Lily O’Brien’s

I love doing nice things for people and surprising people. I don’t do it to get anything in return – it genuinely makes me so happy to put a smile on someone’s face, and much as I joke that I have zero will power when it comes to treats, if I’ve bought a cake, chocolate or any other delicious gift for someone I will never, ever eat it – in fact, if I got (for example) a delicious cake that I know my mum would love, it’d make me happier to save it for her than to eat it myself!

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A Distillery Tour at The Home of British Gin

Hayman’s of London date all the way back to 1863, with five generations of their family acting as custodians of the True English Gin style – providing an unbroken lineage dating back to the original gin boom. Over the 150 years to the present day, they have remained true to their roots, still using family techniques and processes handed down through the generations.

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Murger HanHan

Murger HanHan is the Mayfair branch of Euston’s Murger Han and the pair of restaurants are specialists in regional Chinese cuisine from Xi’an City in the Shan Xi Province – the home of the legendary Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty. Along with various other unique aspects, they’re apparently the only restaurant in Europe to serve traditional drinks from Xi’an City such as Ice Peak Orange and Xi’an rice wine.

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Where to drink coffee in the City

Us city workers are absolutely coffee obsessed, and with 30,000 people commuting to the square mile every single day, it’s possibly also the area of London most densely populated with coffee shops too. Yet despite the insane levels of coffee consumption, I’m shocked at the number of people who seem to go for Pret, Eat or worse.. Starbucks 😦 At least those with Pret coffees can argue its convenience (I do like their food and can see the impracticality of queuing twice) but I think I’d sooner drink coffee from our machine at work than Starbucks – it tastes so bad I simply cannot even begin to comprehend its apparent popularity. I suppose we can only hope that one day our coffee culture will even begin to start catching up with the likes of Australia..

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Where to eat near Victoria

If you’ve got heavy bags and don’t want to walk far then the newly built Nova complex is perfect. Go for brunch at Timmy Green – one of my favourite places in London – and grab coffee and a pastry (or a seriously chunky hazelnut brownie!) at Notes opposite.

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You simply can’t visit London and not pick up the best cinnamon bun ever created, and just a couple of stores down from Notes is Ole & Steen where they have tray after tray of their glorious cinnamon social and a generous bowl of samples on the counter!

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For something lighter Ahi Poké is a perfect option (again, within the same complex, just opposite Ole & Steen) and if you’re feeling virtuous afterwards grab some of their delightfully chewy chocolate chip cookies or some Crosstown doughnuts from the cute little van in the middle of the complex (they have seriously unique flavours and plenty of vegan options too).

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If you like doughnuts and are prepared to walk a little though, Doughnut Time’s latest stall has opened up in Victoria, where you can find a ton of novelty doughnuts in the craziest colours and flavours. You can grab a box of four or six, but if you really only have space for one then make sure it’s their Love at First Sight.. exciting as the others are, this one is by far my favourite!

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I recently discovered a beautiful little brunch spot on a side street not far from Victoria, so if great coffee and unique brunch dishes are your thing, head to Iris & June. Their place is small, as is their menu, but they have a great range of unique dishes and a reasonable selection of baked items and pastries on the counter too. Plus they serve Ozone coffee which is one of my favourites!

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If anyone can make a bloody good pastry it’s the French, and much as I love to support little independents I have to admit that the almond croissant at Dominique Ansel is one of the best I’ve tried. Whilst they also make some of the most stunning patisseries (as well as the world famous cronut of course), the must-try for me is their cookie cup. Soft, chewy cookie, lined with chocolate and filled with vanilla milk – the dream!

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Not far from Dominique Ansel is Peggy Porschen, which is probably every instagrammer’s dream – pretty, pink and just so beautiful. Personally I don’t think their cakes are incredible (but I actually prefer more rustic/homemade-looking cakes in more exciting flavours!) but there’s no denying that they’re absolutely stunning, and probably some of the prettiest you’ll find in London.

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For dinner, Franco Manca and Sticks & Sushi are two great options. Arguably chains now that they’ve got so many locations around London (and Franco Manca has even franchised out to other cities), they’re still just as good as I remember every time I go back and I’d never say no to eating at either of them – you just can’t beat the doughy sourdough crusts, light-as-air tempura and the epic sushi platters (four meal drive big for two anyone!?).

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