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Insider London

London's coolest restaurants, hidden sites, and other secret pleasures

By Kate Sekules

March 15th, 2007

Anyone who's been there this century knows the London twofer syndrome. Beguiled by prices identical to those in New York, you return home to credit card statements in which palatable £100 dinners are transmuted into $200 splurges and a standard £180 hotel room turns out to have set you back a hefty 5-star rate. For me, a NY-Lon (Londoner in New York!), the sane response of switching destinations to, say, Belize is unavailable, so I have spent the past 17 years battling parsimony in my hometown. In the process, I've learned to stretch my dollars in the land of sterling, while at the same time partaking in the city's best new restaurants, fashionable boutique hotels, and unmatched markets and shops.

My prime stratagem has been simple: go local. Downtown, or the West End (in its various areas), houses nearly all of London's famous grand hotels and most of its fanciest restaurants, but by no means all its culture, shops, parks, and galleries. Partly because of the city's immense size (it takes an hour to get from, say, Notting Hill to Hampstead) but mostly because of partisanship, Londoners tend to favor their own postcode. This means riches in primarily residential areas tourists rarely find – interesting "one-off" boutiques, markets, cozy au-courant bistros and gastropubs, plus local museums and sights. And central London is always but a few tube stops away.

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