This article is part of FT Globetrotter’s tennis special as well as our guide to London
Until quite recently, I lived in south-west London for several years while I was training. Our place was very well located for tennis: close to Roehampton, near the airports to travel to tournaments, and, being so close to Wimbledon meant that I could stay at home during the championship. I also love the vibe south of the river — it’s much more relaxed than other parts of the city.
We brought home our first dog in 2018: a sausage dog called Bono (we now have four in total: two dachshunds and two vizslas). Having him opened the capital to us in a new way: it made us appreciate the many accessible green spaces, parks and nature reserves that Londoners are lucky to have. It’s a perk quite unique to London — not many visitors might realise that it’s a particularly green city.
Barnes Common, a 120-acre park and nature reserve in south-west London, is a wonderful place to walk. It’s surprisingly quiet (even though it’s not too far from central London) and with its grassland, meadows and woodland it feels a bit wild, like you’re in the countryside. You see a lot of happy dogs there. For something grander, nearby is the beautiful 2,500-acre Richmond Park, one of London’s eight Royal Parks and a nature conservation area that is home to hundreds of red and fallow deer.
Our usual walk, however, was through Battersea Park. One of my favourite routines on quiet days or at the weekend was to take a long walk through the park, followed by breakfast at the Pear Tree Café. I’m a big breakfast person and I love the food there. They have something for everyone, from delicious pancakes to avocado on toast. It ticks all the boxes.
When we were living in London, I was on the road much of the time because of tennis. While I was away, I looked forward to dining out and eating different food abroad. So at home I often cooked because I rarely had the chance to otherwise. (I love picking up the monthly Waitrose Food magazine and tearing out new recipes to try.)
However, I tried to strike a balance and always made exceptions to go to some of my favourite restaurants. I really love Italian food and London is spoilt for choice.
Tozi, a Venetian cicchetti restaurant and bar in Victoria, is one of those favourite places. You can truly taste the high-quality ingredients that are used here — everything is fresh and seasonal. One of its most popular dishes is paccheri pasta with Devon crab in a light tomato sauce. And I can never resist the zucchini fritti (little straws of fried courgette) — you could eat them all day. I also always order their plate of Parma ham, which is perfectly, thinly sliced, and their house pecorino, which is served with homemade chutney. It’s simple food, but so good.
La Famiglia, a neighbourhood Italian restaurant in Chelsea, is another favourite. It’s a family-run place that’s been open for more than 50 years and still maintains that old-school charm. The food here is traditional Tuscan — minestrone soup, pappardelle al cinghiale (pasta with wild boar ragu) and bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak) served alongside other classic specialities from neighbouring regions, such as trofie al pesto from Liguria and veal Milanese. I also love Venchi, an international Italian chain of chocolatiers/gelaterias. There’s a branch on the King’s Road, so a scoop at Venchi usually goes hand in hand with a visit to La Famiglia.
In Wandsworth, there’s a branch of a local pizzeria chain called Zia Lucia that serves Neapolitan-style pizzas. They’re some of the best I’ve had in London.
We were lucky to live along the Thames, which is a brilliant running and cycling route. We enjoyed cycling from our home in south-west London along the Thames Path and on to the cycle superhighways into Westminster. It’s a fun way to play tourist in your city and also get some exercise.
Since I stopped playing tennis, I’ve needed a bit of a break from working out, though I’m currently practising yoga once or twice a week. I’ve never explored fitness in a more recreational way because I was always training, and now there are so many classes that I’d eventually like to try. I’m keen to do something totally off-piste for myself, like dance classes. Pineapple, a dance studio and performing arts school in Covent Garden, is one of the city’s most famous and offers classes for all levels. I’d love to give it a go.
I was in more of a routine when I was playing, but I enjoy meditation; I’ve used the Headspace app for many years. I used to journal a lot as well. It’s a useful way to check in with yourself and gauge how you are — and open yourself up to what you want. Journalling and Headspace have been my two biggest tools for mental wellbeing and practising being present, self-awareness and kind to myself.
Johanna Konta is a former British No 1 tennis player. She is on Instagram: @johannakonta
What are your favourite London green spaces and restaurants, and how do you keep fit in the UK capital? Tell us in the comments
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