London CallingBy: HILuxury Team
By Megan Evans and Whitney Bacon
LONDON IS ONE OF THE MOST DESIRABLE and exciting cities in the world. It thrives on a multitude of diversions-from fashion, food and the arts-to name just a few. With the Olympic buzz in the air, Britain is a burgeoning destination this year. Here are some of our favorite locales.
Savile Row in Mayfair is famously known the world over for bespoke men’s tailoring. These days you’ll find a mix of both traditional and modern stores. Since 1906, Anderson and Sheppard have tailored some of the world’s most famous men. We’ve previewed their spring line, and it’s awe-inspiring.
Based at the heart of the district, The Savile Row Company has been making tailored suits since 1938. Initially providing suits solely for top London department stores, it now produces clothing and accessories for both men and women.
Taking a more modern approach to classic tailoring is cult London label B store. Most recently they have collaborated with British heritage brand Baracuta, home of the original G9 Harrington jacket, first made in 1937. This jacket has adorned many famous men, from Elvis Presley, to Frank Sinatra and even Daniel Craig as “James Bond.”
If you are seeking a bit of quintessential English, then head to Cath Kidston. Seeing a gap in the market, Kidston opened her first store in 1993 hoping to bring a fun side to vintage products. Now she designs her own famously floral prints and products in a wide range of accessories, bags, fashion, home, fabric and wallpaper. The store is heralded as one of the most prominent and influential stores to rise from the U.K.-she was awarded an MBE from the Queen in 2010.
Westfield London Shopping Centre is the perfect combination of luxury and shopping. Under one roof you will find 400 luxury brands, including Burberry, Dior, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. After a hard day of shopping, you can take a well-earned break and toast to your new threads at the Champagne Bar. On top of this, Westfield offers up posh perks for the serious shopper: chauffeurs, hands-free shopping and personal stylists. Just last fall, the second Westfield’s opened in the heart of the Olympic Park-it is the largest urban shopping center in Europe.
Covent Garden is a very popular shopping attraction and the oldest inhabited part of London. It is a unique place where you can marvel at street performers as you meander through the many different stores and stalls. It is also home to historic theaters and provides hundreds of place to eat and have a cocktail.
Notting Hill, made famous by the film starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, is one of London’s most fashionable areas. Based in the West End of London, it is well known for Portobello Market and the Notting Hill Carnival, which is staged every August. The 1-mile-long Portobello Market is world-famous, selling a variety of products. It is notoriously known for being crowded on a Saturday because of its great selection of clothing stalls and antiques. Portobello Road also boasts the Electric Cinema, London’s most lavish movie theater.
The National Gallery-which contains a collection of European paintings from 13th to the 16th centuries-is currently exhibiting works by Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the most in-demand tickets in all of London. Although the exhibition has completely sold out, a “golden ticket” hype has hundreds queuing for a chance to snap up one of the 500 tickets released daily. The gallery is located in Trafalgar Square, one of the most vibrant areas of the city.
The National Portrait Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Opened in 1956, its aim is to showcase those who have made, or are making, British culture and history. The current exhibition features 60 portraits that range from Dolly Parton to Keira Knightley.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is proclaimed the world’s greatest art and design museum. It features a plethora of design throughout time and subjects, including architecture, fashion and theatre. Future exhibitions in 2012 will feature portraits of Queen Elizabeth II. There also will be an exhibition on British Design from 1948 to 2012, which will include post-war art to the design of the Olympics 2012.
Rivalling Broadway is The West End, which features plays and musicals such as Les Miserables, as well as contemporaries including We Will Rock You by Queen/Ben Elton, and the acclaimed adaptation of British film Billy Elliot.
The Fat Duck, founded by self-taught chef Heston Blumenthal, puts a very unconventional spin on cuisine. His use of molecular compounds and experimenting with foods in the most scientific and fascinating ways incorporates the elements of sound and smell sensory perception to bolster touch and taste. For the tasting menu, allot yourself three or more hours and come with an open mind and an excited palate. You might receive “salmon poached in a liquorice gel with artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise and golden trout roe” or “red cabbage gazpacho and snail porridge,” to name a few. Receiving numerous awards and recognition around the globe, The Fat Duck is an unparalleled dining experience.
If you are looking for a trendy and rather contemporary bistro, Pollen Street Social is the place to go. Opened by renowned British Chef Jason Atherton in April 2011, its vibrant atmosphere is the perfect place to “see and be seen” whilst enjoying a drink from the 40-seat bar and fine cuisine.
Hakkasan Mayfair is modern Chinese cuisine at its finest. It’s no wonder that, as you will experience dining among ice-cool glamour décor, Hakkasan Mayfair won multiple awards for “Best It Restaurant” at the Tatler Restaurant Awards 2011.
A tradition in England since the 1840s, Afternoon Tea is a must. Traditionally, this consists of tea with finger sandwiches and scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam. For an afternoon of pure indulgence and grandeur, opt for the experience at The Ritz Hotel (which has been awarded multiple times by the U.K. Tea Council). For a modern take on Afternoon Tea, look no further than the unique Firmdale Hotels. Located in five areas of London, each hotel is individually decorated with an English flair by owner Kit Kemp. The ambience lends to the glamour; Kemp recommends starting off your “tea” with a glass of rose champagne.
If you want an all-encompassing experience, then The Howard Swissotel’s “TLSee” (Tea, London and Sightseeing) is for you. The iconic sights of London have been transformed into pastries and chocolate-you will literally get a taste of London. For an even quirkier experience, take a trip down the rabbit hole into the “Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson.” Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, you will find brightly colored finger sandwiches, lollipops that turn your tongue from cold to hot and ice cream that explodes in the mouth.
A venue called McQueen pays homage to movie star Steve McQueen, in the form of a trendy restaurant and club located in Shoreditch. The sleek decor oozes vintage Hollywood glamour. The Lounge Bar is the perfect place to unwind after work, where you also will find a lavish mannequin sculpture in tribute to Alexander McQueen. The restaurant serves up fine foods and wine whilst McQueen movies play in the background. Downstairs, find boutique clubbing at its best, transforming your night into 1960s rock ‘n’ roll glamour with live acts and DJs. Circus, located in the popular Covent Garden, is the unique innovation of a perfectly paired West End cocktail bar and a chic cabaret restaurant.
For a completely different night out, experience the extreme at the Ice Bar London. The walls, tables, bar and even your glass are made from the purest ice. The club is kept at 41 degrees Fahrenheit year round. It is your chance to be a snow bunny as designer thermal capes with hoods keep you warm.
If you want to know where the future of fashion is heading, then attending London Fashion Week is a must. Each year, the most up-and-coming British designers are honoured here by the British Fashion Council New Generation Scheme (NEWGEN). Recommended by LFW in 2011 were the top five shops in London to get the latest trends: Christian Louboutin, Dover Street Market, Matches Marylebone, Selfridges and Start.
Olympic Gold Star
The summer of 2012 will see millions descend upon London for the 2012 Olympics-the first city to have hosted three times. Preparations for the Games are on track with new venues and infrastructures. The Olympic Stadium is the most sustainable ever built in line with London’s 2012′s “reduce, reuse, recycle” approach. London will be transformed like never before in 2012, the benefits of which will be felt and seen long after.