Hidden London – 5 places you’ve never heard of (but will wish you had)

London is more than Big Ben, big shops and big museums. There’s another side of our capital to explore – hidden London.

Get all misty-eyed over childhood toys, tuck into pie and mash and enjoy a movie at one of the UK’s oldest cinemas.

1. Museum of Childhood

The one for: go big on nostalgia with the toys of your childhood  

Hark back to your childhood with this whirlwind tour of Barbie dolls and Lego sets, Corgi Cars and Care Bears. Everyone loves a bit of nostalgia, and the Museum of Childhood is massive on nostalgia.

Find your favourite toy and see whether it’s something your kids still play with today. They may be surprised to see that things like Barbie and Lego are older than mum and dad.

Were you an 80s kid or a 60s kid? A 70s kid or even a 90s kid? Find the toys that defined your decade. Every kid in the 80s remembers the Big Yellow Teapot House (and don’t even pretend you don’t).

Bored of the dollies and toy cars? The museum’s based at the V&A, so you’re mere steps away from more grown-up, chin-stroking culture.


2.  Pie and Mash at F Cooke

The one for: making like a cockney with a plate of pie and mash ladled with ‘liquor’

Pie and mash is as cockney as rhyming slang. And F Cooke is well worthy of your hard-earned bees and honey (that’s money).

This heady mix of minced beef pie and mashed spuds – ladled with a mysterious but heavenly gravy thing called ‘liquor’ – has been eaten in London for generations. Make like a proper cockney by tucking into a steaming bowl of the good stuff.

F Cooke has been serving it up from its Broadway Market cafe since 1900. That’s what we call time-served pie and mash.


3.  Screen on the Green

The one for: a retro night at the movies that’s a million miles from your local multiplex

Swoon over the golden age of cinema at Screen on the Green. Its bling but classy neon signage will stop you in your tracks as you wander up, and inside it gets even better.  

Relax on the luxurious leather sofas, rest your head on a cushion and have a pint of trendy craft beer delivered to your seat. This cinema is proper old-school – as well as its retro feel it dates back to the early 1900s and has just one screen.

It’s run by the hip Everyman cinema group too, so expect a perfect blend of arty foreign flicks and critically acclaimed movies.


4. Eltham Palace

The one for: art deco, baby – the age of glamorous cocktail parties, bright young things and geometric design

Experience Tudor England and the heady art deco days in one trip. At Eltham Palace you’ll find a 500-year-old palace, with a 1930s art deco house built on to it.

Both are pretty cool. But it’s the 1930s house that draws the biggest gasps. Gawp at the geometric patterns and luxurious colour schemes typical of art deco. In your mind’s eye, imagine the glamorous cocktail parties of yesteryear, where the celebs of the age gossiped over fizz and fancy food.

Go much further back in time in a few steps at the Medieval palace.

The Great Hall will take your breath away – it really is quite beautiful. The site dates back to the Domesday Book, so it’s pretty old. 


5. Tayyabs

The one for: a proper Ruby Murray at one of the capital’s best Indian restaurants

Steaming naan bread. Marinated meat. Spicy aromatic sauces. A good curry can really knock your socks off. And at Tayyabs you can tuck into one of London’s best curries.

They’ve plied their trade here since the 1970s, this is curry with a history. Big, bold Punjabi flavours will dance across your tongue. Sumptuous smells will waft beneath your nose. And the room buzzes along on a constant hum of chatter and clinking glasses.

It’s not a place to luxuriate all evening – more of a ‘get in, get your curry fix, and get out’ type of place. Karahi Gosht – lamb, garlic, masala and green chillis cooked in a deep pot – will take you to curry heaven and back.