If you venture around the corner from Oxford Circus station to Hanover Square you’ll notice a small green shelter stood on one side of the green. You may have seen these peculiar looking huts dotted around town, but what exactly are they? The cabmen’s houses have been around since taxi drivers used horses to pull carriages around the city. They were originally built for the drivers to take refuge in heavy rain, but now they’re reserved for modern taxi drivers. There are, however, several open days happening throughout the summer when all 61 shelters in London are open to the general public and they are definitely worth a visit.
The Kyoto Garden in Holland Park is a true hidden gem; a Japanese garden which is an oasis of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of West London. The gardens are usually very quiet and there are no signs of buildings or skyscrapers from any angle, thanks to the thick lining of Japanese trees. There are brightly lit peacocks roaming around the tranquil pond and man-made waterfalls. The garden allows you to breathe easy and emerge yourself in a foreign land for as long as you want.
Calling all bargain hunters and poor students, the Cancer Research UK shop is one row back from Oxford Street and it’s a two-storey gold mine of fashion. It is generally full of young students picking out designer gear and endless rows of suits that can consume you for hours. Meanwhile, Marylebone’s Farmers Market is a refreshing alternative to a Sainsbury’s Local. Selling anything from fruit and veg, to wine, to homemade jams, it’s possible to nail a week’s shopping in one afternoon. It opens in a car park every Sunday and it feels like you’re shopping in the wilderness of Cumbria rather than W1.
The Attendant is a unique espresso haven in a converted Victorian public toilet built in 1890. As grim as it sounds, the café is very stylish, and cleaner than most others in London. The original urinals now act as dividers between tables and provide a surprising amount of leg room, bizarrely. It’s one of the most decorative places to enjoy a drink, but it’s not just looks that set it apart from anywhere else; the coffee is very good. The greatest attribute of the café is definitely its subtlety. It’s hidden away in a basement out of site near Oxford Circus, and is a great place to escape from the hectic shoppers.
The Lockhart is a portal into America. The Southern USA-style bar and restaurant is a stone’s throw away from Marble Arch station, and provides an interesting list of American wines, while their fried chicken on waffles will open a whole new perspective on food. Their cool furniture rescued from train stations and antique markets add a little bit of Shoreditch to the equation.