‘Monmouth Street has still remained the burial-place of the fashions,’ Charles Dickens proclaimed in ‘Sketches by Boz’, ‘and such, to judge from all present appearances, it will remain until there are no more fashions to bury.’
That was in 1836, but if Chuck D could see it today, he’d have to eat his words. Monmouth Street is now about 70 percent fashion and beauty boutiques – most of them independent, all of them great. The rest of this axis of Seven Dials is mostly for the foodies, with non-chain restaurants, cafés and shops selling all kinds of edible treats plus the street’s namesake caffeine mecca Monmouth Coffee.
The first sundial pillar at Seven Dials, right in the middle of Monmouth Street, had to be demolished in June 1773 because London mobs used it as a meeting place. At the time it was one of the most dangerous streets in London, with a reputation for petty crime and murder. The area provided inspiration for William Hogarth’s famous engraving ‘Gin Lane’, a depraved street scene full of gin-fuelled Londoners causing mayhem.
Today, cobbled streets and listed buildings remain, and, with the mobs long gone, the sundial was rebuilt in 1989. The vibe is now indie haven in the West End. Oh, and we could totally imagine Dickens picking out a chic greyscale wardrobe in French-inspired boutique LOFT Design By.
An expertly roasted cup of the brown stuff from Monmouth Coffee: the original home of the London caffeine institution.
A Seven Dials Punch from Monmouth Kitchen, made with three-year-old rum, Velvet Falernum, lemon and grapefruit sherbert, green tea and lime, with a ‘teapot bitters mist’.
A hearty coq au vin, which takes two-and-a-half days to prepare and marinade, at Mon Plaisir – one of London’s oldest French restaurants. The bar was imported from a Lyonnais brothel. Saucy.
A house-smoked angus pastrami sarnie and a seasonal salad at Cure + Cut, served with a side helping of Manhattan attitude.
Fancy French macarons at Pierre Hermé, where seasonal flavours range from mandarin and pink peppercorn to candied chestnut.
The wood-pigeon kebab at British wild food restaurant Native, just off Monmouth Street in Neal’s Yard.
A salted caramel doughnut topped with a chunk of honeycomb from the newly opened Bread Ahead bakery.
Get a wet shave or beard reshape, while drinking a whisky, obvs, at Murdock London.
Get a crushed cabernet body scrub, one of several wine-inspired beauty treatments at Caudalie ‘vinotherapy’ spa.
All the high-end sexy stuff you can think of at luxe lingerie and erotica shop Coco de Mer.
A laser-cut necklace with your name on it from off-the-chain jewellery shop Tatty Devine – choose your own font, colour and charm.
Stylish shades and cool prescription frames at indie eyewear shop Walter & Herbert.
Customisable leather backpacks and handbags from Colour Field. Pick your own colour combo and have one made for you by hand.
An animal-friendly, vegan fragrance from Le Labo, made from hand-picked ingredients and mixed in front of you for optimum freshness – with your name and emoticon design of choice on the bottle.
And if you only do one thing…
Attempt to tell the time without getting confused (or run over) using the huge Seven Dials sundial, where the area’s seven streets (including Monmouth) meet.