Itinerary Location: Temple & Embankment | Duration: Half day
Time for a little affordable luxury in Central London, combining a stroll around Dickensian London with a picnic in a secret garden, a complimentary dose of culture and some fine wines in a notoriously romantic subterranean bunker.
Your voyage begins at Temple station….
Head round the back of the station, and start walking up Surrey Street towards…
➊ TOKLAS | 12:30pm
Set in a striking, freshly renovated brutalist building on The Strand, Toklas is the vaunted new eatery from the founders of Frieze art fair & magazine. As you’d expect, it’s all understated good looks: a kind of 1970s art school canteen with vintage furniture and exhibition posters on the walls. Head chef Yohei Furuhashi serves an elegant, all-day menu of European small plates here and on the terrace – but today, you’re just dropping by the standalone bakery on Surrey Street. Mid-century display cabinets showcase the day’s burnished goods: perfectly laminated croissants, fruit pastries and sandwiches made with freshly baked bread. Pick up whatever takes your fancy for lunch – and maybe something bougie from the pantry shelves – and stroll up Surrey Street…
From here head right along the Strand, taking in the dramatic neo-Gothic architecture of the Royal Courts of Justice (directly opposite the original shop of Twinings Tea, which has been selling tea here since 1706). If you time it right (i.e. on the quarter hour), you can hear the haunting bells of St Clement Danes Church (which is the Central Church of The Royal Air Force, and a “shrine of remembrance to all who have died in service in the RAF”) chiming the old “Oranges & Lemons” nursery rhyme. Or a little further along, on Fleet Street, you’ll see a pair of 17th century mechanical giants hit the bells of St. Dunstan’s. The clock below was apparently the first public clock to have a minute hand when it was installed in 1671.
Next, take a right on Bouverie Street, then right again onto Tudor Street and slip through the gate emblazoned with a flying horse…
➋ INNER TEMPLE GARDENS | 1pm
Despite being absolutely massive, very few people know about the Inner Temple Gardens. That’s because they’re hemmed in by the stately buildings of the Temple Inns of Court, where thousands of barristers and judges work. The area gets its name from its original owners, the Knights Templar, and now feels like a historic town in miniature, with cobbled passageways, Victorian gas lamps and the almost 1000-year old Temple Church (built by the knights, and open most weekdays for a nose around). The sun-drenched meadow of the Inner Temple Gardens is also open to the public on weekdays between 12.30 and 3pm, but if you’re following this itinerary on a weekend you can detour back towards Temple tube, and picnic in the verdant Victoria Embankment Gardens overlooking the river.
Dust off the crumbs, and continue along the Embankment, taking in the glorious riverside views, before ducking under the grand, neoclassical arches on your right into…
➌ SOMERSET HOUSE | 2pm
Somerset House is one of London’s grandest free-to-visit arts centres, with a regularly rotating exhibition line-up and a lively events programme. In summer, the courtyard is filled with art installations and cooling fountains; in the winter it’s home to one of London’s best ice rinks and a giant twinkling Christmas tree.
Once you’ve taken in the sights, head inside to see the rest of what Somerset House has to offer. There are frequently free exhibitions on show, or if you don’t mind shelling out, the newly revamped Courtauld Gallery on the other side of the courtyard has a permanent collection of Impressionist & Medieval artwork, as well as ticketed temporary exhibitions.
Cultural appetite sated, head left along the Strand until you reach…
➍ GORDON’S WINE BAR | 4pm
The ultimate bolthole on a hot summer’s day: lovers of the heat can bask in the sunshine at an outside table, and everyone else can scuttle inside and cool off in the bar’s cool, dark, cellar-like interiors. Gordon’s Wine Bar may be the worst-kept secret in London, but you don’t stay open for over 130 years by being average. Here, a vast selection of wines from around the world (many of which are biodynamic) is served in a candlelit cavern filled with romantic nooks. Pop the cork on one of their specials, and set the world to rights over a little cheese and charcuterie…
It’s great, no matter how you slice it.
The Itinerary | Click HERE for the Google Map
➊ Toklas | 1 Surrey Street, London WC2R 2ND
➋ Inner Temple Gardens | Inner Temple, London EC4Y 7HL
➌ Somerset House | Strand, London WC2R 1LA
➍ Gordon’s Wine Bar | 47 Villiers Street, Embankment, WC2N 6NE | Walk-in only
Not ready to call it a night? Head off to one of Covent Garden’s best restaurants…
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