The writer GK Chesterton once said: ‘I have never been to St John’s Wood. I dare not. I should be afraid of the innumerable night of fir trees, afraid to come upon a blood red cup and the beating of the wings of the eagle.’ Unfortunately, if it’s fir trees and eagles you’re looking for, St John’s Wood is not the place for you. But if you’re after a London oasis with the perfect mixture of beautiful period buildings and quirky pop culture, then yeah, you might enjoy it. Quite a bit, actually.
The original London suburb, St John’s Wood became the favoured place for Victorian love rats to stash their mistresses in the 1800s. It was near enough to town but far enough from their well-to-do Mayfair homes to avoid any suspicion from their wives. Even the exiled Napoleon III was known to have lived with his lover Harriet Howard at a secret residence just off the High Street. Since then, it’s become home to some of London’s richest residents. Yep, SJW is fancy as hell.
Recent years have seen the area explode with independent shops, delis and restaurants, so whether you’re seeking a quality caffeine kick, some fine wining and dining or just the most famous zebra crossing in London, St John’s Wood has it all. There are even some truly beautiful green spaces too. No woods, though.
The best cup of coffee in the area at Fego Caffè, a little slice of the Continent in NW8.
A glass of top-quality vino at nearby wine bar The Ordnance, with its carefully curated selection of vintage grape juice.
A pint of lager at The Duke of York, the area’s absolute best gastropub, with a fine range of beers and a seriously mean burger.
Bread of any variety imaginable from the aptly named Bread Shop.
Perfectly authentic ice cream at Gelato Mio, which serves up some of the finest Italian frozen stuff to be had in London.
Kick back in the grounds of St John’s Wood Church, which include a stunning formal garden with large open spaces and a wildlife area.
Catch a match at Lord’s Cricket Ground. Tickets to county games are cheap and readily available – and there’s no better way to spend a summer Saturday.
Brush up on your Beatles knowledge at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, neat that zebra crossing. You know. That one.
Treat yourself to something a bit different at the Cecilia Colman Gallery where you can buy handcrafted glass, ceramics and mosaics.
Check out any of the area’s charity shops (Oxfam, St John’s Hospice) to dig through shit that rich people throw out. There are some serious designer gems to be found here.
Have a rifle through the rails at Square One for fancy designer clothes. Exactly what you’d expect in St John’s Wood.
Whether you’re a budding chef or just a dedicated carnivore, get your mitts on fresh top-quality meat at Kent & Sons traditional butchers.
If you only do one thing…
Get some proper bagels and salt beef at Harry Morgan. What started as a tiny takeaway is now the most famous New York-style deli in London.
By Tui McLean, who has a lot of jokes about St John and his wood.
Fancy a change of scene? Here are 14 reasons to go to Mare Street in Hackney, E8.