Want to know where to find a vast collection of vintage Yves Saint Laurent? Or to know where Winston Churchill bought his cigars? Ask a Londoner. There is no population in the world that’s better versed – or better placed – to curate a shopping trip of which dreams are made. The key lies in knowing where to point your feet.
Author Emma McCarthy shares a taster of where to go in London if you’re looking for something a bit different, away from the main tourist hotspots.
Whether you’re after a handtied bouquet of blooms or a unique botanical gift fresh off the workbench, owner Alice, florist Pip and crucially, Goose the shop dog are on hand to help.
This plant shop specialises in potted succulents and contemporary arrangements – they offer home delivery to most central London postcodes too – while intimate floristry workshops span flower crown and wreath making classes. Botanique also stocks a meticulously curated edit of treasures from local producers including Hackney-based kidswear label What Mother Made and Netil Market’s dog-loving brand Fetch and Follow.
Add in its charming collection of handmade cards and you’ve got the perfect pre-party pitstop.
The wealth of understated and well-priced streetwear labels is just one of the reasons why this menswear store continues to pull in a steady flow of shoppers. The rest is down to its artfully cool construction.
Nested under a railway arch, Article’s second branch (the first is on Dalston’s Kingsland Road), ticks every box in the hip boutique handbook. The curved, corrugated metal roof and Scandi-minimalist strip lighting gives Brixton’s creative industry types a shop to admire, while the cycle-friendly Sandqvist backpacks and cheap Dickies chinos help to ensure they reach the till.
The star of the show is Article’s hidden shoe room, which features a host of highly Instagrammable features, from the distinctive wood sculpture to the colour-coordinated selection of kicks.
Ask anyone in South London where to get a sugar fix and the answer is always the same: Melange. As if straight out of the pages of Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, Parisienne owner and self-taught chocolatier Isabelle Alaya set up shop in 2008 and has been giving Peckham’s chocolate-lovers a place to indulge their sweet tooth ever since.
As well as offering a host of workshops – from chocolate painting to wine pairing – Melange specialises in hand layered slabs of dark, milk and white chocolate with unique flavor combinations such as ginger and lime and raspberry and rosemary. Stop short of gorging yourself on the sample trays to save room for the café’s signature hot chocolates, voted the best in London by the capital’s most meticulous chocoholics. Try the delicious coconut milk option, whether you’re vegan or not.
This quaint little shop is catnip for stationery fetishists, gift-hunters and digital-refuseniks. Proprietress Julia, who spent her early years in France and Tokyo, has a keen eye for all things miniature, from the practical (leatherbound notebooks, wooden pencil trays) to the pretty (ceramic bird paperweights, hand-blown hourglasses).
It’s near impossible to leave without a new desk mate.
BOOKS FOR COOKS
Notting Hill stalwart Books For Cooks has become a global destination for foodies. Since 1983, its shelves have been stuffed with cookbooks of every conceivable cuisine and its staff has consisted of former chefs and culinary experts – the most famous of whom was future ‘Fat Lady’ Clarissa Dickson Wright.
It has also earned a reputation as ‘the best smelling shop in the world’, owing to the tiny kitchen sandwiched between the bookshelves at the back of store where recipes are tested daily and served to hungry shoppers at lunch.
Cookery classes are also held in the demonstration kitchen above the shop.
Emma McCarthy is the author of Shop London, out now from Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto Group.
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