Only a fool would attempt to see all the best parts of St James’s in only 24 hours…
…without this guide.
Luckily, by virtue of being – well, here on this page – you are evidently very prudent, and are about to find yourself entirely prepared to navigate the best eateries, cultural attractions and heritage shopping of London’s most quintessentially old-school neighbourhood.
Behold, the St James’s 24 hour guide…
You should always start the day as you mean to go on: i.e., full of French toast. At the glamorous, marble-clad dining room of The Wolseley, smartly dressed waiters bus deluxe crispy bacon rolls, maple-smothered pancakes and dishes like fried haggis, duck eggs and whisky between tables. But if you’re after something less formal, you can’t go wrong with Danish bakery Ole & Steen, whose pastries, from classic cinnamon rolls to caramel puffs, are freshly baked every morning.
They say you can tell a man by his shoes, and you can get a pretty good feel for an area by its shops. Your retail tour should kick off at Maison Assouline, a grandiose bookshop touting beautiful coffee table tomes on everything from fashion and photography to spirituality and travel. Swing a couple of lefts onto Jermyn Street and peruse the magnificent piles of cheese in Paxton & Whitfield, or freshen up in England’s oldest perfumer, Floris. You’ll also find flagships for some of London’s most upmarket clothing brands – like Tricker’s, a heritage shoemakers who have shod everyone from HRH Prince of Wales to er, Tom Selleck.
Come lunchtime, you’ll want to refuel at Nordic-via-NYC import Aquavit. Here they serve Swedish meatballs with lingonberries, and smörgåsbords topped with oysters, pickles and patés. Or if you’re particularly peckish, head along to Café Murano, the more casual installation of Angela Hartnett’s Michelin starred Murano. Here you can tuck into wholesome portions of regional Italian food in elegant surroundings, with buttery soft leather banquettes surrounded by art deco touches.
A feast for the eyes, now, as you tour St James’s many independent art galleries. YBA favourite White Cube can be found in an old electricity substation down an innocuous-looking alley, while Sims Reed displays unusual prints and illustrative work from a curated selection of contemporary artists. Cap it off with a peek in the David Gill galleries, a design room dedicated to furniture design by the likes of Zaha Hadid and Ron Arad.
For a mid-afternoon breather, head downstairs to the minimalist tea rooms hidden beneath the St James’s Osprey store. In cavernous, white-walled surroundings, they serve up a sleek afternoon tea with gluten-free treats as standard – or swing by equally minimalist gem Rose Bakery, tucked inside Dover Street Market and serving cakes and light bites all afternoon.
Nobody does a pre-theatre dinner menu quite like Rowley’s. Mainly because nobody else offers bottomless fries with their table-cooked entrecôte steaks, drizzled in roquefort butter sauce. But let’s all be thankful that at least one place in London does. And for the actual theatre part of the evening, take a stroll down to London’s dinkiest off West End venue, the Jermyn Street Theatre. Tucked through a small doorway and down a set of steps, this intimate theatre has hosted actors like Michael Gambon and Imogen Stubbs over the years, and is always a great little place to uncover a production that’s off the beaten track.
Depending on quite how bottomless those fries were earlier, you might want to stop by 45 Jermyn Street for a post-theatre dessert. Built on the site of the first London café to own a soda fountain, the dessert menu pays homage with a number of boozy ice cream soda floats, like the brown butter-washed whisky and cornflake ice cream float, or the gin, black olive, maraschino and strawberry ice cream number.
Round off your evening with a martini at Dukes Bar – a quintessentially English bar that was once the haunt of Bond author Ian Fleming. Naturally they have a pair of martinis devoted to 007; one based on his cologne (coincidentally, No. 89 from nearby Floris), and another designed as an authentic reproduction of the complex Vesper Martini that Bond orders in Casino Royale.
It’s stirring stuff.
NOTE: You can find out more about St James’s highlights on the area’s official website HERE, or check out our full St James’s Area Guide here.
Main image credit: Paul Hudson/Flickr
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