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Where To Go Instead Of Winter Wonderland

From cheesy spätzle-filled rooftops, to London’s most Christmassy restaurant, here are five alternatives to shivering in Hyde Park.

Winter Wonderland is the annual Christmas festival that separates the wheat from the chaff. It is a mental test in what will break you first. Is it the £7 shot of mulled wine? Or is it the dystopian Bavarian village? Maybe it’s the ferris wheel of screams rotating over Hyde Park. With that in mind maybe, just maybe, you should give it a pass. After all, there’s plenty of festive spirit to go around. From chalet-themed, cheesy spätzle-filled rooftops, to London’s oldest and most Christmassy restaurant, here are five alternatives to shivering in Hyde Park.


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Rules

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Rules first opened in 1798 and lays claim to being London’s oldest restaurant. That means it’s been celebrating Christmas for hundreds of years, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that some of its dickie bow-tied staff have been working at this Covent Garden classic since day one. Plenty of people come here year in and year out, but there’s no need for rose-tinted glasses as this place leans maroon mixed with velvet, glitter, and distinctly un-festive murals of Maggie Thatcher. But every holiday celebration needs its grinch. Food-wise, imagine Henry VIII’s diet with a side of Eton school dinners. It’s a festive celebration of the most British variety.


photo credit: Jamie Lau

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Somerset House

If the idea of sliding around a freezing ice rink isn’t exactly appealing, then let us look deep into your eyes and say, we hear you. We’re also here for you, because Somerset House is one of London’s most beautiful and festive-feeling spaces, whether you’re on the ice or not. We’d recommend getting a bottle of something fizzy and settling in to watch people fall arse over tit. It really is quite entertaining. There are excellent food and drink options as well, including Chalet Suisse—a Swiss pop-up complete with fondue, macaroni, and salted caramel espresso martinis.


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The Exhibit

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Not only does this Balham restaurant and bar have a private cinema room that you can book out for peak winter cosiness, but their outdoor Après Ski Garden has everything from fairy lights to a snow machine so you can create your own private winter wonderland. Book out the whole space and stick around until 2am (when they close on the weekends). They have a long drinks list that covers everything from pints to pornstar martinis, as well as a bunch of different drinks bundles from £65 per person for an open bar, and Christmas sharing menus from £38 per person.


You know how there’s always one house that goes all out with a showering of fake snow, inflatable snowmen, and enough flashing LED light bulbs to give you a headache? Clos Maggiore is London’s restaurant equivalent. Although there are wild rumours going around that it’s the city’s most romantic restaurant (if you’re easily seduced by white tablecloths, tweezer-plated French food, and flowers carpeting the ceiling), in December, it’s all about Big Bauble Energy. There’s a light-up sleigh adorning the exterior, and green foliage, twinkly baubles, and fairy lights inside. Plus, the roaring fireplace really has its main character moment. The atmosphere can feel a little serious and the suited-and-booted service will have you removing your elbows from the table. But if you’re after a formal festive date night in a setting that feels like a collaboration between Cindy Lou of Whoville and the Chelsea Flower Show, this is the place to do it.


If you’re someone who regularly flirts with the idea of a ski season holiday, predominantly because you like the idea of sitting in a chalet and eating goulash, we have a feeling you’re going to like Haugen. From the outside, the huge multi-storey restaurant, bar, and rooftop in Stratford gives Dr. No’s Verbier holiday home. Inside they’ve really committed to the Alpine theme, with shag rug blankets on the chairs and a spectacularly gooey cheese spätzle on the menu. The food here won’t alter your perception of time and onion jus, but the XXL hot dogs are a real feat of frankfurter engineering. It’s a massive space, so it’s perfect for those festive group meals when everyone’s left organising it until the last minute.

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