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 atmosphere. The 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.
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?!).
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.
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.
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.
- Caitlin Moran on the changing face of the capital (thetimes.co.uk)
- Oxford Street & Visual Merchandising: Selfridges & Co. (rohma0malik.wordpress.com)