06th Feb 2023
Irish designer Nicki Hoyne brings us on a tour of her favourite places to eat, drink and shop in style.
When a city is as busy and vibrant as London, who you know is far more important than reading a dozen listicles of where to go. So much changes so fast that there’s a slew of newly updated openings every time you hit refresh, making planning a trip to the UK capital a bit of a daunting task.
You don’t want to trawl through an exhaustive directory; instead, you’d like a handful of pointers – a mix of loose and easy, breezy personal recommendations with in-the-know tips (this street for idle wanders and that bakery for the flakiest croissants). For that, who better than a resident, albeit a part-time one?
Award- winning shoe and bag designer Nicki Hoyne splits her time between London and her hometown of Kilkenny. “I live and work in both – I come and go, and I’m just lucky that I can,” she says. “But London is where my social life is.” She opens up her black book to share the places she truly adores; the ones she frequently returns to and always recommends to visiting friends.
WHERE TO WORK
If you’re heading over for a few days of mixing business with pleasure, then consider booking a meeting room at AllBright, the workspace-slash- private members’ club for women. The impressive Mayfair townhouse extends over five floors and boasts lush interiors and a warm, inclusive atmosphere. “I love that you can get coffee or even lunch straight to your desk,” laughs Nicki, who is a member. “They want to empower, nurture and support women, so it’s a great base to work from and brilliant for networking.” Rumour has it a Dublin outpost is being considered, so get in for a peek now. allbrightcollective.com
WHERE TO SHOP
Nicki’s background is in retail, so the bar is set high when it comes to shopping. While she regularly pops into iconic store Liberty London (libertylondon.com) – “they have a great shoe department and are often the first to have new brands, so it’s great to go in for a snoop!” – Selfridges is the store she recommends again and again. “It’s an experience – what I think a department store should be,” she enthuses. A particular favourite is Corner Shop, an innovative concept space that features collaborations with a host of cool brands. selfridges.com. Slightly more off the beaten track is St Christopher’s Place. “It’s just off Oxford Street, up this tiny little alleyway – if you weren’t local, you wouldn’t know where it was. It’s got that ‘secret place’ vibe,” she confides. A hub of boutiques and restaurants, it’s also home to Mulberry’s “spiritual home”, their oldest store. stchristophersplace.com Duke of York Square, off King’s Road, is another recommended shopping hub. It’s great for people-watching the luxury Chelsea set as you browse the 30-plus stores. “There’s a Soho Home, and lots of great brands have boutiques here – Sandro, Cos, Maje,” says Nicki. “It feels like old-school street shopping, as it’s along a picturesque pedestrianised street, but with so many great shops and an old, heritage feel.” Nicki likes to round out a trip here with a visit to the nearby Saatchi Gallery. “It’s how I like to do London – a bit of shopping, eating, people-watching and a museum.” dukeofyorksquare.com
WHERE TO EAT
Many of Nicki’s favourite haunts hit that sweet spot of drool-worthy interiors, critically-acclaimed food and decadent drinks. Iconic Indian restaurant Dishoom is still up there (“I’ve had brunch, lunch and dinner there”). There are locations in King’s Cross, Soho and Covent Garden – though don’t think that will have eased the infamous two-hour-long queues. dishoom.com When it comes to Italian restaurants, it doesn’t get much cooler than Ave Mario. “They just did it right,” says Nicki. “Everything – from the food and drinks to the décor – is amazing.” With a fun, buzzy atmosphere to match the maximalist interiors, ingredients are sourced directly from 180 Italian family- run suppliers, with the carbonara ravioli and epic, three-tier antipasti platters being big crowd-pleasers. bigmammagroup.com/ trattorias/ave-mario Whether it’s a quick on-the-go breakfast or a mellow brunch, Nicki rates Gail’s, a much- loved chain of bakeries making impossibly flaky pastries. It’s also a good spot to pick up some picnic essentials. gailsbread.co.uk Speaking of picnics, no trip to London is complete without a visit to Borough Market. “I like to pop in and see what’s changed,” says Nicki. “You might eat, and also pick up fruit, bread or fish to take home.”
WHERE TO DRINK
“I love a rooftop,” Nicki laughs, citing Radio Rooftop (radiorooftop.com) as a sunset favourite. As temperatures cool, there are two places worth heading to for a cocktail with a view. The first is Aqua Shard (aquashard.co.uk), which Nicki reckons boasts the best vistas in the city. “Even the view from the loo is The pool at the Annabelle hotel unreal,” she says. “I always bring people here for a drink.” Sky Garden, London’s highest public garden, releases free tickets every Monday, though you can also book in for dinner and drinks. skygarden.london High on Nicki’s list for drinks is NoMad London. The New York hotel chain took over the 266-year-old Bow Street Magistrates’ Court (Oscar Wilde famously spent a night in its cells), and turned it into a lush oasis of sleek bars, a cool restaurant and, of course, chic hotel rooms. Side Hustle, all dark wood finishes and elegant booths, is already on the World’s 100 Best Bars list. thenomadhotel.com/london Many who have Bob Bob Ricard on their list will be going for their famous “press for champagne” button, but Nicki assures us that the food is just as good as the bubbles. “The mashed potato is insane,” she says. “You do go in there planning to just have one glass, but the button and the whole experience is just so fun.” bobbobricard.com Another favourite spot for drinks is Gordon’s Wine Bar. “It’s the number one place I send people. We call it London’s worst kept secret, but it has this fun, hidden feel,” she says. “It looks like a derelict building; you knock on this dirty old door to get in, and you’re down in the bowels of the building.” Thought to be the oldest wine bar in London, the cavernous, candlelit space is a date night favourite, with a vast cheese selection and award-winning wine list. gordonswinebar.com
Portrait by Lee Malone. Additional photography from Getty and Unsplash. This article originally appeared in the Autumn issue of IMAGE magazine.