Bounded to the north by Piccadilly and Mayfair, to the west by Green Park, to the south by The Mall bounding St. James's Park, and to the east by Haymarket, St. James's occupies what we think is one of the best areas in London for shopping, dining, exploring and culture. Yes, we would say that wouldn't we, but honestly it's full of comforts and surprises in equal measure. So we've compiled our favourite things to do in our neighbourhood for gents and ladies alike so you can experience the delights for yourselves now that lockdown is over.
St. James's has always been a destination for luxury. In the 17th century the area developed as a residential location for the British aristocracy and around the 19th century became the focus of the development of gentlemen's clubs, many of which still thrive today. But far from being a fusty old boys' network, St James's is a vibrant mix of modernity and familiarity, with the long-standing institutions of Jermyn Street stood cheek by jowl with exciting new galleries and restaurants stretching right the way to Piccadilly.
So if you need an excuse (or eight) to venture out of the house and remind yourself that the world is still turning on its axis, we've compiled a list of our favourite St. James's haunts to spend some time at. You will not be disappointed!
The world's most famous auction house is situated at 8 King Street in a sprawling, network of a building with room upon room housing some of the world's most precious collectibles. Even if you're not looking to make a purchase, Christie's is a forever-moving conveyor belt of art, jewellery, fashion and antiquities (not to mention NFTs now) so there's always something hanging on its hallowed walls to pique one's interest. Ladies should definitely be aware of the handbag sales, which often fly under the proverbial radar, meaning you can sometimes pick up a vintage Kelly or Birkin for a really good price. Either way, it's always worth a peruse after a leisurely St. James's lunch.
Head to christies.com for information on current auctions and displays.
You'll almost certainly recognise our charismatic next-door neighbour from the television show 'Fame or Fortune', in which Philip and co-presenter Fiona Bruce go to incredible lengths to try and ascertain the provenance of certain privately owned works of art. Or you may have caught his art in lockdown series during the pandemic - either way, Philip is as charming and knowledgeable in real life as he is in the digital world! He specialises in the Old Masters and modern British portraitists and his gallery is currently is home to works by the likes of Augustus Edwin John, Ambrose McEvoy ARA, Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris, Sir Peter Lely and many more.
67 Pall Mall
67 Pall Mall is a relative newcomer on the members' club block but it has garnered an incredibly loyal client base in its respectively short history. Founded by wine lovers for wine lovers, 67 Pall Mall is housed in the former Hambros Bank building and enjoys a beautiful view of St. James's Palace, which you probably won't actually see because your eyes will be trained on the incredible wine list which features 1,200 wines by-the-glass and nearly 5,000 bottles collectively. Representing 52 countries, the Club’s wine offering has continued to expand, with large formats of renowned estates and outstanding vintages displayed proudly on the bar, available by-the-glass. Designed to captivate and challenge Members, the extensive collection is available as a searchable list on iPads; loaded with winemakers’ notes, tasting notes and critics’ scores.
If you're looking for a pre-supper sharpener then there is no better place then Dukes Bar, the watering hole renowned the world over for its speciality martinis. The bar has been going since 1908 and was actually the first bar to change the classic martini recipe. Head bartender Alessandro Palazzi has rightly earned the reputation for creating some of the finest variations of the classic martini you'll find anywhere as this writer once discovered. You'll need to book ahead to ensure you get a table but once you're sat down, Alessandro will wheel over his martini trolley and dutifully suggest the nepenthe best suited to your evening (there is a max of two per person which is just as well!)
E by Equinox
One of the finest gyms in London, E by Equinox has become something of a temple in St. James's. Given the embarrassment of culinary riches that populate the area, it's no bad thing that Equinox has set up its playground of heavy objects. With expert coaches and trainers on-hand, E St.James's is the ultimate in luxury healthcare, fitness and nutrition. With a host of spa features, 3D body scan, treatment studios and classes, a visit to E St. James's doesn't always have to be too strenuous. Nothing quite like finishing off a shopping trip with a Swedish massage!
The sartorial delights of Jermyn Street
Known all over the world as a classic menswear destination, Jermyn Street is home to some of the very best British brands for whom artisanal craft and tradition is paramount. The street was created by and named after Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, as part of his development of the St James's area of central London, around the year 1664. Even back then, it became a hub for tailoring and silk merchants. Today, it's the epicentre of elegant menswear and accessories. We would heartily recommend you drop by the shoemaker Edward Green whose summer loafers are sublime. The family perfumer Floris London is also an absolute gem of a boutique and the backrooms have remained pretty much unchanged since the store first opened some nearly three centuries ago! Then there's the Piccadilly Arcade, home of Favourbrook's waistcoat and accessories store where you'll find one of the biggest and most unique waistcoat collections anywhere in the world.
There is no shortage of excellent dining options in St. James's but one that never fails to delight and surprise is Aquavit on St. James's Market. The Nordic restaurant boasts a Michelin star for its stunning dishes which include smorgasbord classics such as smoked fish mousse dip, pickled cucumber and knäckebröd, and Vendace roe, “Kalix Löjrom”. Light yet bursting with delicate flavours, Aquavit is an antidote to the gastro-decathlon of many other fine-dining establishments.
A Jermyn Street institution bar none, the story of Wiltons is as memorable as the dining experience itself. When George William Wilton opened his shellfish-mongers close to Haymarket in 1742, he could have had no idea that his business would still be thriving nearly 280 years later. It may have passed through a few different hands since then (the stories of how are a must-read), but the same convivial if not slightly eccentric atmosphere remains. And the seafood is still as exceptional as it ever was.