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.
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.
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