When society girls Christy Powell and Katrina Fleming opened London’s first manicure salon, the Nail Bar (37 Maddox Street), modeled after the popular Korean shops that dot New York, friends cautioned, “The English bite their nails!” Despite the nation’s childish habit, West London gals are parking themselves in droves at the chrome manicure bar. But not everything about it is American – the most popular service is the French manicure.
St. Martin’s Press
With London running head-to-head with New York in the race to be ground zero of all things hip, it’s a bit of a coup that this year’s high-water mark of Albionic glam – the new St Martins Lane hotel, Ian Schrager’s first British foray – turns out to be a reminder of New York’s hegemony. The door policy at the Jade Jaggerfriendly Light Bar is straight out of Moomba. The young Cockney bellhops in pea coats and blocky black shoes seem like ghostly visions of the armies of young hipsters marching up and down lower Broadway on any given Saturday. The rooms, with their floor-to-ceiling windows and cryptlike minimalism, are a symphony of whites that would give Tom Wolfe vertigo – though control-freak guests are invited to color their own mood with the St Martins’s trademark dial-a-hue room lighting. Even the hotel’s culinary hothouse is an outpost of Jeffrey Chodorow’s Asia de Cuba. All of which has created the kind of unbridled media frenzy we’re more used to over here. In the end, of course, it doesn’t really matter where the hotel sits, Times Square or Leicester Square. As with the Royalton, Schrager’s eighties Stateside triumph, when you check into the St Martins, you’re no longer in London or New York. You’ve actually booked a room on the fifth floor of designer Philippe Starck’s fantabulist cranium.
Chelsea Girls Trade in Their Wellies
Sigerson Morrison, NoLIta’s shoe boutique of the moment, has just set up a satellite shop in Notting Hill (184 Westbourne Grove). Local luminaries Miranda Richardson and Ruby Wax have already popped in to size up the line’s trademark narrow kitten heels. But the store manager notes that shoppers are favoring the more practical boot styles, explaining, “It’s a cold country.”
England may be known for its pint-drinkers, but at the Lab Bar (12 Old Compton Street), Londoners are lining up to sip Manhattan-style mixers: coconut martinis, berry-flavored vodkas, and even alcohol-free fruit concoctions. The Soho lounge, inspired by the Wallpaper* school of design, is filled nightly with the health-conscious and the barely conscious alike, but the New Age enclave hasn’t abandoned cheekiness entirely – rest rooms are marked bitches and bastards.
Hole in One
Until recently, American expats in London have had to endure the leaden British attempt at bagels – or “beigels,” as one sad sign famously called the doughy treats. But Bagelmania, a chain of British bagel shops, has finally mastered the ratio of water to flour. Now even Brits can’t get enough lox and cream cheese – and no one’s suggested a schmear of Marmite.