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Dispatch from London: Melissa’s Spring 2023 Visit

Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley reports on her recent trip to England's capital, with insight on the newest happenings from bakeries and buzzy dinner spots to hotel updates and the coming Coronation fête.On my recent trip to London, I was reminded of its unmatched cultural significance as the city gears up for another historic moment, the coronation of King Charles III on May 6 at Westminster Abbey. There is no place that mixes majesty and charm or history and eccentricity quite the way the U.K. does—pomp and circumstance will shine, starting with thousands of flags waving throughout the city, both the Union Jack and the official Coronation Emblem, which includes flowers from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as Charles has always loved gardening and nature.

Hotels are digging through archives to unearth royal mementos—Claridge’s, for instance, will display coronation memorabilia from past monarchs, including pages from Queen Victoria’s diary and hotel menus from Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, through May 2023. In Mayfair, there is a small but buzzing restaurant renaissance, giving locals new and needed neighborhood spots. I also noticed a resurgence of French pâtisserie, from pastries that double as fine art from Cédric Grolet at the Berkeley to the famous chocolate hounds at the Connaught to the new Birley Bakery in Chelsea, croissants seem to have trumped crumpets.Read on for my new finds and tips.

Three New Restaurants in Mayfair, London

  • Socca - A neighborhood gathering spot from chef Claude Bosi of Bibendum in Chelsea evoking Southern France in décor and food.
  • Mount St. Restaurant - A new haunt for art connoisseurs from award-winning Swiss art gallery Hauser & Wirth, which also owns The Fife Arms in Scotland. The art, including mosaic floors by Rashid Johnson, is bold, but it can be loud at dinner so it isn’t a place for a quiet tête à tête. 
  • The Twenty Two - Part hotel and part member’s club, the restaurant is open to anyone all day. Delicious Mediterranean-meets-classic British fare and a new hot spot, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Tom Cruise, Jeff Bezos and Madonna have all been seen here.
Restaurant Buzz: The spot that I didn’t get to but friends are raving about is Endo at the Rotunda, a 12-seat sushi counter by a third-generation sushi master that has two omakase seatings (6:00 and 9:00 p.m.) Tuesdays to Sundays. Endo guides diners through a seasonal series of 20 courses, with the menu presented after dinner. Located in White City in Television Centre—the former home of the BBC—this is a neighborhood to watch with new hotels (the Hoxton on Shepherd’s Bush Green) and restaurants opening. Across from Television Centre is one of the largest malls in Europe, Westfield London.

New Bakeries and Cafés

  • Birley Bakery feels like a traditional French boulangerie in Chelsea, but was opened by Londoner Robin Birley, known for his private clubs 5 Hertford Street and Oswald’s. It's perfect for picking up pastries or staying for a coffee. 
  • Claridge’s Art Café is a buzzy cafe on a quiet mews that sits atop the largest art gallery in Mayfair. 
  • Lines form daily at Cédric Grolet at The Berkeley for the masterpiece pastries turned out here. There is even an omakase menu option, where guests can sample a variety—five sweet and one savory—of pastries sitting at the Chef’s Counter, available Friday through Sunday.

Hidden Bars

Many of the city’s most charming bars are in top hotels, but some are tucked away from main areas. My favorites: The Fumoirat Claridge’s, an Art Deco jewel box with William Klein photos. At the Connaught, The Red Bar is also known as the Ladies Bar, because of the works by female artists like Louise Bourgeois, and in the back you can grab the snug, a cozy cocoon for up to six. There’s also a special cigar bar for seven people at the Connaught with a library of Havana cigars and rare whiskeys.

Hotel News

Where I Stayed: When I checked into the Berkeley in Knightsbridge on this trip, my first thought was this is not my grandmother’s Berkeley. When I stayed for the first time, I had been invited to speak on the history of luxury travel on a transatlantic crossing on Cunard’s QE2 and invited my grandmother. She agreed to be my guest on the condition that we stay at the Berkeley for a few nights after, and then she would fly us both home on the Concorde. Since then, much has changed and the hotel has undergone major freshening. The design is sleek and modern and free of taffeta curtains, but I know my grandmother would have loved the energy, the glammed up tea and bakery by Cédric Grolet (she adored French pastries) and the soaking tubs that come with Bamford bath salts. I also previewed the debut of the Raffles brand in the U.K., a complete overhaul of the Old War Office on Whitehall, which will open this summer. While we were only allowed to take photos of the grand staircase (where Winston Churchill would apparently espouse from the balcony above), we toured a Heritage suite located in a former executive office; the central garden and courtyard that will house London’s first Café Lapérouse from Paris; and the massive new spa—the indoor pool, one of the largest at a London hotel, has a double-height ceiling.The Dorchester has just redone its ground floor, including the lobby and The Promenade, where they host afternoon tea. The Vesper Bar (with James Bond vibes) now has a DJ five nights a week starting at 7:00 p.m. The hotel’s new bakery, Cakes and Flowers, also opened this week and they will unveil newly renovated rooms starting later this spring. Also coming soon to London: The Peninsula London behind The Lanesborough near Hyde Park; The Chancery Rosewood in Mayfair (in the former American embassy); and the Emory in Knightsbridge, a sister property to the Berkeley, Claridge’s and the Connaught. 

Favorite Shopping Streets

One of London’s most charming streets, Walton Street in Chelsea, near Knightsbridge, has lost Bentleys antique shop and Dragons for children’s furniture, but still has Nina Campbell, Melissa Odabash, Joseph, Andrew Martin and Bamford around the corner. Jak’s Cafe is a popular brunch spot for locals and Daphne’s on Draycott Avenue is still a classic for dinner. In Mayfair, South Audley and Mount have lost Thomas Goode, but have Purdys, Bamford, Bremont for luxury British watches, Erdem, Rabih Kayrouz and Oscar de la Renta.

Indagare Tip

Friends have raved about the immersive show, "David Hockney: Bigger & Closer," at London’s new Lightroom exhibition space at Coal Drops Yard near King’s Cross, on through June 3.If London’s calling, there are still a few spots left on our Insider Journey to the city—and its surrounding Cotswolds countryside—with designer Serena Crawford this June. The British bon vivant will introduce you to her friends and fellow creatives, as you enjoy special invitations and tours focused on history, style and heritage. Learn more and join here.Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to learn more about planning a trip to England. 

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