London Calling: Rugby World Cup guide to the English capital
Travelling to the English capital during the Rugby World Cup? Award-winning travel writer Pól Ó Conghaile has your downtime sorted with a host of things to do in the city – from rooftop bars to juicy Lucifer burgers and Dirty Tomahawk feasts
Forget pulled pork. And don't even think about 'rodent-sized ribs'. Anyone entering Red's True Barbecue (truebarbeque.com) had better be ready to worship at the altar of Donut Burgers, Bean Chilli Hot Mess plates (smoky bean chilli served with salted sweet potatoes, grated cheese, chipotle sour cream and fresh chillies) and Dirty Tomahawk Feasts. Scott Munro and James Douglas have brought Deep South-style grilling to East London, and anyone booking a feast (they need an hour's notice) had better get fasting. It features two 1kg rib-eye steaks, bacon-wrapped jalapenos, swine fries, dips and slaw in a spread fit to silence Homer Simpson. Find it: 54-56 Great Eastern St, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3QR. +44 20 3021 2302
Best old boozer
Stashed away beneath the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, you'll find an old boozer that feels like it could be raided by bobbies with gas-lamps any moment. "Rebuilt 1667" says the sign outside Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub (the Great Fire of London had something to do with that), home to a warren of rooms with walls so black you'd almost walk into them. It's seen 15 monarchs come and go, and regulars have included Arthur Conan Doyle and Lord Tennyson. It's even mentioned in Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. You can't buy character like it. Find it: 145 Fleet Street,London EC4A 2BU. +44 20 7353 6170
Everybody knows The Shard (theviewfromtheshard.com). Its prices are as breathtaking as its viewing gallery, however (£25.95/€36.50pp). Instead, try the bird's eye views from the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit (£10/€14pp). The UK's tallest sculpture was designed by Anish Kapoor and stands at almost 114.5 metres, offering a 20-mile panorama including The Gherkin, Big Ben, Canary Wharf and The O2 Arena (for extra kicks, you can abseil down it - though advance booking is essential). Another option is the Emirates Air Line (emiratesairline.co.uk), London's only cable car, which connects Emirates Royal Docks (North Terminal) and Emirates Greenwich Peninsula (South Terminal) over the Thames. Tickets cost £4.50/€6.30pp.
Best for busting dance moves
Forget big screens and Richmond rugby pubs. Phonox (phonox.co.uk) is a brand new club in Brixton and it's the perfect place to break out the dancing shoes that have been gathering dust since New Zealand 2011. "Don't expect cheesy 80s nights here," says Time Out London. "It's underground house, techno, disco and bass all the way, with top names including Gilles Peterson, Julio Bashmore and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs already announced on the Friday night line up." Our tip? The club opens as a bar from 6pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, so get there early to ease yourself in. It's free until 9pm, too. Find it: 418 Brixton Road, London SW9 7AY
Best hipster 'hood
Got a day to spare in London? Why not get your Victorian beard on and strike for Shoreditch? London's answer to Williamsburg is crammed with hot hotels, hip clubs, right-on restaurants and cool bars. Highlights include Brick Lane (vistbricklane.org), best known for the sprawling market that takes place every Sunday (not to mention the mind-blowing array of Bangladeshi restaurants along its length). The Old Truman Brewery (trumanbrewery.org) houses a lively media, fashion and arts scene, and there's a fab rooftop bar in The Boundary (theboundary.co.uk)… perfect for toasting the latest Irish victory. Redchurch Street is the go-to strip for bars, and XOYO (xoyo.co.uk) or Cargo (cargo-london.com) will sort you for a boogie. Best for Culture Vultures
Autumn is London's cultural season, so anyone whose art appreciation goes beyond the opening bars of Ireland's Call might fancy a trip to the West End. Highlights? Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Hamlet at the Barbican until October 31 (hamlet.barbican.co.uk), though you'll want to prepare for the slings and arrows of some pretty outrageous ticket prices. Sunday Afternoon: The Kinks Musical is at the Harold Pinter Theatre (atgtickets.com) until next April and The World Goes Pop runs at the Tate Modern (tate.org.uk) from September 17. It's a new exhibition telling the global story of 1960s and 1970s pop art - all explored across media ranging from canvas to car bonnets. It costs £16/€22.50, but the Tate itself is free.
Take the Tube to London Bridge to fill your belly at Borough Market. This cool collection of artisan stalls sits snug under the tracks by Southwark Cathedral, and the temptations are legion - cheeses, porchetta, paella and pies, for starters. Try the lemon curd doughnuts at the Bread Ahead Bakery, get your brunch on at Roast. Finish up with a pick-me-up at Monmouth, the church of coffee just outside. boroughmarket.org.uk
No, really. Bounce (bouncepingpong.com) is a new addition to the London social scene, bringing 28 ping-pong tables to two venues in Farringdon (121 Holborn, London, EC1N 2TD) and Shoreditch (239-241 Old Street, London, EC1V 9EY). The idea is that groups book a table ahead, whack the ball around, and kick back while table service delivers the gin cocktails, canapés and open-counter pizzas.
Top 3 eats in east London
Fed up of sad sausages and cardboard-like stadium burgers? Head to Ceviche (cevicheuk.com) for Peruvian fare prepared in front of your eyes - think anti-cucho style meats on the grill, pisco sours and snap-fresh sea-bass ceviche. You will find them in Soho at 17 Frith Street, London, W1D 4RG and up by Old Street at 2 Baldwin Street, London, EC1V 9NU.
You want Korean BBQ? You got it at Jubo (jubolondon.com). It's casual, with paper plates and shared tables, but you won't mind that as you're licking your fingers after the kimchi slaw or sweet and spicy sticky chicken. You will find them up Farringdon way at 50 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QE, +44: 207 278 9380 or if you are up in Shoreditch, they're at 68 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3AY, +44 207 033 0198.
Finally, make it your business to hook up with the Rib Man (theribman.co.uk). Mark Gevaux has been setting up his stall at Brick Lane every Sunday for the guts of a decade, and his mouth-watering baby backs, smothered in hot sauce and sandwiched in baps, are freakin' delicious. Try the 'Holy F**k' sauce on a rib roll, but get there early. He can sell out by lunchtime.
Top 3 Richmond eats
Irish rugby fans will hope to spend a lot of time at Twickenham this autumn, so pin these puppies in Google Maps before you go. The Cabbage Patch (cabbagepatch.co.uk) is the traditional tip, and though it's crammed on match days, it also does a sweet selection of single malt whiskies and has a burger bar. It is actually named after the nickname of Twickenham Rugby Stadium (before the stadium was constructed, the site was used to grow cabbage). Find it: 67 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3SZ. +44 20 8892 3874. Britain meets Belgium at Brouge at the Old Goat (brogue.co.uk) is a good stop for mussels and beer. Find it: 241 Hampton Road, Fulwell. +44 20 8977 2698, and Stein's in Richmond (stein-s.com), set on the river, dishes up good ol' German comforts in the shape of Bavarian beer, bratwursts and more. Find it: Richmond Towpath, 55 Petersham Rd, Richmond TW10 6UT. +44 20 8948 8189.
Top 3 shopping stops
Looking for a gift, or better still, a wee pressie to yourself? The London Designer Outlet (londondesigneroutlet.com) is the city's first designer outlet shopping destination, with top brands selling at discounts of up to 70pc. It's located just beside WembleyStadium. In Shoreditch, Hostem (41 Redchurch St; hostem.co.uk) is a gorgeous menswear shop with cutting-edge threads for that informal- but-bloody-expensive look. Or try the historic yet quirky Liberty (Regent Street; liberty.co.uk), which features some hot menswear (and an in-house barber) among its jumble of rooms. P.S. New York's painfully hip Opening Ceremony openingceremony.us) now has an outlet in Covent Garden at 25 King Street. Your mammy won't recognise you! Be sure to take a look at Dover Street Market (17-18 Dover St, London W1S, +44 20 7518 0680 and their stock of Comme des Garcons and Junya Watanabe.
Top 3 cinemas
Wanna catch a show that doesn't involve an oval ball? Try one of London's increasingly eclectic cinema experiences. The Everyman Cinemas (everymancinema.com) has several boutique spaces filled with home-from-home furnishings; the Electric Cinema (electriccinema.co.uk) on Portobello Road does plush couches, armchairs and major releases; and finally, there's the Hot Tub Cinema (hottubcinema.com) in London Fields. Its business model? Show great films (think Borat, Superbad and, erm… Free Willy), serve drinks and add hot water.
Top 3 London hacks
1. Get an Oyster card. Visitor cards offer unlimited travel for a reduced price (e.g. £6.40 for Zones 1 and 2), and you can use them on the DLR and buses too. Kids under 11 go free with card-carrying adults. You'll save a fortune on taxis. tfl.gov.uk
2. Thinking of a show? West End prices can skyrocket, so check out the TKTS booth on Leicester Square for discounted tickets. tkts.co.uk
3. It takes an hour to get anywhere in London, they say. Streamline your trips with CityMapper, a free app that offers real-time A-to-B planning on all modes of transit. Includes weather, disruptions, estimated prices and even calories burned (for walkers and cyclists). citymapper.com
On yer 'Boris' bike
Cycle? In London? It's not as mad an idea as you think. The UK capital may not have the cycling chops (or lanes, for that matter) of Amsterdam, but it's getting its act together. Cycle London by Dominic Bliss (amazon.co.uk) is a handy go-to guide - a booklet with 20 unique routes around the city built around themes like foodie markets or short stays. And the bikes? Well, you can bag yourself a 'Boris Bike', the 24/7 public bike sharing scheme, from as little as £2. The London Bicycle Tour Company (londonbicycle.com) also hires bikes from £20/€28 a day, but you'll need to factor in a security deposit. After that, London's your oyster.
How to get there
London is the best-served city from Irish airports, with heaps of daily departures from Dublin, Cork and Shannon on airlines including Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com), Ryanair (ryanair.com) and CityJet (cityjet.com). Going to press, limited rugby packages were still available from Irish tour operators including Abbey Travel (abbeytravel.ie), Club Travel (clubtravel.ie), Trevor Brennan Rugby Tours (trevorbrennanrugbytours.com) and Killester Travel (killestertravel.com).
Ireland's RWC fixture list
Sept 19: Ireland V Canada (Millennium Stadium)
Sept 27: Ireland V Romania (Wembley Stadium)
Oct 4: Ireland V Italy (Olympic Stadium, London)
Oct 11: France V Ireland (Millennium Stadium)
Oct 17/18: Poss Quarter-Final (Millennium Stadium)
Oct 24/25: Poss Semi-Final (Twickenham)
Oct 31: Poss Final (Twickenham)
Full fixtures on rugbyworldcup.com