Eat and shop, for tomorrow you may diet
There is much more than shopping to tackle in Britain’s largest city, but it’s a good place to start, especially at Christmas, writes Catherine Lambert
LONDON in winter makes me think of bright lights, mulled wine, mince pies, fashion sales and not too many tourists. It is the season when she puts on her brightest, most authentic face.
The dark skies are warmed by the prettiest light displays, the pubs are warmed with fires at the hearth and the streets glisten with puddles.
Stepping out from the welcome traditions in the Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge, one of only two remaining family-run hotels in London (the other is the Goring where the Duchess of Cambridge stayed on the eve of her wedding) there can be no doubt of the season. Winter festivity is everywhere in Knightsbridge. From the daytime lights of Harrods, which may even rival its famous night lights, to its Christmas windows depicting Disney princesses in couture gowns, it is a season which is most alive in this city.
The Christmas windows at department store Fortnum & Mason, one of the most festive shops in London, are just as enchanting.
This season saw giant gold carousels decked with gourmet treats rotating in the windows while carolers charmed shoppers inside. The Piccadilly Arcade nearby is a feast of prettiness with blue Christmas trees, stark against the allwhite arcade. And of course the Beadles manning the entrance to the Burlington Arcade look splendid in their uniforms at Christmas.
Heading to Mayfair, a moment is taken to gaze at Tiffany’s windows that are pint-sized dioramas of elaborate houses where jewels sit like gigantic Christmas gifts on a sweeping staircase or plush armchair.
While at Dolce & Gabbana, a feast is in place with mannequins dressed in the most exquisite black lace overseeing a long rectangular table laden with a Christmas dinner. But the primary destination in Mayfair is Claridge’s for afternoon tea. Here, Christmas is a feast of illumination with a massive tree begging attention in the foyer stripped of leaves but fluttering with clear lights.
It makes their silver service tea of champagne, as many teas as you could imagine, all the more festive.
A short tube trip to Notting Hill finds a more subdued winter atmosphere until we reach our destination, The Ledbury, run by Australian chef Brett Graham.
A variety of airlines fly from Australia to London.
The writer stayed at The Capital, Knightsbridge, which is within walking distance of Knightsbridge tube station and directly between Harrods and Harvey Nichols; www.capitalhotel.co.uk
Here, for a reasonably priced $58 three-course lunch, we are in company of all London’s beautiful people. The men in the corner table all look like Prince William while there are Sienna Miller types throughout.
It is outstanding food, deserving of its two Michelin stars, and served with warmth and a lack of pretension.
Two Michelin stars also belong to Nathan Outlaw, chef at Outlaws, which is another impeccable dinner destination. It is quickly becoming known as the best seafood restaurant in London, served with casual ease.
In winter, there is a spirited use of winter fruits and brussels sprouts.
While London may be more withdrawn at Christmas it is, in many ways, at its most interesting and seasonal.
Theatre lovers can enjoy the annual performance of The Nutcracker or Simon Callow performing A Christmas Carol for about $40.
At St James’ Church, designed by Christopher Wren in 1672, Christmas carol concerts are accompanied by mulled wine and mince pies. Now, that’s the London festive spirit.