Mayfair Magic: Shopping, spotless boulevards and a hotel to die for
Short breaks in London
Mayfair is London at its most luxurious. That's why a stay is so exciting, says Maggie Armstrong.
Set the mood
Mayfair is postcard London - wedding-cake houses on spotless boulevards, the city's oldest shops and newest rich. As Edna O'Brien wrote, "the name Mayfair still conjures up a region plush with promise and privilege".
I was here for a show in the West End, and time was as tight as a packed underground. I wanted to eat like a queen and pretend I live here all the time.
I got that (for 24 hours, at least) by checking into Flemings, a luxury boutique hotel trading since 1851, and, as of late, a £14m refurbishment to the good. In the bathrooms alone, I died and went to a heaven that was "scented Darjeeling".
There were cat lights in the shower. Edna O'Brien, eat your heart out.
I was staying a hair's breadth from Piccadilly Circus, where luxury bastions like the Ritz and Fortnum & Mason give way to the commercial carnival of Leicester Square.
New Bond Street's fashion parade of Prada, Gucci and Burberry did nicely for window shopping. These mad-houses are like museums, their clothes like art pieces (discreet attendants know as well as you do that you're not going to buy that Alexander McQueen coat chained to the wall).
Liberty (liberty.co.uk), where it's said Oscar Wilde bought his threads, is not to be missed. The department store must be the only place in London where attendants tell you when the item you want is going on sale.
Green Park is a rare wilderness in Central London. The tree-pillared space rollicks into The Mall, where you can have your yearning glance at Buckingham Palace and try to make the guards laugh.
For supper, 28-50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen (2850.co.uk) on Maddox Street afforded me splendid food at gastro-pub prices (the set menu offers three courses for £19.50/€23.50). Think crab tortellini with miso broth, or tagliatelle with braised rabbit... and those crushed potatoes with crème fraiche are the devil.
The feel at Flemings is decidedly plush and you may get a dose of imposter syndrome if you're not used to paying €450 for a Studio Suite with terrace. Think bespoke furniture, botanical bathroom products and British supermodels on the walls (I did like looking at Kate Moss and David Gandy). Two flat-screen TVs, just inches apart, bordered on the showy. However, my room's 'honesty' gin bar made up for any displeasure.
If you like affordable theatre tickets, the Leicester Square ticket booth in the Clocktower Building is where you can find an reasonably priced ticket at the last minute. Visit tkts.co.uk/leicestersquare to see what's on sale.
Inexcusably hostile service at local restaurant Kitty Fisher's (kittyfishers.com) - despite the delicious dishes from the wood grill. Sadly, mean service can feel like a theme throughout this hopelessly exclusive part of London.
Get me there
Simple. Fly to Heathrow (Aer Lingus flies from Dublin, Shannon and Cork) and whizz straight on to the Piccadilly Line. Dismount at Green Park, turn fourth right and you're in Half Moon Street's glorious abode.
Deluxe doubles at Flemings (flemings.co.uk) start from £250/€300. The boutique hotel is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World (0800 0482 314; slh.com/flemings).
For more on London, see visitlondon.com.