I recently got back from a visit to London, where I spent time in Mayfair, perhaps the most charming of all the city’s wonderful neighborhoods.
I enjoy walking on Grosvenor Square, where our American embassy holds presence, with its bronze statue of Dwight D. Eisenhower in front of the building.
And I very much enjoy walking — and resting on a park bench — in the American Garden on South Audley Street. The garden is a friendly, out-of-the-way park very close to the Connaught Hotel, which I strongly recommend to my friends who are planning a visit to England.
I also recommend a walk through Berkeley Square in Mayfair, that glorious oasis in the middle of it all, just down the road a piece from the action of Bond Street and New Bond Street, where the shops are the best in the country.
No one who visits London should miss shopping on Bond Street, one of the greatest avenues in the world, and no one should miss a leisurely moment of rest in Berkeley Square. Who knows? You might even get to hear a nightingale sing!
Years ago when my now-jewelry-designer son, Nicholas, was about 3 or 4 years old, his mother and I were pushing his stroller through the square. A lady with a chignon of blond hair approached the stroller and beamed at Nicholas. “What a handsome little boy,” she said. “He must be Swedish!” I responded to the lady, who was dressed in beige from head to toe and wearing a pair of alligator pumps, ”No, he’s American.” And the lady smiled and said, ”Perhaps Swedish-American then?” That lady was Ingrid Bergman — and thus I have very fond remembrances of Berkeley Square.
While I’ve never heard the nightingale sing there, I have head the voice of one of the greatest actresses of our time there, and I shall always remember her smile, her beautiful face, her hair in that chignon, her cashmere tailored suite and, of course, her elegantly simple shoes. Life is about remembering special moments. And so every time I walk through Berkeley Square, even when my favorite daffodils are blooming, my first thought is always of Ingrid Bergman.
During my most recent trip to London, my friend, Charles Spencer Churchill, asked me and my associate, Brinsley Matthews, to come by the restaurant Bellamy’s on Bruton Place, just off Berkeley Square, to enjoy a cabaret act performed by the aristocratic trio of Hal Cazalet; his sister, actress Lara; and their friend, actress Eliza Lumley. The trio has created a tuneful show titled The Mayfair Song Book — and believe me, the entertainers are special, mixing standards by the Gershwins and Cole Porter with songs that they’ve created on their own.
Bellamy’s is a restaurant/cabaret, much like the Carlyle Café in New York or the Royal Room at The Colony, where performers entertain after you’ve enjoyed a supper. The owner of the restaurant is man-about-town Gavin Rankin, and the interior of Bellamy’s is a sophisticated mix of black and white, with photographs, drawings and paintings all about the walls. Rankin was at one time the general manager of the club George when it was owned by the fashionable aristocrat Mark Birley — brother of Maxine de la Falaise, uncle to Lulu de la Falaise and father of Birley, who is soon to open his own new nightclub at London’s Shepherd’s Market. If the son is half as talented as his dad, the new club will be as hot a spot as Annabel’s was in the old days.
I give Gavin Rankin five stars for the atmosphere and the quality of cuisine at Bellamy’s on Bruton Place. It is also in the right spot, close to Claridge’s, Brown’s, the Connaught and The Ritz. When visiting or dining at Bellamy’s, do try the carpaccio of pineapple for dessert. It is not to be missed.
One last London-inspired note: When shopping the city for fine linens, Edi-B is my favorite source for sheets, pillow shams and blankets of high distinction. The shop is at 29 S. Audley St. until the end of this month, when it will move to 12 Davies St., around the corner from Bellamy’s — and a stone’s throw from where the nightingales sing.
- Carleton Varney -
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