Have you ever had a staycation in your own city? It’s always nice to get away, but sometimes just switching off from work mode and exploring a neighbourhood you don’t often venture to can give you a new perspective of the city you live in and leave you feeling refreshed, ready to face the daily grind once again. It was the end of January and we did just that, finishing off the month on a high for a night at citizenM Bankside in south London.
Living north of the river, we don’t often go south and I can go for weeks without actually seeing the Thames. Just escaping for the night, not having to put the dishwasher on, tidy up or answer any emails, was a lovely, much-needed break. Going on a Friday night to celebrate the end of the week also made the weekend feel that bit longer. Even just leaving our phones in the room while we went out for dinner made us feel like we had escaped elsewhere and no one could contact us!
CitizenM London has 192 rooms that are affordable without compromising on style and design. Designed for travellers and business men and women used to a fast pace of life, the rooms have everything you need to switch off. While the lobby is a design haven, where all the activity goes on, the rooms are quiet and simply laid out to help bring on that good night’s sleep. Compact and cleverly designed, the rooms feature a massive bed, and instead of a separate bathroom, a space-saving pod with a rain shower and toilet.
Each room has a handy tablet from which you can control everything from lighting and heating to the television and wake-up alarm. Absolute bliss when you’re knackered, get in to bed and don’t need to argue over who is going to go switch the light off! It took a bit of trial and error (the blind and curtain comically going up and down in opposite ways, trying to get them in the right position for example) but my geeky tech boyfriend was loving it and even got his phone screen enlarged on the tv, no how idea how he did that…
The bed was absolutely huge (2m x 2m to be exact), extending across the width of the room and its giant window – providing lots of room to spread out and roll around. I’ve slept on plenty of hard mattresses in hotels, but this one was just right, not too soft, not too hard, with nice substantial pillows that didn’t disintegrate into nothing when you put your head on them. Quiet, and sealed off from the world, the bed felt like a little retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and a very good nights sleep was had.
The lobby, conceived as a living room, goes from laid-back lounge and communal workspace to alive and pumping in the evening with cocktails flowing freely. Floor to ceiling bookshelves are filled with all sorts of design books on photography, fashion and travel, while the latest designs from Vitra dotted about provide places to sit and rest. There’s everything from Jasper Morrison’s Monopod, Verner Panton’s famous heart cone chair to iconic Eames chairs, elephants and their classic lounge chair – perfect for the design lovers out there.
On the evening of our stay we started off with cocktails in citizenM’s bar, before heading to London Grind around the corner. Coffee and cocktail chain Grind & Co expanded their caffeine-based enterprise to London Bridge at the beginning of last year. London Grind, its fourth site, is a riverside espresso bar, cocktail bar and restaurant, housed in a former bank above foodie heaven Borough Market.
While other locations, such as Shoreditch Grind on Old Street roundabout and Holborn Grind focus on high-quality coffee, here it’s all about the food. From dawn until dusk, for early birds and night owls, they go from serving one-pan eggs and breakfast focaccia, banana bread and coffee, through bloody marys and brunch cocktails, to dishes such as roasted pork loin and slow cooked lamb shank, washed down with beer sourced from local brewery Fourpure and a carefully curated gin tasting list… Yum!
Inside, rough, exposed brick and concrete walls create a pared-back industrial feel, with wooden booths, black metro tiles and clusters of hanging pendants. Candle-lit tables and the rattle of cocktail shakers, not to mention the neon sign on the wall that states ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’, set the scene for this energetic spot. Alive and buzzing at 8.30pm on a Friday night, we settled down to a classic Aperol spritz and rum cocktail with fragrant hints of orange blossom.
After umming and ahhing over small plates, winter salads and hearty mains, we started with wild venison tartare with pickled girolles and king prawns, pearl barley and winter truffle. The tartare was deep with flavour, while the king prawns were salty and buttery, with earthiness and mouth-watering umami flavour from the truffle. It was so delicious, I squirted red prawn juice down my nice new white silk shirt and didn’t really care, it was so worth it and I’d have it again in a flash…
Next up, continuing on with fish, we had miso broth cod with seaweed and enoki mushrooms, and wild bass with giant cous cous, confit cherry tomatoes and zahter. The bass, light and zesty, delivered on taste, while the cod flaked away perfectly, melting in the mouth with the salty, Asian flavours of the miso. On the table next to us, I couldn’t help but look, the slow cooked lamb shank with mashed potato and beetroot looked unctuous and wholesome, while the organic salmon with mousseron mushrooms delicate and picture-perfect. A coffee-heavy tiramisu provided a sweet note at the end of what was a very tasty menu, and I don’t often say that lightly. So tasty in fact, that I completely forgot to take any photos. I guess you will just have to go there and try it for yourselves…
It was morning and we were back again, rested and in need of some brunch. But first coffee… A hearty and rich blend (made up of 50% Brazil Fazenda Sao Silvestre, 40% Rwanda Kanya and 10% Nicaragua Finca La Argentina) with notes of hazelnuts, milk chocolate and a cherry sweetness in the finish did the job perfectly. Then it was time for my favourite smashed avo on toast with poached eggs and smoked salmon, this time the avocado was nicely smashed, but not too much with a squeeze of lemon and hint of chilli. As smashed avo goes, it was very good. My partner in crime went for the breakfast focaccia, with sausage, back bacon, smoked mozzarella and egg, a real filler to start the day well. Next time, if I was feeling a bit more virtuous I’d probably go for their health plate, comprised of a fruit smoothie bowl, avocado, mango, berries and a ‘green shot’.
Refuelled and ready for the day, it was back north of the river for us, back to the normal weekend grind…
If you’re looking for other top places to eat and drink like a local in London, check out citizenM’s magazine too.
Our stay at citizenM and evening meal at London Grind was complimentary. All images my own unless otherwise specified.