A Connoisseur's Afternoon

Categories: London | Travel


A Connoisseur’s Afternoon

50-52 Elizabeth Street SW1
020 7730 8108; www.jeroboams.co.uk

H. R. Stokes
58 Elizabeth Street SW1
020 7730 7073; www.henrystokes.co.uk

Tomtom Cigars
63 Elizabeth Street SW1
020 7730 1790; www.tomtom.co.uk

Fulham News
200 Fulham Road SW10
020 7351 3435

Battersea Park
On the South Bank, across from Chelsea SW11
The Peace Pagoda is by the river in the centre of the park.

There are very few “secrets” in such a busy, gossipy city as London, but there are some simple, unexploited pleasures. One of mine would be this.

Take a car or a cab to Elizabeth Street in Belgravia, where you will find a lot of what you need to nourish body and soul. At Jeroboams, pick up some good bread and cheese and a bottle of better-than-average white burgundy; a 1996 Meursault would do fine. While the cab is waiting, nip into Henry Stokes’s bookshop at No. 58, a small, village-like affair, but with a well-chosen stock of current titles. Buy something. In the same street, Tomtom Cigars will sell you a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2. Now divert the cab to Fulham Road, where you will find the world’s best newsagent, Fulham News. Buy an armful of your favourite papers and magazines, then have yourself dropped at the Chelsea Bridge entrance to Battersea Park. I love Battersea Park because of its oddness: it was built on spoil from the excavation of the Royal Docks, and asparagus was cultivated here.

Anyway, select a bench overlooking the river, somewhere near the Peace Pagoda. On a weekday you will have the place entirely to yourself so, if you have remembered your running stuff, hide the food, papers, and books and take a turn around the park’s perimeter. This is about a mile and a half, so not too demanding, but enough to justify the indulgence of the food, drink, smoke, and reading you are now going to enjoy.

The view from your bench is beautiful and evocative:  this is Whistler’s and Wilde’s Thames. It is wonderful in warm sunshine, even lovelier in autumnal mist. From the bench, as you munch your bread and cheese and slurp the wine, you can enjoy one of the best urban views in Britain: Wren’s dignified Royal Hospital and then the gorgeous red brick houses of Chelsea Embankment, these last Britain’s most singular contribution to the history of world architecture. If you have brought two bottles, you can sit and wait and watch the sun go down over the eccentric Albert Bridge and the lumpy old Lots Road Power Station. For less than the price of a pretentious meal in a mediocre restaurant, you have had some of the very best London has to offer.

Stephen Bayley
Stephen Bayley was responsible for the Design Museum and created the Boilerhouse Project at the V & A. His books include Woman as Design, and he is a columnist on The Times. He currently runs a small design business in Soho.

POSTED BY Robert Kahn on October 25th 2011 | Add a comment