The best way to escape the Christmas rush? A meal at a restaurant
So you’ve left your Christmas shopping until the last minute, and now you’ve got to brave the crowds. Make the nightmare tolerable with a pit-stop at one of these cool hideaways
Panic-buying in Piccadilly? Escape for lunch at Locket’s

If you’ve somehow found yourself in Piccadilly Circus and need to Hermione yourself out of there, don’t duck into the nearest caff – head to Locket’s. Tucked away inside a glass-fronted building in the quiet Smithson Plaza, if you didn’t know it was there, you’d never think to look.

From the people behind the legendary Wiltons is a small but perfectly formed wine bar and kitchen, with a delicious grape offering and food designed to share. For a mid-shopping pick-me-up, go for the raw red prawns with chili oil (zingy), wild mushroom polenta with parmesan (moreish) and the braised ox cheeks stew with celeriac mash (reviving). We paired ours with a glass of almost-sparkling Portuguese white – the perfect fuel to get you to the next stop. Smithson Plaza, 25 St James’s St, SW1AWords by Kat Poole

Grabbing gifts in King’s Cross? Head to Lina Stores

King’s Cross is a surprisingly relaxing place to shop: the shops are curated and cool (think Space NK, Kitchen Provisions and & Other Stories), and there are no touristy Oxford Circus crowds. Break from browsing at Lina Stores’ new outpost, a beautifully calming Italian restaurant and deli in a converted Victorian transit shed.

As at the iconic Lina Stores in Soho, the food is heavenly – but the vibe here is livelier and more cheerful. It’s also distinctly festive, with golden lighting and panettones and pandoros hanging from the ceiling. Start with the stracciatella with charred heirloom tomatoes and capolina (roasted aubergine, sultanas, olives and pine nuts), before diving into plates of pasta: we had (and loved) the crab and scallop rondini and agnolotti verdi with ricotta and black truffle. Finish with an espresso, and head back out feeling very jolly indeed. 20 Stable St, N1CWords by Moya Crockett

Shopping in Soho? Swing by Ember Yard

Christmas shopping in the heart of Soho is a gloriously hellish affair. And if you can’t beat the busyness and bustle – join it. Ember Yard has recently relaunched after a refurb, and with the vibrant atmosphere (even better if you sit upstairs) comes a new menu of seasonal Spanish and Italian sharing plates cooked on a josper grill.

Standouts are the chargrilled flatbread with thyme and smoked butter, smoky chorizo and octopus skewers with saffron aioli, and deliciously creamy burrata. Plus: if you go on a Sunday, you can try the tasting menu for just £35 – ridiculously reasonable when you see how much food it involves. 40-42 Brendon Street, W1HWords by Kat Poole

Rushing down Regent Street? Retreat to The Retiring Room at Bombay Bustle

Regent Street is pure, shimmering chaos at this time of year, so if you need to slink away somewhere you can neither see nor hear a peep of harried Christmas shoppers, The Retiring Room is the place to, well, retire. Open between 12 and 2.30pm, then again from 5.30pm, the underground bar at Bombay Bustle is a glamorous, moodily lit hideaway where you can sip invigorating cocktails and tuck into fiery Indian snacks to power you up before venturing back out.

The Paan Collins, a blend of sloe gin, St Germain, paan (betel leaf) liqueur and plum syrup is a bolstering herbal tonic, while meaty curry patta prawns, Bombay fried chicken and papadums with spicy tomato chutney will sate your appetite without overloading. Godspeed, festive shoppers! 29 Maddox St, W1SWords by Jenny Tregoning 

Fancy doing something different this NYE? See in 2020 in style with our alternative guide to celebrating in the capital

Who said NYE has to start at sundown? Kickstart proceedings at midday by watching the Birmingham City Ballet’s enchanting production of The Nutcracker at The Royal Albert Hall (from £30). For dinner, head to the Bombay Vintage Glam event at Dishoom Kensington: you’ll feast on a decadent set menu while soaking up retro jazz (8pm; from £75). On the hunt for a restaurant with a view of the fireworks? Find our tips here.

If you fancy getting footloose and fancy-free for the countdown, we’ve got plenty of suggestions here. Kensington’s coolest new bar Bloom is hosting a blowout on its tiled dancefloor (10pm; from £20), and Bar Salsa! in Soho will be getting the party started carnival-style. Expect live music, Latin dance and bottomless dining all night long (6pm, from £15).

A note from Stylist Loves’ editor Kat

That’s it, folks, we’re signing off for 2019 – and what a year it’s been. It’s been a total pleasure to share our favourite things with you every day, and while this might be our last email of the year – and my last email ever as editor of Stylist Loves – there is so much more to come in 2020 (keep your eyes on your inboxes from 6 January). So from me, and all of the team: thank you for reading; we wish you a wonderful Christmas and a truly happy New Year.   

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