From gifting ideas to an evening at the ballet, Daisy Hoppen rounds up her best December recommendations
December is the most sociable month of the year, when you are more likely to be out than in... Here are some ideas to keep you going, places to eat and also things to go and see if you do get an evening off!
There are all sorts of blockbuster Christmas shows around the country at this time of year, but I always love going back to The Photographers’ Gallery as they have such a strong and eclectic programme. For December, they have a show dedicated to London’s Soho, exploring the district’s unique approach to diversity, tolerance and unorthodox approach to lifestyles. This is a rare opportunity to see works by William Klein, Anders Petersen, Corinne Day, as well as lesser-known image-makers such as Kelvin Brodie, Clancy Gebler Davies and John Goldblatt.
Flowers Gallery always has an interesting roster of shows, but one that they often repeat is their annual Small is Beautiful exhibition, first shown in 1974, presenting works by selected contemporary artists at a fixed scale – each piece measuring no more than 7 x 9 inches (18 x 23 cm). There will be more than 100 works by invited British and international artists on display, offering a rare opportunity to purchase smaller pieces by well-known names and discover new talents working across a range of media. My favourite are these pieces by artist Charlotte Colbert.
December is that time of year where you have planned never-ending, large group dinner outings but have nowhere to go that will take big groups or isn’t a sad roast dinner in a dreary pub. Here are some places to try, both new and old:
- Bong Bongs: Very welcome to the east London food scene is Bong Bongs by Lee Johnson and Sinead Campbell, founders of BBQ Dreamz – a Manila Kanteen in the heart of Bethnal Green. Think Filipino favourites with South Asian cocktails and beers, as well as a weekly Sunday kamayan, a traditional communal feast. Plus, the word on the grapevine is that they are opening a karaoke space... IDEAL.
- Folie: Bringing the dining culture and glamour of the French Riviera to London’s Soho (think: Saint-Tropez and Nice style) – Folie serves humble recipes inspired by the Mediterranean elevated by head chef Christophe Marleix (ex-Ducasse). They also have a private dinning room that can be roped off for you and your guests for when you want to dine ‘posh’.
- Locket’s: Doesn’t take reservations but one to keep on your radar for those more impromptu group evenings out, Locket’s, a new restaurant/café open from 7:30am for breakfast and lunch, transforms into a candlelit wine bar in the evenings. With over 40 different wines available by the glass, the venue serves a mixture of old and new world as well as small plates of cheese and charcuterie. Locket is the great-granddaughter of Olaf Hambro who, over 275 years ago, took on the running of one of St James’ most iconic restaurants, Wiltons (still one of my favourite restaurants in London, think: waiters in perfect white gloves), and whose family still run to this day.
- Stoney Street: New from 26 Grains is Stoney Street in Borough Market that can sit up to 30 for a total take-over and is open all day. People familiar with Alex Hely-Hutchinson and 26 Grains will know her delicious food and sharing plates, but also new for this location is that come summer, the space’s bi-fold wooden doors will be open, exposing the back terrace where guests can dine alfresco late into the evening – perfect for summer group parties.
- Bistrotheque: An east London institution for a number of years now, go for long and lazy large group brunches with the best Bloody Marys in London and their iconic piano player. For later hours they also have one of the most fun bars in the area downstairs. Finally, it’s also worth noting that they have a new outpost in Manchester called Cultureplex for when up North.
When you are more out-out than in on the sofa, here are some tips and guides to keep yourself going until you do get to stay in:
- Drink: Tequila or Mezcal... preferably Don Patron on the rocks or with soda water – Champagne is the devil for hangovers. Arriving just in time is the Mezcal bar Sin Gusano, the UK’s first dedicated Mezcal bar continues its mission of agave spirit education with its third pop-up bar from Friday November 29 at Milk Bar in Soho, collaborating with Pensador Mezcal on a Mezcal tasting room, as well as an off-licence bottle shop in the run up to Christmas.
- Revive at Harvey Nichols: B12 shots and IV drips – for the more serious hangovers, or when you feel the flu is coming on.
- Ruuby: The best app on the market for when you need a treatment whether it be a massage or last minute wax or manicure – even up to 11pm at night.
- Invest in a Keratin Blow Dry: For anyone with thick or frizzy hair these are a game changer. I have tried so many over the years but the best to be found thus far is at Radio City. This will give you that much needed 30 minutes in bed after a late night. The team at Radio City recommend the following routine, FYI take a good book with you to read... it can take several hours:
The treatment can last up to 12 weeks, make sure you always use sulphate-free shampoo for washing your hair after. The treatment is done as so:
- Hair is cleansed.
- Hair is dried 100 per cent.
- Treatment is applied.
- There is a waiting time of approximately 30 minutes.
- Hair is dried with product in.
- Hair is straightened with a temperature of 180 degrees to a maximum of 210 degrees.
- Hair is cooled.
- Straight away hair is washed and a luxurious masque applied.
- Hair is now ready to be dried. This can be done however the client wishes but we recommend to go with a more natural diffused dry to see benefits very visibly.
It’s the month for buying gifts for others rather than yourself, with this in mind here are some gift ideas:
- Cire Trudon candles: the bigger the better; the loveliest scents to gift are Hupo and Nazareth.
- Olivia von Halle silk eye-masks: they are silky soft, large and cover half of your face which is heaven both in bed and on a flight.
- Luncheon Magazine wine: the most delicious wine on the market and prettiest bottles. Available from Rochelle Canteen and Rose Bakery.
- Pearls: which become more luminous the more they are worn on the skin, Sophie Bille Brahe has an exclusive rose pink version of her classic Bottecelli pearl earrings.
- Le Kasha: anything from this brand... perfect for all day, every day and travelling in. The brand has figure-hugging cashmere dresses and roomy oversized sweaters – I wear them on almost a daily basis and I think anyone you love who would be lucky enough to receive one also would.
- Ottolenghi or Lina Store hampers: probably the finest hampers out on the market this year.
- For book and print lovers: Jeu de Peau by Purienne if you can still get your hands on a copy from IDEA, while Claire de Rouen has a special Xmas Bonanza on December 14 and 15 from 12 until 6pm.
- Deeper Green by Colin Dodgson: a collection of images made by the photographer while travelling through Belize in December 2018. Working in collaboration with the World Land Trust on the occasion of their 30th anniversary, Dodgson and WLT ambassador Jonny Lu travelled to the Central American country to gain insight into the organisations working on the ground and on the front line of sustainability and conservation in the region. 100 per cent of profits will go to the World Land Trust and protecting some of the world’s most biodiverse land, acre by acre.
- Sarabande jeweller Benjamin Hawkins has designed an exquisite silver moth pin – the moth is the symbol of the Foundation which is renowned for supporting emerging talent. The recycled silver pin is presented in its own Sarabande matchbox, featuring artwork of the Sarabande building. Available at Dover Street Market.
- Polaroid Lab Camera: it’s so important to keep printing out special memories – this new model is for the Instagram generation.
- Napkins by Eleanora: bespoke linen or cotton hand-embroidered napkins make beautiful gifts.
- Dover Street Market celebrates its 15th Birthday: go explore and shop a huge array of items from Palace to Solange to Molly Goddard, Simone Rocha and Comme des Garçons.
- Anything from Bentley and Skinner: their tiaras are always lovely gifts.
- A subscription to The Week: the best magazine on the market – aside from AnOther Magazine!
WATCH & LISTEN:
The holiday period often means there are showings of both some of the classic ballets as well as new productions, this includes Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Opera House (watch out for Princess Aurora danced by Lauren Cuthbertson) and Mathew Bourne’s Red Shoes at Sadler’s Wells (one of my all-time favourite films). However, this month select cinemas will also showcase a ballet adaptation of Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words – a collaboration between the Royal Opera House and Ballet Boyz. Featuring some of the current generation of stars at The Royal Ballet, the production is an unprecedented combination of theatre, ballet, film and music taking Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s choreography out of the theatre and placing it in the streets of Verona, allowing viewers to experience a visionary reimagining of Shakespeare’s seminal love story – I went to a preview that was kindly supported by everyone’s favourite brand Bottega Veneta and saw the stars dressed by the brand. It is set to a unique recording of Sergei Prokofiev’s original score (a score impossible not to be moved by) played by the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, led by Vasko Vassilev and conducted by Koen Kessels. The final scene from this ballet always makes me weep – Francesca Hayward is one of my all-time favourite Juliets and she literally flies through the ballet. Impossibly beautiful.
Finally, January 1 is officially World Hangover Day, so think about those friends and family who wont be partaking in drinking this Christmas or will be on Dry January. Square Root has a non-alcoholic Soda Bar in Seven Dials for when you need some respite and they also do gift vouchers for non-alcoholic negroni masterclasses: hands-on workshops taking place throughout January.
Daisy Hoppen is the founder of DH-PR, a London-based communications agency. She also works in house with a small number of brands, companies and personalities across fashion, art and culture.