Londoners are finally warming up to Norman Foster’s controversial new Swiss Re building (a.k.a. the “erotic gherkin”). Only company employees have access to the panoramic views from the 40th-floor bar, but the aptly named Vertigo bar, atop Tower 42 (the rechristened NatWest building), offers equally fine views of the city.
Having set off a tabloid maelstrom when he said he was mugged in a London park then said he wasn’t, Kevin Spacey begins his first season as artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre. The first of his greatly anticipated London premieres is Cloaca (by little-known Dutch playwright Maria Goos); followed by Aladdin, with Sir Ian McKellen; then Dennis McIntyre’s American Beauty–esque National Anthems; and Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story.
Open since May, the sprawling Gagosian Gallery in King’s Cross is gaining attention for its current installations and paintings by the hilariously self-mythologizing German artist Martin Kippenberger. Meanwhile, collectors are champing at the bit for former West Village resident Kenny Schachter’s two soon-to-open galleries, the Rove Projects. Rove 1 debuts this month in Hoxton Square, with a façade by London artist Richard Woods, to be followed early next year by Rove 2, a Vito Acconci–designed gallery across from the new Gagosian.
Fueling London’s reputation as a European clubbing capital, the new roving electroclash party Kash Point (kashpoint.co.uk) pulls in the “Taboo” crowd. Last month, the old Camden Palace music hall, which at various times hosted Charlie Chaplin, the Sex Pistols, and Madonna, was reborn as the megaclub Koko; check out Friday’s Kitsch Lounge Riot, a mix of cabaret and live music that has drawn guest performers from Paul McCartney to Boy George.
For the ultra-deluxe-Japanese crowd, newcomer Umu brings Masa-level prices to Mayfair. East End hipsters are flocking to the new Bistroteque, a cool French bistro with a Victorian- kitsch bar and an unfussy menu. Across town on Piccadilly, the duo behind the Ivy has opened a chic brasserie called Wolseley, serving up perfectly fried Wiener schnitzel in a pseudo-Viennese café setting.
After stealing the shows with his first fall collection at last month’s London Fashion Week, former Gucci designer Giles Deacon is being touted as the next Alexander McQueen; look for his exaggerated forties silhouettes at Harvey Nichols. The Conduit Street–to–Bruton Street stretch has become a luxury-label mecca, not unlike New York’s West 14th Street: McQueen and Stella McCartney recently relocated to the swank thoroughfare, joining Matthew Williamson and Vivienne Westwood. But the talk of the High Street is New Look, which beat out celebrity favorite TopShop in recruiting rising designers like Eley Kishimoto and Tatty Devine for its Kubrickian new Oxford Street megastore.
After a bit of a hotel drought, London welcomes three boutique properties. The Zetter, a converted Victorian warehouse in Clerkenwell, opened in March with an Italian restaurant and champagne-dispensing vending machines. While the month-old, five-star Soho Hotel isn’t affiliated with the still-trendy Soho House, its central location and wraparound terraces have drawn the likes of Charlize Theron. The fashion press converges for after-work drinks at the Murano-chandelier-lit bar of Baglioni, a stylish new property overlooking Kensington Gardens.
It has yet to star in a Hugh Grant movie, but Hackney is fast becoming the next Notting Hill. “Gastropubs” like the tiny, Latin American– influenced Armadillo have sprouted from the old Victorian watering holes at London Fields, taking advantage of the organic produce at the new Broadway Market. Small interior-design stores selling Scandinavian ceramics and vintage ball gowns are popping up in between Brick Lane curry houses and sari shops, and a tube link, the final ingredient for gentrification, is coming.