The Eccentric Morris and Co.
Off the beaten track, but worth the effort. Next to the Geffrye Museum in the East End, Morris and Co. has a beguiling collection of whatever takes the owner's fancy: copies of 16th-century Bohemian glass from $14, a wrought-iron French cocktails cabinet at $2,300, some seductive throws from $460, shiny up-to-the-minute Italian storage or classic modern furniture by the likes of Charles Eames, Ettore Sottsass, Philippe Starck, Arne Jacobsen . . . just get there. At 387 The Arches, Geffrye St.; 7739-8539.
—Lucia van der Post
"I just make things to look at," Gary Hume said after being selected as a Turner Prize finalist in 1996. "To really enjoy it, you should just look at it. It's a picture. It's not a manifesto." The 40-year-old's first well-known paintings were deadpan geometric images that resembled hospital doors; Charles Saatchi bought one in 1988, and Hume was Established. Since then he's flirted with Pop, minimalism, pattern-and-decoration, and portraiture, always with a refreshingly un-Sensation-alist point of view (though he was included in that landmark show). His latest works are at White Cube through October 26. At 48 Hoxton Sq., Hoxton; 7930-5373.
Fay Maschler Recommends: Club Gascon
Chef Pascal Aussignac and manager Vincent Labeyrie, both from southwestern France, took London by storm when they opened a restaurant next to the Smithfield meat market in late 1998 and dedicated it to their favorite ingredient, foie gras. Club Gascon's menu—divided into such categories as "The Salt Route," "Ocean," and "Kitchen Garden"—is designed to be enjoyed as a succession of small dishes that balance the humble and the luxurious. As much care is lavished on plumbing the depths of a humble celeriac for soup as on shirring goose liver into an extraordinary carpaccio. Continuing the regional theme: Irouléguy, Madiran, Marcillac, and Cahors wines. Dexterous wait staff weave through the crowded, handsome room. Lunch is a sea of business suits from the nearby City. Dinner, $125. $ At 57 West Smithfield; 7796-0600; fax 7796-0601.
"The best contemporary home store in London by far is SCP [135-139 Curtain Rd., Shoreditch, 7739-1869; also Selfridges' fourth floor, 400 Oxford St., 7318-3138]. You can order furniture by Cappellini, quirky little design and architecture books, and small objects like Jasper Morrison's Rosenthal porcelain. SCP played an important part in recent British design history because its owner, Sheridan Coakley, was one of the first manufacturers to put Morrison's furniture into production."
—ALICE RAWSTHORN, DIRECTOR, THE DESIGN MUSEUM
Tucked discreetly in a row of Huguenot terrace houses across from Old Spitalfields Market is Story, an amazingly beautiful mix of things old and new. Ann Shore and Lee Hollingworth—masters of the art of display, with "organic and recycled" their mantra—manage to elevate everyday objects to another level. Still lives of shells threaded on string, rolls of twine, and beeswax candles mingle with vintage jewelry, lampshades made from found beads and feathers, 20th-century modern furniture, vintage dresses hanging from twigs, primitive ethnic pieces, a little nature, and the odd bit of junk. Story's own line of biodynamic beauty products is the first in a range of holistic and no-doubt stylish products to stock a shop opening around the corner late this year or early next. From $5 for a small candle to about $7,000 for a pair of classic modern Poul Kjaerholm chairs. At 4 Wilkes St.; 7377-0313.
East End | The City | Canary Wharf
The Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch is one of London's finest small museums. A series of rooms within a cluster of 18th-century almshouses chronologically showcase English interiors from 1600 to the present. One highlight: a 1652 ebony cabinet of curiosities owned by diarist John Evelyn. A well-done modern extension opened three years ago, with a gallery and a stylish café overlooking five period gardens, Elizabethan to Regency. Kingsland Rd.; 7739-9893.
Fay Maschler Recommends: Aurora
As head chef at Richard Neat's namesake restaurant in Cannes, Warren Geraghty helped to confound the French by earning a Michelin star in less than a year. In June he took the helm at Aurora, in London's Great Eastern Hotel. Redolent of the heyday of the railways and once much appreciated by Sir John Betjeman, the imposing, marble-clad space topped by a stained-glass dome is at last a venue for suitably accomplished cooking—for example, Geraghty's red mullet with couscous and white-raisin jus; Challans duck with turnip confit and cromesquis (a bacon-wrapped, batter-fried potato croquette); and pain perdu with vanilla ice cream and caramelized apples. Dinner, $140. Liverpool St.; 7618-7000; fax 7618-7001.
On the Waterfront
OK, it's a long way to come for a view, but from Four Seasons Hotel Canary Wharf's surprisingly minimalist Thames-facing rooms you can see practically the entire curve of the river, punctuated by landmarks like a diminutive Big Ben. Perhaps because the hotel is out there on its own in this waterfront business district, its look is very unlike a typical Four Seasons. Case in point: the Alice in Wonderland velour chairs with high, curving sides in the lobby, a popular meeting spot. Rooms, $400-$2,315. At 46 Westferry Circus; 800-819-5053, tel/fax 7510-1998; www.fourseasons.com.
Hark, the Heralds
The College of Arms—peopled by an eccentric band of historians who on state occasions are seen in glorious scarlet livery and gold-embroidered tabards—dates back to the 12th century and began regulating English coats of arms in Richard III's reign. Today the Heralds provide the genealogical research necessary to establish an individual's "rights to arms." Or to issue new ones. You have to be of British descent, professionally qualified (a degree, for instance), "as well as what we would call a gent," says York Herald Henry Bedingfeld, adding, "It's a tricky definition, but we know one when we see one." For about $15,360, companies can buy their own instant pedigree: a crest devised by the artists painting away in the College's garrets. Queen Victoria St.; 7248-2762; www.college-of-arms.gov.uk.
Can't cope with forced separation from your beloved Mustang? Call the Classic Car Club (7609-2188; www.classiccarclub.co.uk) before you touch down at Heathrow, and they'll deliver to the airport (or any London address) one of 50 vintage vehicles, with or without chauffeur, from an Aston Martin Virage to a 1974 Jaguar roadster. A one-year overseas membership (including about 25 days of driving) costs $2,300.
Clerkenwell | Islington
Somewhere between the one-stem minimalism of Stephen Woodhams and the wildflowers favored by Nikki Tibbles fall Paula Pryke's floral creations, which consistently generate the kind of appreciation usually reserved for Tiffany-blue gift boxes. The look is modern (thick single-color arrangements, like bunches of peonies tied with ribbon) yet, with favorite flowers like ranunculus and zinnias, also English country garden. New for fall: roots, berries, hedgerow flowers, and roses and dahlias in browns, creams, and purples. Bunches from $55. At 20 Penton St., Islington; 7837-7336; www.paula-pryke-flowers.com.
Fay Maschler Recommends: Lola's
Hywel Jones, the much-praised chef at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel, made a surprise move this summer to the low-key Lola's, a bright loftlike space on the upper floor of a former tram shed opposite Camden Passage antiques market. Crisply run by Morfudd Richards, who learned her style at Le Caprice and The Ivy, the restaurant delivers an ideal balance of fine food and fair prices. Jones has a way with layering flavors and textures, as in his millefeuille of globe artichoke and asparagus, served with mesclun salad and gribiche (a classic French dressing of mayonnaise, capers, herbs, and chopped egg white); poached organic chicken served with braised leaves of romaine, herb gnocchi, baby leeks, and morels; and desserts like baked almond macaroons with a salad of spring berries and mint ice cream. Richards' passion for wine is apparent in the list and its tasting "flights." Dinner, $90. The Mall Building, 359 Upper St., Islington; 7359-1932; fax 7359-2209.
One of the few young New York art stars to show this season in London is Inka Essenhigh, whose phantasmagorical paintings—Sunday comics by way of Francis Bacon by way of Hieronymus Bosch—go on view October 29 at Victoria Miro's new Islington space. At 16 Wharf Rd.; 7336-8109.
Fay Maschler Recommends: A Conran Bistro: Almeida
The menu at Sir Terence Conran's latest outpost, which opened last December, is an encyclopedic list of bistro and brasserie classics, starting with soupe à l'oignon, ending with fromage blanc à la crème, and taking in snails, frogs' legs, coq au vin, and more along the way. Trolleys roll up with an array of charcuterie made in-house and, later, a tempting display of sweet tarts. Most important, it is all meticulously well prepared in the blue-and-white-tiled open kitchen by chefs trained at Orrery. Dinner, $110. At 30 Almeida St., Islington; 7354-4777; fax 7354-2777.
Q. WHERE CAN I FIND NO-NONSENSE BRITISH FOOD WITHOUT YE OLDE WORLDE POMP AND NONSENSE?
A. St. John (26 St. John St.; 7251-0848; $90), a bar and restaurant in Clerkenwell. This former smokehouse in the meatpacking district has been painted plain, clinical white, focusing attention on chef Fergus Henderson's extraordinary cooking. He uses only the best ingredients and prepares them with minimal fuss. Signature dishes include roast bone marrow served with parsley salad, but there are enough alternative choices (how about pea-and-pig's-ear soup?) if you think offal is spelled a-w-f-u-l.
To Market, To Market
London has seen an explosion of weekly farmers' markets, but the best of the breed is one of the oldest, Borough Market (Stoney St.). Held on Fridays (noon-6 p.m.) and Saturdays (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) under railway arches near London Bridge, just south of the City, it has the convivial neighborhood feel and look of French street markets but sells almost entirely British organic meats, breads, fish, fresh produce, and snacks.
In and Out of Fashion
"When I die I want to go to Vogue," photographer David Bailey once said—and his Birth of the Cool fashion and celebrity shots have graced the magazine's pages enough over the past four decades that he should know what he's talking about. Starting November 1, outtakes from his Vogue shoots, with never-published photographs by the likes of Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn, William Klein, Guy Bourdin, and Helmut Newton, are on view in Unseen Vogue: The Secret History of Fashion Photography, at the Design Museum. At 28 Shad Thames, Bermondsey; 7940-8790.
Museum Cafés With a View
Art feeds the soul, but galleries are increasingly acknowledging that the body also needs sustenance. At the Tate Modern's Café 7 (Bankside; 7887-8000; $75; above), the stunning view of the Thames and its north bank is enhanced by a short and to-the-point, basically English menu devised with the help of consummate restaurateur Jeremy King, who helped guide The Ivy and Le Caprice to preeminence. At The Portrait Restaurant (St. Martin's Pl.; 7306-0055; $75) in The National Portrait Gallery's new Ondaatje wing, the modern British menu is almost as mesmeric as the view of Admiral Nelson's bottom atop his column in Trafalgar Square. F.M. • In a plain room above the Design Museum is Sir Terence Conran's Blue Print Café (Butlers Wharf; 7378-7031; $90), with river views of the city toward Tower Bridge and modern European cooking—a magpie cuisine rather like contemporary American.
Q. IS THERE SOMEWHERE MODERN NEAR THE . . . ER . . . TATE MODERN?
A. Baltic (74 Blackfriars Rd.; 7928-1111; $70), a large white space that is itself reminiscent of an art museum, is ten minutes away. It has well-drilled service and a menu of (mostly) Polish dishes with influences from the Baltic states and Eastern Europe that will convert even those skeptical of cooking from this part of the world.
What's On at the National
The National Theatre has signed on some heavy hitters this season. Glenn Close makes her British stage debut as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, opening October 8 in the Lyttelton Theatre. Ralph Fiennes stars as Carl Jung in Christopher Hampton's new play, The Talking Cure, opening in December at the Cottesloe. South Bank; 7452-3000.
The newest addition to the Greater London art scene is Ranger's House in Blackheath. In June the treasures of the Wernher Collection, assembled a century ago by diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher, were put on permanent view here, in an 18th-century red-brick villa at the edge of Greenwich Park, by the family trust. Don't miss the Red Room, a small but opulent display of old masters, Gothic ivories, Renaissance bronzes, and objets d'art. Afterward, take a ten-minute walk through the park to the Royal Observatory and then down the hill to the National Maritime Museum and the historic Thames-side village of Greenwich. London's just a lovely half-hour boat ride away. Chesterfield Walk, Blackheath; 8853-0035.
Fay Maschler Recommends: Maitre D's to Know
JESUS ADORNO at Le Caprice (7629-2239)
PATRICK FISCHNALLER at Orrery (7616-8000)
GRAHAM WILLIAMS at Bibendum (7581-5817)
DOMINIQUE COROLLEUR at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's (7499-0099)
PIERRE BALDELLI at Drones (7235-9555)
"Through the years people have turned their backs to the river; now they're turning their faces to it. During the Victorian era it was a cesspool filled with rubbish. But now it's totally clean, filled with fish again, and people want to live along it. The Jubilee Walk, which runs from Richmond all the way to South Bank, is a great place for running or walking."
—SIR TERENCE CONRAN, DESIGNER
Dulwich Picture Gallery—England's first public art gallery, opened in 1817 in a building by Sir John Soane—is one of the capital's treasures. It houses a great collection of old masters, but this fall's exhibition on David Wilkie (through December 1) provides an additional reason to journey to the leafy south London suburb. Wilkie came from Scotland, and among the loans from private collections is his Highland Whisky-Still of 1820, depicting a discerning customer ordering a cask. Gallery Rd., Dulwich Village; 8693-5254.
Virgin Limobike (7930-0814; www.limobike.com) can be the key to beating London's traffic. Drivers arrive on Yamaha FJR 1300s (complete with hands-free phone and rider-passenger intercom) to weave through the city from airport to hotel carrying not just you but a medium-sized suitcase as well. From $30 per hour. • Or soar above it all with Air Harrods (1279-600-800; www.airharrods.com), whose helicopters (nine-passenger Sikorsky S76s and seven-passenger Agusta A109E Power Elites) bypass clogged, antiquated motorways, making Cornwall in an hour, Inverness in three. From $2,080 per hour.
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