I was recently invited to take part in an Art Deco Tour, exploring the vintage architecture of Mayfair and some of the iconic historical figures who lived in the area like the amazing fashion designer and business woman Coco Chanel, followed by Afternoon Tea at the Promenade within the The Dorchester Hotel. Who wouldn’t say yes to an Art Deco tour of London followed by scones, sandwiches and pastries.
We met our tour guide Yannick and started the tour at former tube station Down Street Mews, a previous stop between Hyde Park Corner and Piccadilly Circus, which became a bunker during one of the World Wars. Sitting amidst classic London house it’s amazing to see the tube architecture, the classic arches poignantly standing out, still preserved all these years later. I believe TFL hold underground tours where you can explore further within the station/bunker which I will definitely have to look into in the future as it all sounds fascinating.
The next stop was Carrington House, which from afar could be easily missed as just another London housing estate, but the closer you get the more prominent the Art Deco detailing becomes, the green tiles and the intricate wave detailing across both the surrounding brick and the balcony railings. Art Deco is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France just before World War I, and it influenced so much including but not limited to the design of buildings, furniture, jewellery, fashion, cars, and even everyday objects such as radios and vacuums.
One of our stops included Landsdowne House in Berkeley Square which was home to department store mogul Mr Henry Gordon Selfridge. It is said that he threw the most incredible parties and would rent out the house for £5,000 a day before the building became the private members club it is now. We also went to Claridge’s which was founded as Mirvart’s Hotel, a simple terraced house which expanded into neighbouring homes before being sold to Mr and Mrs Claridge who owned a small hotel next door. The two hotels became one and the Art Deco interior and exterior hasn’t changed since it was first decorated and officially received the name of Claridge’s.
The Alfred Dunhill building, Bourdon House, was previously owned by the Duke of Westminster who has an affair with the one and only Coco Chanel. The Duke doted on her and even introduced her to some of the finest Scottish fabrics, before she opened her first boutique just a stones throw away on St Davies Street. The Duke even went as far to propose to Coco but she politely declines with a classic line of “There are many duchesses but only one Coco Chanel”. Not far from the building is what would seem to be a Coco Chanel inspired lamppost, although I’m sad to break it to you that those two C’s stand for City Council.
After a few hours we finished the tour at one of the most luxurious hotels in London, The Dorchester, for a spot of Afternoon Tea. I had never been to The Dorchester but I instantly fell in love with the Promenade, which hosted the Afternoon Tea, and the elegance of the entire hotel, although I did get lost on the way to the toilet as there’s so many twists and turns within this huge hotel. We took our seats at a beautifully set up table, popped the cork on a Laurent-Perrier brut champagne and cheered the lovely day we had spent together.
The waiters were so attentive and with almost half the table having different dietary needs, including gluten free, dairy free, vegans and nut allergies, they did so well to cater to all of us. We each received 5 sandwiches to start with and my favourites were definitely the 21-day aged slow-cooked beef with Lincolnshire onion chutney, and Norfolk Black chicken on sage and onion bread, which I was able to get seconds of. Shortly after we were done with the sandwiches we got a round of scones, one plain and one with raisins, alongside clotted cream, butter, strawberry jam and rhubarb and basil preserve. Sadly the scones had a slight greasy feel to their bases but otherwise loaded up with butter and jam they were still good.
The final plate was the desserts and there were two different plates brought out as one was for those of us with a nut allergy and those without. The standard plate focused on celebrating the different seasons and the nut free plate had the avocado foam chocolate dessert. The chocolate dessert with the raspberries on top was extremely rich and I couldn’t actually finish it but the rest of the desserts were delicious. Sadly I was between a state of fullness from the sandwiches and scones, and excitement for the dessert round and working out how to fit it in that I didn’t actually take too much note of what each of the desserts were but as you can see above they were exquisitely set out and there were a lot of empty plates all round.