Trip Recaps

May 2024 Trip Recap: Weddings, & Windowless Rooms

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Editor’s Note: As part of an effort to share the real stories, experiences, and expertise of the London On My Mind team, I’m excited to share this trip recap from one of our top writers. As you’ll see, Zhen’s love of food (which she shares on her own blog) comes through when she travels to London too – there are a lot of great restaurant recommendations in this post, plus a number of other attractions she’ll be writing dedicated reviews for in future months. – Valerie

Dear readers, it’s Zhen again, here to tell you about my 3rd trip to London in the last six months – lucky me! I’m always delighted to fly back to my old home, but this was an unplanned trip to attend a friend’s wedding so I had to crunch the numbers hard to make it work.

One tip I have for people who want to visit London but need to economize is to check out the flight prices to other European cities that have easy connections to London. By flying from Singapore to Brussels (via a direct flight), I managed to find a promotion that reduced my air ticket costs by about 50%! Brussels is a direct 2-hour Eurostar train ride away from London and my ticket wasn’t expensive so I saved quite a bit.

So with that little tip in mind, let’s dig into the rest of what I got up to during my May 2024 London trip – and the tips I have to help you make the most out of your London vacation based on my experiences.

London Trip Recap

May Trip Recap Hero

In this section, you’ll find a detailed recap of my time in London.

Day 1/ 16 May – By the time I arrived in London, I had actually already been in Europe for a week. After arriving by way of Brussels and a short time in Lincoln (another UK city), I decided to let myself rest after the hectic week (and a switching-room hassle* at my aparthotel**) and ordered Uber Delivery from Gold Mine*** instead before falling into an exhausted slumber.

*I booked an aparthotel, Wilde Paddington, so that I could cook instead of eating out every day and save money.
**More on the switching of rooms under the section about “Accommodation” below.
***More on Gold Mine in the “Cafes, Restaurants & Bars” section.

Day 2/ 17 May – I spent the morning exploring the artworks at the Tate Britain, in Millbank, before taking the UberBoat to Borough Market where I grabbed a venison burger for lunch. The weather was wonderful – clear blue skies – and you get a really different view of the London attractions from the boat, such as the back view of Westminster. I highly recommend the experience!

If you’ve read my last trip recaps (in November 2023 and January 2024), you’ll realize that I almost always do a class at Bread Ahead whenever I’m in town. I used to love this baking school, but I must say I’ve been rather disappointed by the last few experiences; they’ve expanded massively in the last few years and, in my opinion, the experience has gone a bit downhill since then.

Without going into too much detail, I was dealing with a contagious eye infection during my trip, and when I explained this to them, I was told I would be charged an admin fee as I didn’t give them enough notice. Now I understand they’re a business, and that they need to make money but:

  1. By not allowing people with contagious illnesses to reschedule for free, there may be people who will turn up sick to avoid losing money, which is not very good for anyone. I understand not allowing people to reschedule if their illness is non-contagious (e.g. if they have a headache), however surely with contagious ailments, the focus should be on hygiene. Perhaps they thought I was lying about having a contagious infection, but they could have asked for a doctor’s note.
  2. Especially since their classes book out very quickly, I am never able to book a space if I leave it to the week prior, so I always have to book months ahead. They may have been able to resell the spot- if they had tried and been unable to, I would have been happy to pay the admin fee but they didn’t even want to try.
  3. I’d been to a previous class in which they’d allowed two American tourists to reschedule (because they’d changed their travel dates and not because of illness!) so the policy seemed quite unfair.

Thankfully the ophthalmologist in Lincoln gave me a new antibiotic which managed to control the infection. Since he said that I would no longer be contagious, I managed to attend the class in the end. (I wasn’t able to see an eye doctor in Brussels as it was over the weekend.)

There were about 10 to 12 of us in the class and we made three types of bread. They were easy enough that I would make them again at home, despite not being a huge baker. However, living in Singapore, I eat Japanese bread quite a lot, and I must say the bread we made didn’t seem as fine as the ones I have eaten at home!

After class, the weather was still good, so I strolled to Charing Cross, where I picked up some groceries from Marks & Spencer, before taking the Tube back to cook dinner at my aparthotel. 

Day 3/ 18 May – Today was The Big Day! My friend’s wedding was held in a lovely family church in Wimbledon Village, followed by dinner in Marylebone.

As anyone who’s taken public transport in London would know, there are often delays! I didn’t want to risk being late, so I decided to make my way to Wimbledon Village nice and early, where I enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Black Lamb before walking to church. (I won’t go into details about the day to respect the privacy of the bride and groom, and as it’s not likely you’d want or be able to replicate this day anyway!)

Day 4/ 19 May – I’d met an old friend at the wedding who kindly invited me round for lunch, so I spent the morning walking leisurely from Paddington to Bayswater (where the lunch was held).

One of my favorite things to do in London – when the weather is good – is to walk. Hence, after lunch, I walked down Kensington Gardens to High Street Kensington, before walking to Sloane Square to pick up something for my Mum. And then I walked back to Paddington! 

On the way, I had dinner at Hayat, a Middle Eastern restaurant I’d found via Google Maps. It was one of the highest-rated restaurants around my Aparthotel – read the Food section for my thoughts about it.

Day 5/ 20 May – Time for another staple of my London trips – going to a shopping outlet, Bicester Village, which is one of my favorites. I’m rather embarrassed to be such a shopaholic, but my friends and I do exchange gifts after holidays, and there are quite a few bargains to be picked up at Bicester! 

Moreover, there have been some changes to the Village since my last visit – such as a new restaurant, Ottolenghi’s, one of my favorite places to eat in London! 

After a half day of shopping, I headed back to London, dropped my stuff off at the aparthotel then headed over to Notting Hill for dinner at the Pelican with a friend.  

Day 6/ 21 May – Another very busy day – I had a facial at Liberty’s (near Oxford Circus) followed by a bloggers’ meeting (in Picadilly, another staple of my London trips), tea at the Mother-of-the-bride’s (at Westminster; I actually knew the Mother before the bride), followed by dinner at an MBA classmate’s (at West Kensington). As I said, it was busy busy busy!

Lunch was a sandwich at Waterstones, where I met the other bloggers. This was our third meet-up and I’m actually organizing a larger-scale conference for content creators in the UK in 2025! Exciting!

Sadly, even though the last few days had been beautifully dry and sunny, the weather today reverted to the British stereotype: grey and wet. To avoid getting drenched, I decided to take two buses to get to my friend’s where we had a lovely afternoon tea. (The Tube would have been faster but it would involve a longer walk in the rain.)

Alas when I had to leave for dinner, the rain had only intensified, and not stopped. It took me ages but I finally managed to get a taxi to West Kensington! 

Day 7/ 22 May – All too soon, it was time to leave London. I booked a noon train so that I could have a leisurely morning which was a slight miscalculation on my part. There aren’t many good places for brunch in Paddington, and I didn’t want to travel further and have to rush, so I ended up only grabbing a sandwich at St. Pancras before leaving for Brussels via the Eurostar and my return flight home after that.

Cafes, Restaurants & Bars on this Trip 

As you may know from past recaps, I spend about as much time planning and enjoying my meals in London, and my love of food is part of why I’m a food blogger! Here’s where I ate during this trip and more about my experience at each:

  • Gold Mine (Queensway) – if you’re looking for authentic Chinese food, this is the place that almost all Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese go to for their roast meat and dim sum. I ordered congee, siew mai (dim sum), and braised aubergine via UberEats delivery and it arrived nice, hot, and delicious. After being back in Asia for five years, I was initially skeptical about the siew mai, but it was pretty good!
  • Borough Market (London Bridge) – Shellseekers used to be my favorite place to grab a venison burger in London. (I like to eat venison because it’s a more sustainable meat.) Since I left, the stall has expanded, but the service and taste have unfortunately gone down. The lady who took my order was pretty surly, and though the venison patty was tender, the taste of the burger was a bit unbalanced. (It only had savory notes – would have been better with some acidity or sweetness to balance the flavor.) I regretted not getting the Duck Confit Wrap from Le Marche du Quartier instead (another of my go-to’s.)
  • Black Lamb (Wimbledon Village) – this was one of the best meals I had on the trip. The lamb was tender and flavorful, and the service was really beyond excellent. (Friendly and thoughtful, making the restaurant a place you actually enjoy dining at. Dining out isn’t just about the food, don’t you think?) They also have a few outlets in London, which I’ll check out on a future trip. (I’d been to one of them before – The Rabbit, in Chelsea – also very, very good.)
  • Hayat (Paddington) – This restaurant is located on one of the nicer Paddington side streets. It was pretty busy when I arrived, and the inside felt a bit stuffy, so I decided to sit outside. I ordered the grilled chicken, and I liked how charred and smoky the skin was. However, it could have been a bit more spiced for me – it tasted like a regular grilled chicken and not particularly Middle Eastern. The service was warm and authentic (the waiter kindly explained to me that the chicken came with salad and bread so I would not need to order more, instead of trying to push me to order more, which can happen at some eateries.)
  • Ottolenghi’s (Bicester Village) – After trying (the amazing) La Tua Pasta in November, I could see that Bicester was undergoing a food renaissance and was so excited when I heard that an Ottolenghi’s was opening too! Unfortunately, the experience left a bit to be desired. Although most of the staff were delightful, there was a lady who was pretty unfriendly and made me feel unwelcome enough to contemplate leaving (before I had ordered.) However, since the other staff were all very friendly, I thought I’d give the restaurant a chance. Sadly, the food wasn’t as good as I remembered!
  • Pelican (Russell Square) – This was a random gastropub out of a list that I had sent my friend to choose from. (She lives in Notting Hill and prefers meeting around this area – in January, we’d dined at Sunday in Brooklyn, which was … OK…) The food was good and I wouldn’t mind coming back. However, don’t count on spending too much time catching up here – they’re so busy that each table is only allocated for 2 hours or so before you’re cleared out. As my friend was the one who made the booking, I wasn’t aware of their policy, and was rather shocked when the waitress suddenly told us we had the table for another 10 minutes, and said it was plenty of time to order dessert! (Our savories were still on the table!) I’m not sure about you, but given that it would take at least 5 minutes to order and for the food to arrive, I need a bit more than 5 minutes for dessert.
  • Waterstones (Piccadilly) – I always meet my fellow content creators at Waterstones, Piccadilly. They’re very nice about allowing people to linger for ages over a cup of tea. (I feel quite bad about that, so now I try to only buy books from Waterstones. Well, and Hatchards.) They kindly heated up the cheese sandwich for me too!
  • Joe and the Juice (St. Pancras Station) – This is one of my favorite sandwich places in London. I ordered a tuna sandwich and chocolate muffin for the train. The tuna melt was as good as I remembered – some tuna sandwiches can taste a bit dry – but the chocolate muffin wasn’t my cup of tea, unfortunately. 

Accommodation on this Trip 

I wanted to cover a different hotel on this trip so I booked Wilde Aparthotel in Paddington instead of Cheval Harrington (which I had stayed at during my last two trips in November 2023 and January 2024).

I booked a studio room, similar to the room I stayed at Cheval Harrington in November 2023. However, the cost was around £100 (per day) lower. When I entered my room, I soon realized why – the Wilde Paddington room had no window (despite one being shown in the booking), was really dark, and there was no washer-dryer!

(There is a communal laundry room, with four machines, but having one in your own room is SO much more convenient. In my opinion, the lower cost is also partly because of the location. Paddington is an extremely convenient base for a London trip – especially if you plan to take day trips out of the city –, but it’s not as nice an area to live in as South Kensington.) 

There was a window-like opening cut in the wall but it was basically just a grey box, and not a window. As I would be staying in the room for a week, and am a little claustrophobic, I asked if I could switch to a room with a window. It took around an hour but, eventually, the hotel managed to find me an alternative with a window.

The staff had good attitudes, and the location was indeed very central, but I must say that there is a very real risk of being stuck in windowless quarters (as the hotel is apparently often fully booked and they may simply have no alternatives to offer you!) 

Would I still stay at Wilde Paddington? Yes, if I can get confirmation when booking that the room I would be staying in would have a window! 

Editor’s Note: I also had an issue like this at the Yotel London City where the room I booked showed a window in the photo but didn’t have one upon arrival. I recommend reaching out to every less conventional accommodation to verify that the window is in every room of that category and/or that you’ll be in a room with a real window once you’ve booked. – Valerie

Highlights & Lowlights 

In addition to all of the above, I thought it might be helpful to share the highlights and lowlights in one spot, so you can easily understand what I thought was worth it on my trip – and maybe add some new activities and experiences to your travel plans.

Highlights

  • The highlight of the trip was definitely my friend’s wedding (the reason I made this May trip to London after all!) I always find it an honor to be invited to European weddings, as they’re usually small and intimate, with only 50 or 60 guests. Plus it was nice to reconnect with old friends and make new ones! (This is in contrast to the Chinese weddings I had grown up attending, where there are hundreds of guests, some of whom the bride and groom may not be familiar with!)
  • I also very much enjoyed the Uber Boat ride from Millbank (outside Tate Britain) to Bankside. It’s more expensive than taking the tube, but a much more pleasant journey, especially when the weather is sunny. (Not all trains have AC, so once the weather warms up, buses and tube rides can be quite… unpleasant.)

Lowlights

  • The downer of the trip was definitely the eye infection that I had picked up! It was my first ever so initially I wasn’t sure what was wrong and got quite worried (it started out as a black circle around my eye, and it looked like I had been poisoned!)
  • In addition, the food on the trip wasn’t as good as on my prior trips and I didn’t get to try as many new places. As this trip was pretty rushed, I didn’t have time to wander further to try better places!

That’s about all I did on my trip! If you have any questions about what I did, ate, or saw, feel free to let me know in the comments below!

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Zhen fell in love with London when she first visited at the age of 4. After that, she was lucky to have the opportunity to live in UK for 11 years, 7 of which were spent in London. (She particularly adores the areas around Kensington, Southwark and Baker Street!) As someone who loves both food and travel – don’t we all? – you can find her sharing her Asian food recipes over at greedygirlgourmet.com.

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