Monday, April 16, 2012

London: Part Two

Up betimes. Dressed fast and went down to breakfast because I wanted to snap a few photos of the lovely side room off the hotel restaurant. My God, is it ever laid-back, comfortable and sexy. Low seating, ancient floorboards, soft velvet upholstery -- I swear your voice involuntarily becomes lower and throatier.
(Dean Street Townhouse restaurant. All photos by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti.)

I'm obviously not the only one who loves this place. Within 30 minutes, the place was packed. Phrases like "Did you see Damian last night?", "They're shooting in Scotland..."and "It's up for the Booker" wafted through the air.

(That's my husband behind the newspaper, trying very hard to act like he's never seen me before.)

High on Earl Grey tea, I suggested we take a winding stroll through Soho and Bloomsbury with the intention of eventually ending up at the British Museum.

We played my fool-proof "How To Turn Your Child Onto Museums, Guaranteed" game (read about it HERE) and spent a lovely hour and a half wandering from gallery to gallery as Luca hunted for his artworks.

I found a beautiful fragment of Roman-era needlework with exactly the same color palette as the Dean Street Townhouse restaurant (see top photos). Classic threads of continuity, 2000 years apart -- how cool is that?

And check out this Roman capelet made of gold. Isn't it so Alexander McQueen? (Still can't get over the loss.) I'd love a version in woven leather.

After that, it was a quick walk over to The Society Club, one of my favorite new spots in London.

Part independent bookstore, part art space and part 21st century salon, it's run by literary agent Carrie Kania and interior designer Babette Kulik. (Read more about it HERE and HERE.)

Inside, they sell everything from super-affordable Coronation ware to vintage books to limited edition punk rock photographs to homemade jams to organic dog food.

Hanging out is encouraged. A communal table runs the length of the room, perfect for chatting with like-minded neighbors or nibbling on cake, crumpets and cookies while you browse.

On the left, one of the shop's three mascots. On the right, one of the über-cute staff -- don't you love his WWI medal (inherited from a relative) and the way he's tucked his Tube ticket into his hat band? And look, he's blushing.

Check their website for upcoming events.

Then it was Luca's choice of activity and off we sped to the Buckingham Palace Mews. Yes, this is the Queen's golden carriage. It doesn't fit through the doors, so they have to take down the wall whenever she wants to use it.

While the menfolk marvelled over four-wheeled vehicles...

...I found it hard to get past the glossy glamour of the stable doors. Who says dark peacock blue can't be The New Neutral?

You know you're in a civilized country when you find yourself picking up design tips from the horses. (Wouldn't those tiles make for a great kitchen backsplash? Add dark blue shelving, some antique brass fittings, a pale cream wall color and...done.)

For dinner, Piero surprised me by taking me to a restaurant he spotted on a walk the day before. "I found a place I think you'll like, " he told me.
(Andrew Edmunds Restaurant. Info HERE.)

He was right. Situated in a 17th century townhouse, the tiny space had a charming Hogarthian vibe and -- as we later discovered -- is considered one of London's top 10 romantic restaurants. (I'm going to quickly fast-forward over the fact that my son -- see him, slumped in the chair? -- fell into a black hole once he saw the eclectic menu.)

Piero ordered grilled octopus and I had cauliflower fritters. (And the waitstaff very kindly whipped Luca up a delicious plate of pasta.) Note to oenophiles: the wine list is extensive, global and reasonably-priced -- my husband was one happy camper.

Note: Reservations are strongly encouraged.
(Food & Wine review HERE.)

Over the next few days, there were more museums, more restaurants and many, many strolls and perambulations through the streets. A few highlights below:

1. Cecil Court, a tiny little Victorian thoroughfare filled with high-end print shops, antiquarian bookstores, maps and other interesting antiques.

2. Liberty, as always. This Emma Bridgewater mug in honor of the Queen's Golden Jubilee is pretty great.
(Available HERE.)

And I fell in love with this range of Montezuma chocolate they were selling on the ground floor.
(Available in the U.S. HERE.)

And I told Piero and Luca that I didn't buy one.
But I did.
And I hid it in my suitcase and then in my desk drawer and ate it all by myself and haven't told anyone until right this minute (sorry, Piero).
(Highly recommended. Available HERE.)

3. Berry Brothers & Rudd. The oldest wine and spirit merchant in London, dating from 1698.

They have a few wines and spirits for sale on the premises (their No. 3 London Dry Gin I like even better than Hendricks), but mostly it's the kind of place where you make a yearly appointment with one of the wine staff to talk about how many cases you'll need to restock all of your estates.

Even though I was merely there to browse, the staff couldn't have been kinder. This lovely young woman led me over to a stack of ledgers and told me that before personal scales were commonplace, the only way their regular customers could find out what they weighed was to hop on the ones here.

She showed me the massive scale used to weigh wine, spirits, coffee, and London's upper class, along with an actual 19th century ledger -- look closely and you can make out the fluctuating girth of one Mr. P. A. Vans Agnew Esquire.

4. Primrose Hill. Just north of Regents Park, this charming and picturesque little neighborhood has always been a favorite of mine.

One afternoon we walked along the canal as the light was fading...

...and stopped at a lovely little pub called The Albert for dinner.

The libations were tasty, the food a gastronome's dream and the clientele charismatic.

Up Next: London, Part Three: The Country Walk


Anonymous said...

This post makes me want to go to London today. I'm always in and out of there too fast!

Sunday Taylor said...

Lisa, what a great time you had in London! This post makes me want to be there and go to all the neighborhoods you described. I love that mug for the Queen and just might have to order it. Your hotel looks lovely, and what great colors in the Queen's stables and car museum. I will be referring back to this post next time we go to London. As usual you have the best travel tips. Can't wait to see what you have in store for us next with your "country walk"!
xx Sunday

Lily said...

I love these charming travel sketches you have penned/tapped out... (Up betimes is the best opening phrase!) I felt like the flower on your lapel as you strode through your London adventures, you've given us such an intimate, in technicolor view! And The Society Club looks too fabulous!
God Save Bloomsbury!

aurora raby said...

Lisa, I am so pleased that you appreciated this gem in London. I recommended Dennis Severs house in Folgate Street to you some time ago when I first started following your blog.

Today's post interested me a great deal . I am sure you know that Beau Brummell and Lord Byron were regularly weighed in at this wine merchants and there records state that Lord B ...a notorious dieter weighed in at 13st 6lbs in 1806 then by 1811 he weighed in at less than 9 stone.

Fascinating...I look forward to each new post but have especially enjoyed these recent London posts as I adore this city too !

Best Wishes

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

kathy peck:
So glad you liked the post.

Sunday Taylor:
The mug for the Queen is great. There is also one by Burleigh that I bought for myself that's pretty great "God Bless Our Queen" -- they sell it at Fortnum's and Liberty. xx

Lily: My husband just asked me what "Up betimes" meant. I told him ABL readers would know. :) You would LOVE the Society Club. Babette and Carrie are so fun and cool. xx

Aurora Raby:
So it's YOU I have to thank for Dennis Severs' House! Thank you, thank you! You are proof positive on how this blog has changed my life: I have discovered so many amazing things through all of my readers.

And no, I did NOT know that Beau Brummell and Lord Byron were weighed at Berry Brothers -- I would love to have seen Byron's entries.

With gratitude and affection,

Jessica Thor-Miller said...

Lisa -

There is absolutely no possible way I can absorb all of this in one sitting so my comment is just upon first blush...but thank you because now I have inspiration for my kitchen! Who knew it would come from well-appointed horse stalls!


louise said...

I work in central London but I never get to see an of this. A great tour and some new places I must seek out.

Aging Ophelia said...

What a fantastic trip you've given me-- thank you, thank you for the post! It's better than an episode of Black Books with a bottle of red.

Peace, Mari

shiree segerstrom said...

Great post Lisa. Thank you for continuing to share your England holiday. Luca is a great looking kid! Shiree'

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Where's my passport, Where's my passport???
Oh Lord, I do so love this city!
And I'd want my capelet in feathers.

Loretta a/k/a Mrs. Pom said...

I am swooning! Printing out your post for when I get there (eventually!). Cannot wait for Part Three.

Hels said...

*sighs happily*.

Independent bookstore, art spaces, fashion salons, Hogarthian tea rooms, royal carriages, print shops, wine merchants and great museums... that is what it is all about!

By the way, I use the Booker nominated list as my fiction guide for the next year. I never get past the final nominations, but I am almost always impressed.

kim at northerncalstyle. said...

Beautiful post. Really enjoy the design elements as well as the virtual tour! What a great year to visit. So wish I could go during the jubilee year. Love Liberty and all it's decorations! My very favorite store on the planet. The parts with Lucca are so cute. I cracked up about the black hole at dinner. I have been there! Thanks for giving me more reasons to go back to London!


Jeanne Henriques said...

Lisa...We have two months left in London before moving to Vietnam. We have lived here for two years and I smiled through this post, for all the things I recognised and all the things I still need to see. Thank you!
Jeanne xx

Helen James said...

I WANT TO HOP ON A PLANE RIGHT NOW!!! you see life through a beautiful and creative lens . thanks for letting us peer through too x

Laurent said...

sensationally generous and vivid presentation, with great humour - captivating picture of the child with postcards, great treasures of that age

Sharron said...

Thank you for the lovely magic carpet ride through your trip to London! Thoroughly enjoyed it!

Emily said...

Blue velvet chairs, gold caplets, vintage books, cauliflower fritters, and pudding bars......ahhhh, this post deserves a full second read!

Chic Delights said...

Love all of the pictures! So inspiring! These pictures made me excited for my trip to London this week. I will try to visit some of them. But will definitely buy those chocolates at Liberty! Thanks for sharing! :) said...

so u did get the chocolates! wonderful trip & post

Kate @ Savour Fare said...

Oh, I went to Andrew Edmunds on my honeymoon! Glad it's still there. Next time you're in London you have to eat at the Harwood Arms in Fulham. Yes, it's Fulham, but if you're staying in South Ken it's 2 stops on the District Line. Their kids menu is lamb. And I had the most amazing Guinea Hen ever. And Gooseberry Doughnuts with Regents Park Honey Cream.

helen tilston said...

Hello Lisa

You are an excellent traveller and no doubt a wonderful ambassador for the USA. You generous artistic nature, curious mind and sense of humour all contribute and give and in return you find the essence of the place and its people.

I am jotting down some names and places to my London book.

I can hardly contain myself till I read your next post.

With fondness

Helen xx

Nancy // and while we are here said...

Thank you so much for sharing your London impressions! I'm totally in love with the pictures you shot from the Dean Street Townhouse restaurant!

Wonderful. Just wonderful.

PS: And I laughed a lot about your chocolate confession :)

Cathi said...

Loving your London posts! We have been going to London yearly and absolutely love it! Thanks to you, I have a few new interesting places to visit. xxoo

Laura said...

This is such a wonderfully idiosyncratic and evocative travelog. Love love LOVE it!

Serenknitity said...

Thanks, Lisa, for making me more in love with my city. I'm a London born (Elephant and Castle, mate) and your post was wonderful. I often want to grab tourists queuing outside Madame Tussauds and say 'you're not getting the best, the real deal'. Maybe I'll just print out a few of your posts and thrust them into their hands!

I love Cecil Court, sadly now that area is being gobbled up by the multiples and second hand bookshops are losing. I had a huge row with a boyfriend at Andrew Edmunds. We made up, and he's now my husband of 15 years, but we're scared to go back.

Every Saturday we leave the kids asleep and sneak out for breakfast - no traffic, back before they wake up. We love Charlotte Street Hotel, Riding House Cafe, and Mount Street Deli. And the Patisserie Valerie in Soho, and Marylebone. There, something for your next trip!

Can't wait to read about your country walk.
PS We went to your neck of the woods 2 years ago, and feel nostalgia whenever Venice Beach or Santa Monica are shown in an MTV video (and ye gods, when aren't they?).

Paula said...

Wow, wow, wow - what a visual feast! An amazing post, and that's coming from a Londoner (albeit now living in Norfolk!) You made me laugh about the sexy velvety side room at Dean Street, and it's so true - when I went there I did indeed begin to drape myself rather than my normal tentative 'perch' and I'm sure that my throat emitted an Eartha Kitt like purr - it's the sort of place that makes me order things like 'whiskey' - just like a grown up...(I'm 42). Great post. Great blog. LOVE your take on things.

P. M. Doolan said...

Ah, can one ever tire of London?

cesera said...

Dear ,

It is a wonderfull exhibition,"The Steins Collect;Matisse,Picasso,Cezanne and the Parisian Avant Garde" .

And what a pleasure to see the portrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira .Beside Tchelitchew and Balthus .
And you had an interesting article in Appollo London Revew about .And also in Artes Magazine from San Francisco where the exhibition was before .
And also the Preface Gertrude Stein wrote for his first exhibition in the Galerie Roquepine in Paris on 1945 .
Where we can read Gertrude Stein writing Riba-Rovira "will go farther than Cezanne...will succeed in where Picasso failed...I am fascinated " by Riba-Rovira Gertrude Stein tells us .

And you are you also fascinated indeed as Gertrude Stein ?

But Gertrude Stein spoke also in this same document about Matisse and Juan Gris .And we learn Riba-Rovira went each week in Gertrude Stein's saloon rue Christine .
With Edward Burns and Carl Van Vechten we can know Riba-Rovira did others portraits of Gertrude Stein .

But we do not know where they are ;and you do you know perhaps ?

With this wonderful portrait we do not forget it is the last time Gertrude Stein sat for an artist who is Riba-Rovira .

This exhibition presents us a world success with this last painting portrait before she died .

Both ,it is one of the last text where she gives her last art vision .As a light over that exhibition now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York .

Coming from San Francisco "Seeing five stories" to Washington and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York for our pleasure .

And the must is to see for the first time in the same place portraits by Picasso, Picabia, Riba-Rovira, Tall-Coat, Valloton .

You have the translate of Gertrude Stein's Riba-Rovira Preface on english Gertrude Stein's page on Wikipedia and in the catalog of this exhibition you can see in first place the mention of this portrait .And also other pictures Gertrude Stein bought him .

And you have another place where you can see now Riba-Rovira's works it is an exhibition in Valencia in Spain "Homenage a Gertrude Stein" by Riba-Rovira in Galleria Muro ,if you like art ...


EMK said...

I was in London last summer and we stayed at the Soho Hotel(equally as chic and cozy). We also dined at the Dean Street everything about your trip and was fondly reminded of how fantastic London is :)
thank you and keep it comin'!

Jessica said...

I used to work at The Albert! I was so thrilled and surprised to see it here and sent the post to the Campbell family who own the pub. You captured it (and Pip the dog) so beautifully. Primrose Hill is a little slice of heaven.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely restaurant! I'd go to London only to visit this place)

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