London – The Reawakening
From theatres to exhibitions, iconic London institutions to unique cinematic experiences, discover our top suggestions to experience the capital without the crowds as the city gradually comes back to life.
18th April 2017
Selma Day, Editor of The Mayfair Times
Despite all the glamour and grandeur, Mayfair still retains a village feel. As editor of Mayfair Times, I’m lucky enough to spend most of my time in Mayfair and, while I’ve been doing the job for many, many years, I still discover something new and surprising almost every day.
One of the things I like to do is to resolutely step out of the main shopping streets and into the smaller streets that make the area porous and welcoming to people moving through it. Just behind the Athenaeum, a network of streets leads to Shepherd Market, a lively mass of independent shops and restaurants. I’m a big fan of Kitty Fisher’s – a tiny place but big on atmosphere and serving great food. I also love the Hignell Gallery – its owner Abby Hignell is always welcoming and curates some wonderful exhibitions.
Moving north, the area around South and North Audley Streets is being reinvigorated by the introduction of small individual shops, such as shoe designer Penelope Chilvers and hat maker Laura Apsit Livens, which again add character. Brown Hart Gardens is one of my favourite places to escape the crowds – it’s just a stone’s throw from Oxford Street, but a haven of tranquility. The regular farmer’s market there is an absolute delight. I love the Antony Gormley sculpture at the Beaumont hotel, which doubles up as a room.
South of Piccadilly, behind Jermyn Street is a myriad of little alleys that have the character of former times such as Crown Passage and Ormond Yard. But it’s good to see that the area is reinventing itself with the new development of St James’s Market on the eastern edge of St James’s. Not only is it a new flowering of six or seven new restaurants, but it shows an inspiring attempt to open the street space to visitors and has a fascinating art craft pavilion which showcases up and coming artists.
The one thing I’d recommend to anyone is to simply walk around Mayfair’s historic streets, look up and admire the amazing architecture. Mount Street is one of the prettiest streets – I always stop to admire the stunning fountain outside the Connaught hotel, designed by Tadao Ando. One of my favourite spots is Mount Street Gardens in between two of Mayfair’s historic churches – shaded by plane trees and crossed by paths lined with benches, it’s a great place to sit and chill.
Grosvenor Square is another fabulous public space and in July is the setting for the annual Summer in the Square festival – there’s nothing nicer than to take a picnic there on a sunny day and enjoy some spectacular entertainment in one of Mayfair’s most beautiful and historic squares.
Food is central to my life and while Mayfair is one of the gastronomic capitals of the world, it’s good to see such a fantastic range of more casual dining options springing up in the area. Some of my regular haunts include 45 Jermyn Street at the back of Fortnum & Mason, The Wolseley, Café Murano, Chutney Mary and El Pirata. Galvin at Windows does a great value set lunch and also happens to have some of the best views in London. Its sister restaurant Galvin at the Athenaeum is also a great addition to the area and bartender Giancarlo Mancino mixes a mean cocktail in the bar – great for pre-dinner drinks or an after-dinner nightcap.
For shopping, I love to browse Grays Antique Market, Burlington Arcade for more individual shops, Dover Street Market (now in Haymarket), The New Craftsmen in North Row, Fortnum & Mason for its fabulous food offer – and I’m saving up for a bespoke suit by Kathryn Sargent, the first woman to open a tailoring shop in Savile Row. Albemarle Street is the new “go-to” shopping destination in Mayfair, with several boutiques opening up and new restaurants. Later this year, it will be home to a new private members’ club from the owner of 5 Hertford Street, Robin Birley, which is sure to seal Albemarle Street’s reputation as one of Mayfair’s premier lifestyle streets.
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