Expats and tourists, make the most of a trip to the UK capital
Time Out staff
The Best Shops Winner Selfridges Everything for everyone all under one very glamorous roof The past year has truly belonged to Selfridges. Within its grand walls there have been interactive pop-ups, arty in-store festivals, high-end fashion exclusives and, on UK TV, Mr Selfridge – a period drama about the department store’s genesis focusing on founder Gordon Selfridge. Fittingly, the Oxford Street store saw a tangible return to the Wonka of retail’s mantra: ‘Selfridges is for everyone’ – and that’s pretty much why Selfridges is nabbing the shopping crown off last year’s winner Liberty. Alongside designer labels and luxurious services, you’ll find cheap nail bars and a ground floor busting with high street fashion.
Selfridge’s passion for the theatre of shopping has also survived – there’s been a confectionery golf course on the roof, hatmaking parties and shoe-tattooing services.
Last June, it unveiled what is unquestionably the capital’s best denim department on the third floor – a vast sweep of jeans that run the gamut from Primark skinnies to ludicrous diamond-encrusted Paige bootcuts. In August, the paltry toy offering was boosted by a fun new department complete with a messy Play-Doh station, carracing track and a regular programme of events like a pop-up bear-fixing-hospital – meaning the place is now as much a children’s playground as an adults’ one. Shopping should be fun, not a chore, and Selfridges wins gold for reintroducing joie de vivre into the business of buying. 400 Oxford St, W1A 1AB.
The Best Concept Store LN-CC A sartorialist’s dream Otherwise known as the Late Night Chameleon Club, this store is accessed by appointment via a basement-level door in a Dalston, East London, warehouse building. The store is a Tim Burton-like wonderland rendered in natural wood with a secret dancefloor, treehouse, ‘listening library’ and London’s most unique edit of super-rare fashion. Ostensibly a showroom for internet boutique www.ln-cc.com, the space stocks super-posh brands like Rick Owens. 18-24 Shacklewell Lane, E8 2EZ.
We also love… Opening Ceremony You don’t have to be a cool kid with cash to enjoy this bonkers UK flagship. Arrive with pocket money, leave with a pencil case in the print of the season. 35 King St, WC2E 8JG.
The Best Designer Discount Outlet Aquascutum Only the prices are downmarket at this outlet The Aquascutum outlet shop is opposite Burberry’s factory shop in east London. In many ways, the Aquascutum store is superior to its neighbour. For a start, it’s cheaper – a cashmere knit is around Dhs425 and a Harrington jacket Dhs915. And, unlike other sale shops crammed with tat and inferior made-for-sale product, this one has the feel of a luxury store. 7 Chatham Place, E9 6LT.
We also love… Pringle Outlet Argyle sweaters, cashmere twinsets and polo shirts are at least 50 percent off their original price here. 86 Morning Lane, E9 6NA.
The Best Kids’ Shop Hoxton Street Monster Supplies Gloriously ghoulish treats for little devils Purveyor of quality goods for monsters of every kind, this curious little shop is just the ticket for vampires, werewolves or humans on the prowl for a jar of Thickest Human Snot or a pot of Salt Made from Tears of Anger. You’ll find cabinets piled with creepy preserves (which are really lemon curd, gourmet sea salt and the like) as well as stories by famous authors. Proceeds support the Ministry of Stories creative writing centre set up for local children by writers Ben Payne, Lucy McNab and Nick Hornby. Just mind the invisible cat on your way out. 159 Hoxton St, N1 6PJ.
We also love… Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop Find cranky old toys and toy theatres for all budgets in this charming emporium of nostalgic playthings. 44 The Market, WC2E 8RF.
The Best Vintage Shop BLITZ A veritable department store of secondhand wonder Blitz blows its competitors out of the water. It takes up an entire old furniture factory with trunks stuffed with silk scarves, shoes lined up artfully on wooden benches, racks upon racks of denim sorted by shade and glass casings filled with trinkets galore. Look out for the excellent biker leathers or a twee plaid jumpsuit, all in excellent shape (pieces are cleaned and steamed before they hit the floor so there’s no ‘old clothes’ smell here). If you’re lucky, you might catch an employee giving away ‘ten percent off’ vouchers on Brick Lane, but everything is good value anyway, with brogues clocking in at around Dhs245. And of course, any shop with a coffee bar – in this case serving retro milkshakes – is a winner in our book. 55-59 Hanbury St, E1 5JP.
The Best Men’s High Street Store Topman General Store Luxury boutique, high street prices This General Store is the project of two of fashion’s biggest names: Topman’s creative director Gordon Richardson and Matthew Murphy, founder of the Other Store. Their taste is impeccable and experience in men’s fashion unrivalled, so enjoy a cherrypicked selection of Topman’s best bits, combined with brands such as Supreme Being and Quiet Life – all in a luxe, laddish setting. The Covent Garden shop is like a proper designer store, but without the unpleasant wallet-hit at the tills. 98 Commercial St, E1 6LZ.
We also love… Whistles The flash new Whistles flagship on Dover Street has plenty to offer, including the launch of its first menswear collection. 30 Dover St, W1S 4NB.
The Best Men’s Boutique J Simons Stylish menswear that won’t make you look like a fashion fool Established in 1955, J Simons is in its own ways as much an Ivy League institution as Harvard or Yale. The foundation of any great preppy wardrobe is here: Harrington jackets, button-down shirts, knit ties, chinos and penny loafers – the kind of clothes you see on the cover of Blue Note albums. Lots of shops now sell this look, but J Simons delivers the correct, authentic version – and one Miles Davis would approve of. 46 Chiltern St, W1U 7QR. We also love… David Saxby Authentic Brit apparel for the hunting, shooting and posing brigade. 62 Fulham High St, SW6 3LQ.
The Best Cult Classic Store Lewis Leathers Old-school style for rockers and fashionistas The heritage leather biker brand of choice for fashion icons like Cara Delevigne and Kate Moss. Established in 1892, the history of Lewis Leathers is all over the walls of its Fitzrovia shop, which reopened in 2010 and is now plastered with posters from the TT racer days of the 1920s through to the 1970s. Quality leather can be pricey – especially if you get it fitting like a glove with the shop’s made-to-measure service. 3 Whitfield St, W1T 2SA.
We also love… General Eyewear Get lovely nerdy frames at this vintage eyewear store. Arch 67, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8AH.
The Best Health & Beauty Shop G Baldwin & Co Tinctures and lotions and potions from an ancient apothecary As is proclaimed proudly on the shop’s frontage, G Baldwin & Co has been a ‘purveyor of natural products since 1844’. One of London’s oldest apothecaries, Baldwin once had 12 branches. This one remaining location retains a nostalgic atmosphere thanks to the tinkling counter bell, personal service and floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves brimming with herbs, tonics, tinctures, aromatherapy oils, beauty products, health foods and supplements. 171 Walworth Rd, SE17 1RW.
We also love… Floris Founded in 1732, this perfumery has spritzed everyone from King George V to Ian Fleming. 89 Jermyn St, SW1Y 6JH.
The Best Record Store Rough Trade East The store that proved people still buy music Though it arrived 30 years after its big brother in W11, Rough Trade East has fast become the company’s definitive London outpost. Located in the bustling Old Truman Brewery, its primary function is as a retailer of expertly curated vinyl, CDs and books, but it also finds space to serve its visiting musos coffee, and hosts regular in-store gigs on a purpose-built stage. Big names play here – including rockers Foals and Blur – and tickets can be scored by buying the band’s record in advance. Dray Walk, 91 Brick Lane, E1 6QL.
The Best New High Street Shop & Other Stories Le high street, c’est chic Although only a stiletto’s stomp from Oxford Circus’ glut of mainstream stores, this airy, two-floor, H&M-owned gem couldn’t be more different. For a start, there is only one branch in the UK, so you won’t see every other 14- to 44-year-old in the same top as you. It’s also got a dream team of designers – some of who have worked for labels like Acne and Sonia Rykiel – stationed around Europe from Stockholm to Paris, bringing European chic to central London. It makes the awkwardly named & Other Stories a fine destination for edgy and affordable fashion from elegant silk blouses to appealingly ugly shoes in butter-soft Italian leathers. 256 Regent St, W1B 3AF.
We also love… J Crew J Crew’s first UK store opened late last year, and already its trademark eccentric layering is rippling across the high street. 165 Regent St, W1B 4AD.
The Best Shoe Shop T&F Slack Beautiful brogues cobbled together in Notting Hill Think handmade shoes are just for bankers with a taste for the traditional? Think again. T&F Slack – a west London shoemaker – has made it its business to create hand-cobbled shoes with a price tag you won’t baulk at. The male and female creations cover Oxfords, derbies, desert boots and creepers, all with colourful bottoms and subversive twists. Prices start at Dhs1,130 and you can opt for a bespoke service (an additional Dhs305), to add your own tweaks to the material and colour. Then just stand back and watch them being made in the open-plan workshop-cum-boutique near Golborne Road. 6 Buspace Studios, Conlan St, W10 5AP. We also love… Poste Mistress This oft-forgotten premium footwear boutique is still one of our secret bolt-holes for niche labels. 61-63 Monmouth St, WC2H 9EP.
The Best London Exclusive House of Hackney Match your frock to your sofa at this pioneering print house One of the most gorgeous shops to land in this city in years, House of Hackney embellished East London’s Shoreditch with its glorious patterns last July. Bedecked in the London-inspired prints (Dalston Rose, Hackney Empire) that made the brand’s name, the store stocks printed homeware, clothing and accessories. The entrance is blooming with greenery from resident florists Wild At Heart, and the floral theme is picked up on shirts, notepads and crockery. Downstairs, you’ll find plump leopard print armchairs and palm-print chaise longues. Even if you walk away with just a teacup, rather than a suite of furniture, you should leave with something – a little piece of England, the way we’d like it to look. 131 Shoreditch High St, E1 6JE. We also love…V&A Shop The V&A gallery’s store is a print lover’s paradise. Cromwell Rd, SW7 2RL.
The Best Specialist Supplier JJ Fox The old school cigar shop There are a million ways to blow cash in Mayfair, so why not just set fire to it? Of all the cigar shops in London, Fox is the grandest and most storied. Oscar Wilde died owing it money and former UK prime minister Winston Churchill used to buy Montecristos here. It’s worth a visit just to see the clientele: a mix of ageing playboys and ex-public school boys. 19 St James’s St, SW1A 1ES.
We also love… James Smith This brilliantly focused store makes the world’s finest umbrellas and nothing else. Apart from walking sticks (which are basically umbrellas without the canopy). 53 New Oxford St, WC1A 1BL.