ugust in the city is usually a time of quiet and calm. The bulk of the London season has passed, many have fled for glamorous holidays on European shores and those left behind are free to enjoy a diary devoid of work events and their pick of the best restaurant tables in town.
Well, not this year. With many pandemic travel restrictions still in place and Cornwall’s top hotels fully booked months ago, this August, London promises to be as busy as ever. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Wise to the fact that many people have no choice but to stay in the city this summer, the capital’s restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues are bringing forward new openings and hosting events and masterclasses that usually would have been delayed until autumn – and you’re right at the front of the queue to try them. Here’s our guide to the best things to do in London in August 2021.
The hotel: Montcalm East, Shoreditch
It is received wisdom among the hospitality industry that, because of the aforementioned abandonment of the city during high summer, August is a terrible time to open a new London hotel. But this year isn’t like any other year and accordingly, the Marriott Group is going against tradition and throwing open the doors to the Montcalm East, its latest luxury hotel in Shoreditch, this month.
Standing on the site of the former M by Montcalm, it may help that this is not technically a new hotel, rather a complete reinvention of the one that went before it. As well as a brilliant food and beverage offering, including an all-day bar and restaurant from Barworks, the team behind Mare Street Market, the emphasis at Montcalm East is very much on the area’s reputation as being one of the most vibrant and creative in the capital. Local design firm Blacksheep has used RGB colours throughout to reinforce the hotel’s connection to photography, while partnerships with Polaroid, Culture A, Proud Galleries and the Ravensbourne University Department of Photography will see the hotel finished with its own Photo Lab, photographer-in-residence and a series of exhibitions and events centred around art and photography.
The day out: Battersea Summer Showtime
Outdoor cinemas have become a firm fixture of London’s summer cultural landscape and there are arguably few better backdrops for a Hollywood film than the Grade II* listed Battersea Power Station. Situated on the Coaling Jetty, with deckchairs offering views of the Thames and London skyline to rival any film, the series will include a host of big name films presented by Archlight Cinemas, as well as screenings of performances from the nearby Turbine Theatre. Highlights include The Dark Knight, some scenes from which were filmed in the Power Station, as well as The Grand Budapest Hotel, Dunkirk and a musical production of the Wind in the Willows written by Julian Fellowes. And to accompany your chosen film? Picnic boxes and takeaway drinks will be on offer from Megan’s, Vagabond Wines, Battersea Brewery and more.
The shopping: Burberry and Turnbull & Asser
London’s world-class shopping scene gets just that bit better this month with two innovative new boutiques throwing open their doors. Securing a coveted address at No.1 Sloane Street, Burberry’s new Knightsbridge flagship occupies a prime space opposite Harvey Nichols and boasts a luxuriously modern design by architect Vincenzo De Cotiis that recalls Burberry’s 130-year history in the area. Housing the latest men’s and women’s collections, the three-storey boutique will also feature an area dedicated to the house’s iconic trench coat, as well as the full range of Burberry accessories.
In Mayfair, meanwhile, shirtmaker Turnbull & Asser has taken the opportunity to reimagine its Davies Street store into a new concept space called The Room. A collaboration between T&A creative director Becky French and architect Nicholas Chandor, the gallery-inspired space will offer a regularly changing collection of artworks and furniture, as well as a space in which to host bespoke tailoring appointments. The boutique will also feature temporary art and design exhibitions, with upcoming highlights including works by ceramist Carl Koch and furniture designer Fred Baier.
The collaboration: Babe x Blue Tit Blow Out
We recently singled out London chain Blue Tit as offering some of the best hair salons in the capital and this month it’s upping its game even further with a fun, summery collaboration with Babe sparkling wine. Throughout August visitors to Blue Tit’s ten London salons can indulge in three fabulous signature blow dries – including braids, bouncy waves and a shaggy holiday-ready style – all accompanied by Babe’s signature canned sparkling wine. Even better, you’ll leave with a bag full of beauty treats from Dr Lipp, The Perfect V and Oway, as well as more Babe wine to enjoy at home.
The afternoon tea: Fortnum & Mason x Ronnie Scott’s
In July, Fortnum & Mason and Ronnie Scott’s teamed up for what was supposed to be a one-off event pairing London’s best jazz musicians with its finest afternoon tea offering. The coming together of these two institutions, however, was an immediate sell-out, prompting an encore of jazz high teas that will be taking place each Thursday in August.
Recalling the wildly popular 1920s tradition of tea dances, each week will see one of Ronnie Scott’s most famous jazz trios take to the stage while guests are served a delectable array of Fortnum & Mason treats – all washed down with a glass of champagne, of course. Performers will include the Joy Ellis Trio, Gabriel Latchin Trio, Jenny Carr Trio and Joe Webb Trio, while the menu features high notes including lobster omelette Victoria; lamb wellington and baked Cornish brill; alongside elegant patisseries and, of course, scones, cream and jam.
The masterclasses: Flower arranging by St. Germain & McQueens and Searcys champagne tasting
Since you’re not going to be spending this summer sunning yourself by a pool in the South of France, why not use that time to learn a new skill instead? Whatever your interests, there are all sorts of workshops and masterclasses taking place in the capital this month, but for Francophiles there are two absolute must-books. The first sees St-Germain, the quintessentially French elderflower liqueur maker, team up with London-based florist McQueens Flowers for weekly Bouquet & Spritz workshops at McQueen’s Mayfair boutique. Each workshop will see attendees create a gorgeous bouquet inspired by the colours of St-Germain and leave with a spritz kit to master at home.
Located in what, in normal times, is the gateway to all things Parisian, Searcys’ St Pancras Brasserie is also attempting to bring the best of France to the capital with the return of its champagne masterclasses. Running once a month, each themed event will feature a guided champagne tasting, with the monthly champagne specials paired with a three-course dinner of seasonal dishes. August’s theme is All Rosé Summer – count us in.
The wellness classes: Sky Garden and Sea Containers London
Perhaps it’s the gorgeous morning light, or maybe it’s too long spent in rooftop bars, but something about summer makes getting up early for a weekend yoga class seem so much more palatable. The good news is that two of the capital’s favourite hospitality venues are offering just that.
First to the City of London’s Sky Garden, where on-demand personal training firm TruBe will be hosting morning yoga sessions 36 floors up every Saturday and Sunday throughout August. Take to the mat for a dynamic vinyasa flow among the lush greenery of the Sky Garden Bar before settling down in the Darwin Brasserie for a well-deserved brunch to get your weekend off to the best start. Over at Sea Containers London, meanwhile, the hotel's ongoing Wellness Series will see two day-long fitness retreats come to the capital on 14 and 15 August. Featuring vinyasa yoga classes, a 5km run along the Thames with The Runner Beans, Buddhabox boxing classes and mindfulness and sound baths with Laura B Childs, attendees can also take 15 per cent off the price of a room at the Tom Dixon-designed hotel.
The restaurants: Fiend, Sunday in Brooklyn and Isola by San Carlo
It’s going to be a bumper month for foodies with not one, but three, big-name restaurants opening in the capital this month. First, to Notting Hill, where Chris Denney (previously of 108 Garage) will return to the London dining scene with Fiend. Occupying the former Portobello Road site of Santo, expect modern fine dining with early menus featuring wagyu short rib with smoked tomato and stilton, and bulgogi sweet bread with kefir cabbage and green onion.
Next to nearby Westbourne Grove where New York City favourite Sunday in Brooklyn has just opened its first London location. With the Williamsburg original having made its name as the go-to brunch spot (the malted pancakes with brown butter are a thing of Instagram legend), the London outpost is sure to follow suit, but don’t overlook its stellar dinner menu and thoughtful wine and cocktail lists. We’ll see you in the queue.
Finally, over to a vast and decadently decorated dining room occupying a prime position opposite Selfridges on St Christopher’s Place. Isola, the latest restaurant from the San Carlo group, promises all-day Italian dining for a huge 220 covers in surroundings inspired by the San Carlo family's Sicilian heritage. The food is likewise inflected, with Sardinian lamb and porchetta, Sicilian red prawns and the group’s signature tagliolini lobster all making an appearance at what is guaranteed to become one of central London’s buzziest restaurants.