London always seems to have something new to offer. Due to Covid-19 it has been a few years since we have traveled to the capital. With trains running directly from the North East on the East Coast line, London remains easily accessible. Rather than visiting the usual tourist hotspots, we decided to visit new attractions and eat at restaurants that won’t leave a hole in your pocket. Here are some ideas to whet your appetite for your next trip.
This is an attraction that any Shrek fan will enjoy. You might think this is a place for the younger members of the family, sure the kids will enjoy it, but I noticed a lot of adults enjoyed the experience as well. I would suggest visiting the attraction on a rainy day as you are under cover the whole time if it is a sunny day the idea of spending a few hours in dark hallways and rooms might not be too appealing.
As you’d expect, your “journey” begins with a photo shoot, but if you want one with Shrek, you have to wait until you get to the very end of the attraction.
I would describe it as a mix of Disney and pantomime. After sitting in the London Tour Bus that takes you in 4D over London, you meet the owner of the Poison Apple Pub, you get lost in the Mirror Maze (don’t worry, they magically find the door to let you out), visit Muffin Man’s house, chat with Princess Fiona, and end up having a Shrek Meet and Greet.
Youngsters have plenty of opportunities to interact with the characters – and of course you end up in the gift shop before you see the light of day again. As I heard one of the kids describe it as “Shrek cellent”, that was a statement I couldn’t have put better.
The restaurant chain may not be familiar in the Northeast, although it is slowly heading north. You would never know they are part of a chain as each restaurant looks like an individual restaurant. With branches scattered around the capital, you are never far from one of their restaurants.
The Smashed Burger is their main seller right now. Was expecting London prices but was surprised to find the price with one side was £8.50. After being mashed in the grill for extra flavor, my burger was cooked through but still juicy. They served a limited menu of burgers with very prompt table service – we were in and out within an hour of arriving. Unfortunately they don’t serve desserts, although I was very impressed with their tasty, succulent and filling burgers.
“Is it really them? asked the lady sitting next to me. The realistic appearance of the four members of Abba at the ABBA Arena in Stratford is such that you too may be wondering the same question. The holograms or ABBAtars as they liked to call themselves resemble the four members of ABBA.
There is a ten-piece band located to one side of the stage, though your eyes never leave center stage. It’s like watching ABBA in 1979, the last time they played in London. All major hits are performed, including tracks from their album released last year. The group does not, however, appear on stage all the time – the backing vocalists performed most of the time Does your mother know while their performance in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest is projected onto the huge circular video walls.
Everyone gets up from their seats dancing queenthe penultimate song of the day before the “concert” ends with The winner takes it all. There’s an even bigger surprise at the very end of the show, but I’m not going to spoil it for you.
There are matinee performances over several days with an evening show starting at 7.45pm. Getting there from central London takes about forty minutes on the tube, you need to get off at Stratford station then change to the DLR and it’s one stop from Pudding Lane station – the arena is directly opposite. You can’t get lost going from tube to DLR – just follow your fellow travelers who will probably be wearing their best ABBA outfits!
Middle Eight Hotel
Conveniently located in Holborn, two stops on the Piccadilly line from Kings Cross, stands this elegant new hotel which describes itself as one of the best luxury hotels in Covent Garden. I agree that this has been our experience. The rooms are a harmonious blend of beautiful designs with state-of-the-art amenities. Rooms start with the entry level Cozy Pad which has everything you need for a short stay in London – apart from sleeping you won’t spend too much time in your room but you might like the mini- free bar with soft drinks.
If you really want to push the boat out, you can always stay in one of the suites like the Bay which comes with an interior garden! There was also a comfortable living room with a 50 inch television, a dressing room, a huge bedroom and a well equipped bathroom. There was no window as such with natural light coming from the roof light. It was like having your own private residence in London.
The on-site Sycamore Restaurant features a ceiling decorated with sycamore leaves that seem to have an eternally autumnal color. The Italian-themed restaurant serves homemade pizzas, juicy steaks and pasta dishes. The chef is from northern Italy where the Italian tone continues at the bar with the best wines from Piedmont, Lombardy and Tuscany. Our steak and fries meal was superb.
English breakfast is cooked to order with a continental option also offered – the croissants were some of the best I have tasted.
Downstairs in the basement, the hotel has its own QT concert hall where Leo Green and his band are currently performing. The saxophonist has worked with everyone from Jack Savoretti to Paul McCartney. Expect jazzy versions of songs from The Police, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Toto, among others. I found the show first class and very entertaining with a consummate performance by Leo and his band which included two excellent female singers who have performed in West End musicals or sung on many great dance floors.
We would look forward to Middle Eight again – the only disappointment was having to leave.
We need your help! The press in our country is dominated by outlets owned by billionaires, many of whom are foreigners and avoid paying taxes. We are a citizen journalism publication but still have significant costs. If you believe in what we do, consider subscribing to the Bylines Gazette 🙏