London's Covent Garden Neighborhood Has a New Look

Shomos Uddin/Getty Images

The central London neighborhood where you’ve always gone for theater—and not much else—is polishing up its act.

London's Covent Garden has long lured tourists for its central location, village-like feel, and abundance of theater, opera, and ballet venues. But over time, the influx of chain stores earned it a somewhat tarnished reputation among locals. Now with the arrival of high-concept—and high-end—retail and restaurant openings on Floral Street and the surrounding lanes, change is afoot. The neighborhood has even caught the eye of Robert de Niro, who plans to open a hotel there next year.

Henrietta Hotel

The Experimental Group, which popularized the stylish speakeasy with spots like Prescription Cocktail Club in Paris, opened this hotel—its first in London—last spring. Situated within an Anglo-Dutch building and an adjacent townhouse that once housed George Orwell and John le Carré’s publishing firm, the 18 rooms showcase an eclectic mix of Art Deco furniture, plush handcrafted headboards, and ornate bathrooms. The cocktails at the restaurant are named for characters from the publisher’s books, and the food spotlights chef Ollie Dabbous’s French-leaning, seasonal cooking. Rooms from $305.


Courtesy Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries

Foodies and flower obsessives who have long made the pilgrimage to the original location—a Victorian greenhouse in Richmond, an hour from central London—now have a closer outpost of the cult-favorite florist-slash-restaurant. The
King Street shop features rustic blooms and covetable items such as earthenware by British designer Felicity Jones. It recently launched two restaurants in the adjoining archway: The Petersham serves upmarket Italian fare while La Goccia focuses on small plates.

Kent & Curwen

The storied brand started out in the ’30s selling ties to universities such as Oxford and Cambridge and dressing Hollywood Cricket Club members like Errol Flynn and Laurence Olivier. Since taking it over in 2016, creative director Daniel Kearns and business partner David Beckham have drawn on the label’s history with sports-inspired pieces and everyday basics. The Covent Garden store, which evokes an old-fashioned gym, pays tribute to the building’s 1800s heritage as a boys’ school.

Cora Pearl

British restaurant Kitty Fisher’s gained critical acclaim with its old-world cooking when it opened in Mayfair in 2014. The team’s new restaurant—also named after a renowned courtesan—debuted in April on Henrietta Street in an intimate two-floor space. The chef cut his teeth at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s farm-to-table spot River Cottage, so expect ambitious plates such as corn with chanterelles, egg yolk, and smoked leeks.


Karel Balas

The Shop at Bluebird

This spring, John and Belle Robinson’s beloved concept shop in Chelsea relocated to a three-floor townhouse on Floral Street. A mix of established and upcoming labels—from British designer Peter Pilotto, known for his prints, to the playful streetwear-inspired label MSGM—sit alongside homewares brands like Tom Dixon and Fornasetti. A second-floor restaurant and terrace will open this summer.

TD Tom Davies

With their expert sense for facial contours and an almost medical approach to choosing glasses, the in-house optometrists at this eyewear boutique perform three-hour consultations to study everything from ear position to eyelash length. Materials are sourced from around the globe, including acetate from Japan and horn from Namibia. Bespoke frames take at
least two weeks to complete. From $320.


Courtesy Sonos

Sonos

The California-based home-audio company’s second store in the world combines rotating exhibitions, such as photographs of David Bowie, with an underground space that has two listening rooms. Resembling mini-apartments, with palm-tree-print and Memphis-style wallpaper, each is set up to show off the brand’s latest products, including Sonos One, the first smart speaker to feature Amazon’s Alexa voice-controlled assistant.

Tom Ford

This tech-forward boutique offers makeup consultations in which customers are filmed before a digital mirror. They can review the results at home alongside suggested products. The Kubrickesque space, filled with floating marble counters and light halos, stocks the full range of fragrances and makeup.


Greg Funnell

Oystermen

This tiny seafood restaurant started two years ago as a pop-up oyster bar. The rustic permanent spot serves British-sourced bivalves, including citrusy Porthilly Rocks from Cornwall and earthy Maldon Kumamotos from Essex, along with dishes like squid ink risotto and braised Dorset cuttlefish with harissa and samphire.

Joe Allen

The restaurant, bar, and late-night piano lounge, where celebs such as Dame Judi Dench and Sir Rod Stewart congregated, had been one of the area’s most legendary hangouts. (It opened in 1977.) Then Robert de Niro swooped in to make way for his new hotel. Not to be deterred, the owners transferred the restaurant brick by brick 27 yards away to Burleigh Street last May.