Seven Dials - a place in London that just keeps on calling
'We're our own little community and we help each other out', said Umar, from Miller Harris. It's a line that's stuck with me ever since our two-night stay in Seven Dials, London.
A five-minute walk from Covent Garden underground, Seven Dials is exactly what is says on the tin - seven atmospheric streets converging into one junction, with a giant sundial and towering column the epicentre, so it's almost impossible to get lost.
There's a real sense of community here as many retailers - ranging from independent boutiques, international fashion labels, beauty salons and men's grooming specialists - have formed a special bond which makes the area quite unique.
Add into the mix a diverse range of pubs, cocktail bars, cafes, restaurants, theatres and hotels, and you can see why Seven Dials has become the latest must-visit London hotspot.
For the ideal base, look no further than the Radisson Blu Edwardian, on Mercer Street. Right in the heart of Seven Dials, this hotel is a boutique retreat right on the doorstep of pretty much everything.
Radisson has come up trumps with the Edwardian, which blends seamlessly into the relaxed vibe of the neighbourhood. Staff wait at the door to give guests the warmest of welcomes, with the spacious and stylish rooms providing the perfect haven to restore and revive after a long day of shopping and socialising.
A great breakfast is served in Monmouth Kitchen next door, where there are generous offerings from the continental buffet, although it's the hot options that wow, particularly the French toast with crispy bacon and maple syrup and delicious scrambled egg with smashed avocado.
After a two-hour train journey from our home in Nottinghamshire, hunger was kicking in on our arrival in the capital, so sampling the mouth-watering menu at award-winning Tredwells was the best way to settle into London life.
Manager Beth grew up in Chesterfield and she was keen to ensure her 'fellow northerners' tasted the best from the restaurant, run under the name of celebrity chef Marcus Wareing.
With a contemporary British offering showcasing sumptuous delights such as rosemary and potato bread and charcoal-grilled chateaubriand, you can see why Tredwells recently scooped the AA's London Restaurant of the Year award.
You can't take a stroll round Seven Dials without stumbling across the new Seven Dials Market. Opening in September, this unique and busy food hall inside an old banana warehouse has already proved popular with visitors and locals, spreading across two large floors offering pop-up cuisines from all over the world.
It's home to The Cheese Bar, the world's first cheese conveyor belt restaurant, and Nanban, brainchild of 2011 MasterChef champ Tim Anderson, but we took our lunch stop at El Pollote, which served, quiet frankly, the best fried chicken I've ever tasted.
For a pre-dinner or pre-theatre drink, head to the quaint and colourful Neal's Yard, where inviting Sicilian deli and wine bar Casanova & Daughters offers a wine tasting which you can enjoy with a selection of nibbly treats.
Sitting at the bar with antipasti tasting plates while sipping the region's most beautiful fine wines, it felt so relaxed you could have forgiven me for thinking I had been transported back to Italy for a couple of hours.
The buzz of a Saturday night dinner was enjoyed at bustling Japanese Izakaya restaurant Flesh & Buns, where iconic steamed 'hirata' buns are served alongside crowd favourites like sushi, sashimi and tempura. There's also a range of meats to choose from, from sirloin to wagyu rump steak, plus an extensive sake and dessert menu.
Our bun filling choices of crispy duck with sweet plum sauce and smoked ox cheek croquettes with coriander salsa did not disappoint.
Last foodie stop was lunch at Redemption, possibly the world's healthiest restaurant with its vegan, sugar and wheat-free food and non-alcoholic bar, where the motto is 'spoil yourself without spoiling yourself'.
It's run by a couple of female entrepreneurs who say the toughest decision is to come because once you've done that you can't make a bad choice for yourself or the planet.
I was sceptical, but immediately warmed to the concept as I took the first bite of my tasty beetroot burger with sweet potato fries,which was followed by an equally mesmerising lime cheesecake, which was made from avocados.
Redemption leads the way, but with veganism becoming an increasingly more popular way of life, I expect to see more restaurants like this popping up in the future.
The unique and clever layout of Seven Dials makes shopping incredibly easy and stress-free. All the stores and boutiques are in close proximity and most have more than one entrance from different streets, so they're hard to miss.
From the upmarket backpacks and briefcases of London bag designers Knomo to the sweet-toothed haven of luxury chocolatier Rococo, which counts Dame Maggie Smith as one of its famous customers, there's a unique and personal shopping experience for everyone.
And looking the part is important too, with Murdock London barber shop busy helping men keep immaculately groomed with a range of services and products from haircuts and beard trims to shaving and facials along with their own signature range and skincare accessories. Being folically challenged and clean-shaven, I opted for a facial with Finn.
There's plenty for females as well, such as the bareMinerals flagship store on Neal Street, specialising in makeunders with mineral makeup for a flawless look.
Umar, the super-friendly proprietor at Miller Harris, spoke passionately as he told the stories behind his range of perfumes while also providing the personal touch by matching me with my perfect fragrance after some gentle personality probing.
It's characters like him that breathe the life and colour into Seven Dials that makes it so unique, which is why I recommend you should pencil in a future visit.