From a healthy business breakfast or a civilised lunch, to an indulgent afternoon tea or a sublime dinner, St James’s has it all.
The area of St James’s has a storied history and it maintains an air of distinctiveness today, with its grand architecture and proximity to the royal palaces and parks. The dining scene here can be equally refined, yet with a modern edge, with the likes of Angela Hartnett’s relaxed Italian Café Murano and smart, modern Indian Chutney Mary on St James’s Street.
But what’s really turned this small but perfectly formed area into one of London’s foodie hotspots in the past few years is a sudden influx of forward-thinking venues that have introduced a contemporary, all-day-dining culture to the culinary scene. This is particularly evident in the new St James’s Market development, just south of Piccadilly Circus – now a pedestrianised hub for upmarket stores and bespoke restaurant concepts.
One such venue, Veneta, brings a taste of St Mark’s Square to St James’s with its classic Venetian-style double-height dining room and relaxing outdoor terrace. Veneta is open all day for everything from polenta, raisin and cinnamon porridge to squid ragù, and there’s a hand-carved trolley that’s always laden with artisan charcuterie and carefully sourced cheeses.
Also open all day on St James’s Market is bakery Ole & Steen, the first international outpost from famed Danish bakers Ole Kristoffersen and Steen Skallebæk. Try their famous cinnamon snegl, or swirl, as well as a range of breakfast pastries and porridges. For lunch, there are Scandinavian flatbreads, rye breads, soups and open sandwiches galore. Continuing the Scandinavian theme, New York’s Aquavit has brought its Michelin-starred concept to St James’s Market, serving up small plates of fresh, clean ingredients in a high-ceilinged, light-filled space that simply oozes Nordic style. From early in the morning, grab some freshly baked cinnamon rolls and take a well-deserved ‘fika’ – a Swedish-style coffee break.
With its full-length windows and acres of wood, you might mistake nearby Anzu for a Scandinavian venue too, although it is in fact a brasserie-style Japanese restaurant. The house speciality is teishoku – a set meal with the main dish served alongside rice, miso and pickles, available with luxury ingredients including king oyster teriyaki or Wagyu beef tataki.
Further south, on Regent Street St James’s, you’ll find fine European cuisine from the likes of Norte (formerly Bilbao Berria) and Villandry. The former serves Spanish pintxos, tapas and Basque specialities in a modern space with an open kitchen, while nearby Villandry is set in a listed building overlooking Waterloo Place and serves contemporary, pan-European cuisine all day long.
Back on Piccadilly, and one of the most recent additions to the local dining scene is Barbecoa, the second outpost for Jamie Oliver’s temple to barbecued meat. The new branch has a similar menu to that of the popular St Paul’s flagship, only this time it’s open for breakfast too. Served from 7am on weekdays, the breakfast menu makes the most of the kitchen’s extensive facilities – including a robata grill, a charcoal oven and a Texan smoker – with specials including coal-roasted kippers, baked eggs and a croque barby.
It’s inventive venues such as these that are creating a real buzz in St James’s right now. And while the area’s upmarket roots are far from lost, a revitalised, all-day approach to dining is keeping this historic ‘village’ thriving from morning until night.
To discover more visit stjameslondon.co.uk
This article was published 20 February 2017