Hot on the heels of his heralded Broadway run in The Threepenny Opera, actor and Out Traveler contributor Alan Cumming returns to the London stage in the queer classic Bent (through January 13 at Trafalgar Studios). For Brit-bound audiences sure to stream from this side of the Big Pond, we asked Cumming for a few of his personal London faves.
"If I'm staying in a hotel, I always stay in the St. Martins Lane (45 St. Martin's Lane, 011-44-20-7300-5500) because it's right there in the West End, and it's got a really fun bar. It's one of those chic hotels, but you don't feel like your shoes have to match the sofa."
"In Trafalgar Square there's the National Portrait Gallery (St. Martin's Place, 011-44-20-7306-0055), which is really great. There's a lot of actors' portraits there, like my friend Fiona Shaw, and there's an excellent one of David Beckham. Another friend, David Remfry, who's a painter, did one of John Gielgud that's hanging there."
"Berwick Street Market is a fun little market just off Brewer Street, with food, clothes, and that sort of thing. In the middle there's this alley with sex shops, so it's like this little bazaar in the middle of all this bustle with these rich businessmen who've come for the topless girlie show."
"I would go to Chinatown because it's right there on the West End as well. It's not a very big Chinatown, just a few blocks, but it's great because it's all smushed together. My favorite Chinese restaurant is called Mr. Kong (21 Lisle St., 011-44-20-7537-7341). The one thing I miss about Chinese food--being a vegetarian--is crispy duck, and Mr. Kong wins because he does the most amazing vegetarian duck that looks like it and tastes like it, but it's not."
"I like to go to the bars on Old Compton Street. It's very friendly and very mixed in terms of ages and body sizes. There's still kind of that body fascism that there is everywhere, but there's more of a difference. It's a bit more grungy than in America. It's a bit more welcoming and not so judgmental. There's one called Balans (60 Old Compton St., 011-44-20-7439-2183) that's open really late. All along Compton Street is really nice. Things change so fast, but it's so easy to find out where to go because everyone tells you. The one thing about London is that I don't think you have to prepare to go out. As long as you're in the right vicinity, the right center, it's easy to find what's going on."