If you’re only just waking up from a July 4th meat hangover – I am – it’s not too late to consult the closest travel agent (“the internet”) and book yourself on the next flight to London. Not only will it allow you a short respite from what seems to be a 3-month BBQ-thon, you’ll also get a much-needed dose of cultivation while you’re at it.
As soon as you touch down, uber to Westbourne Grove. Ledbury Road to be exact. You didn’t pack anything because you were in such a rush – and, of course, the weather is just so unpredictable – but thankfully our little disco ball of a DVF shop is right there so you can stock up on whatever you need. Have them hold all ten of your shopping bags (you had to get one of each!) as you take an early lunch next door at Ottolenghi, the legendary restaurant and marketplace, where freshly prepared delicacies pour off every conceivable surface. Leave room for dessert, Ottolenghi is known for doing remarkable things with rhubarb and meringue.
Ottolenghi: 63 Ledbury Road, W11 2AD
Diane von Furstenberg: 83 Ledbury Road, W11 2AG
Before you head off to one of the firemen’s rooms at the Chiltern Firehouse, take a quick detour to Zarvis, a hidden apothecary under the Westway on Portobello Road. Pick up a few bath soaks (the enticingly named “Flabby Flesh Soak” will do wonders on your airplane-ravaged skin) and coax Vivian, the wonderfully cantankerous owner, to tell you some good stories since the store opened in 1976.
Zarvis: 281 Portobello Road, W10 5TZ
Once you drop your new loot at the hotel, stroll down Marylebone High Street, cross Oxford Street and head into Mayfair, making a beeline for Daniel Katz and Robin Katz Fine Art. This father and son duo has taken over a townhouse off Berkeley Square to showcase Katz pere’s extraordinary classical sculpture collection and Katz fils’s equally keen collection of modern British masters. Keep your eyes peeled for some of the best Lynn Chadwicks and Bridget Rileys around.
Chiltern Firehouse: 1 Chiltern Street, W1U 7PA
Daniel Katz/Robin Katz Fine Art: 6 Hill Street, W1J 5NF
Saunter down the road to David Zwirner for comparison, where you’ll find a whole retrospective of Riley’s work on display.
David Zwirner: 24 Grafton Street, W1S 4EZ
Amazingly, your best friend’s cousin’s friend’s mother babysat Carey Mulligan and somehow managed to get you tickets to David Hare’s Skylight (sold out for obvious reasons), in which she and Bill Nighy star as former lovers. With her baby face and her adult conviction, Carey has never been stronger in a performance: wildly intelligent, willing and fierce in her vulnerability. She never leaves the stage and meets Bill Nighy —graceful, effortless, volatile— who played the same part 20 years ago, blow for blow.
Skylight: Wyndham’s Theatre, Charing Cross Road, WC2H ODA
By now you must be hungry again— I am—but before you hurry back to the Chiltern, rummage through a few of the rare book stores on either side of the theatre. You’ll find all sorts of unimagined treats. Make sure not to snack, because you’ll want to try everything on the menu, and you will! Don’t ignore the bar menu and the deadly fried chicken. And by deadly I mean, you are permitted to die after you eat it, because the rest of food has hereby been ruined for you. You will find yourself inexorably drawn to the lounge after dinner but only to make sense of the totally confounding English celebrities who seem to have set up camp there. I forgive you.
Hey! You still have another day or two left. Wake up early from jetlag and make your way to the Thames, cross the MIllenium Bridge on foot and make a beeline for the exhibit of Matisse cut-outs. In the final act of his life, when Matisse was too ill to paint, he began to cut painted paper to make drafts for future pieces, thereby inventing a new medium. Look closely at the exuberant shapes and colors and you’ll see why Diane herself cites Matisse as a major inspiration.
Tate Modern: Bankside, London SE1 9TG
Museum legs will only get you so far, so head back up Marylebone for a casual bite at Fischer’s, the new Austrian restaurant by the same gang who gave us the Woolsey on Piccadilly —a London classic— and revel in the warm wood, brass and mosaic floors that recall 1930’s Vienna, and of course the exquisite smoked fish, Wurst and Kaiserschmarn – ripped up pancake bits with plum compote.
Fischer’s: 50 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 5HN
If it’s a warm day, head up to Hampstead Heath and take a dip in the Lady’s Pond, a common ritual among Londoners to combat summer temperatures. If pond water isn’t quite your cup of tea, find a secluded spot on the heath and doze off for an hour before you head back down to the Strand to catch Wolf Hall, the first in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy to be adapted for the stage. Through the eyes of Cromwell the familiar tale of Henry VIII’s divorce from his first wife Catherine of Aragon, his marriage to Anne Boleyn and the subsequent founding of the Church of England, will have you glued to your seat for 3 hours. The young British actress, Lydia Leonard, who plays Anne Boleyn is a revelation.
Wolf Hall: The Aldwych, Aldwych, WC2B 4DF
Stumble out and hit Loulou’s for a nightcap. Although the Chiltern’s really the place to be these days, this member’s club is still a good diversion. And if you happen to be in London on a Thursday and you want to venture into Soho, the legendary ska, rockabilly, bebop and punk night called Gaz’s has been open for 30 years in the basement of the St. Moritz Hotel and has played host to every cool kid in town since its inception. Yours truly did time as a coat-check girl and danced in this cavernous room in her first wrap dress.
Loulou’s, 5 Hertford Street, W1J 5RB
Gaz’s Rockin Blues, St Moritz Hotel, 159 Wardour Street W1