At Amba Hotels, we’re passionate about living local, proud of our neighbourhoods, and want to show you the secret side of London. Of course, the best-known sights and places to explore are still worth discovering, but for those times when you feel like having a little more space to yourself or being in the company of true Londoners, we’ve compiled a little list of hidden gems for you to see, eat at, drink and and buy from (you can also check out our list of Local Guides in case you’ve already unearthed these).
The Windsor Castle
Visit Website / 114 Campden Hill Road, W8 7AR
As the cold draws in, pull up a stool next to the open fire at the Windsor Castle and sip from a glass of mulled wine. Londoners have been warming up around their roaring fireplaces since 1835, and in fact when the pub was built you could apparently see Windsor Castle on the horizon. The tiny doors chopped into the wooden panelling separate the three bars and add to the toasty atmosphere, as does the British-focussed food menu. The selection of sausages with mash and gravy, venison and wild boar will warm the cockles and more on wintry London eves.
Visit Website / 114 Queen Victoria Street, EC4V 4BJ
Converted by St Nicks Talk, The Wren cafe is nestled in the restored 16th century baroque church of St Nicholas Cole Abbey, which was wrecked by German bombers in 1941. Smack in the middle of the City, this is a very welcome spot of relaxation and quiet with simple but very well-prepared food – sweet and savoury – and absolutely top-notch coffee. Take the time to smell the beans in this peaceful space, look up and be inspired by the dramatic stained glass windows, and most of all be grateful it’s here.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
Visit Website / 47 Villiers Street, WC2N 6NE
A family-run establishment that has been well loved and frequented since 1890, Gordon’s Wine Bar has claims to one of central London’s oldest drinking institutions. Hidden away down a candlelit vaulted basement just steps from Embankment tube station, it’s a not-terribly-secret spot to take a friend, lover or group of either to sink some bottles and raise the rafters. Mulled wine and Christmassy goodies are on offer since the lights went on – pop down, settle in and get in the spirit.
Kemia Bar (underneath Momo)
Visit Website / 25 Heddon Street, W1B 4BH
If you can’t get into the glamorous A-list Moroccan restaurant Momo and you don’t fancy the Mo tearoom, the Kemia bar below is the place to go and dance off the frustration, maybe with regulars Sienna Millar and Tracey Emin, snuggle in a corner or just sip solo on a Zeitoun martini. Traditional Moroccan furniture and wrought-iron designs by owner Mourad Mazouz abound, world music fills the mysterious air and you can revel in your own world of amusement and amazement.
If in search of a gift, no matter the taste, style or inclination, you will be able to find a special something here – even for that person you just. Cannot. Buy. For.
Founded in York in 1761 and established in London circa 1815, Sotheran’s is most probably the longest-running antiquarian bookshop in the world. Time spent browsing these shelves of erudition and adventure is nothing short of an expedition. Besides the scrolls of rare and original literature, travel, illustrations and architecture, there’s also a print gallery and an impressive collection of ancient lithographs, engravings and etchings.
Prince Charles Cinema
Visit Website / 7 Leicester Place, WC2H 7BY
This single-screened, budget arthouse cinema in the centre of Leicester Square is something of the platypus of the West End: it shouldn’t really have managed to exist, and yet, marvellously, it thrives. Showing independent off-the-radar works as well as cult and mainstream films it considers good enough to fit its bill, the Prince Charles has also hosted Dom Joly and his team of comedians as they pranked the audiences, has an official Kevin Smith toilet and is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite movie theatres in the world. You should go, in other words.
London Cru Winery
Visit Website / 21-27 Seagrave Road, SW6 1RP
Welcome to Central London’s first winery. You won’t find home-grown, local grapes in these barrels or bottles, as they are all trucked in from continental Europe, but the rest of the process happens right in front of you. On a small scale with grand vision, state-of-the-art equipment, the wines are expertly made and delicious. Even if you’re not in the market for some urban plonk, the Winery holds tastings, open-days and “Meet the Cru” tours to give Londoners and visitors the opportunity to get involved directly in the winemaking process – at some events there’s even the chance to blend single variety wines to create your own to bring home with you.
Want to discover even more? Come and find out more at Amba Hotel Charing Cross, right in the heart of London and the centre of the action where our hotel staff and concierge are always happy to offer their local expertise to help you see and do London like only those in-the-know really can.