Blog Archives

Shopping in style – Part 5: An art deco gem Princes Arcade

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The Princes Arcade was built in the 1930s in the Victorian Princes Hall

Decades before the likes of Westfield and Brent Cross came to London, those who wanted to shop in comfort headed to one of the capital’s arcades. Like the mega malls of today, these arcades featured numerous shops under one roof, providing a sheltered retail experience whatever the weather. However, as well laid out as these modern fashion meccas are, they just can’t compare to the historic and upmarket designs of the late Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods. As part of Metro Girl’s series on the five historic arcades of Mayfair and St James, Part 5 focuses on the youngest, the Princes Arcade, which unlike the others, wasn’t purpose built.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The Princes Arcade features a simple blue, white and grey colour scheme

Princes Arcade is part of Princes House at 190–195 Piccadilly  which was originally built to house the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. The building, designed by English architect Edward Robert Robson (1836-1917) and built by Messrs. Holland and Hannen, and Messrs. Peto Brothers of Pimlico, featured galleries, shops and a public hall. Robson was famous for his London state schools of the 1870s and early 1880s. The Piccadilly-facing ground floor featured six shops, with their own basements and mezzanine. On the façade of the building were eight portrait busts by sculptor Edward Onslow Ford (1852-1901). The building was in a prime location opposite the road from the Royal Academy and was opened by Prince and Princess of Wales (the future Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) in April 1883.

The main public gallery in the building was called the Prince’s Hall. However, by the turn of the 20th century, the Hall was joined with the Prince’s Hotel in the rear and it started being used as a restaurant. Between 1929 and 1933, the gallery building and the Prince’s Hotel underwent significant alterations, with the Princes Arcade being constructed at the time. The new arcade linked Jermyn Street and Piccadilly and opened in 1933. The Princes Arcade is roughly about 200ft long and features shopfronts projecting into the aisle on scrolled bracket. The southern part of the Arcade has a lower ceiling than the northern part, with the latter featuring decorative plasterwork with the Princes of Wales feathers.

In World War II, Princes Arcade fell prey to bomb damage in 1940, prompting repairs and alterations. The galleries of the Royal Institute were also damaged, reopening in July 1948. By 1972, the entire building was Grade II-listed – two years after the Royal Institute’s lease expired and they moved to the Mall Galleries near Trafalgar Square.

The Princes Arcade was renovated in 1983 and is now sporting a blue, grey and white colour scheme. The original lanterns were restored in 2011 and are now a dark grey colour. Today, the Arcade is home to Andy & Tuly, Barker Shoes, Bates Hatters, Christys’ Hats, Loake Shoemakers, Sage Brown, Segun Adelaja, Simply Gem, Smart Turnout, St Petersburg Collection, The Left Shoe Company and Prestat – Roald Dahl’s favourite chocolatier.

  • Princes Arcade, Piccadilly, St. James’s, SW1Y 6DS. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Princes Arcade website.

‘Shopping In Style’ is a series of blog posts on the history of London’s oldest shopping arcades. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ to keep up to date with my latest posts. Read Part 1 on the Burlington Arcade here, Part 2 on the Royal Opera Arcade here, Part 3 on the Royal Arcade here or Part 4 on the Piccadilly Arcade here.

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Foodie talks, music, comedy and more as Live At Zédel launches

Live At Zédel

Gizzi Erskine and Grace Dent will be among the names appearing at Live At Zédel

The Zédel building in Piccadilly is a pretty special place. It comprises of the Brasserie, Crazy Coqs and Bar Américain – located in the former basement of the Regent Palace Hotel, which stood on the site until 2016. The three venues feature the stunning, original Art Deco interiors designed by Oliver Percy Bernard in the 1930s, making you feel like you have stepped into an Agatha Christie novel set on a luxurious cruise liner. While many people know of the Zédel building as a place to eat or drink, it’s soon to be a new hotspot for West End arts events.

Launching this month, ‘Live At Zédel’ will host a series of events, featuring music, theatre, comedy and literature. Londoners of all ages will find a place to whet their cultural appetite – whatever their interests – at evenings in the Brasserie and Crazy Coqs spaces. The bill will include a diverse range of established and upcoming talent, with names such as Doc Brown, Grayson Perry and the Philharmonia Orchestra.

This week (21-24 September 2016) will be themed Food Week, with Gizzi Erskine, Grace Dent, Levi Roots and Jay Rayner sharing their foodie knowledge.

Acclaimed songwriter Scott Alan has been appointed Artistic Director in Residence for the Autumn season. He will bring a host of musical theatre talent to Zédel, including Shoshana Bean, Rachel Tucker, Mark Shenton and Julie Atherton. Meanwhile, a host of music acts from across the genres will also perform, such as Maria Friedman, Sam Smith’s pianist Reuben James, singer-songwriter Jono McCleery, X Factor winner Matt Cardle, drag super-group DENIM, La Voix and Crazy Coqs’ favourite Miss Hope Springs.

Diners at the Brasserie can head upstairs to the Crazy Coqs for some post-meal jazz at the ‘After Hours’ and ‘The Early Late Show’. However, if comedy floats your boat, Girl power troupe Birthday Girls, Theatre With Legs, the Althea Theatre’s new show Double Trouble, and Dolls Eye Theatre’s Might Never Happen will also be performing.

  • Live At Zedel takes place at Crazy Coqs or Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, W1F 7ED. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus. Matinee times: 3-6pm, early evening: 7pm, evening: 9pm, late night: 11pm. For more information, visit the Brasserie Zedel website.

For a guide to what else is on in London, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Ten Room at Hotel Café Royal review: Heavenly dessert in an expansive Art Deco dining room

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Raspberry Ripple Chocolate Mousse at Ten Room at the Hotel Café Royal

The Hotel Café Royal is an iconic venue in London’s West End, having been reopened as a five-star hotel in 2012. As you would expect, the hotel features several dining and drinking options, including Ten Room, its informal all-day dining location. Recently, I ventured along with a close pal for a celebratory dinner, booking a set menu through its website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Cheers! A champagne cocktail

Entering the restaurant, we were greeted by an expansive dining room overlooked by an atrium balcony. While I liked the Art Deco feel of the place, it felt somewhat too lofty a space so lacked cosiness. On the night in question, the restaurant was rather quiet, with only a few other couples dining. We were shown to a small table for two – perhaps a bit too small as it was a bit of a squeeze for all our glasses and dishes during the meal, but very comfortable leather seating.

To begin, I ordered a champagne cocktail as an apéritif which was a generous size and mixed with fruit so was refreshing for the palette. I was in the mood for soup, so started with the Red Pepper Soup with Tomato and Basil, while my friend had the Salmon Rilette, Crispy Quail’s Egg, Potato and Mustard. My soup was comforting and warm, with flavours just the right subtlety as I was wary of the pepper being overpowering. I tried a bit of my friend’s Salmon and it tasted lovely, making me wish I had ordered that instead.

For mains, I opted for the Artichoke and Truffle Risotto which was nice enough but I would have preferred more flavour. I find I can get bored with Risotto after a while so perhaps I should stop ordering it in restaurants. I somewhat envied my pal’s choice of Seared Cod with Broccoli, Anchovies and Chili, which she enjoyed, saying the Chili gave a good kick to usually plain taste of Cod.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Salmon Rilette, Crispy Quail’s Egg, Potato and Mustard

Admittedly, both of us found the dessert the highlight of our meal and reminded us of our schooldays. We both decided on the Raspberry Ripple Chocolate Mousse which was absolutely heavenly. I loved raspberry ripple ice cream as a kid and for some inexplicable reason had forgotten its existence over the past decade or so. The sweet raspberry flavour cutting through the chocolate was divine and had us both in raptures.

The service throughout was good – friendly with just the right balance of attentiveness. Overall, the meal was fairly good although I expected more. My starter and main were nice enough, but the dessert and the service were really what made the meal.

  • Ten Room, Hotel Cafe Royal, 68 Regent Street, Soho, W1B 4DY. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Ten Room website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Artichoke and truffle risotto

For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.

Square Meal
Ten Room - Hotel Café Royal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Afternoon Tea at The Wolseley review: Handmade pastries and brilliant service in a stunning setting

 © @helloamylorna on Twitter

Time for tea: Afternoon Tea at The Wolseley is served traditionally in silverware and china

The Wolseley has only been open since 2003, but has steadily become an institution on the London dining scene. I’ve wanted to go for years and have heard many friends raving about dinners and brunches. I finally went for Afternoon Tea with a friend recently and thankfully was as good as I hoped.

© @helloamylorna on Twitter

Three tiers of delicious! Sandwiches, scones and desserts

The building itself features an impressive façade which really stands out on Piccadilly. It was originally a car showroom, Wolseley Motors Ltd, when it was built in the early 1920s, with the architect William Curtis Green taking inspiration from Venetian and Florentine design. Unfortunately, the car business didn’t last long and the building was taken over by Barclays Bank in 1927.

The Wolseley is described as a ‘café-restaurant in the grand European tradition’ and upon walking in, it did remind me of some of the grand cafes in Paris and Budapest I have been in. High ceilings, sweeping staircases, large windows and marble made for a dramatic setting.

I visited recently with a friend for a belated birthday celebration on a Friday afternoon. We were seated at a lovely black wood and marble table, which just about had enough room for our numerous plates and cups we would accumulate during our setting.

When we booked, there were various options of Afternoon Tea, depending on your appetite and if you wanted to add some fizz. We initially decided on the traditional Afternoon Tea (£23.75), before ‘upgrading’ it to The Wolseley Champagne Tea at £33.50 per person when we arrived.

© @helloamylorna on Twitter

Yum! Battenberg, Cherry & Pistachio Cake, Rhubarb Tart, Lemon Meringue, Chocolate Éclair and Vanilla Cheesecake

We decided to have the champagne first – perhaps unwise on an empty stomach – which was light and refreshing. For tea, they have a wide choice as you would expect, including their own blend, with myself plumping for Earl Grey. The tea was presented in sterling silver teapots and brewed with tea-leaves, so you’re able to fully taste the flavour and aroma of the tea.

When it came to the food, we were presented with a three-tiered cake stand featuring assorted finger sandwiches, fresh fruit scones and a selection of pastries – all made on site. On the day in question we visited, the desserts were Battenberg, Cherry & Pistachio Cake, Rhubarb Tart, Lemon Meringue, Chocolate Éclair and Vanilla Cheesecake, which were all delicious and presented beautifully. The scones were probably my favourite and I liked the little touches of the silver serving spoons for the clotted cream and jam actually embossed for their purpose. As I’m a pescatarian, I warned The Wolseley ahead of time about my dietary requirements so they were able to give me a good selection of non-meat sandwiches.

As we expected, the service was top-notch. our waiter was very attentive, giving us refills of tea and sandwiches. We were rather leisurely as we paced ourselves with such a lot of food and didn’t feel under pressure to move on. Overall, the food, service and setting were brilliant and I highly recommend it. For those looking for a traditional English afternoon tea, I think you’d be hard pressed to find better.

  • The Wolseley, 160 Piccadilly, St James, W1J 9EB. Nearest station: Green Park. Afternoon Tea is served from 3-6.30pm Mon-Fri, 3.30-5.30pm Sat and 3.30-6.30pm Sun. For more information and booking, visit The Wolseley website.

For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.

Click to add a blog post for The Wolseley on Zomato
Square Meal

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

A monument to victory, grand park entrance and an upset Duke: History behind the Wellington Arch

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The Wellington Arch in Hyde Park Corner

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The neo-classical details of the arch entrance’s ceiling

The Wellington Arch is one of London’s famous landmarks, being beamed to televisions around the world during ceremonial, historical events. However, to many Londoners, it is often dismissed as an ornament on a traffic island in the middle of one of the city’s busiest and stressful traffic junctions. Being one of a few ornate arches in the capital, it is often confused by tourists with Marble Arch just up the road. Although upon first look, you would assume the Wellington Arch has stood in its spot for centuries as the world changed around it. However, the structure has in fact gone through two major changes over the years – with its Quadriga statue on the top not actually being the original and the location in a different spot from where it used to stand.

In the early 19th century, Hyde Park Corner – where Kensington Road met Piccadilly – was widely thought of as the entrance to London. A tollgate stood in front of Hyde Park, to the west of Apsley House (the London residence of the Dukes of Wellington). Apsley House’s location just inside the tollgate lead to its nickname as being No.1 London, when in actual fact it is 149 Piccadilly. Following Britain’s success in the Napoleonic Wars, King George IV was keen to commemorate the victories with the Wellington Arch and Marble Arch. Young architect Decimus Burton (1800-1881) was commissioned to create a grand entrance to Green Park and the longer screen entrance to Hyde Park Corner. His initial design was considered too modest, so he submitted a second design with an arch that was deemed more triumphal featuring a more ornamental exterior and would be christened with a Quadriga – a car or chariot driven by four horses.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Where it used to be: The white taxi cab is roughly the spot where the Wellington Arch used to stand – facing the Hyde Park screen (right)

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The Wellington Arch featured an illuminated crown during 2012 to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee

Building on the arch started in 1826 in the architecture style of the Corinthian Order, featuring elaborate capitals at the top of the columns. However, in 1828, the Government was unhappy when construction costs exceeded Burton’s original budget, along with the fact the rebuilding of Buckingham Palace at the same time was also hugely over budget. The Treasury declined to fund the rest of the project so Burton had to scale back his exterior ornamental features and the Quadriga never materialised.

After years of standing as an arch, the Wellington Memorial Committee thought it would be fitting to have an equestrian statue of the Duke Of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, 1769-1852) atop the arch. As well as commemorating his victory at the Battle of Waterloo, it was deemed a perfect location as it was outside his London residence. Eight years after it was commissioned, Matthew Cotes Wyatt’s bronze statue of Wellington was erected in 1846. At the time, it was the largest equestrian statue in the country, standing at 30 foot high and weighing 40 tons. While Britain was incredibly proud of the Duke of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo, his bronze likeness was not so popular. Many thought the statue was disproportionate to the arch, Burton hated it and even Queen Victoria wasn’t a fan, believing it disturbed the view from Buckingham Palace. Despite its lack of popularity, it would have been seen as a huge insult to the Duke if it was moved, so it remained during his lifetime. The Duke actually said he would feel obliged to step down from all his public posts if it was removed, so the Government and Queen decided it should remain in situ.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Vista: The view from the south east balcony, looking down Constitution Hill with the London Eye, Big Ben and The Shard visible

Wellington Arch

The Wellington Arch in its original setting, with the huge Duke Of Wellington sculpture on top, in the 1850s
(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

By the 1870s, the traffic around Hyde Park Corner had reached chaotic proportions. In the 1880s, the Government proposed moving the arch 20 metres away so the road could be widened. From 1883 until 1885, the arch was dismantled and bit by bit, moved to its current location, facing south-east down Constitution Hill. Its new location meant the original relationship between the arch and the Hyde Park Corner screen was lost. After a brief stay in Green Park during the relocation, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) suggested Wyatt’s sculpture of Wellington should be moved to Aldershot, Berkshire, as a gift to the British Army, where it remains today.

At its new site, the arch was marooned on a traffic island on land which used to be the western part of Green Park. The southern pier of the arch was used as a residence for the park-keeper, while the northern pier was used as a police station (said to be the smallest in Britain) until the 1950s. After decades without a crowning glory, the Prince of Wales suggested sculptor Adrian Jones’s Quadriga, (of which he had seen a smaller version during a Royal Academy exhibition), would be a fitting topper. Although no funds were available at the time, thanks to a donation from banker Sir Herbert Stern, Jones’s full-size bronze ‘Triumph’ was finally created and placed upon the arch in 1912 – when the Prince was King Edward VII. The Angel of Peace riding the chariot was said to be modelled on Beatrice Stewart. The statue is the largest bronze sculpture in Europe.

After being acquired by English Heritage in 1999 and restored, the arch is now open to the public. As well as presenting a history of the arch and an exhibition area, visitors can also check out the vistas from the two balconies.

  • Wellington Arch, Apsley Way, Hyde Park Corner, W1J 7JZ. Tickets: Adults: £4, Children: 2.40. Opening times vary depending on the season. Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner. Check website for further details.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Adrian Jones’s Quadriga sculpture, erected on the arch in 1912

To find out about the Duke Of Wellington’s old mounting stone, click here.

For the history of another London ‘traffic island’, read More than just a traffic island: The history behind Parliament Square

For more of Metro Girl’s London history blog posts, click here.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Terrace Grill and Bar Review: Luxury dining and locally-sourced food in the heart of the West End

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

I feel like fish tonight: Grilled Whole Sea Trout with new potatoes and watercress salad at Terrace Grill and Bar, Piccadilly

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Sipping a pot of peppermint tea and looking out over Piccadilly

To this day, Piccadilly is one of the most iconic and sought-after addresses in London. While it’s home to many of the capital’s most famous and lavish hotels, it’s (wrongly) not always recognised for its restaurants. One reason some may not have heard of Terrace Grill and Bar, is because it’s buried in Le Méridien Piccadilly. So last weekend, I sought to find out if it was the hotel’s hidden treasure…

Walking through the revolving doors of the Regency-style hotel, we immediately noticed the chic and contemporary interiors which continued throughout the hotel. We were guided towards the lifts by a helpful concierge and went up to the 2nd floor. On the night in question we visit, a majority of the lights were off for Earth Hour so the first 45 minutes of our evening was via candlelight and very atmospheric indeed. However, when the lights did come back on, they were warm and low, continuing the cosy ambiance. Although we dined when it was already dark outside, I can imagine the restaurant, with its glass ceiling and walls overlooking Piccadilly, would be an amazing space to eat breakfast or lunch in.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Light and airy: The Terrace Grill & Bar is located on the 2nd floor overlooking Piccadilly

We had booked a TopTable deal for three courses and a glass of Dembies sparkling wine for £25 which was very good value for such high quality of food. Our party of three all ended up starting with the Smoked Haddock Soup, which came with some hot, fresh focaccia-style bread which were a delicious combination together. For the main, I opted for the Grilled Whole Sea Trout, which came served with new potatoes and a watercress salad. The fish was succulent and delicious, if a tad bony. Under this offer, my carnivore friend was able to order a Grilled Rump of Red Poll Beef, which she throughly enjoyed. To finish, I opted for a Bread and Butter Pudding, which was a perfect sized portion after such a large meal. It was light, but filling. After all our food, we ended our evening with a pot each of peppermint tea because we’re were feeling thoroughly full.

Throughout the meal, we were attended to by two friendly, female waitresses. We didn’t have to wait long for our food and didn’t feel under pressure to leave when we were the last ones in the restaurant. The venue itself was quite unique to London – like you’re in a large conservatory so there is lots of room and air. I would highly recommend the restaurant for a special occasion or if you fancy treating yourself. I would particularly suggest going for lunch or a light summer evening so you can fully appreciate the space. I also would like to try the adjoining Gin Bar, with their very appealing looking armchairs and cocktail menu.

  • Terrace Grill and Bar at Le Méridien Piccadilly, 21 Piccadilly, London W1J 0BH. Tel: 020 7851 3085. Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus or Green Park. For more information and booking, visit the Terrace Grill & Bar website.

To read other Metro Girl’s restaurant and bar reviews, click here

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Proper British grub: Bread and butter pudding

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The Terrace Grill and Bar at Le Méridien Piccadilly on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Hearty British grub with a bit of Italian: Brumus restaurant at the Haymarket Hotel

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Colourful and contemporary: The interior of Brumus restaurant at the Haymarket Hotel

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Georgian splendour: The Haymarket Hotel from Suffolk Place

Tucked on the corner of Haymarket and Suffolk Place, I am ashamed to admit I have never noticed the Haymarket Hotel, despite having walked past countless times over the year. The hotel is a lovely, white Georgian building situated next to the Theatre Royal Haymarket with its banners and show lights, which in retrospect probably distracted me so I didn’t notice the hotel.

When booking a restaurant for my sister’s birthday this week, I went to TopTable, as I often do. I always looks for a combination of good reviews from other diners and a meal deal, so as a family we end up at a high-quality restaurant with more moderate prices. I was immediately sold on Brumus’s good reviews and the brilliant £19.95 three course and Prosecco deal they currently have on.

The building is very easy to find and we ended up entering through the hotel reception on Suffolk Place – which is chic, glamorous and full of contemporary artwork. The restaurant itself has a very unique interior with cerise and magenta walls, metal umbrella-style lamps and comfortable chairs with different dog motifs on the back. Immediately upon arrival, we were greeted by the friendly staff who took our coats and put them in a vintage wardrobe by the front door – a nice touch. With the background music and setting, I found the restaurant had the right amount of luxury and style, but without the pretension you get in other hotel restaurants.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Delicious: Halloumi and peach salad with rocket to start (left)
and vegetable parcels with spinach (right)

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Quirky: The lighting consisted of metal umbrella ‘chandeliers’ which gave a cosy, candlelight feel to the restaurant

Three of our party opted for the TopTable deal, but the remaining two decided to order straight off the à la carte menu, which I would describe as Anglo-Italian. For starters, I ordered a grilled halloumi and peach salad with rocket and sherry vinaigrette. I love salads which include fruit and rarely find them on menus. The combination of halloumi, rocket and the peach were delicious. I ate the lot pretty quickly and could have easily ordered another one, it was so good. For main course, I was torn between the rock cod and braised fennel or the vegetable parcel with goat’s cheese, spinach and red petter sauce, eventually plumping for the latter. It was a good decision, the vegetables inside the parcel were cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth, the pastry was exactly the right consistency you’d expect from a pie and spinach is always a winner in my eyes. Pudding aside, because that’s always a bit naughty, I felt like I’d eaten a really healthy meal, that also tasted delicious. The dessert was a raspberry and blackberry mille-feuille – a sort of fruit and cream sandwich between a pastry wafer, topped with raspberry coulis, which was also delicious.

Overall, the Brumus had it all – I loved the design and setting, the service was friendly and excellent, the food was delicious and at £19.95 for the three-course, albeit limited choice menu, it was very good value for that standard of restaurant. I’ll definitely be going back. There is also a bar next door which looked tempting, but I will have to save that until another time.

  • Brumus is located at the Haymarket Hotel, 1 Suffolk Place, SW1Y 4HX. Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus or Charing Cross. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For more information, visit their website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

And to finish: Raspberry and blackberry mille-feuille with raspberry coulis

Brumus on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

For contents of all Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, visit our reviews page.