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    How to have an American mini break…in London

    22 September 2020

    With the 59th presidential election just around the corner, all eyes are on the Land of the Free this autumn.

    But with travel restrictions rendering US holidays unlikely, Americanophiles need to think more creatively about how to get their fix of red, white and blue.

    Here’s our guide to having an American weekend in London:

    Breakfast

    Breakfast at Dirty Bones

    No real American weekend is complete without a proper breakfast: which means out with the full English and in with the lashings of syrup alongside stacks of bacon and waffles.

    New York-inspired Dirty Bones has restaurants in Soho, Kensington and on Carnaby Street where it offers a calorific menu of chicken and waffles, short rib or avocado crumpets, and buttermilk pancakes.

    The much-loved Breakfast Club claims to have plated up over 900,000 pancakes last year – which would explain the queues on Sunday. Treat yourself to an all-day brunch at one of its London sites, or take advantage of the takeaway service to enjoy breakfast in bed.

    For an even more decadent option look to The Blues Kitchen – in Brixton, Shoreditch and Camden – where you can combine a large southern breakfast with bottomless prosecco or unlimited bloody Marys.

    Dinner and drinks

    Though American cuisine might not be the height of culinary fashion these days, those with an appetite for soul food needn’t be disappointed in London.

    For the best Kansas City-style BBQ in London (and potentially the country) look to the excellent Prairie Fire in the Wood Lane arches by Westfield Shopping Centre – or enjoy their dishes at the London Fields Brewery.

    Prairie Fire, Wood Lane

    Founder Michael Gratz hails from KC himself so knows a thing or two about how to operate a smoke pit. He’s also regularly booked to provide catering for parties given by the US embassy. Order the Chow Town to see what the fuss is about.

    For a fine dining option, look to Sola on Soho’s Dean Street. The modern Californian restaurant is unique in London for having an all-American wine list, assembled by expert wine consultant Zeren Wilson.

    As for bars, the crown in the jewel (if you’ll pardon the expression) has to be the American Bar at The Stafford which has functioned as a home-from-home for thirsty Americans since the mid 1920s. Anyone with even a passing interest in US history will be entranced by the wall displays.

    Cocktails at the Presidential themed bar POTUS

    If you like kitsch, take a trip to POTUS – a presidential themed bar (yes, really) in Vauxhall. Admittedly the reviews haven’t exactly been the kindest, but who could say no to a Ronald Reagan-themed cocktail as you quiz yourself on the identities of the various presidential photographs…

    Entertainment

    Sunset Cinema screens outdoor films in Acton

    There’s nothing more classically American than a drive-in movie. Options in the capital abound in the post Covid era. Catch a screening of Tenet by American director Christopher Nolan at The Drive-in, Tottenham, or chow down on American style burgers, fries and cocktails at the Sunset Cinema in Acton.

    If it’s the east coast you’re pining for then nothing’s more NYC than a meal at the top of a sky scraper. Searcy’s at The Gherkin will furnish you with 360 degree views of the capital, as will Oblix at The Shard.

    Sightseeing

    As you’d expect given our countries’, well, intertwined histories, London is full of sites of significance when it comes to the rebel colony.

    The great polymath Benjamin Franklin lived here in the mid 1750s, having been sent by the nascent Pennsylvania Assembly on a political mission. His former dwellings, just behind Charing Cross, are now a museum.

    Benjamin Franklin House, Charing Cross

    Constitutionalists can marvel at a special plaque at Middle Temple (an ancient hall for judges and barristers) which commemorates those former members – all London residents – who went on to sign the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

    For a historic landmark less revered in American history head to St Mary’s Church in Battersea where you’ll find the grave of the hated (by some) Benedict Arnold, who lived in the capital after famously defecting from the American Legion.

    Visitors to St James can enjoy one of the most interesting examples of counterfactual history in London at the former diplomatic HQ of the Republic of Texas – a sovereign nation that existed from 1836 to 1845. Look for the plaque in the alley next to Berry Bros.

    Unwind afterwards with a trip to one of the capital’s many jazz clubs.

    Presidential pageantry

    Abraham Lincoln statue, Parliament Square

    Political nerds can pass away a lazy afternoon visiting the various presidential statues and other oddities here in London.

    Six former White House occupants are currently commemorated in London. They are: George Washington (Trafalgar Square); Abraham Lincoln (Parliament Square); JFK (Regent’s Park); and FDR, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Regan (all in Grosvenor Square).

    While twelve US presidents have visited London during their time in office (beginning with Woodrow Wilson in December 1918), two future heads of state also lived in the capital.

    Dwight Eisenhower was famously based in the Dorchester for the latter years of the second world war, from where he commanded US operations. A young JFK lived at 14 Prince’s Gate in Kensington, when his father was appointed ambassador to London in 1938. Back in 1997, a newly-elected state senator for Illinois called Barack Obama visited several pubs in Wokingham – 40 minutes by train from Paddington – as part of a stag do for his half-sister’s wedding. Maybe there will be a plaque for that one day…