Little Venice is a vestige of peace and quiet in the heart of London not far from the hubbub of Paddington – just one stop northbound on the Bakerloo line. I visit London at least once a year and every time I do, I like to try and seek out a new corner of this city that is a little out of the ordinary for the vast majority of tourists.
Like any capital city, there are the usual sights, sounds and tastes that are the “Essential Things To Do” list, but with a city that’s as accessible as London, it’s rare to experience the same things more than once, unless you choose to of course!
Little Venice borders Paddington, Maida Vale and Notting Hill. It’s an affluent part of the city and as such prices for eating out here is generally higher than the other well trodden areas of the city. But what you get in return is consistent high quality food in generous proportions.
The Warrington Hotel
The Warrington Hotel is a 19th Century Public House that is dripping with original Victorian features and has recently added five absolutely stunning bedrooms to its offering. Each room is decorated individually in keeping with the era of the building and oozing luxury. Just 600m walk from Warwick Avenue tube station and possibly the nicest Full English Breakfast I’ve ever had (see below). A definite treat for a special London getaway!
The Colonnade Hotel is a classic stucco building with an interesting history (Enigma code breaker Alan Turing was born here and Sigmund Freud lived here for a bit while his place was getting a makeover), the shiniest suit of armour in the foyer and the oldest working lift in London!
The best rooms in the house are the suites, the rest are good but small but ask to see the rooms before you are happy. The plus points are that it is quiet (a boon for London), safe and 2 minutes walk from Warwick Avenue tube station. Plus, it has Mabel the Cat – resident in the hotel since being rehomed from Battersea Home for Dogs and Cats.
Walk the Tow Paths…
It’s called Little Venice because it lies in the middle of a canal system that stretches the entire width of London. These canals would have been essential during the Industrial Revolution for carrying goods from the London Docklands to factories all across the city and beyond into industrialised cities like Birmingham.
Nowadays, it’s a quiet oasis just a few minutes from Paddington. It is famous for the pretty tow-path walks and for the vast array of house boats that moor alongside. Brightly painted and festooned with flowers, these house boats are constantly on the move as moorings last for only 14 days. Those that are lucky to have permanent moorings have been creatively changed into restaurants, cafes and even theatres.
Take a boat trip…
The best way to explore the canal and to see London from an altogether different angle is to take a canal boat trip all the way from Little Venice via London Zoo to Camden Lock. Trips run year round and are a relaxed an affordable way to get around the city. Not to mention the perfect antidote to the stuffy underground in the heat of high summer!
Go to the Theatre…
The Puppet Barge Theatre is a yellow and red tented barge with live marionette puppet shows gracing its stage. It is moored at the heart of Little Venice, and is genuinely a hidden gem of the theatre world. Its patron is the inimitable Michael Palin; the ethos of the theatre to promote live animation. Shows change regularly and book up early so book your tickets online and well in advance. A truly unique London experience.
Cross a Road…
Just a short walk from Little Venice is the worlds’ most iconic Pelican Crossing. The crossing outside Abbey Road Studio was made famous by The Beatles on the cover of their 1969 Abbey Road album. Today the crossing as well as the Studio’s themselves are both listed and enshrined for ever more as a part of Britain’s National Heritage.
Unfortunately, the studios themselves are not open to the public, but you can of course embrace your inner tourist by having a photo taken on the crossing and indulge in a spot of legal vandalism on the white-washed wall outside.
After all that sight seeing, you’re probably feeling a little bit peckish?
There are no short of places to eat anywhere you go in London, but the quality can vary. These are my tried and tested recommendations for any time of day…
The Warrington Hotel
The hotel itself may only have 5 gorgeous bedrooms, but their breakfast which lasts until 11am is available to anyone who strolls through the doors of this 19th Century public house, packed to the literal rafters with beautiful original features.
Give yourself plenty of time to relax over a pot of English Breakfast Tea whilst waiting for a cooked to order Full English Breakfast. It’s not often I gush over a breakfast, but the smoky bacon; the stubby local pork sausages, the iridescent yellow yolks of the two free range eggs and the baked beans in a little copper pan had me fall in love.
Although this is a chain, it is suitably quirky enough to convince you that this really is an individual hub of hipster Aussie brunch heaven. It’s always very busy and the service is as friendly as it is fast paced. On a weekend, it is advised to arrive in packs so that you can split off into table hunters and order pickers.
Beany Green is known for its “Famous Banana Bread Sandwich” (note to readers: Banana Bread is also a 2017 thing now – expect to see it everywhere), so that is what I ordered along with the Vegan Nut Smoothie and a coffee. The coffee is excellent ,which is probably why the place is crawling with suits. Definitely worth the hype.
The Summerhouse is always popular so booking a table in advance is recommended located as it is on the banks of the Grand Union Canal. Its USP is summery, nautical and outdoorsy with a décor to match. Previously only open in the summer (hence the name), now it is open year round in response to demand by its diners.
As with all good quality seafood restaurants, expect to pay a little more. But if eating the freshest fish and inventive seafood dishes is something you need then this is the place to come. The non-fish dishes change with the seasons, and there are also sharing platters which is always a great option with large groups.
The popcorn shrimp is highly recommended for starters and, if your purse can stretch to it, do push the boat out (pardon the pun) and go for the indulgent seafood platter complete with lobster, oysters and prawns. A wine list that compliments every sized pocket means that there is good eating here no matter what your budget.
The Everyman Cinema
Yes, you hear me correctly, I sending you to a cinema for dinner! Well, if you want to stay local and not head to the West End, then yes I am! If you’re completely worn out from your walking tour of Little Venice then this happens to be a perfect combo – an alternative dinner and a show option.
Everyman Cinemas are a chain of independently owned, boutique venues across the UK. Maida Vale Everyman doesn’t look much from the outside, but from the moment I stepped inside and up the staircase with walls covered in retro movie posters and 50’s inspired décor, I knew that I was in somewhere special!
The menu is simple but effective with the star stoppers being their Spielburgers that come with hand-cut skin-on fries cooked fresh to order. My burger was epic with its blue cheese and pickle toppings. I opt to “go hard” on my Oreo cookie milkshake by adding a shot of whiskey – yes, you are hearing me correctly!
I have freshly popped salted popcorn and a ridiculous layered dessert served in a Kilner jar. I am deliriously happy already by this point, and then I walk down to the intimate, 42-seater Screen 2 to take my place – a comfy squishy sofa with bolster cushion and side table. What bliss, and not a popcorn throwing child in sight.
Kate Ryan is a food writer, blogger and founder of Flavour.ie a website that is dedicated to promoting West Cork Food through writing, events and tours. Kate writes regularly for The Opinion Magazine and The Southern Star newspaper and has been featured in the Irish Examiner and Irish Times. Her blog is recipe driven showcasing the best of West Cork produce and encouraging everyday cooking with it at home as well as the best places to eat in the region. Kate hosts a very popular social dining “Supper Club” as well as organising a variety of food-related events getting people to enjoy great local food together. In the summer season, Kate also runs the only guided Walking Food Tour of Clonakilty which takes place every Friday June to August and is accredited by Fáilte Ireland for the Wild Atlantic Way. Kate is also a judge with Blas na hEireann and the Irish Quality Food Awards.
Keep up with Kate’s food adventures on flavour.ie, and via her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Sign up to the Newsletter for previews of upcoming events, exclusive offers and news round-up.