Tag Archives: London

If you are tired of London…*

26 Nov

Lately there has been a spate of newspaper columns decrying London’s growing inequality – basically, we are back to Dickens’ bleak times, when it comes to disparity between the rich and the poor.  And though I agree with those columnists, most notably my favourite Caitlin Moran, who wrote about London being drained of the young and creative due to grotesque rents, and becoming merely a place where the global elite invest in houses, I still enjoy visiting enormously. In small, 8-10 hour long doses, it is a treat. There are very few places on Earth as exciting as London when it comes to my twin passions: food and culture – the latter often still, against the odds, either free or affordable. When I visited previously, I saw Old Times, a Pinter play with Kirstin Scott-Thomas** and Rufus Sewell, and it cost me only a tenner.

This time, my pursuits were less lofty – I really wanted to try cakes at the much-lauded Honey & Co, and pop into equally hyped Maille mustard shop. I also wanted to simply wander, soaking up the Christmas atmosphereThe legendary Christmas windows in Selfridges*** didn’t disappoint. It might be hard to see, given the quality of my “amazing” photos, but each object is an enormous replica of the real thing – so the Fornasetti pot is so big, I could probably squeeze inside it. Also, some elements are mobile.

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I walked the length of Regent Street, stopping to browse at my favourite shops: & Other Stories and Zara Home. Having indulged in some retail therapy earlier, thanks to M&S’ extraordinary generosity, I was able to resist the siren calls of  some fabulous accessories at & Other Stories, and Christmas decorations at Zara Home. I also stopped by the newly opened J.Crew, but didn’t linger, in the spirit of protest against UK prices being far higher than they are in the US (same story with Anthropologie and Free People – I love both, but what’s  with the hugely increased, sometimes by as much 50%, prices?!).

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Zara Home’s window, with bonus owl

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Beautiful tree in Penhaligon’s window

I then walked down to The Wolseley, but should have known better – it was the tail – end of lunchtime, and the place was packed. I didn’t fancy waiting around for 20 minutes, even though the atmosphere was most convivial, so I hoofed it nearby to the also newly opened Maille Mustard Shop. If you are, like me, a mustard fan, it is a must. You can buy so many different flavours, from quite simple and rustic, to luxurious ones. I  tried a few flavours (mustard with nuts was a revelation),  and the staff were charming and helpful. If you are looking for Christmas gifts for a foodie, look no further.

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There is more than a hundred types of mustard to choose from at Maille boutique

By this time, I was really peckish, so I decided to visit Honey & Co in Warren Street to sample their so-trendy-it-hurts Middle Eastern baking. One of the chefs worked at Ottolenghi and Nopi and I read both A A Gill’s (Sunday Times) and Jay Rayner’s (The Guardian) glowing reviews, and it had just scooped up Observer Food Monthly  Award in the Newcomer category. I only had cake and tea (properly long lunch is not a solitary pursuit),  warm pistachio cake with stewed plums and sour cream, and it was delicious. This is not a date restaurant –  it is the size of a small sitting room and you are practically touching your neighbours elbows – but definitely worth visiting, if you actually want to eat, rather than flirt.

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Honey & Co

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Honey & Co’s delicious cakes (picture from their website)

Oh, and on the way there, I saw David Mitchell. An hour later, in Covent Garden,  where I went to buy cheese at Neal’s Yard Dairy, I nearly bumped into Ben Whishaw.

So: a styling session with lovely Hilary and her team, delicious food, festive window shopping and celebrity-spotting -it really was a perfect day:.

*…you are tired of life” – Samuel Johnson.

**Major woman – crush of mine.

***When people who don’t know London at all (or at least not well), ask me to recommend a department store, I always advise them to steer clear of Harrods, which is often the only department store they’ve heard of, and instead head to Liberty, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason.

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Some dreams do come true

19 Nov

Every time I want to finish writing about my perfume collection, life gets in the way (as is its habit).

So this post will be about my trip to London and hobnobbing with a bone fide fashion guru.

The conventional wisdom is that fashion business is full of bi***es, of both sexes. It is undeniably obsessed with youth and beauty, and aimed at people with more money than sense (or taste). Thanks to “The Devil Wears Prada”* the prevailing opinion is that to get ahead in this business, you need to be either a sharp-tongued queen or an ice-queen, or worse still, a talentless creep. But there is also the other side: there are very few areas of business where women wield as much power and influence,  or get paid as well as they do in fashion. And there are plenty of women in fashion, who got ahead while being nice to everybody on their way to the top.

A few weeks ago I was lucky to win a Marks & Spencer competition. I have always been a huge fan of M&S, ever since I walked into one of its shops in the early 90, during my first visit to London. Founded by a Polish Jewish emigre, it is thoroughly British, which is why I often buy  gifts for my non -British friends and family there. I can completely understand why for many British expats, M&S is often the first shop they go to when visiting Blighty – the thought of not being able to shop at M&S fills me with horror. The prize couldn’t be more perfect: it was a styling session with the legend of British fashion journalism, Hilary Alexander, at the M&S flagship store in Marble Arch, plus money to splurge on the fabulous Per Una collection. So I was very excited to take the train to the Big Smoke and meet Hilary  as well as M&S ladies Caroline, Judy and Co. Hilary is the opposite of the fashion stereotype: warm, witty, down to Earth and just very, very nice. Her expert picks were spot on: elegant dresses flattered my hourglass figure, while bottom -sculpting jeans and jumpers were perfect for my freelance lifestyle. Trying on different outfits, assisted by such a fashion guru and 4 (!!!) other ladies, I was in fashion heaven. This is what being a celebrity must feel like, only better, because I don’t have to put up with all the scrutiny that comes with fame. Thank you! 

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Hilary and I

 

Here are a few of my favourite pieces from the current M&S collections, some of which I tried on – the white dress and the biker jacket are very high quality and very flattering – who doesn’t need a Little White Dress (currently more fashionable than LBD) or a proper biker jacket in their wardrobe?

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This leather biker is a great investment piece, and looks more expensive than it is

 

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This LWD really shows off curves – perfect if you have an hourglass figure

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I didn’t try this dress on, as it is only just arrived, but I love its Roland Mouret-esque style

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This leather bag was featured in British Vogue, and no wonder – it looks and feels very designer

After morning’s heady delights, I spent the afternoon eating cake, drinking coffee, spotting celebrities and visiting new shops, all of which I shall describe next time (see, I’ll never get to write that post about perfumes!).

*There is a dire shortage of good films about fashion, but that’s a whole other post.

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