Travellers are expected to return bearing gifts. If you love shopping, this can be a welcome excuse for self indulgence. But for others it can be a real nightmare.
If you fall into the latter category you’ll know, from bitter experience, that hastily grabbing a box of Cadbury’s (sorry, Kraft) Milk Tray at the airport will go down like the proverbial lead balloon. “Oh, darling, you shouldn’t have!” means exactly that – and, what’s more, this relationship faux pas is not going to be forgotten for a very long time indeed. It’s like coming home with “I was having such a good time I only remembered you when I had two hours to kill in departures” written across your forehead – in lipstick.
If you find yourself facing this dilemma (do I waste half a day trying to find the perfect gift, or risk a week of sleeping on the couch?) I have two words for you – Burlington Arcade. Just five minute’s stroll from The Chesterfield Mayfair* (and not far from Red Carnation’s other luxurious London Hotels) it’s your magic “get out of jail” card.
The important thing about gift giving is to create a sense of expectation with a carefully crafted build up (nb, skip the build up if giving Cadbury’s Milk Tray – you are in enough trouble already). Burlington Arcade is perfect in this regard. Not only are you sure to find something suitably extraordinary, but it has a good “backstory” too, so you can impress with a bit of heritage and history.
Opened in 1819, it was Britain’s first ever shopping arcade, and is still the longest covered shopping street in England – a real treasure trove packed with luxurious accessories, yet a welcome retreat from the swirling bustle and noise of London’s streets. The ultra exclusive shops have become renowned throughout the world for individuality and craftsmanship, and are a real magnet for the world’s most feted celebrities.
It was originally created by Lord George Cavendish, to prevent passers-by throwing rubbish into the garden of Burlington House (just one of his magnificent properties, and now the home of the Royal Academy of Arts). Uniformed beadles were employed to patrol the arcade and enforce his stipulated code of behaviour in the Arcade – no whistling, singing, playing of musical instruments, running, carrying of large parcels or opening of umbrellas and no babies’ prams.
These liveried guards, wearing traditional Edwardian frock coats and gold braided top hats, still patrol the arcade and enforce the rules – the smallest private police force in existence, they have full power to eject any visitor daring to contravene them.
Space does not permit listing all the shops but here’s a selection to whet your appetite.
Richard Ogden, established in the Arcade over half a century ago, famous for his exclusive range of rings.
The St Petersburg Collection, creations by Theo Fabergé, the only surviving grandson of Carl Fabergé and his daughter Sarah Fabergé.
N. Peal, one of the world’s most famous and sought after cashmere fashion brands. The company opened its first store in the Burlington Arcade in 1936.
Penhaligon’s, launched 1870, has established a reputation for luxury fragrances, bath and body treats, leather-ware and beautiful home goods of the highest calibre.
Crockett & Jones, established in 1879, world-renowned and family-owned fine English shoemaker that remains firmly at the pinnacle of the luxury shoemaking industry.
Milleperle, devoted to pearls from the beautiful Japanese Akoya to the fabulous South Sea, including Australian, Tahitian Black and Indonesian Gold pearls.