Another visit to Ye Olde Londinium – day two

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Did you miss day one? It’s right here. Day two saw us lace up and set off again. After the miserable dinner at the hotel the evening before, it was easy to skip the £27.50 breakfast they served there. Almost 30 quid for breakfast? This just goes to show that when booking a hotel in London, make sure breakfast is included, otherwise they will gouge you. There are any number of places that will service you a fried egg, a strip of bacon, a sausage and a spoonful of beans (aka. the average cheap “full English”) for £7.50. Or you can pick up some ready made sandwiches or something equivalent for a few pounds. Not exactly high end living, but when you can get a nice lunch or dinner for the price of breakfast, the choice is simple.

The popular parts of London at massively crowded most of the time, so if you want to do anything other than march in step looking at the back of the person in front of you (now that doesn’t sound right at all, it’s not like that at all, it’s more like an endless and tiring frustration of people standing, stopping, walking slow or fast, in the same, the opposite or perpendicular directions to where you are headed) you take the side streets. On a Saturday morning at Easter, Bond Street was perfect, hardly a soul about. Bond Street isn’t where I would go to visit shops, far too upper-crust for me, but I did start paying attention to their shop windows. It’s quite obvious that shops here have an ambition level and budget to make some remarkable displays.

Staying by Green Park means the nearest Tube station is almost at Piccadilly Square, so by the time you’ve walked there you’ve already limbered up and found your gait, so it sort of makes sense to just keep on walking. I’d arranged a meetup off Carnaby Street, for practical reasons, but before that I popped into Liberty and tok a look round their menswear section. They stock some pretty trendy and expensive brands, but the impression I was left with was that it was all very samey and frankly pretty boring. I’m sure if I’d removed all the placards with the brand names on them, shuffled them and returned the pile to them, even the buyer would have struggled to place them all correctly. This does hammer home how hard it is to find something you don’t already have though.

Day two map, sort of

I’d arranged to meet Tim, of new brand Paladrin, for a chat about starting up a new menswear brand. I posted seperately about this a week or two ago, if you are keen on London-made workwear styles, take a look here. Quite strange to sit talking menswear in a Costas chock full of noisy folks, but oddly by the time we finished it was empty, without us noticing it had emptied. I think that is a sign of a good conversation.

The plan for the day though was Shoreditch. I suspect Shoreditch might already have peaked, to be replaced by Hackney or Brixton, but there were places we wanted to visit there, so off we went. Getting to Shoreditch is fiddly at the best of times, but today we were left stranded halfway there. No info, no train. In the end we went outside the station and caught a black cab. This turned out well, as it was a sunny day and only 15 minutes drive. When you’re used to going everywhere under ground, it makes a nice change to see more of the city.

Arriving in Shoreditch it was lunchtime, which turns into the usual issue of where to eat. London is full of places to eat, and most of them either look super high end or totally low end. We were walking along past Boxpark (“Hey, the Norwegian onesie shop is still there!”) and notice this derelict looking factory building type place. Peering in through the window we see people sitting there and we’re intrigued. Looks a bit murky and dirty, but let’s take a look. Turns out it’s Smokestak and even though the menu is pretty cryptic, the food we end up with on our table is the best we’ve had in a long time. Cured and smoked meats. Awesome.

Shoreditch has a selection of the more interesting shops in London, such as Mendoza (very interesting menswear), Son of a Stag (the other rare selvedge denim shop), Rough Trade, YMC, London Undercover (I’m still looking for a duelling umbrella), Grenson, various secondhand and vintage. Also, the infamous SEH Kelly, the smallest workshop cum showroom in London. It’s always a delight to stop by and have a chat with Paul and it’s also fascinating to notice who else has found there way there. Last time I was in there was an American visitor, this time a Canadian. It’s really quite amazing how a tiny brand can reach so far, but no doubt this is entirely down to quality garments and effort spent on social media and forum outreach. I often mention SEH Kelly as an example of how small brands can be a success, and it bears repeating.

In a back street I found these two. Opposite ends of the evolution, yet the only common factor is 4 wheels and the colour.

One of the most joyful features of Shoreditch is the street art. I thin keven for people that visit regularly it’s kept fresh and vibrant, due to the sheer number surfaces available and the number of pieces being painted. It’s also pretty obvious that this is a major industry in the area, as we kept stumbling upon “Street Art Tours” of various formats. Heck, why not? I appreciate the styles and messages of street art much more than the crusty olde masters hanging in the museums.

By this time the lustre of Shoreditch had dulled and we found our way back towards more central areas. WDW enjoys taking the afternoon tea, so we thought we’d give the Pat Val near Green Park a go. Well, they had a table by the window vacant, so it was off to a good start. Pat Val is one of those places that seems like a good idea right up until you’ve sat down, then it goes down hill. This time it was the noise. Not in general, but mainly from an Italian grandma at the next table. Did she ever have a lot of stuff she was pissed off about, in a loud, intense and unfathomable way. Or at least that is how she sounded. I’m normally pretty tolerant, but after 10 solid minutes I had to give her a stern look. Which actually seemed to work, even though to everyone but me it probably looked like I had a sore tooth. Both her family and we were pleased when she piped down though.

A late afternoon tea may in some instances pass for a dinner of sorts. At least this one did, fired up on fresh sugar we decided to walk around some more. Fortnum and Mason isn’t a shop I normally bother with, though they are a masterclass in presentation. I was surprised this time to find both a selection of McNair mountain shirts and a Nigel Cabourn pop-up shop there. The Cabourn part was especially impressive as it held a super selection of the tweed garments from the past two Autmn-Winter seasons. Strange how much of this has survived all the stock clearances of the past couple of years.

With night falling, that was it for day two. Day three was to be dedicated to more high-brow pursuits.

Did you miss day one? It’s right here. And day three is available here.

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