There are signs that London is slowly waking up from its decade-long novelty binge. Londoners more or less agree that Pete Doherty is not a cross between Lord Byron and Joe Strummer, but rather a troubled (and rather tedious) young man. And every time one of the new articulated buses snakes past, there is a communal wave of nostalgia for the double-decker Routemaster, the last of which was retired in December. All of which has started to make some of the more traditional aspects of British life seem exciting and fresh. First is the Tory Party: One of the favorite topics of conversation at London dinner parties is Dave Cameron, the party’s new, young answer to Blair. Then there’s the dandy comeback: A statue of Beau Brummell was recently raised on Jermyn Street, followed by a biography of the Beau and a picture book called The New English Dandy. Finally, backgammon is chic again, with tournaments held by restaurateur Sir Christopher Gilmour and players meeting privately in houses and clubs. The return to tradition is not a backlash as much as a turning of the tide. Londoners are realizing that ten years of striving after the flashy and the fashionable (remember “Cool Britannia”?) add up in unexpected ways: After Tokyo, London is now the most expensive city on the planet.
London Unreal Estate Our Oversimplified Guide to London Nightlife The Best Place to Channel Diana A Guide to London’s Restaurant Scene The Top Five Alternatives to ‘Billy Elliot’ A Walking Tour of Bond Street An Insider’s Guide to London ‘Hoods and Hotspots Look Book Goes to London Los Angeles Miami Sydney
If you like the stateliness of the Pierre, you’ll love Brown’s.
If you like the anything-you-wish service of the St. Regis, you’ll love the Lanesborough.
If you like the swank bar scene at the Soho Grand, you’ll love the Sanderson.
Glossary: Britspeak Decoded, Innit
Bare: Lots of (“I made baremoney last week”).
Chav: Working-class personwith garish taste.
Chirp: To chat up a girl.
Curry: Worry (“Don’t you curry”).
Ends: A neighborhood.
Innit: Shortening of “isn’t it,” usedarbitrarily to end sentences.
It’s all gone a bit Pete: It’s allgone wrong; rhymes with Pete Tong, the famous disc jockey.
Lush: Gorgeous, sexy.
Nang: Really good, excellent.
Proper: Short for “properly,”used arbitrarily (“That play last night was proper good”).
Safe: Okay, good.
Shoreditch twat: Fashionvictim.
Something from Nigella: A Nigella Lawson recipe (“dinner with a few friends and something from Nigella”).
Wasteman: Stupid person.
Next: London Unreal Estate
New York has nothing on London when it comes to sky-high real-estate prices. And right now, London’s state-of-the-luxe are the apartments designed, built, and furnished by Nick and Christian Candy, with solid-teak baths, built-in flat screens, fingerprint entry, climate-sensitive awnings, and garages with license-plate recognition systems. At well over £1,150 per square foot, this home-as-fashion-statement doesn’t come cheap, but there’s no harm in looking. Candy & Candy has properties for sale in Belgravia, Knightsbridge, and Chelsea. To see them, call 44-20-7594-4300.
Next: Our Oversimplified Guide to London Nightlife
Our deliberately oversimplified guide to worthy London nightlife.
THE BEST …
PLACE TO CHANNEL DIANA
27 St. James Pl.
A half-block from that other palace is the ancestral home of the Spencer family (as in Diana). With fifteen staterooms alone, the eighteenth-century pile defines decadence; don’t miss the £40,000 diamond shoe buckles the first Countess Spencer wore. Sundays only, 10.30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
IAN SCHRAGER ANTIDOTE
86-88 Clerkenwell Rd.
This punk-chintz hotel is decidedly cheaper and chicer than Schrager’s St. Martins Lane. Seventies-style supergraphics of the letter Z are emblazoned on everything. Rooms start at £119 on weekends—only £10 more than the nearby Holiday Inn.
EXCUSE TO SKIP THE TATE
Hoxton Gallery Crawl
Start at 16 Wharf Rd.
London’s art scene is edging into the East End, where new galleries seem to open weekly. Go from Victoria Miro’s warehouse (including Peter Doig and Chris Ofili) to Jay Jopling’s White Cube (where Darren Almond and Luc Tuymans show). Then grab a gallery guide and head to Bethnal Green for a stop at Maureen Paley, the industrial Chisenhale Gallery, and Modern Art.
WAY TO BUY SKINNY JEANS
Top Shop Style Adviser
216 Oxford St. (44-084-5124-1144)
When in London, shop for edgy local designers the way Sienna Miller and Kate Moss do: with help from one of Top Shop’s free “style advisers,” who will brave the crowds while you wait in the dressing room. Or call and claim a “fashion crisis”; she’ll messenger over what you need.
Next: A Guide to London’s Restaurant Scene
London finally cares about great food. Here’s where to find it.
When novelist Jeanette Winterson bought a building and moved to Spitalfields in East London (think Bushwick or Bed-Stuy), she couldn’t find a decent grocery—so she opened her own downstairs. It’s the kind of market that Keith McNally would build, a simulacrum where the grocer—Harvey Cabaniss, former chef at the French House and St. John—wears a full-length apron tied at the waist and stacks fruit pyramids outside the door. Go and get the bresaola with Parmesan and lemon dressing made by “sandwich supremo” Taffy Jones (40 Brushfield St.; 44-020-7247-1924).
The South Bank’s answer to Manhattan’s gourmet-hot-dog trend is the chorizo-and-rocket sandwich in SE1’s Borough Market. It’s only £2.75, so people often order two, three at a time. Get there when the grill opens at 11:30 a.m.: Fans—including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver—start lining up at eleven, and by noon the queue stretches around the block. Grill open Thursday through Saturday only (Floral Hall, Stoney Street; 44-020-7407-1036).
It’s an open secret that Neal’s Yard is experimenting with an unpasteurized Stilton. The Stilton Cheesemakers’ Association (which controls all Stilton production in the U.K.) insists all of the stinky blue cheese must be pasteurized to use the name, so when it comes out at the end of the year, expect threats of lawsuits—and an incredible-tasting cheese. If you make friends with cheesemaker Randolph Hodgson, you may just be able to get a taste of the work-in-progress (17 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden; 44-020-7240-5700).
Embassy Electrical Supplies
England’s best olive oil, fresh and grassy-tasting, is available only at an electrician’s shop in Clerkenwell. Mehmet Murat sells the single-estate oil pressed from trees his parents planted in Cyprus 50 years ago. To keep the already low cost—£5 per liter—down, Murat packages the oil in plastic jugs, but he will help you decant if you show up with a couple of empty wine bottles and corks to leave at the shop overnight. Last year’s harvest will be available in a week or so (76 Compton St.; 44-020-7251-4721).
With three of London’s top restaurateurs now in the neighborhood, Mayfair is a good place to be hungry. Gordon Ramsay’s Maze serves Asian-influenced French dishes in a David Rockwell–designed space (44-020-7107-0000). Nobu Berkeley (pictured), the third celebrity-saturated outpost from Nobu Matsuhisa, has opened just a few blocks from the Nobu in the Metropolitan Hotel. This version distinguishes itself with a no-reservation policy and a lounge that’s open until 2 a.m. (44-020-7290-9222). Millionaire retailer David Tang, owner of Shanghai Tang and the London Cipriani, is getting raves for the classic Cantonese menu at China Tang in the Dorchester (44-020-7629-9988). Whole suckling pig and Peking duck served three ways are the house specials.
Next: The Top Five Alternatives to ‘Billy Elliot’
THE TOP FIVE
Alternatives to ‘Billy Elliot’
1. So you can’t get tickets to Billy Elliot. But you can get into Guys and Dolls, the latest gritty Brit reimagining of an American classic, at the Piccadilly Theatre (44-0870-060-6634). Weed through the West End’s jukebox musicals and Broadway transfers for Sunday in the Park With George, a raved-about Sondheim revival moving to the Wyndham (44-0870-950-0925) in May.
2. Don’t be tempted by Robert Altman, whose take on Arthur Miller’s Resurrection Blues was panned. Jeremy Irons, starring onstage for the first time in twenty years in Embers, managed mediocre notices. But who needs movie stars when you have Dames? Diana Rigg is in Honour, at the Wyndham (44-0870-950-0925), and Judi Dench is raising ticket prices to new heights in Noël Coward’s Hay Fever, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (44-0870-901-3356).
3. Off the West End, the Almeida Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse are consistently excellent. The Almeida (44-020-7359-4404) has a great production of Tennessee Williams’s Period of Adjustment, followed by David Hare’s adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s Enemies. And the Donmar (44-0870-060-6624) has Clare Higgins in Frank McGuinness’s Phaedra adaptation.
4. The Royal Court Theatre (44-020-7565-5000) offers a play deemed too controversial for New York: My Name Is Rachel Corrie, about an American activist crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza. Dealing with religious tension closer to home is film director Mike Leigh’s Two Thousand Years, set in a London Jewish household, at the Lyttelton Theatre (44-020-7452-3000).
5. It’s a summer of greatest hits at the Royal Opera House (44-020-7304-4000), with Mozart’s Figaro, opening in July, and Bryn Terfel, Angela Gheorghieu, and Marcelo Álvarez in Tosca (44-020-7304-4000). Also, young new music director Edward Gardner will, hopefully, revitalize the English National Opera, which has had a patchy reputation of late.
Next: A Walking Tour of Bond Street
map no. 1: WEST OF BOND STREET
West of Bond is London’s Nolita.
Bond Street is London’s Fifth Avenue—all familiar international brands. But just west of Bond is a newly popular neighborhood of adorable boutiques and splashy restaurants. Among them: a contemporary-look showroom from royal cabinetmaker Viscount Linley; a chic shop of trouvailles for interiors by Nicholas Chandor for Paul Smith; and Dover Street Market, the remarkably fashionable retail multiplex. Pop into Cecconi’s Italian restaurant, now run by Soho House’s Nick Jones. Or stop to nourish yourself at the all-day brasserie and European-style café that is the Wolseley.
46 Albemarle St.
Royal cabinetmaker Viscount Linley shows that he can do urban sleek as well as country-house chic.
2.Paul Smith Furniture Shop
9 Albemarle St.
London institution Paul Smith opened a shop for antiques and art objects from around the world; a recent display of vintage ghetto blasters had passersby reaching for their cell-phone cameras.
3. Dover Street Market
17–18 Dover St.
Five floors of avant-fashion curated by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons fame: Pick up Alber Elbaz dresses made exclusively for the store; cool, wacky graphic tees from Ronnie Loves; and, of course, Comme des Garçons.
7 Grafton St.
James Mullen, one of the Irish brothers who gave us Thomas Pink shirts in the eighties, now sells sleek bags (£275 to £650) that could hang on Sienna Miller’s arm.
14 Grafton St.
Kate Moss allegedly kept her drugs in a Fabergé egg. Buy your own mini-ovum at Wartski, the world’s most famous address for Fabergé treasures.
6. The Wolseley
This splendid venue is a modern British take on a Paris bistro crossed with a Viennese café. Open from breakfast (quite a scene) to late supper.
7.Davidoff of London
35 St James’s St.
Cuban cigars are about the only things that are cheaper to buy in London than New York—and that’s only because they are illegal in the U.S.
8. Brown’s Hotel
The quintessential English hotel, Brown’s recently got a contemporary yet conservative makeover. Go for afternoon tea.
9. Le Caprice
Arlington House, Arlington St.
Still the hottest smart lunch spot in the West End.
5A Burlington Gardens
Once home to a rich-and-royal power scene, this Italian restaurant (really, east of Bond) was taken over by Soho House last year and promptly redesigned.
Next: An Insider’s Guide to London ‘Hoods and Hotspots
A New Yorker’s Guide to London Neighborhoods
Notting Hill = West Village + Fort Greene
Hoxton = Williamsburg
Soho + Bethnal Green = Chelsea
Knightsbridge = Upper East Side
Brixton = Bedford-Stuyvesant
Hackney = Bushwick + Flushing
Covent Garden = Soho + Theater District
Hampstead = Upper West Side
Clapham = Park Slope
Canary Wharf = Financial District + Red Hook
Piccadilly + Leicester Square = Times Square + Chinatown
Camden = St. Marks Place
Bond Street = Madison Avenue
Plum Sykes’s London
When I am in London, I go for old-school English glamour. I totally skip the trendy nightclubs I can’t get into in the East End, and instead I head for the classic upper-class haunts. Annabel’s in Berkeley Square is wonderful if you are in a cocktail dress with nothing to do at 2 a.m. on a Thursday night. You get there, sink into an incredible velvet sofa, are handed a delicious strawberry champagne cocktail by a white-coated waiter, and then dance or gossip all night, depending on your mood. Jeans aren’t allowed for men, which makes it much more glamorous. The men look so fabulous there in their black tie or wonderful smoking jackets. If only there were more places where denim was banned, the world would be a much happier place.
Next: Look Book Goes to London
Up until last July, those in search of another type of London fog could head to Camden Market and buy magic mushrooms legally. Then the British Home Office ruined this jolly good time by categorizing ’shrooms under Class A status along with heroin and crack. However, accidental picking (“I had no idea, officer!”) is still not punishable by law: For harvesting tips, try chatting up Tony Van, owner of the Amsterdam of London head shop at 244 Camden High Street.