The London Diary: Monday at Liberty London & Festive Afternoon Tea at Claridge’s

After brunch on Monday with Rich and Kristian, I decided to sensibly return to our room and plan the day properly. After half an hour of scrutiniscing maps, I decided to throw them down and flee to Liberty, like it was some sort of retail emergency. This was real life, after all and it was all waiting for me.

Liberty London

Liberty London really is a wonderful emporium of richly textured trinkets and treasures from around the world. The entrance spilled over with fresh flowers and the scarf hall delivered on my expectation of what the place would feel like to walk in to. From the building itself, the history of the store (which may or may not haunt your visit), and the meandering shop floor, it feels as though the store invites you in to creak the floorboards on your astonishing journey of discovery.

For clothing, I was most impressed by the VM in menswear. You can’t imagine my disappointment in the Vintage area after watching the Liberty London series. Two young girls inhabited the department didn’t bother to say hello to me, so I didn’t feel like hanging around. The sneaker laboratory was the most beautiful display of practical activewear that I’ve ever seen. That magic takes work, or good talent. The haberdashery dept, home floor and Christmas shop were easily the highlights of my visit. I only  glimpsed into the rug emporium, and it was as packed to the rafters as it was on the show.

The Cheeky Tiki mug I bought as a vase

What hurt most was not being able to bring all of the homewares back, however I did give in to this Cheeky Tiki mug, which I will use as a vase.

I had a moment in Christmas shop – my eyes filled with tears because it suddenly occurred to me that I missed someone we lost this year, and of course Christmas will do that to you. From the most delicate thin glass baubles to the biggest plush animals I’ve seen, it was a pleasantly OTT experience, given that the English know how to bring on the festive season, with a vengeance.

It was at Liberty that an Italian clothing label called Vivetta started to register on my style radar, and Miss Vivetta taunted me until my last day in London. More on that later.

When you’re travelling and you’re alone, all you really want is a “shop girl” who will act happy to see you and make a fuss and make you feel like a million bucks. When I excitedly tried on some of Karen Walker’s Liberty print sunglasses, a man who didn’t bother getting out of his chair asked from the corner of the room, “is that designer of your country?” Needless to say that the robotics didn’t result in a sale, and I continued on my merry way, laughing all the while at my good fortune of being there at all.

Yosuzi hats at the Maiyet New York Pop up

The real reason I popped in to the Maiyet pop up was to try on a Yosuzi hat for the very first time. A long way to travel for the pleasure, I know, but it was momentous occasion. Sadly, under the watchful eye of the burly security guard, I was unable to capture it, so I instead decided to order a coffee at the cafe at the back of the space. The girls were well mannered and half paying attention, asking me to repeat my order a half dozen times, and actually we had a belly laugh about it. Twas the perfect intermission before the 2 hour readying process for the all important next chapter. The all, the everything, the end, at Claridge’s.

Festive Afternoon Tea at Claridge’s

By a stroke of luck, I was attending the first sitting of Festive Afternoon Tea for 2016. I rode to Claridge’s in a car because I simply refused to walked up to the entrance, like some jay walking pedestrian. When we pulled up, the driver said, “ooh, looks like you’ve got a big star inside. See all the paparazzi out the front? Unless they’re here for you?” he enquired. Ha ha. “No”, I said. But were they?

I strutted in like I knew exactly what to do, but mildly panicked when I was told there were over 72 teas to choose from. So I said “Yes, I’ll have a glass of Laurent-Perrier, thank you, and, I will need your help with the tea later”. Coffee drinkers, eh? The decadence was unspeakable, and there was such an olde worlde feel to the space – there were all sorts in the foyer – some who had no doubt saved for the occasion (with their ‘good’ slacks on), an extremely hot looking young couple who ignored each other the entire time. But my favourite was a young couple who were obviously on an important date, except the boy’s shirt matched the fine bona china. It was distracting. I sat in the corner, right where I could keep watch over the room. Sure, I was taking photos in my corner, but it was brilliant. And I relished the opportunity to play foodie for the afternoon.

It started with a selection of finger sandwiches with as much butter as I remembered seeing on Inside Claridge’s. Tick. I even ate salmon and turkey, which was awkward since I like neither, but they were somehow delicious, perhaps it was a blend of manners, French champagne and the fact it was the Severn & Wye salmon with pine cream. I enjoyed the  Dorrington ham, burnt orange and clove on onion bread and Breckland Brown egg mayonnaise and watercress on white bread, but my favourite thing was the Croxton Manor cheddar and pickled walnut Eccles cake. I didn’t know what I was eating, but I could not stop.

The Claridge’s Christmas Pudding Icecream was delicious, though eating this in a lady like fashion was quite the challenge. Sitting alone and with that stick in your hand is not for amateurs. I mean, it would have been more fun if someone was snorting with laughter while I licked and spilled chocolate on to the table.

The scones are baked fresh every morning at Claridge’s, and I adored the Plain scone with Cornish clotted cream and Mariage Frères”Nöel” gélee. It’s possibly what set off the beginning of the end. I don’t do clotted cream very often. Next were a selection of handmade pastries and I only allowed myself to try half of each. The Golden bauble was the best thing – an almond macaron with hazelnut praline and sea salt – so I accidentally ate all of that one. Needless to say, I later slipped in to a food coma to the faint sounds of The Weeknd’s Starboy at 7pm! I blame calorie laden fun and jet lag. No dinner.

Watch the trailer for Liberty London:

Watch the trailer for Inside Claridge’s:


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