You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Chiltern Firehouse is the best thing about Chiltern Street, despite the fact that it’s not even properly open yet. While London’s It people have enjoyed countless dinners over the last few months, the hotel and restaurant don’t fully open for another couple of weeks (breakfast and lunch service is due to start at the end of June).
But there are plenty of other reasons to head to this genteel pocket of London, not least its new retail focus. If you skew to the types of brands sold on Mr Porter or Tres Bien and have a Scandi ‘lagom’ attitude to getting dressed, then this is your kind of shopping street.
While London’s loudest retail buzz has been focused on Mount Street and Mayfair recently, (hello swish new Roksanda Ilincic shop, opening this week), Chiltern Street in Marylebone has always been on my radar. Initially for its intriguing specialist shops (Long Tall Sally for the over 5’9s, Magnus shoes for the large of foot) but more recently for the well-chosen purveyors of exotic classicism, especially when it comes to menswear.
First to recognise the potential of Chiltern Street was Trunk Clothiers in 2010, closely followed by John Simons. Any menswear buff will tell you of the legend of John Simons, formerly of Russell Street in Covent Garden and still a pilgrimage destination for those seeking authentic Ivy League fare of the Bass Weejun and Pendleton variety. The influence of these two cult clothiers elevated the appeal of this quirky street to other retailers. Sunspel slots in perfectly here with its quiet merino knits, Sea Island tees and Uniform Wares watches.
Trunk Clothiers and Trunk LABS are a lesson in one-stop shopping. You’ll find the cleanest cuts from respected brands such as Beams+, Aspesi, Incotex and Our Legacy at Trunk Clothiers, while Trunk LABS, a few doors along has exactly the kind of utility-luxe bags and accessories I go gaga over – all in a calmly considered environment.
And nicely positioned nearby is Monocle Café. Yes, it’s what it sounds like, a café for the Monocle man (or woman), serving world snacks and Allpress coffee. You could say that Trunk’s Mats Klingberg is the linchpin of Chiltern Street Mark 2. The owner of Trunk happens to be the partner of Monocle’s Tyler Brûlé, that arbiter of understated taste and one of the originators of the modern menswear look. Hotelier Andre Balazs is a longtime Trunk customer and friend and made it known to Klingberg years ago that he was eying the handsome gothic fire station as a destination hotel. In Balazs, Brûlé and Klingberg you have a power trio whose combined knowledge of current tastes, expert retail and customer service shouldn’t be underestimated.
But a streetful of posh men’s casualwear could quickly get boring. So there are wonderful injections of eccentricity and character from the other local retailers. Mouki Mou I’ve written about before, a box of discoveries so delightful that one influential magazine editor has kept it as her secret shopping haunt, not breathing a word to her team. Everything from the floor tiles to the rails of 45 RPM and Sacai Luck has a tendency to elicit lustful sighs.
Prism, the holiday-wear brand from Anna Laub is a genius inclusion to Chiltern Steet; watch the sunglasses, swimwear and leather espadrilles fly into the Rimowa cases of departing Chiltern Firehouse jetsetters. And then there’s Cire Trudon, the famous candle boutique whose heritage harks back to supplying 17th century French royalty and ancient churches. Here you can indulge in the finest scented candles and room fragrances, and marvel at the hidden Fornasetti Profumi store out the back.
I’d say the real appeal of Chiltern Street lies in its manageable size and neighbourly feel. In fact, Chiltern Street comes in two parts. This strip belongs to the Portman Estate while the other half is home to The Chilterns, a vast (and expensive) residential block currently being erected. While that will certainly bring more bling to the area, for now the street has kept its village-y charm. From the excellent local newsagent and old school barber-shop to the indie retailers and It hotel, all coexist harmoniously in this unspoilt London corner.