Christmas Shopping at Ham Yard
Christmas shopping in London can be a magical experience. For the past couple of years I've bought most of my gifts online, but this year I resolved not to engage in Black Friday bargain hunting, and to instead buy what I can from smaller independent shops. Just minutes away from the bright lights and hustle and bustle of Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus the tree filled courtyard of Ham Yard Hotel is lined with some charming independent boutiques selling everything from jewellery to flowers, homewares and speciality teas. Graham and I popped along when we were in London for the opening of the new Design Museum recently and we had the loveliest afternoon learning how to make the perfect Matcha with My Cup of Tea and discovering the beautiful collections of jewellery designer Anabela Chan.
Anabela originally trained as an architect and is also a specialist in print and embroidery design. Before setting up her eponymous jewellery label in 2013 she worked with Alexander McQueen and you can detect the influence of his romanticism and fascination with the beauty of the natural world in the cabinets of curiosity that line her elegant Ham Yard boutique. But her jewellery designs very much have their own distinct style. Her pieces are fun and fabulous and they've been worn on the red carpet by the likes of Lady Gaga and Rita Ora. She's also an advocate of working with sustainable and ethical laboratory grown gemstones. She explained that this enables her to design wearable but exquisitely crafted fine jewellery using gems that share the brilliance and beauty of natural stones but are cultivated without the destructive mining practices sometimes associated with the use of stones of untraceable provenance.
Also at Ham Yard is My Cup of Tea, a modern specialist tea maker that sources, blends and sells the finest quality teas and tisanes. There's a classic tea counter where the loose teas, which are stored in beautiful stainless steel containers, are sold by weight while the deliciously fragrant herbal tisanes come in tiny white cotton sacs and are kept in glass apothecary jars.
We tried out several of them including the Rose and Cardamom and the Christmas Blend - a full flavoured black tea containing pineapple, orange peel, caramel and maraschino which will go perfectly with mince pies! All were exceptionally good but we loved the Ceremonial Matcha. Strong and creamy and prepared using a bamboo whisk this is the highest grade matcha, often used at tea ceremonies in Japan. They offer regular tasting events, which I'd highly recommend, if you fancy trying it out.
To compliment their teas they also stock the most exquisite range of teaware - whisks, scoops, caddies, teapots, cups, spoons and bowls. I came away with a new teapot and a couple of different blends to give as Christmas presents but I honestly don't know how I managed to restrain myself from indulging further. This is a perfect place to pick up Christmas gifts - I literally wanted to take the entire shop home with me.
And then it was on to Ham Yard Hotel's buzzy restaurant for dinner, but not before we had the opportunity to pop up to the hotel's beautiful roof terrace to enjoy the sunset views over Soho. Set amidst olive trees and beehives this is an enchanting place for evening drinks at any time of the year - they are currently serving up seasonal hot cocktails. The roof garden is only available to guests, but it really is delightful and if you're looking for somewhere to stay for a Christmas shopping trip or theatre break the hotel's proximity to both Regent Street and the West End makes it the perfect destination.
If you're tempted to check it out Ham Yard are holding a Christmas shopping evening on Thursday 1st December. There'll be lots of festive treats and special offers - more details here.
With thanks to Ham Yard Hotel for a lovely afternoon.