There’s simply no question that you’re far from short of fantastic things to see, do and, well, buy in the Chelsea area, but during your stay in the vicinity (perhaps at, say, the San Domenico hotel London), you’ll doubtless want to take a look at what the rest of the centre of town has to offer – for instance, the retail heaven offered by the Mayfair-West End area…
Fortnum & Mason
(181 Piccadilly W1A 1ER; open: 10am-8pm Monday-Saturday; 12noon-6pm Sunday)
One of the capital’s oldest and most renowned retail outlets, Fortnum & Mason’s been trading now for more than 300 years. It’s an historic department store that retains its age-old reputation for pre-war gentility, in addition to beguiling gilded furnishings and exquisitely wrapped produce – all in all then, serving up a hugely appeal anachronism in today’s modern age of convenience. Quintessentially English, it’s still the purveyor of food and wine to the British Royal Family.
(400 Oxford Street W1U 1AB; open: 9am-10pm Monday-Saturday, 11.30am-6pm Sunday)
Not just one of the world’s most renowned, respected and celebrated department stores, Selfridges also possesses a fascinating back-story that ensures a visit to this (today) 21st Century mecca for the very best of consumerism and extraordinary high-quality goods is more than worth one’s while.
Indeed, opened in 1909 with the maxim ’shopping should be fun’ by its founder, the US entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge, the store quickly established a reputation as a somewhat hands-on, theatrical spectacle space as much as a supreme shopping destination – one that endures to this day. For instance, customers were amazed and attracted by visiting scientific exhibits, including the legendary John Logie Baird making the first public demonstration of television on the store’s first floor in 1925.
(Regent Street W1B 5AH; open: 10am-9pm Monday-Saturday, 11.30am-6pm Sunday)
Ever since its opening way back in 1875, this exquisite department store has carved out and maintained its own unique niche as a major retail outlet with an esteemed, iconic association with design. Just the mere mention of a ‘Liberty print’ to almost anyone and it instantly conjures up for them a visual image of beautiful shapes, colours and textures.
Located in a stunning, timber-framed, Tudor revival building just off Regent Street in the very heart of the West End shopping district, the store (and its brand) is as much about the distinctive style of its surroundings as it is the fabulously beautiful wares located within; in fact, the two seem to have some sort of symbiotic relationship. Blessed inside with small, intimate staircases, intricately-designed elevators, wonderful wooden balconies and glorious glass atriums, it’s simply one of the most enchanting and ‘feel-good feeling’-encouraging places to shop in the world.
(St Christopher’s Place W1U 1AY; open: 7.30am-11.30pm Monday-Friday; 9am-11.30pm Saturday; 9am-10.30pm Sunday)
Finally, after starting out at one of the 5 star hotels in London and completing a hard morning or afternoon’s worth of serious shopping in the Mayfair-West End district, you’ll be in need of some sustenance and refuelling. And, as you’re spoiling yourself already, where on earth better than at the St Christopher’s Place branch of Carluccio’s? A delightful restaurant that doubles as a deli vending perfect pastas and produce, its menus offer an irresistible soupcon of superior Italian cooking.
Originated by the chef Antonio Carluccio back in the early 1980s with his original Neal Street restaurant in the Covent Garden area (don’t bother looking for it; it’s sadly long gone), the Carluccio outlets are all about providing an unbeatable combination of great food and simple cooking. His former wife Priscilla (who just happens to be sister to Sir Terence Conran) took on chef Carluccio’s passion and transformed the business into the highly successful chain it is today; so much so she sold it in 2005 for a cool £10 million.