12 Dec 2008

Merchant Gourmet

Pictured: my morning immersed within the mechanics of luxury, St. James’s Street. At no. 6 my friend, May Lin arranged for a tour of her timeless workplace, ‘Lock & Co.’ hatters, established 1676. Janet, resident historian and master fitter told me that my head is apparently the same size as client, Admiral Nelson's...
We also delved deep into the vaulted cellars of no. 3, ‘Berry Bros. & Rudd’, the new kids on the block by 22 years. I was shown a wall which formed part of Henry VIII's tennis court and a recently discovered well. At no. 9, we witnessed bootmakers at ‘John Lobb’ craft bespoke shoes from 300 year-old Russian hide - reclaimed from a shipwreck. The picture shows individual 'lasts' (templates) of customers' feet.
I will try to expand my experience over a decent article (in due course).
We had lunch at ‘Just St. James’, a former Lloyds bank. This palatial restaurant has been glowing on my radar since it opened eight years ago.
From the set menu (£19.50 for two courses) I had rugged, winter warmer, braised featherblade and then pears poached in mulled wine. Both were fine, although a little tepid.
Despite the maître d’s reservations, a glass of incisor sharp, gooseberry and ice crisped hedgerow scented wine from Nutbourne Vineyards, Sussex (down the same lane as our best sparkling wine producer, Nyetimber) nervily, tingly cut through the hearty food.
Staff were pleasant, although sartorially, a little food-smudged, a niggle that I probably wouldn’t have detected had I not spent the morning admiring the finest clothing in Britain! The vast room resembled a cruise liner atrium. After lunch I pondered the fact that the three fine merchants I visited beforehand, established many - well documented - generations ago, probably have a brighter future than Just St. James, established in the millennium, recently refurbished, and already feeling a little tatty and aloof…
'Just St. James' -12 St. James's Street, London. SW1. T. 020 7976 2222
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