One of the most iconic shopping and entertainment precincts in London, Regent Street instills the vitality and sophistication of the British capital to a tee. By Nick Walton
You could be forgiven for not knowing that Regent Street, that staple of timeless Britishness, was one of the first planned developments in London and remains a vital component of the legacy of British designer John Nash. One of England’s first examples of city planning, and a precinct in the midst of a GBP1 billion investment program, Regent Street remains one of the most vibrant corners of the British capital, welcoming 7.5 million tourists per year with its world class hotels, innovative restaurants, traditional artisans, and upscale boutiques.
Regent Street, with its close proximity to the royal palace and some of London’s most sophisticated neighborhoods, has long been associated with luxury, fashion and style. Ensure you hit Regent Street’s boutiques looking your best: women can make a beeline for DryBy, a new blow dry and nail art studio located just off Regent Street. Offering a contemporary nail styling experience as well as a selection of timeless hairstyles, DryBy also caters to weary travellers with indulgent scalp massages and treatment masques that will have you looking a million pounds in moments. www.dryby.co.uk
Gents won’t be left behind either. Murdock London, on Great Marlborough Street, not only offers a refined and luxurious take on the traditional St James’ barbershops, but also presents today’s gentlemen plenty of pampering, with a raft of treatments, from signature wet shaves and haircuts through to manicures, facials and even shoeshines. They also do a brilliant line in men’s grooming products, perfect gifts for dandies back home. www.murdocklondon.com
Regent Street is best known for its luxury shopping, drawing travellers from across the globe to its historic department stores and chic boutiques. Start at Liberty, a department store on Great Marlborough Street that was founded in 1875 and which specializes in luxury clothing and accessories, as well as cosmetics and jewellery. Look out for the heritage-listed black and white Tudor revival façade of this historic bazaar and prepare to browse the afternoon away as this place has a little of everything, from fragrances and trench coats to cocktail shakers and stilettos. www.liberty.co.uk
Regent Street is also home to a host of international brand flagship stores; Apple brought in the crowds when they opened earlier this year; Burberry recently opened at 121 Regent Street, as did Michael Kors Kate Spade and Ralph Lauren; with Banana Republic, Ted Baker and Aquascutum hot on their heels.
Of course these international shrines to consumerism are joined by more traditional British brands (although many have been given a modern facelift) from the likes of Hamleys toy emporium, Church’s shoes, and Hunter, through to Penhaligon’s, Hackett, and Barbour.
All that retail therapy is sure to build up an appetite. Fortunately Regent Street is as much a foodie destination as it is a haven for shopaholics, with everything from Argentine steaks at Gaucho, and High Tea at Café Royal, to fine dining at Roux at the Landau.
We suggest you kick off at a celebrity favourite, Aqua London. Like its Hong Kong brethren, Aqua London is split into three distinctive settings: there’s Aqua Spirit, a chic cocktail bar popular with the black suit nine-to-fivers and famed for its Asian fusion cocktails (the Yuzuana Bellinis are crowd pleasers), best enjoyed during the water months on the restaurant’s extensive rooftop terrace. Aqua Kyoto serves up delectable Japanese menus laced with imported ingredients, while Aqua Neuva finishes the trilogy with its modern Spanish a la carte menus and lingering brunches. www.aqua-london.com
Around the corner, oyster and history lovers alike should book ahead for a perch at Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill, which has been shucking oysters for the well-to-do masses for almost 100 years. Under the watchful eye of Michelin-starred chef Richard Corrigan, a team of ‘oyster boys’ man the main oyster bar at the heart of the restaurant. Order a dozen oysters from the best beds across the British Isles, and compliment the fare with imported caviar, signatures from the raw bar (the beef tartare is to die for), and drops from a beautifully-curated wine list. For something a little more serious, head upstairs to the Grill, home to classic British cuisine, from roast grouse and Cornish mussels to Elwy Valley lamb and the iconic baked fish stew. www.bentleys.org
Alternatively, if you’re just looking to graze while you admire your new purchases, duck into Momo, London’s original North African den and home to a sumptuous fusion afternoon tea that will sate your appetite for both food and exotic locales. Founded by Parisian-Algerian restauranteur Mourad Mazouz in 1995, this boudoir is tucked away on Heddon Street and serves an innovative afternoon tea that takes its inspiration as much from the Atlas Mountains as it does the Champs Elysees. Be sure to leave time for a tipple in the hidden Black Dive Bar, Momo’s own speakeasy sibling. http://momoresto.com
There’s nothing quite like a well-made drink to easy aching feet after a long day window shopping and while Hawksmoor is renowned as one of the best steak spots in London, you can’t go past its cocktail list, which packs a punch. Located on Air Street, just off Regent, the cocktail menu is inspired by some of the oldest cocktails ever recorded, with each beautiful concoction laboriously shaken and strained on order – lovers of the classic Bloody Mary will enjoy Hawksmoor’s homage to the great drink across three signature renditions. Be sure to book ahead as this is one of the hottest tables in the Regent Street precinct. http://thehawksmoor.com
For more info on what’s happening in Regent Street go to www.regentstreetonline.com
Do yourself a favour and navigate all Regent Street has to offer through the precinct’s new Regent Street Shopping app, which offers real time advice on where you should be heading for the season. www.regentstreetonline.com/zeitgeist/regent-street-app