The Bank Holiday is being reclaimed. Granted, they were one thing the last year couldn’t put a halt to, but when you’re locked down, where’s the fun? The traditional Bank Holiday hangover doesn’t have the same guilt-free sparkle if it follows a Sunday spent alone on the sofa.
With London’s restaurants, pubs and bars open al fresco, this is a long weekend to take advantage of. Hope is not lost for those who haven’t booked anywhere – walk-ins are still available and, in combination with the weather and a waning of the initial all-guns-blazing buzz, becoming slightly more achievable. Otherwise, try one of London’s best beer gardens; almost all keep space for spontaneous types.
Drive-ins are back this year, too – cinemas, yes, but also theatre and a barbecue – while there’s a sculpture trail worth exploring, some live music and, in Brixton, a reminder of a tragedy that should never be forgotten.
Here’s where – and how – to make the most of the long weekend.
Catch a little street music
Already underway and lasting until June 26, head to Seven Dials for live acoustic performances from some of the city’s musicians, who are getting back into the swing of things after a year mostly without gigs. The pop-up performances are all 15 minutes each, starting at 2pm and ending at 7pm; think of them as soundtracks to simply wandering about.
Across Seven Dials, sevendials.co.uk
Guinness at the Guinea
The Guinea Grill has gloriously returned a few weeks ahead of schedule. While landlord Oisin Rogers had been holding off until May 17 to welcome customers back to Mayfair’s best pub – home to some of London’s best steak, lamb chops and Guinness – instead they’ve put tables into the quiet street, white tablecloths and all, serving only a slightly-reduced version of the full grill menu. It’s a chance to have a peak at the newly revamped Guinea Express, too, which sees the pub reach out across the road and into a now closed Pizza Express.
30 Bruton Place, W1J 6NL, theguinea.co.uk
Roll up to a drive-in
The 1950s are calling and they want their idea back; drive-ins are go across town this year. For film fans, the best of the bunch this week comes courtesy of the Rooftop Film Club, who up Ally Pally have 11 screenings on, with another 11 over in Brent Cross. There’s everything from 80s classics to kids favourites, horror flicks and rom-coms too.
Those who’ve already had their film fill with nights in front of Netflix should change lanes and, on Saturday, try the West End Musical Drive In up in Upper Edmonton, between Walthamstow and Tottenham. This week there are live performances from the stars of Waitress, & Juliet and Les Mis.
On the other hand, hungry types not in the mood to hang around should go west to Cue Point on Chiswick Pavilion, which launched London’s first drive-through barbecue for its Afghan-inflected cooking.
Never Forget Stephen Lawrence
Head to Brixton to reflect on the recently-launched Never Forget Stephen Lawrence campaign. It’s made up of 29 flags hung throughout the Village with portraits of those featured in a new short film that lends its name to the campaign. Lawrence was 18 when he was murdered in 1993, in a racially motivated crime. Organisers say they hope the campaign and its reminder “help inspire a more equal and inclusive society”, and it’s certainly a powerful reminder of the tragic consequences of unchecked prejudices.
Open now, across Brixton Village, brixtonmarket.net
Go luxe at the Savoy
For the first time in its grand 130-year history, the resplendent hotel is launching an al fresco terrace. Launched with an Art Deco bent, the hotel say Solas – Gaelic for light – is hoping to sum up the spirit of the Roaring Twenties. It’s a partnership with Bowmore scotch, so cocktails are at the forefront of the fun, but there’ll be plenty of seafood being served too.
The Savoy, Strand, WC2R 0EZ, savoy-hotel.co.uk
Walk The Line
Want to head out but physically can’t manage another meal? Burn a few calories trekking along the Line, London’s first dedicated public art walk. It begins at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park, follows alongside the bank of the water, trailing the line of the Greenwich Meridian. Sculptures are dotted throughout, and the whole thing takes about three hours to complete.
Open daily, beginning at Queen Elizabeth Olympic park, E15 2DU, the-line.org
Head to Liverpool Street to get a taste of London’s newest monster food hall. The 42,000 square foot site is billed as the “UK’s largest Italian food emporium” and promises a celebration of the country’s best food and drink, with a butcher, fishmonger, cured meat counter, bakery and “cheese laboratory” all inside. There will also be three restaurants, three bars, six smaller food spots, dubbed “eateries”, and a cooking school.
Open now, 135 Bishopsgate, EC2M 3YD, eataly.co.uk
Tour of King’s Cross with Russell Tovey
Years and Years star Russell Tovey has teamed up with King’s Cross to record an arts and culture audio tour; listen in as Tovey talks through the area’s most important landmarks and architecture. It’s a packed 45 minutes: Tovey manages to get through 2,000 years worth of stories.
Available now, King’s Cross, kingscross.co.uk
Try a new terrace
London is bursting with recently reopening outside spaces and places to go. In Tobacco Dock, Skylight are back with Skylight Canalside, which sees them partner with street food stars Kerb . It launches this weekend, with Fundi Pizza and Tongue & Cheek in residence. There’s more street food from the likes of Nanny Bill’s, Baba G’s, Sugo and Nik’s Kitchen at Vinegar Yard’s outdoor garden, which also now has bookable “Rum Shacks”.
Elsewhere, the team behind Flat Iron Square and Goods Way have launched St Felix Place, which is bursting with space for outdoor dining and boasts both a barbecue restaurant and pizza spot and plenty of beer brewed on site. Meanwhile, north in Coal Drop’s Yard, there’s a new terrace outside Sons + Daughters, which is being run by Two Keys mixers, serving Lemon Margaritas and Pink Grapefruit Palomas, both made with a healthy slug of tequila.