I’VE got a friend in his 50s who has never been to London. Nor does he have any desire to go.

I’ve almost given up on trying to convince him of its merits as a truly global city that – as Samuel Johnson declared – you can never get bored of. I’m writing this in London at the end of a long weekend that reinforced why the city offers one of the world’s great city breaks.

Getting to London can be a joyous part of the experience. I always try to avoid flying – not least as when there is any disruption, the Scotland-London routes always seem to be the first cancelled. I’ve long been a fan of the Caledonian Sleeper (www.sleeper.scot), which recently came under Scottish Government control.

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Already an ace new lounge at Euston has opened where you can shower and enjoy a brew on arrival – or even have a light breakfast. It’s handy too for hanging out before you get back on at night for the return trip.

Snaring a great London hotel is another key to a great break. On this trip, I stayed at three hotels so I’d have more to tell you about.

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First up was the new Middle Eight (www.middleeight.com) in Covent Garden. I had the Downtown suite, which looked beautiful and was massive in a city notorious for tiny hotel rooms. My suite was laced with hardwoods and stone and even a garden area with a huge skylight – a true work of art. Their Sycamore Vino Cucina restaurant offered decent Italian fare but isn’t quite up to the hotel’s otherwise high standards.

Next up was the plush 1 Hotel Mayfair (www.1hotels.com). I love the use of natural materials here – especially the tree trunk sections as bedside cabinets and even a timber reception. Greenery abounded too with more than 1300 plants breathing life and oxygen into the hotel. Again, I had loads of space in my large standard room, which also had a wee sitting area. Calm colours, rich fabrics and sharp lines created a cool Scandi-chic vibe that I prefer to some of the older, stuffier London luxury hotels like The Savoy and The Ritz.

Last up was the Apex Temple Court (www.apexhotels.co.uk). This was the most affordable of my trio, with rooms coming in from £175 – not bad for central London. The hotel is beautiful too and the staff are both friendly and helpful. My room was a decent size and a nice touch were the free Nespresso coffees. The breakfasts were spot on, with a heaving vegetarian cooked option that set me up for a day pounding London’s streets.

Eating well in London is easy. On this visit, I savoured some spectacular meals. The best was – unusually – a hotel restaurant. 1 Hotel Mayfair’s Dovetale was sublime with Michelin-accredited Tom Sellers at the helm.

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Dinner kicked off with hand-dived Orkney king scallops from their raw bar, before a delicious mushroom tart. The mains didn’t disappoint either – perfectly creamy turbot, cooked on the bone. A faultless experience.

I tried another hotel restaurant in Brown’s Hotel. Charlie’s was a beautiful space and the Meursault superb, but although my crab to start was lovely, my main pasta dish was quite bland. Not a patch on Dovetale.

Outside the hotels, I was impressed with Daroco in Soho (below). They’ve got other branches in France, but the focus here is Italian. And brilliant Italian it is. I kicked off with a zingy bresaola, followed by a bowl of pasta that would pass muster in Bologna. The homemade pasta came in a delicious bisque with generous chunks of lobster meat.

The National: Tired of London, tired of life

My last meal was in Tozi Grand Cafe at Battersea Power Station (below). I was keen to head down here anyway to check out the massive revamp of this old industrial dame into a leisure complex. The development is deeply impressive. Lunch was too – battered squid, then a ribeye steak; great value too. The restaurant has a tie-in with a gallery, with the art that bedecked the space a nice touch.

I headed back into the centre with Uber Boat. I thoroughly recommend using ferries on the Thames as an enjoyable and efficient way to get around London. If you plan ahead, you can work these spectacular boat trips in between tube journeys, your hotels and restaurants. It makes a spirit-soaring change from just using the Tube. And every trip you take on the Thames is alive with spectacular scenery and swathes of history oozing from both banks.

The National: Tired of London, tired of life

I always like to walk a lot in London too. It’s a fairly flat city with lots of parkland right in the centre.

Always check Google for short trips, as chances are, you’ll find walking takes around the same time, or is even quicker. I’ll be passing all these tips and positive experiences on to my doubting friend.

I might just persuade him to enjoy a trip to one of the world’s great cities.


Hyatt Regency London, The Churchill 
A CENTRAL London landmark, the Churchill was built in the 1970s and sports a portrait of the famous wartime leader at reception. For a treat book a room with access to the Regency Club Lounge, an oasis of calm with complimentary drinks and evening canapes, where you can also enjoy breakfast with an eighth floor view. The Montagu Kitchen & Lounge is a hotel restaurant worth staying in for – they do superb seared Scottish scallops and hulking tomahawk steaks too.