When was the last time you played tourist in your own home town? Over the past couple of months I have had the great opportunity to truly explore my surroundings in London. I've visited neighbourhoods, treasured shopping streets and cherished British events, all in an effort to experience and share the creme de la creme of London life. Today, I bring you a lunchtime look at, perhaps one of my favorite London locations, The Royal Exchange.
I feel it's only appropriate to start with a little background here, as the Royal Exchange could fill an encyclopedia with its role in British history. The Royal Exchange begins its life in 1566, is officially opened by the Queen of England in 1571 and even sees a proclamation of a King on its hallowed steps in 1901. And that's just the Royal history. It's survived World Wars, has even lived through city traders shouting through the great hall and now finds itself reinvented as a place where the population of the city enjoys the luxurious side of its surroundings. Yes, the Royal Exchange has been beautifully transformed to house dozens of luxury shops, a handful of outstanding bars and, what has become, one of my favourite burgers in the city. There is so much to see and do here that I found it only appropriate to put together a guide for locals and tourists alike. One could, quite conceivably, spend every lunchtime at The Royal Exchange and find something new to experience daily.
With all that in mind, here's my top eight experiences at The Royal Exchange in London. In no particular order, these are all moments that can be fit into a lunch hour or drawn out over a longer period of time, depending on your need for luxurious pampering.
1. Coffee and Cocktails!
You know how I said I wasn't ranking in order of importance? Well, in my opinion, a great cocktail option should always come first on any city guide. Coffee connoisseurs and the cocktail crazed amongst us will equally love this announcement. The famed coffee house, The Grind, have recently opened at The Royal Exchange, and they are not only fueling the city with some powerful espressos, they're also offering a cocktail menu after noon. My advice? Go for the Espresso Martini. Not only is it simple sensational, it's also on offer for half price this week in the Exchange. Oh, and if you're an interiors addict, you will obsess over this insanely perfect interior design.
2. Get lost in fragrance, complete with a complimentary hand & arm massage
I've made no secret of the fact that I am a Jo Malone addict. I could spend all day in these shops across London. But, The Royal Exchange has opened my eyes to a 20 minute experience that has me wishing my offices were within walking distance of this location. For 20 minutes I sat upstairs, in a private room, with a Jo Malone fragrance expert who gave me a hand and arm massage that quite honestly transformed my entire outlook on the day. It also convinced me that I needed to invest in two Jo Malone fragrances. While the experience itself is completely free (and bookable by telephone), I doubt any soul will be able to exit without a fragrance purchase in hand. These ladies are experts at matching you with your dream scent and the massage is just the cherry on this sweet smelling cake. Get in there for a lunch break and I promise your afternoon will be completely transformed, no matter the circumstances that await you back at the office.
3. Nothing says lovin' like a little blue box!
This may be my American side coming through, but I must admit that a little blue box solves all problems. Truly, the Tiffany blue is a thing of legend. It's managed to get many a man out of the bad books and continues to act as a luxury layer for men and women alike, whether on the hunt for diamonds or a fine watch. Tiffany's at The Royal Exchange, located on the ground floor, offers a unique buying experience for anyone looking for either a quick purchase or a long term investment... can you say engagement ring? The salespeople here have seen it all and are prepared to help you with just about any situation you bring to the glass cabinets. In your lunch hour, mountains can pretty much be moved here to insure you leave a happy customer. After 20 minutes I was convinced I needed every piece of the T Collection and most certainly needed an East West watch. Mr. FFG is in trouble.
4. A blissful burger with a view
I take burgers as seriously as most women take diamonds. It's just a thing. I can't help myself. So when I say that it's worth stopping into the Grand Cafe at The Royal Exchange to try the cheeseburger, you need to take this recommendation seriously. This is a mean bit of meat and it comes with one heck of a good view overlooking the main hall. Bite by bite you can organize your plan of attack on the luxury stores below. It's all about shopping with a focus, and you need energy to do that properly, right? If you are looking for great concentration, perhaps you should leave your cocktail experience to the later hours in the day with the Grand Cafe. Their Wimbledon concoctions are deliciously deadly.
6. Sample award winning chocolates
A word about Paul A. Young - if you are on a diet, stay clear. Truly, this is the place where diets go to commit suicide. One step inside and the scent alone will be Weight Watchers' worst nightmare. Of course Paul A. Young isn't your average chocolatier. Oh no. This man has won multiple awards for his inventions in chocolate. While his salted caramel is perhaps the most famous of his works of art, his more daring combinations are positively inspired. Who would have ever thought you could bite into a chocolate that is inspired by a Pimms cup? Or how about peanut butter and jelly? There's even something for Marmite enthusiasts. But, for the purpose of quick fixes, I'll say there are three things you can do in 20 minutes or less with Paul A. Young. First up, you can stock a box of goodies for a loved one, taking great advice from members of staff on what people the world over love in a box of chocolates. Second, you can grab one of the best ice creams in the city - that is if you love rich and wonderful chocolate. I doubt I'll hear anyone arguing that. Last, but certainly not least, you can enjoy a bubbling hot hot chocolate so rich it's like drinking an actual bar of chocolate. Willy Wonka, eat your heart out.
7. Show love for Lulu
"Put on your pearls, girls," and get thee to Lulu Guinness. Men - you can't go wrong with a Lulu Guinness purchase as a gift for the special lady in your life, and ladies, be careful when you enter this shop as your American Express will hurt by the end of the experience. Of course Lulu Guinness is perhaps most well known for her statement red lips, that come in the form of everything from a clutch to a closure on a larger tote. There's also luggage on offer, great smaller accessories and a team of women on hand to make sure you don't leave the shop empty handed. This is a classic and well-loved British brand that deserves every bit of recognition it receives. Whether you are looking for a last minute red carpet accessory or a weekend bag for a quick getaway, Lulu Guinness is the perfect lunchtime fashion filler.
8. Keeping it personal
I have always thought that the best gift to give anyone, to show true thought with the object in hand, is with an element of personalization. Somehow personalizing an item meant you took time and effort to purchase such a piece well in advance of the main event. Well, Smythson at The Royal Exchange have offered up that service for people who are more last minute in their approach to gifting. You can rush into Smythson, on your lunch hour, and pick out a leather wallet, notebook, passport holder and more, and have the items personalized there, on the spot. Your only tough spot might be in making a decision on what to buy as there is so much on offer. The Panama wall alone is quite daunting, albeit colorful. But, staff are on hand to help with any task you lay before them. I've yet to meet a living soul that didn't adore everything that Smythson has to offer - it's a win-win.
Of course this is all just scratching the service. There's much more to discover at The Royal Exchange. View their entire store listing to see what else is on offer and get shopping!
Fashion Foie Gras worked in collaboration with The Royal Exchange.