July 23, 2012 at 7:01 PM ET
It’s London’s year, in case you hadn’t noticed. But you don’t need a ticket to the 800-meter final to feel the Olympic vibe — you’ll find the real, live, pumped up London far from the tourist fray, in the city’s villages. For its first iPad travel feature, Jetsetter picked six favorites, tapped some locals for tips, and added their own — so all you have to do to go native is book a flight and a bed.
Below, the 411 on Belgravia; for five more 'hoods, download Jetsetter’s iPad app.
It’s one of London’s poshest neighborhoods, but despite its proximity to Her Majesty’s gaff and the shoppers’ paradises of the King’s Road and Knightsbridge, Belgravia is a predominantly residential area. To be a real, Georgian townhouse-owning local, you’ll need at least $10m and — increasingly, a Russian accent. Instead, check into a hotel for a night or two, gawp your way around stucco-fronted Eaton, Belgrave and Chester Squares, and make believe instead.
The local: Mark Hix, head chef, Hix Belgravia
“Belgravia is unlike anywhere else in London. It’s intimate and an antidote to the hullabaloo of the rest of the city. There’s a huge variety of restaurants, from local bistros to Michelin-starred experiences like Tinello and Pétrus. And of course my own restaurant, Hix Belgravia; don’t miss the pici pasta with duck. Other favorite spots of mine include Jeroboams, an old-school wine merchant on Pont Street with a fantastic selection of Bordeaux and Burgundy, and gunsmith Ray Ward, which has extraordinary handcrafted shotguns.”
Belgravia’s shopping options are reassuringly upscale. Kate Middleton swings by Jenny Packham on Elizabeth Street for evening dresses; milliner Philip Treacy’s creations range from the eccentric (who could forget Princess Beatrice’s wedding hat?) to the wearable, while the Grosvenor Stationery Company is the place to get your engraved calling cards. And for sexy undies in a boudoir setting, hit Agent Provocateur, on Pont Street.
For immaculate seasonal British fare (potted Scottish salmon, Gloucester beef cottage pie) try The Ebury, in an old pub just across the border in Pimlico. At the glamorous Amaya, Indian gets a Michelin-starred twist, and for a Highland fling, order the Macsween haggis at Boisdale and finish with a dram of limited edition single malt whisky. For a distinctly unstuffy experience in this haute hood, try the six-month-old Hix Belgravia, at Belgraves hotel.
Too posh for pubs? Not Belgravia. Our favorite traditional boozers, which attract a young aristo crowd, include the tiny, creaky-floorboarded Antelope, which dates back to the 17th century, The Orange, which does a mean Sunday roast, and its stucco-fronted sister bar-restaurant, The Thomas Cubitt, where you'll find British takes on traditional cocktails, including a mojito with Hendrick's gin. And for afternoon tea with finger sandwiches and scones with clotted cream, or something stronger, head to The Goring, a deliciously traditional hotel where a certain princess spent the eve of her wedding.
What Belgraves hotel lacks in Georgian pedigree (it’s in a midcentury building) it more than makes up in contemporary style. The first Thompson hotel outside North America has plush, light-filled rooms, a clubby bar and a Hix restaurant.