My Secret London with Alex Monroe
London-based jeweller (and Wee Birdy favourite) Alex Monroe is renowned for his delicate, whimsical (and Valentine's-worthy) creations. So when I had the opportunity to ask him about his secret London destinations, I jumped at the chance. Here's what he had to say …
"Warning! Don’t forget that although I make particularly feminine jewellery, I am a bloke! Which means that I have a whole different relationship to shops and shopping to women. Bear this in mind and forgive my sins …"
Best for a bargain?
"Guilty secret: I love cheapie shops like Uniqlo, Hennies and Gap. And they’re all over the place! I sometimes pop into town with my eldest daughter to buy piles of skinny jeans (for her not for me!). The kids grow out of things so fast, which isn’t a problem when they’re cheap. We always have a bit left over for Hot Chocolate at Leon, and a treat lunch in Sakura (on Hanover street). I’m afraid I’m not much of a bargain-hunter, except for my bi-annual purchase of John Smedley pull-overs from London Fashion Week-end. Oh, and the odd spree at The White Stuff."
Best for vintage?
"I only ever buy vintage bikes and crockery. I don't know how many bikes I have – Holdsworths and Hetchins from the 1960s. Ahh. Bliss. Herne Hill bike jumble if you’re a ‘Classic Lightweight’.
Never drink out of a mug. I get my cups, saucers, tea-pots, etc from car boot sales. Now friends buy me bits and bobs whenever they see something. There’s a handy car boot sale in Battersea on Sunday morning, or check out Bermondsey Market on a Friday morning."
Margaret Howell's spring/summer 09 collection.
Best for fashion?
"Margaret Howell, mmm! Or Old Town Clothing, they rent a showroom in Dickensian East London once in a while. You have to get in touch and make an appointment. And John Smedley. For browsing, stroll from Angel tube station through Camden passage and along Upper Street. Don’t forget to stop for a coffee and treat in Ottolenghi!"
Old Town Clothing.
Best for jewellery?
"Ha! Me, of course! But seriously … Liberty are re-doing their jewellery department for Valentines Day, it should look great. Harrods have a fab department. Sweet Pea in Primrose Hill is lovely, as well as Kirt Holmes in Camden passage. It's harder work, but it's really exciting to see the St. Martin’s degree show exhibition in June, or New Designers in Islington in July."
Alex Monroe jewellery.
Best for interiors and gifts?
"For gifts, head to Burlington Arcade. Lovely macaroons from Laduree, tea from Luponde, or smellies from Penhaligons. Anything extra, pop over the road to Fortnum and Mason (and get afternoon tea while you’re there!). Petersham Nurseries are fab. They have a lovely nursery, cafe and wonderful shop in the old greenhouses. Lovely gardening pots, strings, and gadgets all on a dry mud floor intertwined with jasmine and honeysuckle. It’s heaven. Great furniture, too."
Best for stationery?
"Smythson of Bond Street. (Save up for it though, it’s not cheap!)"
Best for kids?
"My kids are out-doorsie so we love Nunhead Cemetery and Dulwich Woods."
Best for beauty/skincare?
"I’m a bloke! But my wife is an aromatherapist at Neal’s Yard in Marylebone. She does natural facial rejuvenation which is fantastic."
Number one London shopping secret?
"The Neal’s Yard Dairy cheese shop in Borough Market. I love it!"
Best London souvenir?
"Cheese of course!"
Best for food?
"Depends if you’re feeling poshy, or noshy. For Posh I love a long lunch at Roussillon in Pimlico. The wine is perfect and the food – well, try it for yourselves. It’s a taste-bud treat from heaven.
For Nosh there’s only one place, The Anchor and Hope in Waterloo. I’m a real fan of great British food, and that’s what they serve. Crab on toast, mackerel with pickled cucumber, potted shrimp and beetroot salad. All washed down with a lovely Kentish beer. It doesn’t get much better than that. The freshest of local ingredients at a great price. I go there every week to catch up with my big brother. We have a chat, a drink and some grub. It’s lovely."