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Go West

New Life in London’s Old West End
  • Darkroom

    Darkroom

  • The Savoy

    The Savoy

  • Ceviche

    Ceviche

  • Pentreath & Hall

    Pentreath & Hall

  • One Aldwych

    One Aldwych

  • Huntergather

    Huntergather

  • The London EDITION

    The London EDITION

  • Folk

    Folk

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

Southern England, the capital of the United Kingdom, a short hop by plane, ferry or train from the European continent.

WHY GO

The sun has set on the British Empire but London remains one of the world’s most influential cities — it’s not only a major financial center but one of the world’s great capitals of culture as well.

HOW

London is served by no fewer than five airports, from the very major Heathrow to the small and central City — but the most humane way to travel remains the high-speed Eurostar train from Paris or Brussels.

TABLET TIP

It’s a legendarily expensive city, but London offers a few budget-friendly rewards. Most of the state-run museums are free to enter, and there are few better no-cost cultural itineraries than a morning tour of Tate Britain, a nice walk along and across the Thames, and an afternoon browsing the collection at Tate Modern.

London, January, 2014

Ever since the East End’s gentrification really hit its stride — filling formerly industrial, working-class neighborhoods with clusters of stylish bars and restaurants and specialty boutiques — the good old West End has increasingly been spoken of in the past tense. As culturally attuned young Londoners drifted east towards Brick Lane, to places like the LN-CC (Late Night Chameleon Cafe) and Rochelle Canteen, the West End was largely left behind by the city’s avant-garde (or at least the travel press). But in a city as big and vibrant as London, there’s room for more than one trend at a time — and even while Shoreditch and Dalston rack up the headlines, there’s plenty to shout about out west as well.

Resist the urge to visit the old standards, like Carnaby and Kingly Streets, and start instead in Fitzrovia and Holborn, which wrap around Covent Garden to the north and east. In recent years Fitzrovia has attracted enough contemporary art galleries to make New York’s Chelsea look meager in comparison, and with the opening of Ian Schrager’s London EDITION — not to mention its restaurant, helmed by the city’s beloved chef of the moment, Jason Atherton — this might just be the artsiest little area in the entire city.

If shopping is more your thing, Lamb’s Conduit and Rugby Streets in Holborn have some of the choicest independent stores in town. Folk Clothing caters to those who appreciate high-quality basics with their men’s and newly launched women’s lines, as well as select items from coveted international brands like Carven and Tsumori Chisato. Nearby, you can find geometrically inspired clothing and homeware by emerging designers at Darkroom, a one-year-old concept store; while just around the corner Pentreath & Hall offers less edgy, more approachable designs to keep your home from becoming too cool for comfort.

Meanwhile, over in Mayfair, Christie’s has recently opened a new gallery showcasing post-war and contemporary artworks. It’s a unique new concept amongst the city’s high-end auction houses, and a nice pit-stop for a culture fix en route to another round of shopping. Huntergather, the absurdly hip British brand by a former GQ Style editor and stylist, has its headquarters-café-boutique just a few hundred feet north of the gallery. Alternatively, go a few hundred feet south and you’ll stumble upon Wolf & Badger, another retail gem. Wolf & Badger’s keen selection of fashion and home products was so inspiring that the venerable Savoy invited them curate the shop inside the hotel.

When you’re finally exhausted from walking with all those shopping bags, it’s time to get to the heart of the West End. Oenophiles can unwind at Terroirs, with its thoughtful wine list focused on small, artisanal producers; or at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, the latest bar, and the first to focus on wine, from the team behind the Experimental Cocktail Club. For something stronger (and a bite to eat to balance things out), try the pisco-based drinks and some refreshing Peruvian food at Ceviche, whose wild success spurred the opening of a sister restaurant, Andina, in the East End’s Shoreditch neighborhood. In the mood for something more substantial? Swing over to MEATmarket inside the Jubilee Market for some hearty burgers. Only a few steps away from Shake Shack (a new addition last year in Covent Garden, along with Balthazar, another New York import), the casual new eatery has inherited its menu from the ever-popular burger- and cocktail-lounge MEATliquor. At the latter, of course, you have the option of ordering your milkshake hard, to go with your double-beef-patty Dead Hippie sandwich.

At a certain point, however, the nostalgia kicks in, and you just want a taste of the classic West End — the gentler, more elegant one you’ve always known. For that, head back to One Aldwych at the Covent Garden-Holborn border. The Lobby Bar has a serious cocktail menu, designed seasonally by the hotel’s bar supervisor. (Auspiciously, he’s also the U.K.’s reigning national-champion bartender.) One Aldwych’s urbane simplicity strikes just the right balance between classic and cool — a style that comes off well wherever you might be coming from.

Aiko Ishikawa

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CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

Southern England, the capital of the United Kingdom, a short hop by plane, ferry or train from the European continent.

WHY GO

The sun has set on the British Empire but London remains one of the world’s most influential cities — it’s not only a major financial center but one of the world’s great capitals of culture as well.

HOW

London is served by no fewer than five airports, from the very major Heathrow to the small and central City — but the most humane way to travel remains the high-speed Eurostar train from Paris or Brussels.

TABLET TIP

It’s a legendarily expensive city, but London offers a few budget-friendly rewards. Most of the state-run museums are free to enter, and there are few better no-cost cultural itineraries than a morning tour of Tate Britain, a nice walk along and across the Thames, and an afternoon browsing the collection at Tate Modern.


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