's biggest and best Lebanese supermarket, Green Valley. Ranoush/Maroush is the best established restaurant chain down the Edgware Rd.

Another option is Queensway, which has a good strip of Chinese places, many of which are cheaper and/or better than those in Chinatown. This is also an easy walk from Paddington. Queensway borders Notting Hill, where (for a price) you can find a ton of decent boutiques and quirky restaurants.

I would heartily second Columbia Rd market in East London. It is on a Sunday, not a Saturday. It can be a faff to get to and I would recommend getting there at or before 9am, after which the narrow street gets very busy. Provided she gets there early (i.e. before 10am), Borough (food) Market at London Bridge is a great place to drool over artisan food - it is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Like Columbia Rd there are some permanent shops around it open all or most of the week. IMHO London's best cheap (restaurant/cafe) food is in Brixton Village (and Market Row) at Brixton. There are also some little shops there.

I've answered other AskMes about shopping in London before (1, 2), which might be useful. For zines, I would go to Magma in Clerkenwell. The area has a thriving design/craft scene too (the two big studios are Craft Central and Cockpit Arts; I think Craft Central maintains a permanent shop) and a ton of great restaurants and pubs - including down Exmouth Market, around Smithfields (meat market, so not a big veggie vibe)/Charterhouse St and, further west in Bloomsbury, Lamb's Conduit St.

Visitors always benefit from a good fold out A-Z map just so they can get a sense of London's geography when they plan. She should get an Oyster Card or, at worst, buy a one day travelcard zones 1-2 for each day she is travelling around central London. Paddington is so central most places are less than 30 minutes to get to but esp for going to Columbia Rd the TfL journey planner is helpful.

For discovery, and often surprising little meditative corners, Time Out's London Walks book is a great resource. You see lots of things everyone else walks by and every walk has a quiet little spot to relax and breathe in.

Avebury is indeed nice and considerably less busy than Stonehenge. Bear in mind Easter weekend is 18-21 April and tourist/leisure places will be busier than normal if that coincides with your wife's visit. Both English Heritage (who own Avebury) and the National Trust do well at creating nice spaces to explore and relax in - especially midweek the bigger houses/properties with grounds often have several nice spots to relax in. Other relaxing spots - in outer London Richmond Park is large enough to afford some real peace. It has resident deer and a wonderful 10 mile protected view all the way to St Paul's Cathedral. I would also recommend the coast - the long, often empty north Norfolk coast, Dorset's Jurassic Coast, which you can walk along for miles.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:50 AM on January 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Italian Gardens in Hyde Park - lots of water fountains, near Paddington, walk through the park to the Serpentine lake which is calm, walk a little further to the Serpentine gallery, it has a surprisingly great little book store for art books / zines.
Kyoto Garden in Holland Park - area of calm, short journey from Paddington.
Tavistock Square Gardens - monuments to peace and an area of contemplation, near Euston Station, this is a little further away amid the hustle and bustle, but it is a fascinating, small place.
posted by 0 answers at 1:11 AM on January 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whitechapel Gallery tends to have relatively outsider-ish art, and though it's not in the Paddington area it's pretty easy to get to.
posted by Drexen at 8:45 AM on January 30, 2014

Avebury is awesome. Definitely the best for quiet and meditative. Didn't eat anywhere near there though. Make sure to look for the other mounds and chalk horses on the way.
posted by PJMoore at 9:33 AM on January 30, 2014

Four stops eastward on the Circle line from Paddington is Euston Square. About forty yards north of its northern exit is Drummond Street, WC1, home to about four vegetarian Indian restaurants which are all spectacularly good and reasonably-priced (I like and send people to Ravi Shankar's which is extremely reasonably-priced), and a couple of 'sweet shops' as well.

As a couple of others have mentioned, Edgware Road is less than 5 mins from Paddington and is falafel-tastic in places, and in the daytime not exactly short of grocers' stores with fruit and veg stands out front.
posted by genghis at 7:58 PM on January 30, 2014

it's much darker than stone circles, but if she likes outsider culture and spirituality, perhaps she would be interested in Cross Bones Graveyard. They have vigils on the 23rd of the month.
posted by Bwithh at 11:26 AM on February 20, 2014

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