AYESHA L. SETHI | 26 JULY, 2017
A Little Bit Of London's Old Charm
AYESHA L. SETHI
London is a particularly exciting city. It boasts a unique combination of history, modernity and culture which results in a city dotted with the best sightseeing, restaurants, clubs and shops. If there’s one area that stands out in this vibrant city, it is Mayfair -- one of the most expensive districts in the world. Mayfair isn’t special just because it’s expensive -- of course, that is part of the reason.
The area is home to London’s most sought after real estate, with luxury homes, corporate global offices, top hotels and embassies all boasting a Mayfair address. That aside, what makes Mayfair uniquely special is the quintessential ‘Mayfair Lifestyle’ -- one that is centred on a history of small, family run, single store businesses that were founded on the basis of offering exceptional quality and attention to detail. This includes some of the world’s best bespoke men’s tailors on Savile Row, antique stores and art galleries on Mount Street and Bond Street, London’s finest hotels such as the Dorchester, the Connaught and the Grosvenor House Hotel, and family run retail stores in the luxurious Burlington Arcade.
Over the years, as British aristocracy grappled with its global decline, Mayfair reinvented itself as it moved from being a largely residential area to London’s definitive commercial hub and luxury hub. As such, the area was not just able to hold on to its luxury status, but upped it a notch -- which perhaps explains why Mayfair’s prestigious status has been commemorated by being the most expensive property square on the London Monopoly board.
A trip to London, therefore, isn’t complete without spending a day in Mayfair, and soaking in the quintessential ‘Mayfair lifestyle.’ For many of us, a trip to London is expensive enough, let alone staying in Mayfair and leading the aforementioned lifestyle on a daily basis. Here’s a handy guide to getting the best of London’s most prestigious area, even if it’s just for a day (and on a budget).
Breakfast at Cafe de Pierre
One of the best things about being in Mayfair is people watching. While the area boasts a number of great breakfast spreads at some of the city’s finest hotels, most of these will likely set you back a significant amount. Start your day instead at Cafe de Pierre -- where a strong coffee and a breakfast quiche is pricey (hey, this is Mayfair, nothing comes cheap) but far more affordable than a five star hotel). The big glass windows overlooking the Ritz hotel on Piccadilly are ideal for people watching, making this the perfect location to start your Mayfair day.
Visit the Royal Academy of Arts
Walong along Piccadilly and treat yourself to an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. Located in a beautiful building in Burlington House, the museum plays host to exhibitions from across the world. Grab a coffee or tea in the museum cafe and take in the cultural atmosphere.
Spend some time people watching in Piccadilly Circus
For lunch, we’d recommend a sandwich from Pret a Manger, that you can dig into while sit on the steps of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain. This centrepiece of Piccadilly Circus was erected in 1892–1893 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Lord Shaftesbury, a Victorian politician, philanthropist and social reformer.
Or get lunch at a Mayfair institution
If you prefer something a little less hobo, try one of Mayfair’s classic restaurants. Our recommendation. Scott’s Restaurant on Mount Street.
Window shopping along Bond Street
Post lunch, take a stroll along Bond Street, and stop to look admiringly at the designer fare that you probably cannot afford. Interspersed amongst the big designer stores are local and international galleries -- many of which have some great art work on display. Take a photo with Churchill and Roosevelt, who sit on a bench between Old Bond and New Bond Street.
Tea at the Ritz? Too pricey… Tea at Fortnum & Mason
What’s a trip to London without high tea? While the classic Mayfair high tea is undoubtedly served at the Ritz hotel, the whole purpose of this guide is to give you cheaper alternatives. Our top spot for high tea in Mayfair (barring the Ritz) is Fortnum & Mason. An upmarket department store that was established in 1707, Fortnum & Mason is a delight. Stroll along the store and revel in the delicious teas, cookies and jams, and then make your way to the ‘parlour’ for high tea.
Mayfair has a lot to offer after dark. Some of the city’s best restaurants have a Mayfair address, and if there’s one street in Mayfair that is home to a large chunk of them, that has to be Berkeley Street. There’s Nobu, Sexy Fish, Park Chinois, Novikov, Bocconcino… something for everyone, or we mean, everyone who has very deep pockets.