MARC EVANS finds delights for his eyes and his belly on a trip to London, plus a hotel with a difference.

PHEW! Thanks goodness the Royal Wedding is over – now it’s safe to go back to London.

Nothing against the happy couple, but the thought of schlepping around the capital in the run-up to the big day would send shivers down my spine.

Anyway, you don’t need a royal excuse to hop on to the Oxford Tube or the train for a weekend away. Tired of London, tired of life and all that...

One great thing about this country, and something that we rarely appreciate until we go abroad, is the fact that so many of our museums and galleries are free.

In these austerity times, that is an absolute godsend. You can spend hours wandering around incredible works of art and natural wonders without having to put your hand in your pocket.

Our destination was the National Portrait Gallery in St Martin’s Place. Often overlooked, I feel, because it doesn’t have the word ‘Tate’ in its title, it is a fascinating place to literally come face-to-face with weird and wonderful works of art.Portraits of the rich and famous rub shoulders with the less well-known, by artists you may or may not have heard of. If you’ve ever been under the impression that it’s stuffy, think again.

Take a peek at Marc Quinn’s self portrait head sculpture, made out of his own blood.

We stayed at base2stay, between Kensington and Chelsea, and it does what it says on the tin. It is a base for you to stay during your trip, and an extremely comfortable one.

There’s free Internet, very helpful staff, and an electric car (congestion charge-free) which you can hire.

It has no restaurant or bar, but rooms have kitchenettes (with fridge and microwaves), and there are reasonably-priced vending machines. If you’re eating in, there’s a vast array of room service provided by local restaurants.

We, however, were eating out, at Gordon Ramsay’s Chelsea bistro Foxtrot Oscar (79 Royal Hospital Road).

Simple food cooked superbly well, and pretty reasonably priced considering the location and standard. We paid about £90 for three courses plus wine, including two wonderful mains of braised beef and pork belly. No wonder those nearby Chelsea pensioners always seem to have a smile on their faces.

* base2stay, Kensington, London, SW5 0PG. Bookings can be made online at or by calling 020 7244 2255. Rooms cost from £49 to £247