Mr. Smith Goes to Notting Hill
Like the clothing that has made him the dean of British menswear design, Paul Smith's new shop, Westbourne House, blends the traditional (a white Victorian mansion) and the thoroughly modern—witness interiors complete with a frosted-glass-and-acrylic staircase, chairs covered in white snakeskin, and a plastic igloo cum children's changing room. Women's handbags and hats are shown in velvet-backed picture frames hung on the walls. This location also houses his first bespoke service; for shirts ($245-$305), he may match traditional fabrics with linings he designs in bright colors and whimsical prints. The results? Absolutely unique. At 122 Kensington Park Rd.; 7727-3553.
—G. Bruce Boyer
Summerill + Bishop
Pots and kettles, the sharpest knives, colanders, and muslins for the serious cook, but also irresistible decorative pieces, old French kitchen linens, quirky cutlery, and baskets for the dream kitchen. At 100 Portland Rd.; 7221-4566.
—Lucia van der Post
With friends (and clients) like Jemima Khan and Jade Jagger, it's not surprising that The Cross has developed a cult following. At Sam Robinson and Sarah Kean's small but influential shop, women's and children's clothes and accessories in an exciting but overwhelming variety of styles and patterns are displayed in the quirky high-low way the Brit fashion pack seems to favor. A keen eye, though, will spot well-regarded London names not found in the department stores, like Ann-Louise Roswald, whose Scandinavian-inspired floral fabrics are fashioned into winning skirts and tops ($300-$1,400). At 141 Portland Rd.; 7727-6760.
Bill Amberg learned his trade as a cobbler's and saddle-maker's apprentice, and he is an authority on the mysterious ways and techniques of leathermaking. He allows the material to speak for itself, eschewing ornament for a minimalist aesthetic. When you buy an Amberg bag, let it get beat up; the leather is so supple it will develop its own personality. His satchel, with a simple tasseled flap, is a modern classic that looks best worn across the body; the black calf leather feels soft and waxy, as if you've owned it for ages (from $290). Eye-popping purple suede lines pleated coin pouches and briefcases. His baby goods lined with sheepskin are so well-designed that it's clear Amberg has kids. At 10 Chepstow Rd.; 7727-3560.
Fish + Chips
Q. WHERE CAN I GET GREAT FISH-AND-CHIPS TAKEOUT?
A. Avoid most of the "chippies" you stumble across, as the quality of their food tends to vary from poor to mediocre. Instead, stop by the sleekly modern Fishbar (2-4 Fernhead Rd., just off Harrow Rd.; 8960-3434; $55), started by Mark Hicks, one of the chefs at The Ivy. The Fish! chain also does decent fish and chips, and you can eat in (branches all over London, including at 3b Belvedere Rd., South Bank; 7234-3333; $60).
Simon Finch Rare Books (61a Ledbury Rd.; 7792-3303), a gleaming white space in Notting Hill, specializes in modern first editions. The selection, edited as thoroughly as an Eliot poem, is an eclectic mix of cult classics and the greats. The staff are both passionate and knowledgeable about their wares. • Maggs Bros Ltd. $ (50 Berkeley Sq.; 7493-7160), founded in 1853, occupies a glorious 18th-century house in Mayfair. The selection is superb, but the staff are so patronizing that acquiring the rarest illuminated manuscript (a house specialty) is not always a pleasure.
Space Boudoir's limited-edition bed linens and lingerie are designed by co-owner Charlie Coe's sister, Emma Oldham. Pure silk-satin sheets are hand-embroidered with cherry blossoms; eiderdown quilts are accented with pompoms. The underwear is simple—a silk Georgette camisole with satin-ribbon ties ($135)—and the nightwear glamorous, as in Rita Hayworth-style dressing gowns ($305). Also here: bedroom accessories like acrylic vases by Cec LePage (the French-Canadian behind Karl Lagerfeld's Lagerfeld Femme perfume bottle). At 214 Westbourne Grove; 7229-6533.
Fay Maschler Recommends: Notting Hillbillies
Though Hugh Grant doesn't in fact live behind a blue door here, you just might bump into him, or someone equally starry, at the neighborhood's current hot restaurants: the revamped 192 $ (192 Kensington Park Rd.; 7229-0482; $90), the wine bar that grew into a restaurant, where the fusion cooking now known as modern British originated; pan-Asian E&O (14 Blenheim Crescent; 7229-5454; $90), where dark glasses are almost obligatory; and Electric Brasserie (191 Portobello Rd.; 7908-9696; $80), with its zinc-topped tables, undulating banquette, and menu inspired by New York's Balthazar. The brasserie opened in May next to the newly redone Electric Cinema, where you can watch films lying back in leather recliners and sipping martinis.
J&M Davidson is a true lifestyle destination, pulling together velvet bedthrows and cowhide rugs, just-so knits and separates, and the perfect handbag. There's always the slightest kick to a Davidson design: the classic jacket in apple-green corduroy ($610), a black fur-trimmed wool coat belted empire style. The handbag and luggage collection includes a leather saddlebag with fringed shoulder strap ($350) and an impeccable travel tote in black nylon with detachable shoulder strap ($960). A shop where details count. At 42 Ledbury Rd.; 7313-9532.
Back to the Future
Celia Birtwell was known in the '70s for the floral-print chiffons she created for fashion designer Ossie Clark and in the '80s for her tone-on-tone voiles silkscreened with stars, animals, or flowers that virtually replaced net curtains. Now she's caught the 21st century's retro fever. Birtwell's hand-drawn, whimsical, and colorful floral-print chiffons were dancing down Cacharel's spring runways. Interior designers are stocking up on her new line of naively drawn prints for the home on silk, velvet, linen, and cotton, the Mademoiselle Collection; just out is a romantic yet witty design featuring "Isabella," a girl at the opera, $60 per meter. At 71 Westbourne Park Rd.; 7221-0877.
"My all-time favorite spot is the Reel Poster Gallery [72 Westbourne Grove; 7727-4488], a fantastic new place devoted to beautifully preserved movie posters. I go there a lot. It's like walking into an Andy Warhol exhibit."
—SIR CHRISTOPHER FRAYLING, RECTOR, ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART
The Art of the Tie
Duchamp was started by a young designer who happened to be studying Marcel Duchamp and the Modernist art movement at the time. This fact is not irrelevant, since the neckwear, scarves, and cuff links here are wonderfully modern. Contemporary colors like fuchsia, cobalt, acid green, silver, bright peacock blue, royal purple, and tangerine combine in designs that would have made a French Modernist flush with pride. All the ties ($70-$100) are made in England on old-fashioned looms, which is the only way to weave all the color combinations—the Harlequin pattern, for example, incorporates 16 hues in its design. At 75 Ledbury Rd.; 7243-3970.
—G. B. B.
Vintage from Virginia
Long before Hollywood jumped on the vintage-fashion bandwagon, Virginia Bates was supplying designers John Galliano and Ralph Lauren with "inspiration pieces." In her Clarendon Cross shop, Virginia, French armoires spill over with choice 1880-1930s womenswear, always in mint condition, from chiffon dresses to accessories like crystal-encrusted clutch bags and couture stilettos. For regulars, she keeps back particular finds, like "fairy frocks for Nicole." Open Saturdays only, by appointment. At 98 Portland Rd.; 7727-9908.
Scent of a Woman
Amid the current vogue for bespoke perfumes, the most sought-after appointment in London is with "nose" Lyn Harris (responsible for the signature fragrances of Sadie Frost and Trudie Styler), whose uncanny olfactory memory keeps track of some 1,000 distinct scents. Operating out of a tiny studio on a Notting Hill side street, French-trained Harris charges $1,845 for a five- to six-hour consultation, a follow-up four weeks later for a final sampling, and a 30ml bottle of perfume. Upstairs is a collection of Miller Harris products, including bath essences and fragrances for men. At 14 Needham Rd.; 7221-1545.
Form Meets Function
Architects and art collectors stock their china cupboards from the finely edited Scandinavian, German, and Italian pieces at Vessel, Nadia Demetriou Ladas' gallery-shop devoted to the art of the vessel. Since opening three years ago, it has become the source in Britain for limited-edition art glass and one-of-a-kind ceramics. Last year she paired British designers like Nigel Coates with Murano masters in glass. Über-minimalist architect John Pawson launched his first home collection here. This year look for pieces by Lena Bergström for Orrefors, Tapio Wirkkala for Venini, and Ivan Baj for Arcade. At 114 Kensington Park Rd.; 7727-8001.
The I Boutique
Extraordinarily beautiful garments for high-octane glamour. Evening coats fashioned from Chinese silks, for instance, are $540 off the rack, $610 made to order. Antique Indian wraps start at $640, vintage caftans from North Africa at $810 (prices vary depending on the amount of beading). Also one-of-a-kind necklaces, pendants, bracelets made from costume jewelry, old stones, semiprecious stones, and beads start at $655. $ At 28 Chepstow Corner, Chepstow Place; 7243-9190.
—L. v. d. P.
Notting Hill | Bayswater
The Sporting Life
Sean Arnold Sporting Antiques is cluttered with memorabilia amassed over 30 years. Alongside antique billiard tables, curling stones, wooden propellers, and split-cane fishing rods are museum pieces like a feather golf ball and an Edwardian tennis dress. The selection of 3,000 golf clubs includes $18,445 hickory shafts. Arnold has also branched out into travel goods (Ralph Lauren comes here for the antique Vuitton trunks), cartridge cases (supplied for the film Gosford Park), and glorious age-stained globes. $ At 21-22 Chepstow Corner (off Westbourne Grove); 7221-2267.
Seeking Dim Sum
Q. WHERE CAN I FIND GREAT ONES?
A. Top Hong Kong chefs arriving here when the island returned to Chinese control upped the standard of London's already good dim sum lunches. For classics, Royal China has the indisputable best. The Bayswater branch (13 Queensway; 7221-2535; $75) looks like the inside of a black-lacquered jewelry box. Others are near Canary Wharf, in Baker Street, and near Lord's Cricket Ground. For the most glamorous setting, try Hakkasan (see Soho).
Hop a cab north from Notting Hill to The Water Monopoly, possibly the world's best bathroom store. Arrayed throughout a converted mews house are more than 200 antique and a few reproduction French and English tubs and basins: hand-finished Edwardian porcelain sinks ($3,075-$6,915), Empire and copper tubs ($7,685-$15,370), Victorian canopy baths ($14,600-$20,750). Like David Bowie and Philippe Starck (who bought pieces for their Manhattan apartments), you can have your choices shipped Stateside. By appointment only. $ At 16-18 Lonsdale Rd., Queen's Park; 7624-2636.
Books for Cooks
Owned by a French charcutier and frequented by the likes of Nigella Lawson, Books for Cooks is a doll's house of a store packed with a fabulously eclectic selection of food- and wine-related tomes—8,000 of them. The staff know the field thoroughly and will help track down out-of-print books. The kitchen tests a different recipe book each day and serves three courses at lunch. At 4 Blenheim Crescent; 7221-1992.
Fay Maschler Recommends: Not Your Average Pub Grub
Five or so years ago young chefs eager to go it alone invented the gastropub—London's version of the Paris bistro—as an inexpensive venue where they could serve a clientele happier without a restaurant's formality. Golborne House $ (36 Golborne Rd.; 8960-6260; $60), not far from the antiques stalls of Portobello Road, offers dishes like Thai squid salad with pea shoot and roasted peanuts; char-grilled monkfish with citrus couscous, rocket, and chermoula (a Moroccan spice mixture); and salmon spring rolls. At Hammersmith's Anglesea Arms $ (35 Wingate Rd.; 8749-1291; $70), award-winning chef Dan Evans responds instantly and creatively to the seasons. At Kilburn's Salusbury $ (50-52 Salusbury Rd.; 7328-3286; $75) an Italian menu is cooked by an Italian chef. In Shepherd's Bush, the vivacious blackboard menu changes twice a day at The Havelock Tavern $ (57 Masbro Rd.; 7603-5374; $60).
Kensington | Holland Park
"The Serpentine Gallery [Kensington Gardens; 7298-1515] is a fantastic collection of modern art. You take a walk in Hyde Park, and there it is. It's small, so you can go easily and take it all in. Fast art."
—VITTORIO RADICE, CEO OF SELFRIDGES
No artist's home (not even Julian Schnabel's) is more glamorous than Leighton House, the Orientalist fantasy that Victorian painter Frederic, Lord Leighton concocted for himself in Holland Park. Designed between 1864 and 1879 by George Aitchison, its lush interiors capture the romance of Venice and the Near East. Most dazzling of all is the soaring Arab Hall, a domed rotunda aglow with tiles and mosaics ancient and modern—an extravagant relic of the Aesthetic Movement and its hedonistic embrace of artful luxury. At 12 Holland Park Rd.; 7602-3316.
Only by following the flood of cashmere yoga pants will you find The Life Centre, a natural-health and fitness center tucked away down a dead-end street. Holland Park's well-heeled come here for their daily sun salutations—there are about 50 hours of walk-in yoga and other classes a week. The cultish reputation of some of the Complementary Therapy Clinic's 30 specialists—from one of the best massage therapists you will likely come across (Gerry Cummins) to cranial osteopaths, reflexologists, and a Chinese acupuncturist (Dr. Zhu)—can mean sitting on waiting lists, but it's well worth it. $ At 15 Edge St.; 7221-4602.
Robert Kime's textiles, lamps, and furniture have the faded grandeur of family heirlooms. The decorator began making what he couldn't find for clients, who include Prince Charles, the Duchess of Devonshire, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Though more country house than royal residence, his clients' rooms proclaim the real thing, not copies with a veneered style. His vast collection of antique textiles inspires his own gorgeous versions ($90-$515); handwoven and hand-screened, they have the patina, depth, and age of the originals. At 121a Kensington Church St.; 7229-0886.
Homes Away from Home
MILESTONE HOTEL AND APARTMENTS. Though the hotel's theme suites are gimmicky and the Kensington High Street location is noisy, the six two-bedroom apartments on a side street are another story. The decorating is tasteful, the kitchens are well appointed, and the service (with butlers) is professional. A nice touch: a room-service menu more flexible than most—it includes a post-theater picnic. Apartments, $3,320-$4,250 per week. At 1 Kensington Ct.; 800-223-6800, 7917-1000; fax 7917-1010; www.milestonehotel.com.
ATHENAEUM HOTEL & APARTMENTS. In five Edwardian townhouses on a side street just east of Hyde Park in Mayfair are 33 one- and two-bedroom apartments (some fairly small) offering a great location, a variety of styles from contemporary to English country house to a walk on the wild side in no. 13 (black and gold with leopard prints), plus use of the hotel's room service and spa and a grocery-shopping service. Apartments, $640-$930. At 116 Piccadilly; 800-335-3300, 7470-3557; fax 7493-1860; www.athenaeumhotel.com.
Decorator and fabric designer Nina Campbell has been creating elegant, comfortable rooms in the English country style for 30 years (Barbados' Villa Nova hotel, the revamp of The Connaught, the Duke and Duchess of York's home). A new design studio opened last year to showcase all of her products under one roof in a 6,000-square-foot loftlike space more Soho than Wandsworth. Her new, partly Deco-inspired furniture collection, plus paint, carpets, fabrics, wallpapers, and jewel-toned glass and china, are pure tradition with a contemporary twist. Bridge Studios, 318-326 Wandsworth Bridge Rd.; 7471-4270.
Just five miles southwest of the city is an enchanting piece of Italy. Chiswick House was built in the 18th century by the 3rd Earl of Burlington as a Palladian-style "temple to the arts." William Kent's Italianate gardens are a geometric delight of avenues and vistas, with splendid old trees, obelisks and statues, a temple, and a winding canal spanned by a pretty bridge. Burlington Lane, Chiswick; 8995-0508.
A mile farther west, the Marianne North Gallery is hidden among the trees and flowers of Kew Gardens. North, an intrepid Victorian lady traveler and self-taught artist, presented this collection of 832 oil paintings to Kew, along with the building in which they're displayed cheek by jowl. Having lived and traveled with her father until his death, she set off at 39, with only a reluctant maid, to see and paint the flora of the world. The results are not only beautiful but botanically correct. Enter Kew Gardens by the Victoria Gate; 8332-5000.
Den of Antiquity
David Grocott and Ian Lemon—pickers for Pimlico Road shops for 15 years and known for bringing humor to a usually too serious business—have joined five other new-generation dealers in a warehouse behind the antiques alley of the New King's Road, setting up shop as Core One. The space is a working gallery that reveals an English eccentricity for presentation. Style, not period, is of utmost importance to the group. "Something contemporary next to sixteenth-century makes an individual piece shine," says Grocott.
A mix of very good antiques and one-off things at Plinth, his and Lemon's shop, might include a carved osprey in bleached limewood by royal household carver Ian Brennan, a Victorian cast-iron bathtub, or a pair of dramatically overscaled antique wing chairs in the original leather. Annabella and David Ford deal in marvelous mirrors, architectural elements, and lighting with brilliant patinas such as silverleaf and verdigris. Will Fisher and Sean Crean specialize in new and period chimney pieces. The Quiet Man sells Chinese and Southeast Asian furniture and art. And Dean's Antiques has large-scale decorative antiques of the moment: Venetian and silverleafed mirrors, stone column lamps. Joe Hirschhorn, of Roderic Haugh Antiques, which specializes in big-scale mid-18th- to mid-19th-century country-house furniture, says, "Objects are important documents of history that tell a story, and we are the guardians." Core One is in the Gasworks building on Michael Road (7371-7422).
A seductive collection of beautiful antiques: traditional red-and-white French kitchen linens, monogrammed cloths, exquisite old glass, great urns, lacquerware and Kangxi porcelain from China, fourposter beds, grandiose commodes. Not cheap but quite irresistible. At 574-580 King's Rd.; 7736-2917.
—L. v. d. P.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.