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A Southerner’s Guide to London

Jessica Bride grew up splitting her time between what she calls “the metropolis of New Orleans and the quiet country roads of St. Gabriel, Louisiana.” She currently lives in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood with her husband and three children, but she’s nevertheless a Southerner to the core—a champ at thank-you notes, a drinker of Milk Punch, and a baker of king cakes, geography be damned.

Jessica Bride's Southerner's Guide to London
Jessica Bride, the blogger behind food and lifestyle blog Belle Année, grew up in Louisiana and currently lives in London. She penned this Southerners’ Guide to London for us.

Jessica still knows NOLA well (you can see her tips for traveling there in our Draper James New Orleans guide here and here). But as readers of Belle Année, her picturesque food and lifestyle blog (and Instagram!), can attest, she’s also got a knack for finding common ground between her roots and her city of residence. Her photos of colorful houses, lush flower stands, and architectural details could easily pass for ones of either city.

It’s London’s “genteel side,” says Jessica, that makes it ideal for Southerners making a trip across the pond. The neighborhoods of Mayfair, Notting Hill, St. James’s, and Kensington are her favorites when Southern friends come to visit—”with the incredible architecture that Southerners like so much and a few gorgeous hotels and fantastic restaurants thrown in too,” she says.  Written exclusively for Draper James, Jessica’s Southerner’s Guide to London “avoids masses of people, pick pockets, and mustache contests” in favor of plenty of places to take in history, buy an Easter bonnet, and have tea (even if the Brits take theirs hot and we like ours sweetened over ice).

blue car outside house in London
The streets of Notting Hill. (Image by Jessica Bride.)

A Southerner’s Guide to London by Jessica Bride of Belle Année


Long considered the must luxurious address in London, Claridge’s has been challenged, but never dethroned. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald stayed here in 1920, and the hotel certainly retains a decadent Great Gatsby-esque appeal. If you’re in town for Easter, you won’t even miss Grandma’s honey-baked ham when you taste the roast lamb at the hotel’s annual extravaganza. (Booking tip: be sure to request one of the renovated rooms.)

Imagine fashion designer Billy Reid was presented with a large house with 10 rooms and given free reign to turn into a hotel. With its traditional-with-a-twist vibe so strikingly similar to the Alabama-based menswear designer’s signature look, Artist Residence would be the result. Buckingham Palace and Westminster are within a 20 minute walk, yet instead of feeling touristy, a stay here makes you feel like you’ve got your finger on the pulse of all of the culture in London.  If you’re going to give up a weekend of hunting to make the trip across the pond, reserve the “The Loft” bedroom with its vaulted ceiling and chandelier made of stag’s antlers.

An intimate retreat from Buckingham Palace and the Royal Mews across the street, Hotel 41 is a stately nod to modern luxury with an old-world appeal. While every room is different, all are decorated in the hotel’s signature black and white with mahogany wood accents. The unparalleled service (a staff-to-guest ratio of two-to-one and the option to hire a butler or chauffeur any time of day) is as befitting of a Southern lady as it is a British dame—exactly the kind of place you would where you imagine your grandmother, with her precious Georgian accent, staying when she visited Paris in the 20s.

A mere two-hour drive from London, Bath is a historic country town known for its natural hot springs. If you’re heading there for a visit, I’d suggest booking a night at THE PIG. Built in the early 1800s in the middle of a deer park, the earthy-meets-hip hotel also features a spa, lush gardens, and a restaurant serving bounty picked from the garden and foraged nearby.

Southerner's Guide to London
THE PIG hotel. (Image courtesy of Annie McMonagle @littlemissnottinghill.)


There’s no better place than London to pick up an Easter bonnet or a Derby hat. I recommend paying a visit to Rachel Trevor Morgan’s shop; if it’s good enough for the Queen, this royal milliner will certainly suit even the most discriminating Southerner aristocrat.

As an alternative, folks who take their Mint Juleps with an extra dash of Kentucky bourbon might prefer VV Rouleaux. At this design-it-yourself hat shop, you can select your own pheasant feathers, felts, and fringe and let the expert staff there create your one-of-a-kind hat or fascinator.

For my 40th birthday my friend Todla from Austin, gave me the most beautiful umbrella from a lovely specialty shop on Magazine Street in New Orleans. I had never thought of umbrellas as other than something to leave in a restaurant and not be able to find next time it was raining, but this gift changed my life forever. Join the club and pick up a gorgeous handmade umbrella from James Smith & Sons, purveyor of umbrellas since 1830. Look for the walking stick size for ladies or gentlemen or the special “pencil umbrella” that hangs daintily from one’s wrist when not in use.

I’ll happily join you on a visit to the oldest wine ship in Great Britain. Berry Brothers & Rudd has been in the same location since it first opened in 1698, though it has recently undergone a massive renovation to the cellars beneath the modest ground floor interior. Wine lessons, lunches, and cocktail parties occur in the labyrinth of tunnels under its well-preserved building. Bottles of the in-house brand make great souvenirs.

Those who live the sporting life (or just want to look like they do) head to William + Son. I love this dignified department store for its home line, where tabletop pieces and luxurious game sets will be right at home in your dining room, library, or parlor.

It is a curse of being Southern that our fashion needs do not run in conjunction with traditional retail. By the time August arrives our swimsuits are worn from wooden piers and bleached from the sun and too much wear. In most places, however, the swimsuits have long been off the racks by that time, leaving you up the creek without a paddle (or a swimsuit) for your annual Labor Day trip to The Outer Banks. At Heidi Klein, however, designer swimsuits and other beachwear are for sale year-round. You can stock up here no matter the season.


Fresh Air

There is so much more to traveling than just checking off visits to “top 10” tourist destinations. Leave Big Ben and The London Eye for another visit; on this stay try some of the bite sized bits that the locals love.

Don your best garden party dress and make the 30-minute trip for spend lunch and an afternoon in the faraway reaches of Surrey. At Petersham Nurseries, a magnificent garden center outside of the city, visiting Southerners will feel like they’ve been invited to dine in Bunny Mellon’s sprawling private garden. In addition to the nursery, there is a Michelin-starred glasshouse restaurant, a rustic tea cafe, an antiques shop and garden store.

Holland Park, located in the heart of the neighborhood of the same name, provides 54 acres of woodlands divided into curated gardens, overgrown rock paths, large clearings, a few cafes, and even a koi pond and tennis courts. In the summer, Holland Park Opera does outdoor performances and invites the audience to picnic. BYO deviled eggs and coleslaw!

If you want to wow your Instagram followers, get a pic at the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. This temporary structure (it takes six months to build and then remains erected for just three) is commissioned annually to be designed by architectural teams who win an international competition. These aren’t little LEGO structures; the pavilion and its offshoots house plenty of places to eat, drink, and gab with your girlfriends.


If you’re a WWII buff, you’ve certainly already visited the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. So now is a good time to pay a visit to the Churchill War Rooms. Abandoned after the end of the war and sealed just as it was left, the secret bunker was reopened nearly forty years later and preserved in situ for the rest of us to see. See the situation room, Churchill’s sleeping quarters, and videos of his famous speeches.

Save the V&A, the Tate Modern, and the National Gallery for next visit. Instead, stop by the Royal Academy, an artist-led institution notable for the Summer Exhibition featuring works from up-and-coming artists and established names that are all available for sale. I also recommend Saatchi Gallery, where the work of today’s most exciting contemporary artists is on view.


With the laid-back vibe of a bar and food that rivals even your mama’s home cooking, London’s gastropubs seemed designed for Southerners on holiday. I like The Thomas Cubitt, where I fill up on British oysters on the half shell, perfectly cooked steaks, the outstanding burger, and a tall glass of ale.

A steaming platter of fried fish is quintessentially Southern. But it’s British, too. Around here, they serve theirs tempura-battered and accompanied by large chunky fries and a bowl of mushy peas. The dish is called “fish & chips,” and while it can be found all over town, my favorite spot is Geales in Notting Hill, where they’ve been serving up the iconic indulgence for over 70 years.

My rec for a pre-theater meal is Quo Vadis. This upscale and historic spot serves delicious modern British cuisine with a good dose of people watching and service so friendly that British accents aside, you’d almost think you were back below the Mason-Dixon line.

My favorite restaurant from morning ’til late-night is Colbert, a French Brasserie that happens to have the best chopped salad in London. It’s run by restaurateur Jeremy King, whose wife, Lauren Gurvich King, is a Tulane grad (and California native) who specializes in sourcing the best of 20th Century vintage furniture, art, and objects for private and trade clients.

Colbert breakfast in London
Breakfast at Colbert. (Image courtesy of Colbert.)

Lauren’s also the one who told me about the The Colony Grill Room: The bar there specializes in old fashioneds and proudly declares that cocktails are served only shaken or stirred. Not to mention there’s an all-day dessert menu featuring bananas foster. Hello, sugar!

breakfast at The Colony Grill Room in London
Colony Grill Room.

If Southerners and Londoners have one thing in common, it’s this: there’s always time for tea. Around here, afternoon tea (also known as high tea—though the two terms have slightly different origins, they are pretty much interchangeable now) is served in delicate bone china accompanied by a vertical selection of miniscule sweet and savory treats. Iconic department store Fortnum & Mason hosts a tea worthy of the royals, as do ritzy hotels like Claridge’s, The Ritz or The Dorchester. If you want something a bit more modern and Instagram-worthy, check out Sketch or Wyld afternoon tea at The Mondrian.






Welcome to the Draper James blog. My little slice of space to share the things I love most about life: people, parties, food and fun! It’s everything Draper James stands for and I hope you like it. 

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Welcome to the Draper James blog. My little slice of space to share the things I love most about life: people, parties, food and fun! It’s everything Draper James stands for and I hope you like it.