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The Weekender: London

Our publisher goes underground and off the radar to unveil London’s hidden surprises.  

London at sunrise (c) David Leppan

London is the only major city worth living in, if you need to live in a city. I don’t. My visits are purposefully short to ensure a longing to return. On this occasion I was in town principally for the filming of some ‘B-roll’, footage of me alighting a cab, walking past Scotland Yard, seated on a park bench. It is to accompany what now feels like hundreds of hours of interviews in relation to a life I once led: deeply immersed in gathering open-source intelligence on ‘heightened-risk individuals’.  

Could it be any more fitting than to be graciously accommodated at Raffles’ new London establishment, The OWO? The Old War Office, Churchill’s Second World War headquarters sits opposite the Horse Guards Parade and only metres away from 10 Downing Street. An Edwardian palace of a property places you in between Parliament and Trafalgar Square. Apart from some architecturally and historically mind-blowing suites, rooms that have housed the offices of military leaders at momentous times in UK history, it also hides a secret place to sip a little something shaken at The Spy Bar.  

Historic staircase at Raffles in The OWO (c) David Leppan

Thankfully, the property is bursting with a wide array of restaurants because any eateries on par would at the closest be a walk into St James’s or Mayfair. Mauro Colagreco elevates dining in Whitehall to a new level with his main restaurant. It has been a very long time since I enjoyed food and cooking of this quality in Central London. It is on the same lofty level as one or two of the historic suites the OWO offers. I’ve never seen room dimensions or bathrooms quite like these. A six-year renovation of this expansive hotel is impossible not to admire. 

My trip though started in a basement, speakeasy bar, perfectly hard to find, called Soma, by the people behind the modern Indian restaurant Kricket. I’d arrived, delayed as usual by the Eurostar, straight from Paris and begrudgingly agreed to drag my luggage to pre-dinner drinks with my friend Jay, my eldest daughter Sofia and her partner, Nicole. From here we went on to Kiln for dinner before returning to Soma simply because it was that good! The thought of carrying a suitcase back downstairs didn’t bother me half as much as it had at the start of the night. 

No trip to London feels complete without a meal at The Wolseley or at the very least a Martini. I love the grandeur and the bustle of this magnificent room and it is only yards away from Hatchards, my favourite West End bookshop. Of course, one need only take a cab to Marylebone to Daunt, my other favourite literary haunt. I twice managed to pop into Arthur Sleep, the best velvety slippers manufacturer in London and probably the UK and, as always, I couldn’t help but visit Connolly, London’s most beautiful boutique. My friend Jay also led me astray to Sushi Tonari and I found myself in the basement of a church enjoying Japanese sashimi.  

At Sushi Tonari (c) David Leppan

On this trip I seem to have spent much of my time below the radar, underground, in basements. London is full of hidden surprises and as such I can honestly say, I never tire of discovering what it has to offer.  

My thanks to PK’s List, as usual, for ensuring I sleep sweetly wherever I lay my hat.  

This article originally appeared in Billionaire's Power of Women issue. To subscribe, click here.