I recently found myself with a free afternoon in the midst of an overwhelmingly busy week. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I immediately set about planning how I could make the most of this rare treat, with my search inevitably leading me to St Martin’s Courtyard.
Secluded from the busy bustle of Covent Garden, the open-air enclosure is a picture of quiet bliss, packing in a jaunty jumble of places to eat, shop and relax in. In my case, it’s the perfect one-stop-spot from breakfast through to evening bubbles – with a massage, blow-dry, floristry class and a bit of shopping squeezed in too!
Here’s telling the splendid sequence of events as they happen to unfold…
11.15 a.m. Bombay brekky at Dishoom
The day is off to a standout start, catching up with friends at Dishoom. This location (on Upper St Martin’s Lane) is the original outpost of the cult chain bringing a contemporary touch of old-world Bombay-Irani cafés to London.
Bun maskas (boisterously buttery and soft bread buns) are dipped in endless refills of garam chai, as we simultaneously tuck into the likes of Eggs Kejriwal (a chilli-cheese toast topped off with a fried egg) and masala baked beans. Of course for the flexitarian amongst us, that iconic bacon naan roll – smothered in chilli jam – isn’t amiss either.
12.30 p.m. Relax (Spa)
Suitably well-fed, I leave my friends to indulge in a thirty-minute chair massage at Relax Spa. While there are longer-length and more traditional massages to choose from, this option is perfect for an on-the-go recharge, doing exactly what is promised at the door. I leave feeling considerably lighter, my therapist having winningly taken on those pesky knots in my upper back and shoulder!
1 p.m. The shops beckon
With an unmistakeable pep in my step, I spend the next hour having an idyl stroll around the surrounding streets with pit-stops at Cos and & Other Stories for an autumnal wardrobe update.
The insatiable foodie in me can’t resist popping into The East India Company’s boutique either, where I snaffle dark chocolate-enrobed strawberries and spiced biscuits, washing it all down with a matcha drink expertly whisked by the Tea Master on hand!
2 p.m. A Lesson at Covent Garden Academy of Flowers
Next, it’s back to school… albeit one specialising in floristry!
While this perennial Instagrammer never loses an opportunity to capture #LondonInBloom, it’s a refreshing change to put my phone away and to instead concentrate on learning the skill behind making a perfect bouquet.
Over the next hour, the lovely Rebecca at Covent Garden Academy of Flowers runs through the basics (from properly cutting off the stems to choosing the right foliage), before deftly showing me how to add the flowers in a spiral pattern to give structure and shape to my bouquet.
If I have to confess, I do have a fair few moments of distraction. None are caused by my phone however; but rather by the fluid movements around me, as colourful displays of artistry are brought to life by students who are a few weeks into the Academy’s certified floristry course.
Once finished, my bouquet is tied together with twine and wrapped in cellophane with a bubble of water at the bottom, in order to keep it fresh for the rest of the afternoon. You see, it’s still a while until I get home…
3.45 p.m. Birthday preps commence
… As I still need to get my hair done before I see the girls for pre-birthday drinks. With eight looks to choose from at Blow Ltd’s beauty bar, I settle on one which leaves me with sleek yet voluminously-bouncy curls.
In an added bonus, my friendly hair stylist doubles as every blogger’s dream-photographer, capturing proof of this rare occasion when I don’t have a single hair out of place.
Well, almost. There are always a few which slip away.
4.30 p.m. Burrata & Italian Champagne for one
The poll I’ve initiated on my Instagram Stories strongly suggests that I’m now ready for my birthday drinks.
But, first. I enjoy my last moment of me-time, sitting in the sheltered terrace of Dalla Terra. The menu here spans a mind-boggling 500 wines by the bottle and over 30 by the glass. Having always had a fondness for fizz, I’m of course drawn to the Franciacorta (Italian sparkling wine made from following France’s traditional champagne method). It pairs beautifully with a creamy cloud of burrata!
All said and done, it’s been the perfect afternoon – and one which I simply can’t wait to repeat.
St Martin’s Courtyard, Slingsby Place London, WC2