Love Affair with St James's
Like love itself, Valentine's Day should be done properly or not at all, and doing things properly is where London's St James's excels. Its traditions of elegance, quality and service are as eternal as any grand amour, and its Georgian squares, Christopher Wren church and long-established merchants hark back to an age where we took time and care over finer things and finer feelings. In short, St James's has everything for the Valentine's Day to which we all aspire.
To do things properly, start by choosing your flowers from Vive la Rose in Royal Opera Arcade - not just one of the finest florists in the capital, but in the country - before wandering a little in search of a token of your esteem. For her, you might want to look through the rare art books at Sims Reed or Thomas Heneage on Duke Street, or find a work she'll adore in one of the many galleries on Cork Street and its environs - a bronze from Sladmore, painting from Olyvia Fine Art or a print from the Redfern Gallery.
“Ensure your gift has longevity by taking him along to John Lobb to be measured for a pair of handmade shoes, or to the hatters Lock & Co for a Chelsea or Fedora that suits. A bespoke shirt from Turnbull & Asser will always be in style, as will the company's cashmere knitwear, silk pocket squares or Bengal-stripe pyjamas.”
For a keepsake she will keep close to hand, choose a pair of beautiful, silk-lined Italian leather gloves from Sermoneta or create her perfect scent with the fragrance-customisation service at Floris, the legendary parfumier that was a favourite of Marilyn Monroe. And trump any chocolates with a box of the unrivalled macaroons at Ladurée in Burlington Arcade - guaranteed to win any heart.
If it's a man you’re buying for, ensure your gift has longevity by taking him along to John Lobb to be measured for a pair of handmade shoes, or to the hatters Lock & Co for a Chelsea or Fedora that suits. A bespoke shirt from Turnbull & Asser will always be in style, as will the company's cashmere knitwear, silk pocket squares or Bengal-stripe pyjamas.
For that extra touch of indulgence, swing by James J Fox, the cigar merchant to connoisseurs worldwide, for something fat and Cuban. Or, if you want to go out on a limb, try Peter Finer on Duke Street, where you'll find swords, guns and suits of armour from all over the world and from throughout history.
For that special card, head straight to Smythson on New Bond Street. It has a selection ranging from cute (a cut-out message of LOVE) to meaningful (a list of history's great love affairs), as well as heart-shaped key rings and, if you’re feeling bold, a ring box.
Once the present-buying is out of the way, men should head to Truefitt & Hill for a haircut and wet shave to ensure they look their very best, before slipping into Turnbull & Asser for something smart to wear.
You're doing things properly, so arrange to meet at Dukes for a martini - the original and still the best - before dinner. Then, you have decisions to make: the newly refurbished Quaglino's has a grand night-out tradition and the kind of flamboyant puddings that suit Valentine's Day, but Café Murano is elegant and intimate and, as Shakespeare's Orsino almost said, Italian is the food of love.
Alternatively, head to The Wolseley for high tea at 4 o'clock, then pick up a bottle of something smooth and satisfying from Berry Bros & Rudd and a small but piquant selection of cheeses from Paxton & Whitfield, and head home for a quiet night in.