Review: Shop & Stay VIP Experience with Bicester Village in Oxfordshire
A stay in London’s centrally located No. 10 Manchester Street hotel, a day in the designer boutiques of Bicester Village and a lazy Sunday lunch at Bicester’s recently opened Café Wolseley. I am ready for a truly spoiling weekend.
A shopaholic’s delight, Bicester Village is in a picturesque location in the middle of Oxfordshire’s rolling countryside and choc-full of designer boutiques. It is literally a tiny perfectly-made village of luxury with more than 160 stores including Alexander McQueen, Mulberry, Stella McCartney, Saint Laurent and Salvatore Ferragamo.
If, like me, you are not a big fan of huge, impersonal shopping malls, nor the run-of-the-mill high street shops, Bicester Village with its rustic design and plethora of designer stores might be just the ticket.
My weekend involves not only a trip to Bicester but also a stay in London the night before; completely necessary if you live further afield, as I do, and want to enjoy a pleasant shopping experience rather than a fatigued and stressful one. Bicester Village is only 46 minutes by direct train from London Marylebone so our hotel is just a short walk from Marylebone station, making our journey to the boutiques surprisingly relaxed and pleasant.
Marylebone is an incredibly central London location, and perfect for visiting Madame Tussaud’s or the Wallace Collection. Or, if you want yet more shopping, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street are very close by. I admit that I may have popped into a few shops even before the Bicester Village shopping began.
I arrive at No. 10 Manchester Street and am treated to a junior suite with all the trimmings: wide-screen TV, plush bathrobes, a deep fragrant bath, power shower and an enormous bed with crisp sheets. The fact that I have an accidental nap in the afternoon almost as soon as we arrive is a credit to how comfortable the beds are at No. 10, all made by British bedmaker, Hypnos.
Furniture is designed by Christopher Guy, and reflects his style philosophy, exuding a sleek and effortless French elegance. There is even a charming cigar bar on the ground floor for those so inclined, with a large range of hand-rolled Havana cigars and even a dedicated Cigar Team.
We opt for a light breakfast at No. 10, readying ourselves for the day of shopping ahead. Breakfast is served in the Dieci restaurant, with its low-slung booth seating and chic purples and greys. The menu offers all the usual classics and our choices hit the spot; a fruit platter brimming with juicy blackberries and strawberries, plump, fluffy pancakes with maple syrup and fresh egg omelettes. We check out and board the train feeling fully pampered and prepared for a day of retail.
We are having the full Shop&Stay VIP experience which includes complimentary hands-free shopping, a VIP card offering 10% discount and a visit to the luxurious VIP apartment with refreshments on arrival. This includes tea, coffee, juice and some delectable handmade biscuits in gorgeous surroundings, as soon as you arrive at Bicester Village.
I would highly recommend taking a pitstop to rejuvenate in those comfy sofas and to appreciate the artwork; it is one of those simple but lovely touches that uplifts the shopping experience to a new level of luxury.
Needless to say we then spent a solid few hours exploring the boutiques, finding some designer bargains and dithering over what best to buy for a friend’s birthday. After all this, it was time for some food. What luck that the newly opened Café Wolseley is nestled in the heart of the Village only a few steps away.
We skip the snaking queues and settle into a booth looking out onto the exquisitely designed restaurant. It has all of the old-world glamour of The Wolseley flagship in London yet with a more informal and relaxed feel. Fans of the Piccadilly institution will recognise iconic features such as the black-and-white chevron floor and the double-vaulted ceiling as well as its all-day dining menu and dishes like sirloin steak, the Wolseley hamburger and ice cream coupes.
Yet there are newcomers to the Café Wolseley menu too such as the thin, white pizza ‘tarte flambée’ and pasta dishes like pumpkin ravioli and baked cauliflower cheese macaroni. We are delighted by every grand café style plate, from the hearty truffled mushroom soup to the tender steak and the sweet pumpkin and sage pasta; from the vintage avocado and prawn cocktail to our sweet dessert of ice cream sundae with sugared chestnuts and salted caramel sauce. If that wasn’t quite enough food, I feel obliged to pick up a creamy cronut from Bicester Village’s Dum Dum Donutterie for the journey home.
What I like about Bicester is the high quality and the personalized service at every store, and the fact that there are always new things happening, so a return visit is never out of the question…. New openings include Golden Goose, Linda Farrow, Amanda Wakeley and Asics.
Maison Ladurée, of French macaron fame, has recently partnered with British shoe and accessory designer, Charlotte Olympia, to create a macaron and tea set reminiscent of the taste of British afternoon tea. It is all presented in a leopard’s head box complete with loose leaf tea and chocolate/earl grey macarons, and, you guessed it, you can find it at the Ladurée boutique. I love coming across little gems of design like this and Bicester Village is absolutely full of them.
If you are travelling in the UK and want a pleasant experience buying some presents for the family or you’re a shopping lover who needs a break from the high street, Bicester Village is something to consider. A Shop and Stay heightens the shopping experience into something luxurious, sophisticated and inviting. With accommodation in No. 10 Manchester Street and dining in Café Wolseley, is there a better mid-winter treat to get through these bitter months?
No. 10 Manchester Street
Address: No. 10 Manchester Street, 10 Manchester St, Marylebone, London W1U 4DG
Phone: 020 7317 5900
Address: 50 Pingle Dr, Bicester OX26 6WD
Phone: 01869 366266