Anyone reading the news, as you are now, will have noticed lately that the UK is spoilt for choice — of dismaying horrors. Harvest-time approaches and we have a glut. Take your pick: governmental chaos; endless strikes; £8 pints; sewage in the sea (and in rivers, and in lakes); sky-high energy bills; bank holiday violence.
But amid all this gloom, things bob along, life happens, and there’s plenty of joy to be found (though, granted, much of it costs). There are astonishing restaurants opening, shows from extraordinary artists, a chance to peak inside London’s prettiest houses. Here then, are 15 reasons to be cheerful. Chin up, London, on we go.
Eat yourself happy
Alex Dilling at Hotel Café Royal
Alex Dilling is what you might call a chef’s chef, but with this — the first restaurant to open under his own name — he may yet become a London household name. Dilling previously ran the Greenhouse (two Michelin stars), worked under Hélène Darroze at the Connaught (two Michelin stars), and broke through at Alain Ducasse’s New York hit Adour (two Michelin stars). See where this is going?
From Sept 1, 68 Regent Street W1, hotelcaferoyal.com
After a bit of argy-bargy with their landlord during the plague, it looked like Peckham’s favourite Italian might be lost forever, so this comeback really does feel for the win. Bad news for SE15 but good news for SE5, as chef Sam Oxley and his gang have moved into Camberwell; they’ve renovated the Church Street Hotel, and will soon be plating up their five courses of seasonal fare, which is as comforting and wonderful and warming as it gets.
From Sept 4, 31 Camberwell Church Street SE5, forzawin.com
Inspired by the river-races of Thailand, the name of this new opening is cheering enough, as is the bright turquoise frontage, gaudy gold touches and all. Better yet is the pedigree: this one’s from Luke Farrell, who already had the hit of the year with Plaza Khao Gaeng. A tribute to the bars of Bangkok’s Chinatown, expect lots of wok-based cooking, roasted meats, seafood salads and a flood of whisky sodas and snakeblood Negronis. Many of the bar’s Thai-Chinese herbs and spices come from Farrell’s greenhouses — which sit close by his own speedboat lake, naturally.
Sept 24, 30 Rupert Street W1, @speedboatbar
St John Marylebone
When Trevor Gulliver and Fergus Henderson opened St John in 1994, their nose-to-tail restaurant changed British cooking forever. As they do with their long lunches, Gulliver and Henderson have taken a leisurely approach to new spots and this will be their first proper restaurant to open in 19 years. Inspired by bars in Paris and Florence, it will open all day, from Champagne and doughnuts for breakfast through to the very last glass of Armagnac served after hours-long suppers.
From Oct 5, 98 Marylebone Lane W1, @st.john.restaurant
As autumn begins to chill and winter bites, few things are needed as much as the brightening effects of a good breakfast. Beam will be well known to anyone in Crouch End, Highbury and Notting Hill, and now Muswell Hill will be worth travelling to. Come for brekkie done all ways, from shakshuka to burritos to a Mediterranean riff on an eggs Benedict. One joy of Beam, though, is that they run all day: a full English for supper is a glorious thing.
From Nov, 291-293 Muswell Hill N10, cafebeam.co.uk
Dance it away
It’s been quite the few years for this Nigerian artist, who has made his name being a sort-of rapper, sort-of singer, sort-of spoken word star. Whatever he is, it’s working: there’s been the Little Simz Point and Kill collaboration, the release of debut album Some Nights I Dream Of Doors and, this weekend past, a hit, sweat-soaked set at We Out Here. His set at Koko promises to be a lively one.
Sept 30, Koko, 1A Camden High Street NW1, koko.co.uk
There’s a reason ES Magazine dubbed Beabadoobee “the sound of the summer”; the self-taught Filipino-British indie kid has managed to get her signature sound — think dreamy, singsong vocals floating prettily above fuzzy guitar — everywhere. In part, it’s thanks to her astonishing output (five EPs and two albums since 2018), so there’ll be no shortage of nostalgia-tinged alt-rock tracks to leave the crowd here in a shoegaze daze.
Oct 9, Brixton Academy, 211 Stockwell Road SW9, academymusicgroup.com
While the rest of the world hit pause in 2020, this 22-year-old Mancunian rapper hit the big time. He hasn’t slowed up since — recent, heartfelt Ed Sheeran collab My G has had more than three million views in just 10 days or so — and this gig is set to be his biggest London set yet. Go for fun-loving British hip-hop that combines grime, old-school influences and Aitch’s effortless flow.
Oct 22, Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way N22, alexandrapalace.com
Given how good her eponymous 2020 debut was, expectations are sky-high for Sawayama’s follow-up, Hold The Girl, which drops on September 16. This show follows shortly after: expect the Brixton Academy to be a throbbing wave of bass-heavy, cheekily-knowing genre-bending pop — and Sawayama leading something like a night of mass therapy from the front of the stage.
Oct 26, Brixton Academy 211 Stockwell Road SW9, academymusicgroup.com
The Compton native left Glastonbury’s Worthy Farm crowd close to gobsmacked awe when he closed the festival this year with a set that, owing to its biblical theatrics, provoked as much as it started a party. His lyrical malleability was matched by a magnetic, mesmeric stage presence. If this O2 show is even half as good, it will astonish.
Nov 7-9, The O2, Peninsula Square SE10, theo2.co.uk
Open House London
Offering the ultimate fun for anyone whose hobbies include hours wasted either on TikTok’s interior design #inspo accounts or scrolling through Rightmove listings, Open House is a chance to head inside some of London’s extraordinary buildings, most of which are usually closed to the public, including private homes. Turning 30 this year, the festival has swollen from a single weekend of walks, talks and tours to two weeks of nosing around.
Sept 8-21, across town, open-city.org.uk
London Design Festival
Turning 20 this year, the LDF is set for an especially spectacular innings. Sprawling throughout the V&A, each installation, workshop and talk centres on world-leading, through-provoking design. It’s not all architecture either, with music, poetry and more promised.
Sept 17-25, The V&A, Cromwell Road SW7, vam.ac.uk
Black History Month
In the 35 years since its inception in 1987, Black History Month has both reflected and celebrated black culture and the experiences of black communities. Official celebrations are yet to be announced, but blackhistorymonth.org.uk offers comprehensive listings of ways to participate: this year, highlights include Africa Fashion Week (starting on October 8), French rapper Josman at Camden’s Jazz Cafe on October 14 and I Wonder If…, a new play directed by Daniel Bailey at the Young Vic, running October 24-29.
Oct 1-31, across town, blackhistorymonth.org.uk
London Cocktail Week
Given theirs is a world built on booze, perhaps it’s no surprise that this “week” is a 10-day thing. Billed as “the biggest cocktail festival in the world”, it’s a chance to try drinks from more than 300 bars across town. What makes it especially attractive in 2022 is that the cocktails are £7 each with a wristband. Drinkers can meander between venues at their own pace or head out on a tour.
Oct 13-23, across town, londoncocktailweek.com
London Jazz Festival
Another big anniversary, another reason to go. What once felt a little anachronistic has in recent years become a must-see, in part because of the rise of progressive UK jazz. Expect everything from pitch-perfect scat singing from Kurt Elling at Royal Festival Hall to a celebration of female empowerment with an Afro-Latin soundtrack from Colectiva at Kings Place in York Way.
Nov 11-20, across town, efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk