Patrick Grant’s Quintessentially British Guide to London
While he’s been breathing new life into historic Savile Row, the designer’s devotion to U.K. heritage extends beyond fashion. Here he shares how to experience London like a proper Brit.
A dozen years ago, the ever-dapper, Edinburgh-born designer Patrick Grant left an engineering career to take over Norton & Sons, the circa-1821 bespoke tailors on Savile Row. He’s been breathing new life into such bastions of British style ever since, also re-imagining the menswear label E. Tautz (now 150 years old yet refreshingly youthful) while helping revive interest in home crafts (you may have seen him as a judge on the BBC Two’s “The Great British Sewing Bee”). Most recently, he started Community Clothing, a social enterprise that creates stylish yet accessibly priced essentials by employing—and thus sustaining—British textile factories in the off-season. After all, says Grant, “Brands with history and integrity are what I like.” The same goes for his London haunts:
Berry Brothers & Rudd
Whether you’re a serious oenophile or simply need a bottle as a quick hostess gift, Grant recommends Berry Brothers & Rudd. “It’s the most extraordinary Dickensian time capsule,” he says of Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant, which opened near St. James’s Palace in 1698 and today holds two royal warrants. Held over from its first days as a coffee business, the original store’s giant scales have weighed customers from Lord Byron to the Aga Khan—a fashionable 18th-century pastime that’s stuck—while its cellars host wine-happy lunches.
Fortnum & Mason
Yes, the circa-1707 department store is still a must-visit. The Queen’s grocer is also Grant’s go-to for edible treats. “They use amazing producers, and everything is beautifully packaged. Take home some tea—I don’t mind an orange pekoe—and a jar or two of The Monarch marmalade. It’s rich, dark, and really fruity, with lots of good, solid chunks of orange. I’m very fussy about marmalade, and it’s the perfect sort of gentlemen’s breakfast marmalade, I would say.”
H.R. Higgins (Coffee-man)
When in North Mayfair, he visits these third-generation coffee specialists, just down the street from E. Tautz. “There’s a lovely, quiet little café downstairs. They serve coffee and tea—and that’s it. Which is everything that I like: a cool business that’s stuck to doing one thing for its entire history, and does it extremely well. I also quite like the fact that ‘Coffee-man’ is in brackets—it’s an odd quirk that kind of attracts me.”
James Smith & Sons
“I lose brollies all the time,” says Grant, which is problematic in a place like London, where you always need one. Hence this huge and historic emporium, with its “extraordinarily eclectic selection of stick-based products,” including one-of-a-kind umbrellas with, say, a hand-carved beech-wood handle shaped like a Boxer’s head.
With a store near Savile Row, in the recently revamped Burlington Arcade, the 19th-century British perfumer has bottled the scent of the tailoring workroom at Norton & Sons. “Their nose spent a day smelling everything in the shop, and went away with the linseed oil from the sewing machine, and the beeswax that we use on the cotton threads, and steamed wool, and all sorts of other things that I didn’t even know existed.” The resulting fragrance? Sartorial.
Pentreath & Hall
The British architect Ben Pentreath (whose clients include Prince Charles) and the Kiwi designer Bridie Hall run this “gorgeous little treasure trove” in Bloomsbury. “I love Ben’s work—his understanding of scale and proportion is really beautiful—but I can’t afford to employ him. What I can do is buy things here.” That can be anything from vintage furniture to one-off items handcrafted by Hall in her studio upstairs. “She sells these lacquered pots in glorious colors with gold letters on them, which make perfect presents.”
The Royal Academy of Arts
Mayfair’s preeminent gallery-cum-school, which turns 250 this year, is set to unveil a David Chipperfield–designed expansion in the spring. When at the Academy, run as a charity by renowned U.K. artists turned Royal Academicians, Grant makes sure to visit the gift shop. “It’s great for those that want to support British art,” he says. “You can pick up original works by Academicians, some for really inexpensive prices. I bought a couple of Tracey Emins, a Conrad Shawcross sculpture, a Yinka Shonibare—I’m talking prints and small editions, but for a few hundreds of pounds, rather than thousands.”
“When you stand in front of the building and look up, you can’t believe that somebody’s made this whole thing out of brick,” he says of the iconic contemporary art gallery, formerly a power station. “The Turbine Hall is worth the trip alone—I think it is the single most impressive space in London. It’s just awe-inspiringly huge, and always has amazing installations.” Until April 2, it’s filled with three-person swings courtesy of the Danish collective Superflex.
E. Tautz has a new designers collective in its basement, including Community Clothing, local menswear labels Lou Dalton and Alex Mullins, modern quilts from Louise Gray, and more.
Norton & Sons: 16 Savile Row; +44 20-7437-0829
E. Tautz: 71 Duke Street; +44 20-7629-8809
Community Clothing: 14-16 Lord Street West; +44 12-5469-3893
Berry Brothers & Rudd: 3 St James’s Street; 800-280-2440
Fortnum & Mason: 181 Piccadilly; +44 20-7734-8040
H.R. Higgins (Coffee-man): 79 Duke Street; +44 20-7629-3913
James Smith & Sons: Hazelwood House, 53 New Oxford Street; +44 20-7836-4731
Pentreath & Hall: 17 Rugby Street; +44 20-7430-2526
Penhaligon’s: Various locations; 800-716-108
Royal Academy of Arts: Burlington House, Piccadilly; +44 20-7300-8090
Tate Modern: Bankside; +44 20-7887-8888