London’s West End, home to bustling Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street is a world class shopping destination with an amazing abundance of fashion, culture, entertainment and dining experiences. Here are just some of the things I managed to see and do on a short break away.
REGENT STREET WALKING TOUR
My West End experience started at around 10am when I met official London Blue Badge Guide and architectural expert David Thompson in Pall Mall. From here we walked the short distance to Regent Street during which time David pointed out many architectural highlights. These included Regent Street House, with its beautiful glass mosaics above the doorway, one of the most important buildings in Regent Street now home to the Apple Store (235 Regent Street).
Regent Street was Europe’s first purpose built shopping street (1830) and has always endeavoured to keep up with the times. Regent Street has just launched a free architectural walking tour App and printed guide to illustrate the exciting and informative route taking in the architecture, history of the shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. The App can be downloaded for free at the Apple store or a printed guide can be printed off at www.regentstreetonline.com.
After the leisurely one mile stroll it was definitely time for brunch and just off Regent Street I found Sketch, one of the West End’s coolest restaurants! Conceived by master chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mazouz, the Grade 11 listed building has been divided into the East Bar, The Gallery, a 150 seat gastro brasserie with 12 projectors creating a 360 degree video wall of art, and the Parlour. Here I was able to lounge on the Louis XV seating and enjoy a breakfast menu which is available until noon. The food was excellent and the service first class. You’ll find Sketch at 9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG, telephone 0870 7774488. Their website is www.sketch.uk.com.
London’s West End is of course a shopper’s paradise. The whole area offers a fantastic shopping experience. You’ll find all the high street stores and a lot more besides; here’s some of the shops I suggest are well worth a visit.
The iconic, tudor-style building acts as a department store with a difference. Recently Liberty has teamed up with Brits, English eccentrics and hallowed institutes, creating a collection of unique items. Liberty is at 208 - 222 Regent Street and you can find out lots more at www.liberty.co.uk.
Situated at 300 Oxford Street this is John Lewis’s flagship store. Men and women can enjoy a free fashion advice service by appointment. Fashion advisor Victoria Abbott was on hand to give me expert advice on styles, colours and the latest trends. You can book a one to one fashion advice session with Victoria or one of her six colleagues. Sessions last for two hours and are free but due to demand must be booked in advance. More information is available online www.johnlewis.com or telephone 020 3073 0564
This is an English perfume house famous for its luxury scents. They are all made in England using the finest rare ingredients. Situated at 125 Regent Street (telephone 020 7434 2608) here you can have a personalised perfume experience. Find out more at www.penhaligons.co.uk.
FORTNUM & MASON
If your idea of a perfect afternoon is a lovely restaurant with a smartly dressed waiter bringing you tea and cake, then you’ll love afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason. I experienced afternoon tea in The Gallery, well actually I had the most delicious Welsh Rarebit and splashed out with a glass of champagne!
The Gallery is a lovely venue, surrounded by windows overlooking Jermyn Street and Duke Street on one side and Fortnum’s famous Food Hall on the other, a super place to relax and unwind for an hour or so. Fortnum & Mason are at 181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER (telephone 020 7734 8040) and their website is packed with information, www.fortnumandmason.com.
Did you know that Fortnum & Mason have supplied goods to Royalty since 1707, they invented the ‘Scotch’ egg and the food hamper and the store itself stocks over 200 varieties of tea?
THE LUCKY PIG
By the time I had ventured around the Fortnum & Mason Food Hall early evening had set in and the lights were shining all over the West End. I had a show booked but first things first - time for pre-theatre cocktails, and what cocktails!
The Lucky Pig is W1’s newest cocktail bar and had only just opened on my visit offering classic cocktails in great surroundings. The design of the bar has drawn on elements from the Art Nouveau period and old New York to create a venue full of fascinating design features, wooden floors, beautiful mismatched furniture and plush upholstery. The cocktail menu has been designed by Bar Manager Olly Hornby Smith and features classic and perfectly formed cocktails all served in beautiful glassware
Perhaps a ‘Southside Royal’ (gin, mint and cucumber topped with champagne) or how about a ‘Very Berry Julep’ (vodka, Hennesey V.S., chambord, berries and homemade jam). There’s a great variety on offer and if you’re stuck for choice the waitresses are on hand with expert advice on the best cocktail to suit the mood. The Lucky Pig Cocktail Bar is at 5 Clipstone Street W1W 6BB, telephone 020 7436 0035, website: www.theluckypig.co.uk.
From Clipstone Street it was just a short taxi ride to the heart of London and to Shaftesbury Avenue where the Gielgud Theatre is located. A celebrated Ealing play started here in late November - The Ladykillers. This is a classic black comedy where a sweet little old lady, alone in her house, is pitted against a gang of criminal misfits who will stop at nothing. You can find out more on this play by visiting www.ladykillers.co.uk and book tickets online or you can telephone the Gielgud Theatre on0844 482 5130.
THE CASINO AT THE EMPIRE
Next on my agenda, before heading for my hotel, was a stop at The Casino at the Empire where I found a touch of Vegas in the West End, restaurants, bars and of course a selection of gaming tables. For more information check out their website www.thecasinolsq.com or telephone 020 3014 1000
RADISSON EDWARDIAN HAMPSHIRE HOTEL
With a unique location on London’s Leicester Square this is a great hotel if you want to be in the heart of the action! Perfectly placed for London’s West End and other tourist hotspots, there’s even an official London theatre ticket kiosk right outside. This imposing five star hotel is something of a Leicester Square landmark. Once inside I found contemporary elegance and excellent service from the hotel reception staff and waiters in the stylish bar and restaurant. There’s 127 bedrooms richly decorated with beautiful fabrics and marble bathrooms. The luxury hotel’s 22 suites are all uniquely decorated offering luxury and a relaxing stay. In addition the suites offer superb panoramic views of the capital.
I was looking for a luxury stay to complete my West End experience and this hotel fitted the bill perfectly. You can have a look at the hotel and facilities on offer on the hotel website www.radissonedwardian.com or telephone 0207 839 9399
On my short break to London’s West End with a bit of careful planning I was able to fit quite a bit in. Short breaks away are an excellent way to see the many sights and experiences the UK has to offer. London’s West End is a great destination with even more to see and do than I’ve covered here. If you make the trip soon I’m sure you’ll be glad you did!