I can’t find anywhere better to be based in London when I’m visiting than Mayfair.
It’s quiet, it’s got great restaurants, it’s easy to get to from the stations I use – Paddington and Marylebone, it’s on the right side of town for Heathrow, it’s close to the best shops and it’s slap bang in the centre of all the other boroughs I have to go to to visit friends.
Whilst I love the size of the rooms and the service at the Mandarin Oriental, Knightsbridge to me is a cultural wasteland compared to Mayfair. I love walking in London and so staying in Mayfair gives me the freedom to investigate all the nooks and crannies of Old London (St James, The Mall, Haymarket, Westminster, Picadilly etc) whilst giving me access to Bond Street, Saville Row, Jermyn Street and Burlington Gardens etc as well as Oxford Street and beyond. Give me Selfridges over Harrods any day of the week, and if I need food hampers then I’ll go to Fortnum’s thank you.
Hotels: If you are going to stay in a hotel then use Claridges. Comfy beds, great service, wonderful art-deco bathrooms. Breakfast in The Foyer is very special, one of the only hotels on earth I bother to descend to break my fast. The Dorchester is just tooooo damn Chintzy and the Hilton, well it’s the Hilton so is bloody ugly (even the suites) and also the bars are so full of hookers you’d think you were in Shanghai in the 90’s.
Clubs: Check your club memberships. Many club’s in Hong Kong have good reciprocal arrangements in London, and a lot of them have accommodation. I often stay at the Naval Club (far right on the photo montage) on Hill Street. It’s not too stuffy (at least I’m allowed through the door in jeans). Rooms are adequate, it’s homely and quiet, and most importantly it’s £150 for a double room (and if you are a whore for celebrity spotting, Guy Ritchie’s Punchbowl pub is about 40m away from the front door).
All these places let me store my winter wardrobe and ski-gear with them for months at a time, which makes my luggage so much lighter. Got to love good service.
Cecconi’s at 5A Burlington Gardens for lunch, and for post-shopping gathering of thoughts.
The Wolesley at 160 Piccadilly for breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea and dinner.
Kaya at 42 Albermarle Street, for when you need a hit of honest Korean food.
Le Boudin Blanc (should have a Michelin star) in Shepherds Market: for a long, long lunch or dinner. Fantastic wine list. One of my favourite restaurants in London and my favourite dessert – a red berry vanilla cream shortbread effort which is yum.
Claridges on Brook Street: Gordon Ramsey‘s Michelin star restaurant for dinner – not sure what it’s like now, but used to be very good. Claridge’s Bar is fun for lunch – great seasonal bites like fresh alaskan crab cocktails, pates on toast, goujons etc super posh pub food really!
The Square on Bruton Street, (Michelin Star) one of my boyf’s favourite restaurants, I’ve never been, but I trust his palette even more than my own.
Wiltons on Jermyn Street, hugely old restaurant, famous for oysters and other seafood, wonderfully trad.
Of course China Tang has recently opened in the Dorch, but I’m not swayed to give it a go yet, I can eat at the China Club here in HK, so why bother over there. My favourite Chinese restaurant in London at the moment is Hunan. But that’s for a different post as it’s in Pimlico…
Polo Bar in the Westbury Hotel on Curzon street. Great cocktail list, good early evening people-spotting mash up of tourists, theatregoers and business folks. Useful place to catch a taxi at night (you can finish your one-for-the-road in the bar and the bellboys will come find you when your taxi has arriven).
The American Bar at the Stafford Hotel in St James Place. Good for a secret tete-a-tete. Great drinks, tiny bar, good burger. Beloved by Yanks and hidden away.
Good old-school pubs: The Punchbowl on Farm Street, The Audley on Mount Street (can get very full and boisterous people after work), The Red Lion on Waverton Street (tiny, old, hidden, good place for a pint and a relax). All have good draft ale.
If you like clubbing, there are a variety of places to go and splash cash including tabloid favourites: Mahiki, Cuckoo Club, Jalouse, etc (as you can tell this isn’t my scene…) but if you like gambling, then I highly recommend 50 St James as one of the more salubrious places to lose a few grand at the tables, (or gawp at the Essex lovelies earlier in the evening at the bar downstairs, I always forget how blonde, inflated and orange these girls have become).
As I live in duty free Hong Kong, what I look for when I go abroad is the things I can’t get here. So that usually means, top quality, handmade goods from small retailers, or at the other end – stocking up in Top Shop. And of course books. Hong Kong is so utterly rubbish at bookshops.
If it’s style, class and built to last that you desire, then the shops around Mayfair are for you.
Jermyn Street and around St James are stuffed with some fantastic shops.
Swaine Adeney Brigg is the place you need to go for umbrellas, canes and walking sticks (?!) in particular, and they have recently updated their luggage to include some really good pieces, previously they were over-trad.
Turnball and Asser sells the best silk ties in the world. They also have good off the shelf shirts if you are in a hurry (for bespoke we use London designs, but HK tailors). Everything else is a bit too old fashioned for my taste, but they rock at ties.
Beretta apart from it’s truly magnificent guns which are well worth a browse, Beretta has great hats, gloves, coats etc based on hunting and outdoor pursuits. Top quali with beautiful Italian design and materials (both girls & boys).
Alfred Dunhill this used to be Dunhill’s flagship store, not sure if it still is. Was a great place for boys to get a shave or a haircut. The barber used to be very good, but I’m not sure if they still have that service anymore – that’s not very helpful is it?!
Geo F Trumpers – gentleman barber, also chiropodist and sells all a boy could ever want for his shaving and pruning needs. Super old school, wouldn’t trust them on a hair cut if you are under 60…
Paxton & Whitfield – great deli, especially cheese – have immense range of pickles and condiments to go with them.
Trevor Philip & Sons – fascinating store of seriously impressive antique scientific and horological pieces, as well as all sorts of globes and marine models. Love it.
Berry Bros. & Rudd One of the oldest shops in London, and well worth a snoop even if you aren’t buying. One of the UK’s leading wine merchants, they have a very popular cellar plan that helps you build up a stock of wine for the future, constructed either for drinking or investment – and of course as they have an outlet in HK you can always buy up in London but arrange for it to arrive in HK, circumventing all logistic/customs issues.
Richard Caplin – one of the best Leica specialists in London (the other is The Classic Camera in Pied Bull Yard opposite the British Museum), great range of cameras – new and second hand, lenses and binoculars. Also stocks ricoh cameras and all sorts of film and accessories. Always check HK before you go though if you are after second hand or limited edition cameras to see if they are cheaper.
Piccadilly is stuffed with book shops. The biggest by far being Waterstones, but for me the best is Hatchards which has been going since the end of the 18th Century. Very well thought out stock, brilliant nook and cranny configuration, all ancient oak panels and uneven, creaking floorboards.
Fortnum & Mason‘s is also on Piccadilly for all your foodie gift needs, as well as having a pretty decent selection of cook books (as do both Hatchards and Waterstones). Tea and Cake at Fortnums is OK, it’s gone a bit café for my liking – if you want proper English High Tea go to Browns, or Claridges or probably even the Wolseley.
Burlington Arcade: Links Piccadilly with Burlington Gardens. If you like antique jewellery and watches this is the place for you (I love old Rolexes and The Vintage Watch Company has a huge windowful). Also has Macintosh and Globetrotter, Laduree (Parisian macaroons to overdose on), Pickett (very trad) leathergoods, Villebrequin etc.
Saville Row, Burlington Gardens etc:
Berluti on Conduit Street. Beautiful shop. Tragically only makes men’s shoes, but they are, to my mind, the best in the world. Beautifully hand crafted, totally stylish, after sales service is amazing, and great shops to sit in and lounge whilst the boy gets on shopping. They also cost a fortune, so you can then buy something guilt free to balance his splurging.
Saville Row. Really depends on what style suit you want, as all the tailors have their own specific style and detailing. My boy likes Mark Stephen Marengo in particular (bit of a newcomer here) but it’s really about the materials and the detailing you want. Get a recommendation or be willing to spend some time investigating.
Art – Mayfair is packed with galleries, (Sotheby’s HQ is on New Bond Street). It’s well worth just nosing around Dover, Abermale, Old Burlington, Grafton and the Bonds Streets etc as there are all sorts of galleries to suit all tastes.
Finally we get on to the ladies. This is where all the big designer shops are from Prada and Hermes through LV and Loro Piano. You’ve got Asprey (great architecture, go and have a nose), Cartier, Bulgari, Chanel etc as well as Jimmy Choo, Pringle, Armani, Mulberry and Smythson (fab for travel wallets and note books). There are a whole host of other high and mid end girl shops – plus a wealth of art galleries and other shops in between. At the top of New Bond Street you hit Oxford Street and if you turn left you are then in striking distance of the only shop you really need on that horrific thoroughfare – Selfridges.
And I’m spent!
If you like architecture, a bit of history and walking rather than taxis/tubes etc, then Mayfair is a perfect place to base yourself for a stay in the UK capital.