St Pancras station was famously saved from developers in the 1960s due to a campaign by John Betjeman and the Victorian Society.
Betjeman vividly described St Pancras as:
“…that cluster of towers and pinnacles seen from Pentonville Hill…outlined against a foggy sunset…the great arc of Barlow’s train shed gaping to devour incoming engines, and the sudden burst of exuberant Gothic of the hotel seen from gloomy Judd Street.”
Earl Grey was Prime Minister of the British Isles from 1830-34. Famous for having a type of tea named after him, he lived at number 13 Carlton House Terrace.
Next door, at number 12, the Institute of Contemporary Arts has a lovely café, that serves a good cup of tea all these years later.
The ICA was formed in the 1940’s by Surrealist Roland Penrose and anarchist Herbert Read as a meeting place for artists and intellectuals. It has been in the Mall since the sixties.
Today, there is an art house cinema, gallery space, and art bookshop. They stock an impressive range of art theory books with zippy titles (more…)
The East India Company’s extraordinary and influential history stretches back to 1600 when it was established by a Royal Charter from Elisabeth I.
Over the years it had its own army, and flag – said to be the inspiration for the U.S. Stars and Stripes.
The Company’s dealings led directly to British rule in India and its system of organisation was precursor to the British civil service. (more…)
Prufrock coffee has a reputation bar none in the world of the coffee geek. I hope they don’t mind being referred to as geeks as they are charming and friendly folk, but the lengths they go to make a brew are impressive.
No flicking the kettle on here, this is a veritable laboratory of caffeine. Chrome contraptions to weigh, time, filter and take temperature. (more…)
Liberty was established in 1874 by Arthur Lasenby Liberty, selling ornaments and objet d’art from the East. By the end of the 19th century it was hugely fashionable and influential, collaborating with the foremost designers of the day, particularly of the Art and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles. In Italy Art Nouveau is known as ‘Stile Liberty’.
The store was frequented by artists and aesthetes – Oscar Wilde declared:
“Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper.”
Over the years Liberty has worked with contemporary designers and artists including William Morris, Gabriel Dante (more…)
The extraordinary redevelopment of the area around Kings Cross Station continues apace. Since the Eurostar terminal arrived at St Pancras in 2007, the area has seen the opening of King’s Place – a canal side arts centre and home of the Guardian newspaper; the restoration and reopening of Sir Gilbert Scott’s much-loved Midland Hotel and an impressive new roof at Kings Cross Station.
Recently Granary Square, an expansive cobbled space north of Regents Canal, has opened, making apparent the scale of the final project (it even has a new postcode, NC1).
Formerly a canal basin where barges unloaded their goods, (more…)
The Fleet River is one of London’s lost rivers. Running underground from Hampstead via Kentish Town, Kings Cross and Clekenwell into the Thames at Blackfriars; it was once a major waterway with healing wells along it’s course.
With the industrial revolution, the once clear waters became polluted and the Fleet was gradually bricked over. There are some extraordinary photos and a brief history of the river here.
The Fleet River Bakery is in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, behind Holborn Station. A welcome independent cafe in this area of chains, they bake everything on site from scratch. Emphasis is on the (more…)
One my recent visit to Samuel Johnson’s House, I bought a booklet of essays entitled ‘Tea and coffee in the age of Dr Johnson’; a fascinating insight into the coffee houses of 18th century London.
I learned that one of the early coffee shops was called Tom’s. Established by Thomas Twining in 1706 nearby the shop on Strand that sells tea to this day. Tom’s had a library and was ‘…a place renowned for its polite and scholarly interests’*. Further up Fleet Street was Nando’s coffee shop (perhaps shortened from Fernando’s).
I am reminded of this 300 odd years later, and (more…)
Postcards Teas travel extensively in Asia, working with small-scale producers to find the finest teas which you can buy from 9 Dering Street, a former 18th century grocers shop.
The lovely calm space has tea simply displayed and beautifully packaged in brushed metal canisters; each with a unique postcard and (more…)
Heddon Street loops off Regent Street towards the Piccadilly end. In 1973 Ziggy Stardust landed with his Spiders from Mars at no. 23 and changed the world. An old red telephone box, featured the back of the album cover, sits in the far corner, past a bar where everything, including the glasses is made of ice (useless for tea cup!).
Forty years on, Heddon Street has been branded, a bit clumsily, as ‘Food Quarter.’ There is a good choice of restaurants, many with tables outside. It is car-free so has a pleasant, courtyard feel.
Momo restaurant, with its impressive Moroccan inspired interior, has been (more…)