Oh, how I love having a full day to wander. The kind of day where I can take time to meander, soak in the sounds and smells, slow down and enjoy a good cup of coffee, leisurely browse for the perfect pair of shoes and have an unrushed three-course meal when the sun goes down. There are plenty of places to have one of these days, but Regent Street, London is at the top of my list.
Just a hop, skip and a jump from London’s West End, Regent Street is world renowned for its impressive list of international and independent brands that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. The street has been around since 1819 when it was built as the original shopping district for the capital, and over the last 200 years it has grown into one of the most prestigious lifestyle destinations this side of the Atlantic.
I found myself able to spend a rare, uninterrupted day on Regent Street; here’s where I found myself – and what I experienced – during my time exploring this luxury lifestyle hub.
9am: Coffee calls
Mornings just wouldn’t be the same without coffee. And cake. Never forget the cake. So there was no better place to stop than Backyard at Treehouse, a perfectly formed café with a treehouse feel serving up local Workshop coffee, delicious home-baked pastries, smoothies and plenty more to boot. I couldn’t resist a flaky almond croissant, and a delicious coconut flat white. Find this gem on the northern end of Regent Street, on the ground level of the Treehouse Hotel.
10am: Home love
I don’t know about you, but I always need a new cushion for my home. Truth be told, I might be a cushion addict. My poor husband has had to give up a portion of his man cave for my overflowing cushion collection; I just can’t get enough.
11.30am: Me time
Ok, my home had enough love for the day, it’s me time. Boasting 50+ stores featuring women’s fashion, there was no way I’d be able to visit them all. A girl needs to eat (more about that later), so rather than attempt to tackle too many, I made a list of my top must-visit shops and spent some time in each, browsing through all of the lovely things: the handbags, shoes, and surely I needed a new dress for that evening’s dinner.
1.30pm: Lunch, please
So many restaurants to choose from, so little time. From Spanish tapas and pizza to Japanese ramen bowls and everything in between, Regent Street’s culinary offering is impressive to say the least. When my tummy started a-rumblin’, the search was on for a lunch full of flavour, and Patara on Maddox Street was just the ticket.
Patara’s fresh and authentic Thai cuisine is crafted by talented chefs with exceptional ingredients. They have a varied menu with a considerable vegetarian and vegan selection, including fresh avocado rice rolls with thin-strip veggies, and the most delicious stir-fried mushrooms with chilli and Thai basil.
I’m never one to say no to dessert, especially if it’s Thai mango cheesecake. Absolutely delish.
3pm: Time to glow
Pleasantly satiated, the time had come for my most looked-forward-to event of the day (besides food, of course): a wellness experience at Glow Bar. I was booked into one of four infrared sauna pods, followed by a 60-minute High Vibe Facial Massage.
Sweating has been used as a means of healing for centuries, helping with circulation, detoxification, sleep, stress and immune system function. Glow Bar’s infrared saunas use the most modern technology to bring maximum benefit in minimal time (although it’s so relaxing you probably won’t want to leave). The only reason I willingly left my pod was the promise of another hour of relaxation.
Already completely relaxed after my pod experience, I zoned out entirely (in the best possible way) during my facial, which focuses on relaxation, lymphatic drainage and relief. The calm and quiet of the treatment room – away from the hustle of Regent Street – was the perfect way to spend a recharging hour before heading back out again.
Of course, I couldn’t possibly leave without checking out the Glow Bar shop featuring all sorts of interesting natural products, like the Healing Herb Bundle to combat stress and anxiety, or the Immunity Shrooms to enhance overall wellbeing.
5pm: Sweet indulgence
No day to myself would be complete without chocolate, and Swiss chocolatiers Läderach on Regent Street was calling my name. Their signature FrischSchoggi – the brand’s own version of chocolate bark – is to die for. I’d highly recommend the coconut milk or caramel salé flavours, or try their crispy, caramelized popcorn covered with a fine layer of delicious milk chocolate.
And the best part – Läderach is one of the few premium chocolate producers using its own chocolate mass, guaranteeing sustainable quality from the cocoa bean to the end product.
6pm: Cocktails and conversation
Being from the States, perhaps I felt an overly nostalgic pull to Bar Américain, a truly gorgeous, authentic American bar hidden from view under the bustle of Piccadilly. Entering Brasserie Zédel just steps from Piccadilly Circus Station, you’d never know what lies beneath – a grand winding staircase takes you down below street level to the brasserie itself (more on that later), Crazy Coqs live music and cabaret venue, and of course, Bar Américain.
The moody lighting, swanky textures and patterns of the interior décor, and 1920’s Paul Colin lithographs adorning the walls, the atmosphere was right up my street. There’s nothing more lovely than an early evening cocktail, jazz filling your ears while you savour a few plump olives and good conversation, and there’s plenty of it all at Bar Américain.
I sipped on two of the bar’s signature cocktails: a 1934 Cosmopolitan from the ‘Forgotten Classic Cocktails’ menu, a delightful combination of jenever, triple sec, sour raspberry, lemon juice and orange bitters; and from the exclusive ‘An American in Paris’ menu, a Milo’s Martini (my personal favourite) with Finlandia vodka, pineapple juice, sour raspberry, Chambord and a fresh, juicy raspberry as the icing on the cake.
7.30pm: The main event: dinner at Brasserie Zédel
Dinner is, without a doubt, my ‘thing’. I could easily skip breakfast (don’t get me wrong, I love a nice eggs florentine), and lunch is nice and all, but a slow, relaxed evening meal is my weakness.
The grand Brasserie Zédel, with its giant marble columns and decorative gold ceiling, transports you straight to Paris. Add an impressive French menu, impeccable service, a jovial atmosphere and live music six days a week and you have, in my humble opinion, one of the best dinner experiences in Soho.
The brasserie’s classic French favourites like boeuf bourguignon and escargot, are complemented by signature dishes like choucroute Zédel, and my choice for the evening, pithiviers d’épinards au beurre de cerfeuil. Don’t have a clue what that is? Don’t worry, I didn’t either, thank goodness Brasserie Zédel offers both French and English menus.
The dish combines pousse spinach and cream cheese, wrapped in a flaky pastry finished with chervil butter, served with a fresh, green salad. Heaven on a vegetarian’s plate, if I do say so myself. Every mouthful was savoured as the house band played classic jazz tunes from yesteryear, while I enjoyed each moment of my meal and the overall experience.
And dessert? I adore crème brûlée, but it always makes me nervous ordering it. You know the predicament: take the chance of wasting your only shot at dessert and end up with another bad crème brûlée, or order something tried and true that can’t go wrong. I usually choose the latter (too many bad crème brûlées over the years), but seeing as we were at a traditional French brasserie, surely the crème brûlée would be good?
And good it was. Perfectly, wonderfully great, to be fair. Obviously, these guys know what they’re doing when it comes to French food and hospitality.
Have more time? Stroll down to St James’s
Although I had to reluctantly leave Regent Street and get thrown back into real life after just a day, if you have some extra time or find yourself staying at one of the area’s many luxury hotels, take a stroll over to St James’s for even more shopping, dining and unadulterated London fun.
Have afternoon tea at the quintessentially British Fortnum & Mason, shop for a new fragrance at Penhaligons or peruse one of the distinctive art galleries as you walk to St James’s Park for a picnic.
Be a tourist and check out Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, or act like a local at one of the friendly wine bars or cafés. Whatever you choose, you’re bound to leave refreshed, content and quite possibly with a new cushion or two!