THIS IS A PAID PARTNERSHIP IN ASSOCIATION WITH CONNAUGHT VILLAGE
On of London’s greatest joys lies in its village-like geography. Instead of a grid system as in Manhattan, or even a circus like New Delhi, what we have is a series of small neighbourhoods radiating out from two distinct centres – the City of London, and the West End. Each neighbourhood is both separated by, and contains its own, small residential pockets, each serviced by discrete shopping and service areas and with their own particular identity. Think of Marylebone High Street, Brompton Cross, St James’s, and Spitalfields.
Some are better known than others, some exist to the service the needs of their near neighbours, and some deserve wider recognition – which brings me neatly to Connaught Village.
An enclave of mainly stucco-fronted terraces and Georgian frontages, this area, situated around beautiful Connaught Street (above) is London at its most beguiling. Situated just the other side of the Edgware Road, on the Notting Hill side, and a stone’s throw from Marble Arch and Hyde Park, Connaught Village is as far mentally from the madding crowds of Oxford Street five minute’s walk away as Piccadilly is from Hampstead Heath.
I’ve always known about Connaught Village, as my grandmother once lived in Hyde Park Square, just at the left hand end of Connaught Street, and my mother used to tell me stories about long, hot summers as a child when they would grab towels and walk to the Serpentine in Hyde Park to cool off.
Over my years in London, I’ve spent a quite a lot of time there: appointments at the flagship stores of fashion brands ME + EM and Lucy Choi, my first (and very pleasing) experience with Botox by Dr Dondos at the renowned Medicetics clinic, …but when I was approached to write the introduction to the latest guide to Connaught Village I thought it was time to really reacquaint myself with the village.
So last Friday Sache – my assistant – and I spent the day in W2, dogs in two, visiting as many stores and businesses as we could fit in between 10 and six pm. (And we barely scraped the tip of the Connaught iceberg.)
First up was an appointment at the Hyde Park Veterinary Centre’s Pet Boutique for Maisie to get her summer harircut, and for Lettice to have a shampoo and her nails clipped.
Whilst that was going on, we nipped across the road for a quick bowl of coffee and a detox breakfast (coconut yogurt, buckwheat and fruit) at Le Pain Quotidien whilst checking emails and planning our route around the Village.
Then it was time for an express manicure at Fe Hair and Beauty on Kendal Street. They are totally dog-friendly – as re the majority of business in the Village, and I gather I am far from the only person who gets their nails done whilst waiting for their dog to finish at the groomers.
Fe offer all the usual hair beauty services including blow outs, manicures, bespoke make-up, eyebrow threading, waxing and semi-permanent make-up and permanent hair removal using brands including Yuko permanent Japanese hair straightening, Bioloustre, Kerastase, Olaplex conditioning treatments and YonKa. I’m super pleased to have discovered this lovely friendly salon as it’s so close to Oxford Street and yet so calm and welcoming – to me and the furs.
Nails drying, we returned to collect the very sleek and shiny dogs from the grooming parlour. Although I’m all stocked up at the moment, if I needed I could find a wide selection of organic and grain free diets, regular diets and prescription foods, along with toys, comfortable beds, warm and waterproof clothing, and collars and leads. They also offer next day delivery for anything that they don’t hold in stock. Another great reason to shop local.
Look at Maisie! So tidy! She looked like a revolting hearthrug on paws before the Pet Boutique’s careful ministrations.
We were blessed with such beautiful weather; Connaught Village is an Instagrammer’s dream, so we took full advantage of the wisteria and the ‘phone box.
Next on our list was chocolatier and patissier Saint Aymes. Sisters Michela and Lois Aymes-Wilson are well-known for both their artisan chocolates, hand-painted with 23ct gold, and their outside wisteria decorations, but do go inside to check out the peony wall too. There’s even a pink velvet dog bed, to go along with the red velvet cake on the glass counter.
Connaught Village isn’t all artisan offerings: in the heart of Connaught Street is the traditional Duke Of Kendal pub. There’s sport on the big screens, a food menu, a regular pub quiz and musical evenings.
Across the road is Connaught Village’s boutique florists, PM Flowers, who have been in situ since 1966. Specialising in seasonal blooms, there are always the most beautiful bouquets on display outside the store. They also sell orchids, plants and a wide range of additional cards and gifts.
You can’t have a retail area with fashion boutiques, and Connaught Village is particularly blessed by a series of independents, each with a different aesthetic and a discerning buy.
A showcase of up-coming design talent, The Place London for Women was the brainchild of Simon Burstein, whose mother Joan is the legendary Mrs B of Brown’s fame. Rising British print designer, Alice Archer displays her exquisite printed fabrics in the boutique and is joined by collections from Belgian designer Sofie D’Hoore, Launer handbags, accessories designer Diana Broussard, LNDR activewear, Leathersmith, Brady, Emanuela Caroso and products by award-winning fragrance designer, Azzi Glasser.
Our last stop before lunch was to womenswear boutique Viola. A tiny gem in the heart of Connaught Street, Viola is owned by former personal stylist, Sara Lauchlan, and stocks designers including David Szeto, Forte Forte and Raquel Allegra, along with accessories from Rupert Sanderson and Piers Atkinson, amongst others. It is also gorgeously dog-friendly: Jackson (below) was in residence when we visited, and Lettice and Maisie were allowed to roam about. Do look out for their fantastic summer stock, including pretty sundresses and lots of colourful wedge espadrilles.
Then it was lunchtime. Whilst I was ordering, Sache took the dogs back home – I don’t think they wanted to spent the entire day exploring with me in the heat, and my sister wanted to admire Maisie’s excellent new look.
We chose Stuzzico, a local Italian favourite in the heart of the Village. It’s a classic neighbourhood restaurant, with a little modern twist, and a menu that changes seasonally. They’re open for casual breakfasts through to evening service, and in the summer the bi fold doors are opened so that sunlight and fresh air floods the restaurant. I ordered the freshest burrata, followed by spaghetti with shavings of truffle and then just a tiny scoop of chocolate gelato to get my energy levels up in time for the afternoon activities.
Suitably lunch was followed by a visit to mud australia on Porchester Place. If you haven’t come across Mud before you might be forgiven for thinking that they sell beauty products. Far from it – mud australia sell their own wonderful handmade Australian porcelain, which is known for its glazed interiors and matt exteriors in a toning series of highly pigmented colours.
Fusing a minimal aesthetic with an artisan finish, mud australia has been hand-making porcelain since 1994. Designed by Shelley Simpson, these individual pieces combine craftsmanship with beauty and functionality. This small, friendly business has a strong belief in the values of craft and community, taking pride in building relationships with its customers, and it’s always a joy to visit this, their only London store.
Under the display unit is this drawer of magic which pulls out to reveal a rainbow of salts in every available mud australia shade – how does anyone make a decision?
I basically want them all.
I’d love to tell you that this truckle of Cheddar is the real thing but, as they weight upwards of twenty-five pounds, it’s actually the original cloth wrapping from a Montgomery’s Cheddar around polystyrene. It’s one of the decorations in Buchanans Cheesemonger on Porchester Place, just off Connaught Street, and truly one of my favourite places.
With a wide selection of artisan cheeses sourced and matured from the UK and Europe, Buchanans is a true centre of excellence for all things cheese, supplying both retail customers and some of London’s best restaurants including Galvin. Established by Rhuaridh, who has spent most of the last decade training and working with world famous cheesemongers, a visit to the Porchester Place store and tasting rooms is any cheese-lovers dream.
Proud of their bespoke approach, the super-informed staff at Buchanans can take you through all their cheeses – although at any time there will upwards of 100 cheese downstairs waiting to reach peak fromage perfection, they only have an edited selection on display in the shop to avoid over-whelming customers. So their – and my – recommendation is to chat with the staff about what you like and they can guide you, and produce cheeses that amy not be on display.
There is also a menu of delicious cheeses, delightful charcuterie and a few other small plates on offer alongside a top quality and eclectic list of wines, beers and other hand-picked beverages.
They also organise regular cheese socials in-store – there’s a monthly cheese and wine pairing masterclass in addition to occasional supper clubs and Meet the Maker evenings. There’s a mailing list to sign up to online, and a programme of events available on their website and in-store, and you can even book a private tasting or cheese party. Vintners Connaught Wine Cellars are across the road and Buchanans work closely with them on wine and cheese pairings.
I found several cheeses I hadn’t tasted before, including this delicious Corsican ewe’s cheese – Saveurs de Maquis, which looks slightly terrifying on the outside with its thick layer of mould and herbs, but which cuts to reveal a medium-hard creamy centre. Delectable.
From cheese to shoes…of course…
I’ve worn Lucy Choi’s shoes for at least five years now – my gateway drug was a pair of chic grey reptile print stilettos that have been a constant in my wardrobe, and she’s been generous enough to gift me several pairs over the years. Her uncle is Jimmy Choo so it’s no surprise that Lucy designs such lovely footwear; however her raison d’etre isn’t just beautifully designed shoes, but shoes that are extraordinarily comfortable at a price that won’t give you sticker shock.
She does sell online and wholesale, but it’s her boutique on Connaught Village that’s really worth a visit on your next visit to the West End. It’s like being in the most grown up of sweet shops. Although how anyone picks between shoes and sandals in leather, suede, hand-dyed silks and vintage lace is beyond me. Oh and there is a bridal collection too, should you wish to get married in shoes that won’t pinch or hurt your feet but still look delectable.
All that cheese sampling and shoe trying-in on was exhausting (my dear!), so I swung by Markus Coffee for a pick me up on the way to ME + EM’s flagship boutique on Connaught Street – such a joy to find an independent coffee specialist – you can choose from 34 varieties of coffee bean from 13 different countries to select your perfect brew to take home, and the knowledgeable staff will even roast your beans for you in store.
ooh I’m so very into ME+EM. Founder Clare Hornby understands that a modern working wardrobe needs effortless and multi-functional pieces that fit and flatter and don’t scare the horses. The fabrics are always luxe, the cut body-skimming in the just the right kind of way, and the colour palette works on all skin tones. It’s also very handy that each season’s collection fits effortlessly with previous ones, so that you can just keep adding and know that everything will blend into your closet harmoniously.
(You can read more about Clare in this LLG story from back in 2014 here.) Of course the moment I arrived in the flagship store on Connaught Street I had to start trying on things.
Yes, this black dress and slip did come home with me.
By this point we’d spent eight hours in Connaught Village, so it was time to head home to the dogs. Thank you so much to all the retailers who welcomed us (and the dogs) with such enthusiasm and generosity.
Next time you are in the West End I highly recommend the five minute walk from Marble Arch that will bring you to one of London’s best kept retail secrets.
THIS IS A PAID PARTNERSHIP IN ASSOCIATION WITH CONNAUGHT VILLAGE
CONNAUGHT VILLAGE ADDRESS BOOK:
LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN
30-31 Kendal Street, W2 2AW. 020 3657 6932 Lepainquotidien.co.uk
HYDE PARK VETERINARY GROUP – Pet Boutique
61-63 Connaught St, W2 2AE. 020 7723 0453. hydeparkvet.co.uk
Fé HAIR AND BEAUTY
22 Kendal Street, W2 2BB. 020 7402 4442 Fehairandbeauty.com
THE DUKE OF KENDAL
38 Connaught Street, W2 2AF. 020 7723 8478 DukeOfKendal.com
59 Connaught Street, W2 2BB SaintAymes.com
53 Connaught Street, W2 2BB. 020 7723 4683. Pmflowers.co.uk
THE PLACE LONDON FOR WOMEN
27 Connaught Street, W2 2AY. 020 7262 5616. Theplacelondon.co.uk
25 Connaught Street, W2 2AY. 020 7262 2722. violalondon.com
24 Kendal Street, W2 2AW. 020 7262 9122 Stuzzico.co.uk
11 Porchester Place, W2 2BU. 020 7706 4903. uk.mudaustralia.com
5a Porchester Place, W2 2BS. 020 3441 8010. BuchanansCheesemonger.com
LUCY CHOI LONDON
18 Connaught St, London W2 2AF. 020 7402 3434. lucychoilondon.com
3 Connaught St, London W2 2AY. 020 7723 4020. markuscoffee.com
ME + EM
21 Connaught St, London W2 2A. 020 7262 2765. meandem.com