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City Guide March 27th, 2024

The Ultimate Guide To London For The Man Of Style

City Guide March 27th, 2024
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London Calling…

Yes, I was there, too. And ya know what they said? Well, some of it was true…

At the vanguard of yet another British musical cultural revolution The Clash stood tall, later releasing “London Calling” in 1979, their eponymous double album. Penned by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, the opening track decried the Cold War and an impending meltdown. Yet we all went to The Smoke.

London called me too, it still does.

My experiences of the capital are many and varied. One thing is clear—no two visits are the same, the same should be true for you. With this in mind it’s difficult to know where to start. I’ve long thrown away the pocket tube map. I now tread with abandon ‘the streets paved with gold’, or should that be the streets that lead me to gold? Here’s a nugget or two…

Is there a world capital? Well, London will be in that conversation at least. A city that has it all and more, in spades. With 170 museums, 15000 eateries, 3500 pubs, 40,0000 shops, and 26 major street markets, I can’t even begin to scratch the surface in just a few words.  

Living barely an hour away from my capital city, I’ve had all kinds of London times, though the best ones are always when I find those hidden places in the sweet spot between ‘Then and Now’. London is the city that never stands still. She forever evolves, absorbing the delights of diversity and progression whilst proudly wearing her past on her sleeve.

The result is a glorious, quintessential Englishness with both a nod to our history and our future too. This makes her the perfect place for any Gentleman to while away the days. I urge caution though, you’ll have to return; be sure to leave room for the unplanned and unexpected, London is rather good at surprises…

Where To Shop  

Now, it depends where you’re at in terms of how you wear your clothes, though if understated elegance is your bag, a tip of your hat to Beau Brummell will start the day well. We’re in the ‘Golden Square Mile of Menswear’, stretching from here to Savile Row. A seasoned visitor knows what he likes and subsequently knows where he shall go. If this is your maiden voyage, take your time and take it all in…

Turnball & Asser Shirtmakers Luxury shop window sign on Jermyn Street in London

Jermyn Street

Jermyn Street is a customary destination for those looking for traditional high quality gentlemen’s clothing — and with good reason. There’s an air of elegance and distinction for which it has been well known for over 300 years. Should a well-crafted shirt and elegant necktie be on the list, I’d drop in to Turnbull & Asser. You know, if it’s good enough for The King…

Menswear royalty would tempt me to journey to Hackett on the off-chance of seeing the Mr. Jeremy Hackett. Should I fall lucky I may tempt him with a short stroll to Davidoff where his invaluable advice would lead to an expertly chosen cigar.

For a bespoke shoe enquiry Foster & Son shall be the place to go. Be mindful though of doing your homework. Appreciate in advance their wares, align that with your eye and your requirements, then pre-book your appointment for a journey to behold.

Piccadilly Arcade

Piccadilly Arcade links Piccadilly and Jermyn Street where you’ll find the Statue of Beau Brummell, tip him the wink and walk through the Grade II listed arcade. Favorite haunts include Santa Maria Novella, one of the oldest pharmacies in the world established in 1612. More so now having just returned from Florence, I love that a scent was originally crafted by Dominican Friars as a remedy, I feel better already.

The statue of George Bryan “Beau” Brummell, an arbiter of fashion in Regency England at the entrance of Piccadilly Arcade in Mayfair.

The oldest tenants in situ here, and perhaps one of the smallest boutiques, Budd Shirtmakers make everything well. Their shop could be called small, but it’s also a Tardis housing the finest shirts, nightwear and accessories. For all our menswear “due care and attention” duties, The Valet is a ‘shoe-in’. As is New & Lingwood for that robe you’ve always wanted. What more can a man ask for?

Burlington Arcade

Established in 1819, is cited as the first department store in London. Comprising a pretty avenue of glass fronted shops, the opulence is further heightened by the protection of The Beadles, London’s smallest and oldest police force. “Good morning, Sir”. Dressed impeccably in traditional uniform, these officers, originally commissioned to guard the treasures offered by the finest boutiques in England, epitomize the pomp which London does so well.

The Beadles at Burlington Arcade in London.

It is a must for any gentleman in search of the best accoutrements. For me it’s E. Marinella and Penhaligon’s for hand printed silks and sophisticated scents, both legitimately purchased of course. I don’t much fancy being chased by a Beadle . . .

Savile Row

Savile Row, conjures up many notions, images and memories. Some lived, some burned in to the psyche (see The Beatles rooftop performance at No. 3). What springs to mind for you though? Is it the world’s ‘most famous bespoke street’ influencing — in the truest sense of the word — the way gentlemen dress? Probably.

Steeped in history, a veritable who’s who of English heritage encompassing traditional military-inspired cuts to more contemporary haberdashers. House styles, signature pieces, and those that commission them fill our menswear media world yet we all have the opportunity to stride out down The Row and take from it what we will.

I remember my first trip not so fondly. I rushed from one end to the other so as not to look conspicuous, perhaps daunted by history and reputation. I later learned my folly, as one thing we perhaps all have in common is a love for the well-made, considered garment, be that bespoke, made to measure, or off the rail.

With that in mind, should I be going tomorrow with you, we’d be visiting Norton & Sons in the first instance. Neat shoulders and a shaped waist, just beautiful. Simple and classic is always a great investment.

If you’d allow, we’d next drop in to Henry Poole & Co, in any regard it’s a ‘wonderful walk-in’. Once we’ve caught our breath I’ll try to regale you with stories of their origins stitching Napoleonic War military uniforms.

This will lead me to detailing my first purchase; a wonderful burgundy necktie with a rather delightful crest, still a favorite today. As a memento of the day I may buy another in green, however, the first real necktie I bought — which I still wear — was from Drake’s, once around the corner on Clifford Street, now at 9 Savile Row. Nothing epitomizes more how classic tailoring evolves than this most famous haberdasher, for every man for any occasion.

Liberty

Yes of course, you can and probably will go to Harrods, Selfridges, and the likes. I’m going to Liberty. Founded in 1875, this beacon was the brainchild of Arthur Lasenby Liberty, who purchased the original Regent Street location to showcase fabrics and textiles from the four corners of the world.

With an insatiable social appetite for the exotic, business boomed, and the building as it stands today was opened in 1924, constructed from the timber of two enormous battle ships. I marvel at the glorious staircases every time, as I do the sweet sound of an English shoe on each creaky step. Built to a specific atrium design, another wonder, each floor comprises a central balcony surrounded by smaller rooms, each housing different treasure. Famed for its unique prints, this is the perfect place for all things silk showcasing eponymous Liberty patterns; it is not to be missed, if only for the architecture alone.

Couple all this with the Wild at Heart Florists at the main entrance to the store on Great Marlborough Street and you’re in heaven. I’d have ordered a bouquet, or my precious national flower on arrival and pick it up as I leave. We’ll meet for that coffee later and share stories of our respective visits, you with a chocolate Harrods Bear, me with a single red rose.

Hornets of Kensington

It’s no secret I love all things menswear, always have. Unwittingly drilled in to me, from an early age, the legacy of my forebears loom large:

  • ‘Attention to detail’
  • ‘Buy once, buy well’
  • ‘You can tell a man by his shoes and his wristwatch’

All this and more enhances a trip to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. I’ll march through Hyde Park, stroll through Kensington Gardens and take in the glorious Albert Memorial. Which is as breathtaking as its namesake, also on our way, The Royal Albert Hall. Our destination is the venerable Hornets of Kensington, as if life couldn’t get better.

For all things menswear, for everything a gentleman could wish for, our host Bill has it all. Steeped in vintage, tradition and most importantly quality, please save some considerable time for perusing their wares. From black-tie to tweed, Oxfords to brogues, overcoats to three-piece suits this is all I want for the best of times. Quality menswear is the order of the day, quality menswear of any day is what I have always found here.

William Crabtree & Sons

Have you ever fallen in love with a Rock band that flew under the radar? You kept them a secret till everyone championed them, then they became mainstream. Never mind, end of romance, move on. I still adore William Crabtree & Sons nonetheless. They’re everything good in the world of menswear, steeped in history (formed in Yorkshire, 1835) and now on New Quebec Street, London.

There are lots of great places that sell wonderful things, this is one. The trick is to have wonderful people at the helm, they have that in James and his crew. I’m on record as saying that in my list of finest knitted neckties they are in ‘my favorite one’, enough said.

Just a few steps around the corner you’ll find Chiltern Street. From Grey Flannel to Brycelands everything you need is right here too alongside great coffee and beer houses. Speaking of which . . .

Where To Drink

Legendary barman Alessandro Palazzi at Dukes Bar. Photo via Punch.

Dukes Bar

Should you struggle to find this hotel bar, persevere. It’s tucked away in a dead-end alley in St. James’s and is determinedly discreet. You’ll find the worldwide renowned Alessandro Palazzi visit your table to pass the time of day and of course, make you a martini ‘shaken not stirred,’ should you wish. With ‘one never being enough’ your imagination will need no further encouragement, Dukes Bar is old-school glamor for the great and the good.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Alternatively, if you’re a ‘stand by the bar’ sort of gentleman, then Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is the place for you. Yorkshire ales and pork chop dinners win the day, whole and hearty, stood up or sat down. Now, where’s my meat?

Prospect of Whitby

If we’re still upright then why not do it on flagstones laid in 1520? Looking over the Thames in this oldest riverside tavern we can later fall in a drunken stupor like sailors, smugglers and politicians of days gone by. Should our gentlemanly sensitivities prevail we can also discuss the merits of standing where Dickens, Pepys, Whistler, and Turner once had the same dilemma. Yes, I’ll have another.

The Churchill Arms

Marry a trip to Hornets of Kensington with a visit to this flower decked beauty, The Churchill Arms. A glorious sight to walk in to and a mine of memorabilia to wonder at in this traditional English hostelry. ‘Rude not to, mine’s a pint of best.’

Cahoots

Have you seen “Brief Encounter”? (Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson 1945) It’s one of my favorite films. Cahoots is one for the true nostalgist. Formerly the disused Kingly Court Underground Station, the venue offered sanctuary to those escaping the relentless threat of the Blitz.

The station has been lovingly transformed into one of London’s most unique speakeasies, offering a sublime choice of cocktails in one of three spaces; the signal station, the ticket hall and the underground, the latter housing an original tube carriage, we won’t need my discarded tube map, or that ‘black and white’ aching, wistful Celia Johnson long-goodbye.

Where To Eat

The Connaught

The Connaught is a beacon of elegance. A place of such standing and reputation that no introduction is necessary and I’ve been going for years with friends from both sides of the Atlantic. The three-Michelin star experience served by Helene Darroze is more than a treat. Whilst there — it could be a long evening — we should avail ourselves of their famed martinis and, of course, The Cigar Room. Attention to detail is the order of the day here, from the warmest of welcomes upon entry, to the beautiful cubist interior, the Connaught is unrivaled for its timeless luxury.

Bocconcino

A celebration of Italian cuisine and culture, Bocconcino is a beautiful example of the magic that happens when tradition is given a contemporary flair. With over 2000 Italian restaurants in the capital, a deliciously crafted menu from head chef Marco Corsica, himself a Napolitano, leads the way. He offers unrivaled authenticity and taste, once saying, “While I don’t have a ‘favorite’ dish, I do have favorite ingredients, such as fresh seafood and vegetables . . . Italians know how to do fish and vegetables. It’s impossible to get tired of Italian food!”

Soft romantic lighting and the sweeping central staircase further complement the relaxed elegance of this Mayfair restaurant and make it the perfect venue for any discerning gentleman and his beau. It was for me and mine.

Particular dishes of note, in my humble opinion, would be the crab ravioli and seafood linguine, as well as the sicilian canolo which is quite frankly out of this world. Couple this with live music and Boccancino makes for an unforgettable evening. He was right, I never get tired of Italian food, Forza Marc.

Fortnum & Mason (Afternoon Tea )

One can hardly consider a trip to London to be ticked off the bucket list until one has sampled an afternoon tea. Taken by our longest reigning monarch every day, no matter where she was in the world, afternoon tea is a British institution as famous and obligatory as a London bus, the bear-skinned Soldier and the Houses of Parliament.

As an Englishman, I believe that if one is going to do something, one should do it properly. They do it properly in the Diamond Jubilee Suite at Fortum & Mason. They have perfected the art of a fine afternoon tea over centuries. Situated on the fourth floor of the store, the parlor is classically decorated, with splashes of the famous F&M color scheme and the experience is complimented by the twinkle of the resident pianist. Be sure to block out an entire afternoon, tea is not to be rushed.

What To Do

Truefitt & Hill

Granted its first Royal Warrant by George III, Truefitt & Hill has been coiffing, shaping, trimming, and shaving the heads and beards of the most influential gentleman in London since 1805. Now, I get coiffed elsewhere to be clear, though to be fair I’ve been shaved here and love the experience.

Situated just a stone’s throw away from Savile Row, we can relax into the expert hands of barbers who have trimmed the heads of Kings, Princes, and on the odd occasion Queens. My recommendation would be the traditional hot towel wet shave. Lasting 30 minutes, it is the ultimate start to your Savile Row day or a pick-me-up after a day of sightseeing. I wet shave routinely anyway and, if I say so myself, have mastered the art. This is the only place that replicates that baby smooth sensation without any of the effort. A real close shave in the right of sense.

Music

Sound plays a huge part in my life. Music makes for a huge part of the fabric of London too, forging the careers of The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elton John, the Sex Pistols, and many more. Providing the platform for many cultural revolutions, and British invasions, London boasts a music scene from Ronnie Scotts (Jazz Jam nights) to the Royal Albert Hall.

Any night in the capital can provide a ‘rock up’ and enjoy sweaty gig, so try the Omeara, Brixton Academy, or The 100 Club. If noise, of one sort or the other, is your thing then marvel in the history of Denmark Street before taking in a musical in the nearby theatre districts. A well planned black-tie classical soiree may be your ticket, so either stick a pin in the map and go, or book well in advance, just don’t wear your opera pumps to both.

Daunt Books in all of its Edwardian splendor on Marylebone High Street.

Bookshops

‘I loved you for the books you bought’…

Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Masons is best served with a book from Hatchards, right next door, the UK’s oldest bookshop. First opening its doors in 1797, Hatchards covers four floors and is home to some 100,000 books. Three Royal warrants means a visit here, and next door, is to relish.

Foyles on Charing Cross Road houses four miles of books on their considerable shelves. There’s a cafe on the fifth floor, once you’ve found the title you want, you’ll need a sit down.. You may be interrupted with a high-profile author doing a reading, oh well.

Or for you perhaps Daunt Books? It may be London’s most beautiful bookshop. In Edwardian splendor on Marylebone High Street, the stained-glass windows and galleried main room take me back to a lost golden age. “Excuse me, I’m looking for a book. Yes, it’s ‘Gentleman. A Timeless Fashion’ by Bernhard Roetzel…”

The Wallace Collection

You know that feeling when a diamond pops out of her ring and you finally find it?

Situated in Manchester Square, a Georgian garden square just north of Oxford Street, The Wallace Collection is arguably one of the most rewarding museums in London and houses some of the most precious artworks and sculptures in the UK. Its most famous resident currently in situ is The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals, whose ambiguous smirk can only be appreciated fully by an in person visit or through my rose-tinted spectacles. Also on display is an enormous collection of weaponry and countless works from the Dutch Golden Age as well as pieces from Canaletto, Velasquez and Murillo.

You’ll now find this gem easily because this one sparkles.

The Beautiful Game

Association Football may be your thing, but if it isn’t it will be. Once laced-leather, now with a microchip you can see a football kicked for a Premier League premium or watch any number of Sunday morning games for free on Hackney Marshes. You may get drawn to the new cathedrals of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur or take a stroll down the Fulham Road to Chelsea, why ever not, we won’t be the first well-dressed gentlemen to do that.

I’d turn left field though and head to The Cottage, home of Fulham F.C. By the river, and allegedly the oldest ground in the capital, we’ll see changing rooms (The Cottage) built as an afterthought, now a protected listed building as are the turnstiles you’ll squeeze through. As Joe Strummer sang, ‘I live by the river’, why not watch football there too?

Where To Stay

The Ned

Once a bank, now an innovation. The Ned. I stay here, on occasion, be it for the atmosphere, live music, cocktails, rooftop terrace, 1920s decor and opulent all encompassing suites. Oh, all that and being just a short walk to The London Troops War Memorial and The Royal Exchange just behind.

The Stafford (and the American Bar)

American friends like to stay at The Stafford, I like it too with St. James’s and Mayfair a stone’s throw away. We can walk through The Royal Parks to check if the Flag of the Union is flying atop Buckingham Palace, salute The King and return to The American Bar, one of the longest serving American bars in London. I’ll take gin, and order a signature cocktail of your choosing, whilst we watch those falling foul of the dress-code. What larks.

Limehouse Library Hotel

Boho chic. Some of the best places in London are those which successfully reflect historical and often humble beginnings whilst offering experiences which are bang up to date. The Limehouse Library Hotel is one of those places.

Nestled in the East End, Limehouse formed an integral part of London’s dockland history and now hosts a vibrant residential community too. The hotel offers 75 individually designed rooms both for the lone gentleman traveller or he along with his beau and family, the forced and long-serving ‘menswear taggers-on’. Each room taking inspiration from a notable writer or historical figure (that’s not BoJo by the way, it was Boho) and offers simplicity and comfort reflecting the peaceful community which surrounds it. Book your themed room in advance, or go for pot-luck. I got Che Guevara once.

Claridge’s

Have you ever gone to meet an important person and from nowhere you get butterflies? My debut here made me conscious of my stride. An undeniable icon, a much overused word, when it comes to Art Deco design, Claridge’s is the epitome of understated British Elegance. Since its humble beginnings in the 1800s, the hotel has demonstrated an impressive ability to adapt to the culture of the day.

Beloved by the ‘bright young things’ of the 1920s and Hollywood stars of the 40s and 50s, guests continue to be enamored by the glamor and charm so unique to Claridge’s, particularly that of the Fumoir Bar, where we can sip on a signature Negroni whilst basking in the decadent 1930s inspired interior. Nowadays, I leave Claridge’s with a confident stride, in my mind, at least. Onlookers may comment on my peculiar, Negroni-influenced gait, one of us is right and it’s not me.

Raffles London at the OWO

Who’s your man? Bond or Churchill? Edward VIII or Lawrence of Arabia? Raffles at the Old War Office housed them all, in one form or another. More than luxury, this place has an atmosphere filled with espionage and intrigue. Every step across its two-and-a-half miles of corridors, each no less than three meters wide to allow originally for a military guard outside every door, demands deportment.

Raffles OWO has an atmosphere filled with espionage and intrigue.

In 1906, The War Office was built and housed 2,500 government and military officials. Today we follow in their stead, in the footsteps of Churchill and Fleming. That’s Fleming, Ian Fleming. Raffles latterly serves as a film location for several 007 films, there must be a connection there…

I always expect an unadulterated opulence during my stay here as rooms are beautifully designed by the Hinduja family in keeping with my initial question. My answer reflects my mood on each day as I register, today I’ll be me, and you will be you.

The Final Word

London is one of the world’s most prominent cities. I imagine you’ve been there. If you haven’t, you’ll have looked and considered. Either way, plot your adventure with footsteps both off and on the beaten track. Have this snapshot guide in your hand and you’ll find more than I can ever detail here.

Finally, and in the words of The Clash, Strummer sang:

Should I stay or should I go?

If I were you, I’d go. You never know, you might stay…

I hope to see you!

Stylishly Yours,

Nigel Cleaver

Born and raised in Derbyshire, England, Nigel has been a dedicated follower of all things gentlemanly since boyhood. His Instagram page continues to showcase and celebrate the best of classic menswear. He relocated to ‘Shoe-Town’, Northampton where he and his fiancé Ali (@ladyignoreatyourperil) would subsequently open the doors to a unique pre-loved classic menswear store IGNOREATYOURPERIL in the pretty village of Wollaston, Northamptonshire. Since opening they have welcomed customers from every continent, who travel specifically to avail themselves of Nigel’s inexhaustible knowledge of all things sartorial.

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Edited by Rachel Butler

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