In our new area guide, Ruth Bloomfield explores London’s villages and the neighbourhood of Belgravia, and discovers local favourite spots
The perfectly symmetrical white stucco townhouses, immaculate garden squares and impressive range of good-looking neighbourhood restaurants, bars, and boutiques all make Belgravia an enviable location.
But rather than rest on its laurels, Grosvenor has spent the past decade rethinking the jewel in the crown of its London property portfolio, anxious to deflect criticism that it had become a “lights off” neighbourhood full of homes owned by absentee overseas billionaires.
The result is that today’s Belgravians are a diverse bunch, with residents including Dame Joan Collins, fashion designer Stella McCartney and football manager Jose Mourinho.
Belgravia: First impressions
In 2009, the estate hired Danish architect Jan Gehl to help it rethink key parts of Belgravia, including Elizabeth Street, with smarter shops, better streets, and more opportunities for alfresco dining. Changes have been gradual, but it’s now a “village” high street where you can get your hair cut, grab a coffee, stock up your cellar, or pick up flowers. With its boutiques, delis and eateries, Motcomb Street has also been chicly curated.
The other result has been solid price growth during the pandemic. According to research by LonRes, the average property price stands at just under £4.4m, up by 9.5 per cent, although this increase is, in part, a reflection of how buyers are now after houses with gardens not pied-à-terres.
The Grosvenor estate’s reimagining of Belgravia, meanwhile, continues. In 2019 Eccleston Yards opened, a former power station rebooted as a complex of shops, restaurants, gyms, and offices where you can take pottery lessons, browse vintage markets, or just chill out.
A day in Belgravia
Get to grips with EMS, the high-tech workout for those who love a quick fix. Standing for electro-muscle stimulation, it involves having electrodes hooked up to your major muscle groups before a 20-minute class, having the same impact as 90 minutes of traditional exercise. Try Exerceo at Lightcentre on Eccleston Street.
Having worked up an appetite head over to Tomtom Coffee House at 114 Ebury Street, where you can breakfast virtuously on granola and yoghurt, or go old school with poached eggs on sourdough. The coffee is fantastic.
Shop and stroll
Elizabeth Street has been reinvented as Belgravia’s de facto high street. Invest in a new scent at Jo Loves London or Les Senteurs, inspect the impossibly beautiful kitchenware at Summerill & Bishop, and design a bespoke necklace at Loquet.
Peckish? Thomas Cubitt (37–39 Pimlico Road), offers superlative pub grub. The scallops with caramelised cauliflower are sensational.
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Get a glow up
Head round the corner to get evening-ready with a blow-dry at Eccleston Yards’ SMUK London: an eco-friendly hair, beauty and lifestyle studio, founded by Danish make-up artist Miabella Ristorp.
Walk north, taking a detour to admire the work of the real Thomas Cubitt, the architect who laid out much of Belgravia, including the splendid Eaton Square (actress Vivien Leigh once lived at number 54). Your destination is Pantechnicon at 19 Motcomb Street, a six-storey Nordic-Japanese shopping and dining concept store. Take in the sunset from the roof garden with a cocktail – we recommend a Pine Forest to start.
Belgravia: Ask a local
‘The minute I walked by 79 Elizabeth Street, I knew I had found a home for Mungo & Maud. I was enchanted by its characterful store window and little checked steps leading up to the rather tall, imposing doorway. Belgravia is an area I’ve always been drawn to; aside from its elegant Georgian buildings and creamy- white stucco fronts, it has always had an intimate, village feel. I also like to stop and browse at many of the stores, such as the Poilâne Bakery (for my daily bread fix); Olivino for delicious authentic Italian produce and Rose Uniacke for objects and furnishings.
My dog Florence can often be found wandering around Belgravia’s pretty squares, with me in tow…’ says Nichola Sacher, owner of Mungo & Maud.
Belgravia: Food & Drink
15 Eccleston Street
Known as one of London’s greatest live music restaurants, Boisdale serves traditional Scottish cuisine. Diners can enjoy a range
of jazz tributes to musicians such as Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald. The menu itself has star-studded listings, with award-winning salmon from the Scottish Highlands, Jersey oysters and the finest whiskies. There’s even an outdoor terrace for summer dinner and drinks. boisdale.co.uk
51 Pimlico Road
Founded in 1982, Hunan is influenced by Taiwanese food, and famous for not having
a menu. Diners are asked what they don’t wish to eat, and how spicy they like their food. Based on the answers, curated small plates are served, such as crispy frogs’ legs with fermented chilli and a hearty broth of minced pork, Chinese mushroom and ginger. hunanlondon.com
1 Wilbraham Place
Peter Joseph’s menu has been inspired by his upbringing in Chennai, India. There he learned traditional tips and tricks from his mother. This Michelin-starred restaurant brings the finest British ingredients to life with vibrant Indian spices, offering a palate- pleasing modern twist. kahanilondon.com
19 Motcomb Street
An exciting fusion of Nordic and Japanese cuisine promises a plethora of culinary joy with a produce-led menu. Separated into five dining areas with a sixth on the way, it suits different dining moods. Pantechnicon hosts a range of workshops to refine kitchen skills, from masterclasses to an introduction to sake. pantechnicon.com
LE POULE AU POT
231 Ebury Street
The charming recreation of “paysan” France, with its alluring interiors has made Le Poule Au Pot a firm Belgravia institution. Having consistently provided a wonderful French experience full of joie de vivre since the 1960s, its little wonder it has been voted ‘best for romance’ in Hardens restaurant guide. In summer, outdoor seating gives an alfresco dining experience in one of the most picturesque parts of the capital. pouleaupot.co.uk
Belgravia offers a wealth of walking-distance options for families, from nursery and prep to senior schools. It’s common to see little ones in blazers following their teachers along the streets of SW1. For tots, Miss Daisy’s Nursery on Ebury Square is a country nursery in the heart of London. Eaton Square Nursery on Eccleston Square takes children at 2+ and offers additional support to pupils for whom English is a second language.
Part of a family of schools, children can progress to the prep school. For boys aged 3-11, Eaton House Belgravia on Eaton Gate is one of the top feeder preps for Westminster and St Paul’s. There’s no testing at 4+ entry, so children can benefit from the school’s personalised approach to learning. Former pupils include actor Eddie Redmayne and author Philip Pullman. While for older girls, there’s the high-achieving Francis Holland School in Sloane Square, which has an outstanding reputation for music, drama, art, ballet and sport.
Belgravia: Ask an agent, Mark Armstrong, partner at Knight Frank
”Even ten years ago Belgravia was a bit dull. Lovely streets, but not a lot happening.”
Investment in the area has changed all that, and buyers are younger than when Armstrong, head of sales at Knight Frank’s Belgravia office, started there in 2001. The pandemic has caused another shift: buyers are more likely to be British – and they want houses, not flats. Hot spots for those after a house are South Eaton Place, Gerald Street and Chester Row. For flats, the key address is Eaton Square.
While demand has been strong for the past two years, pricing, Armstrong says, “has been pretty flat”. He believes the market is unlikely to drop any further, and over the next year, some early signs of growth may return to Belgravia, “although these are extraordinary times that we’re living in: nothing’s certain”.
Belgravia: On the market
A four-bedroom, low-built house with a private roof terrace on Lyall Street, sold with its adjacent two-bedroom mews house on Eaton Mews. The four-storey main property is unmodernised, but with almost 7,400 sq ft to play with, there’s plenty of scope to create an exemplary family home. £19.95m.
Little Chester Street
A meticulously refurbished four-bedroom house arranged over five storeys within a period building. £5.95m.
A four-bedroom penthouse apartment on the top floor of a classic white stucco townhouse on a Belgravia garden square. £7.95m.
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