West End chic
Photo credit: Castle Galleries
There are a fair few places in the world that are known for being chic, and the Mayfair cultural quarter is unquestionably high up on the list. Globally renowned for its exquisite dining, shopping and natural beauty, this glitzy London neighbourhood has it all.
With our handy guide on how to explore the Mayfair cultural quarter like a local, you can discover all things chic and beautiful in the stomping ground of the rich, the famous and the ever so beautiful.
A rising star
Let’s start at the beginning, before the Mayfair cultural quarter became what it is today. The majority of Mayfair remained undeveloped until around the end of the 17th-century when the first signs of the fashionable postcode started to emerge. At this time, landlords began to mould Mayfair into a trendy residential area with some of the earliest developments taking place around Grosvenor Square and Brook Street.
The Dukes of Westminster were some of the major developers in the early days while the Rothschild family made their mark on the area during the 19th century. The modern-day Mayfair cultural quarter remains primarily residential with wide leafy streets and period buildings, many of which are Georgian and reflect the neighbourhood’s rich history. In fact, the area is so exclusive that at one time, there was a special bell in the Ritz Hotel that was rung to alert doormen to the arrival of royalty.
Arts and Culture
Thankfully, there is no need to have royal lineage to be able to make the most of what London’s most desirable area has to offer. The Mayfair cultural quarter is home to a number of artistic havens, including the Royal Academy of Art in nearby Piccadilly. The Royal Academy has been one of London’s most famous artistic institutions since the 1700s, promoting the understanding and practice of art. The centre has a diverse program of cutting-edge, original exhibitions featuring the most contemporary artists and architects as well as iconic figures from previous centuries such as Van Gogh. The RA is not just an art gallery but also a highly reputable foundation for the preservation and promotion of art and the educating of future generations.
The streets of Mayfair are also home to a number of independent art galleries. The Castle Galleries on Bruton Street displays modern and contemporary art over a three-level gallery within a Georgian building. Featured artists include Salvador Dali, Bob Dylan, Keith Proctor and Ronnie Wood, which goes some way to explain the innovative and diverse nature of work on show! The Wallace Collection on Manchester Square is another of the Mayfair cultural quarter’s most chic artistic treasures. Its permanent collection displays pieces collected throughout the 18th and 19th centuries including paintings, ceramics, sculpture and furniture. Some of the more celebrated artists include Rembrandt and Velazquez and the gallery has a packed events calendar year-round including art classes, specialist lectures and a daily public tour of the collection’s highlights.
All of that art appreciation is bound to work up an appetite and the cuisine found in the Mayfair cultural quarter is some of the finest in the world. Cecconi’s is conveniently located just behind the Royal Academy; open from morning until late night, this sophisticated restaurant and bar welcomes celebrities and glossy magazine journalists amongst its elegant clientele. As part of the Soho House group, the interiors are predictably stunning and the service pays homage to the elite postcode with immaculately attired staff willing and able to indulge your every need.
One of the staples on the elite London restaurant circuit is Le Gavroche, which was opened by Albert and Michel Roux back in the 1960s. A restaurant that is timeless in its elegance, reputation and exquisite food, this Michelin-starred haunt has won numerous awards and has even gained the approval of notorious restaurant critic AA Gill. With Michel Roux Junior at the helm and dishes such as Lobster Mousse with Aquitaine Caviar and Champagne Butter Sauce on the extensive menu, this Upper Brook Street restaurant epitomizes Mayfair chic in every way.
A grade II listed building and one of the oldest pubs in the Mayfair cultural quarter is another chic choice for foodies. The Punch Bowl on Farm Street is one of the most stylish places to see and be seen. It includes a dining room, club area and bar, offering three very different ambiences in a space that has played host to a whole collection of Hollywood names and London glitterati. Whether you’re looking for classic British pub food, exclusive dining or one of the finest wine lists in the capital, this is the place that has it all.
The morning after the night before, sore heads may well appreciate the abundance of green space that Mayfair has to offer. The area includes two of London’s greatest parks – Hyde Park and Green Park – with the former covering more than 350 acres that includes the Serpentine Lake and the infamous Speakers’ Corner. There are also plenty of recreational activities that can be enjoyed and hiring a boat for a leisurely sail on the Serpentine Lake is a classic London experience.
Where to stay
There is one area where you cannot go wrong with Mayfairchic, and that’s the accommodation. The Mayfair cultural quarter is famous for having the capital’s largest concentration of five-star hotels where there are a wealth of fabulous choices. Flemings Mayfair on Half Moon Street is comprised of interconnecting Georgian townhouses with original period detail and an awe-inspiring atmosphere embedded in the history of the area. Its beautifully appointed rooms and apartments boast a fine contemporary finish and relaxed mood.
Another exclusive choice is the five-star Beaumont Hotel, which is situated in a historic building on a leafy, landscaped square. The hotel’s unique design boasts an art deco influence while its bespoke hospitality offers a real personal touch among one of the most spectacular hotel backdrops in the city. It is close to the best luxury shopping in Mayfair and Soho, as well as many contemporary art galleries and high-end restaurants in the in Mayfair cultural quarter.
Another hotel that provides the ideal complement to the chic Mayfair experience is Dukes London. This well-renowned location features elegant yet understated décor, a legendary bar and the award-winning THIRTY-SIX restaurant that serves creative British cuisine. The hotel serves afternoon tea and includes a Cigar & Cognac Garden and Champagne Lounge to complete the quintessentially Mayfair hotel profile.