Photography by Rikesh Chauhan
It’s a Bank Holiday in the UK which is the perfect day for two things—smoking and doing nothing. I don’t often come up to town when I’m not working, but every now and then it’s nice to slow down and view London through a different lens. Today’s eyes are a pair with no plan behind them. I am at mercy to the whims of Mayfair; I will billow through streets like the blue smoke from the Cuban cigar stashed in my top pocket. Spring is in the air and when this damn wind takes a second to catch its breath, the ambience is clear, fresh and benevolent.
WatchHouse in Medici Court, Mayfair
I’ve come to WatchHouse in Medici Court, near the new Elizabeth Line station at Bond Street. I sip my batch brew, baffled that the avarice of London’s never-ending development would allow the existence of a new courtyard. I’m equally baffled that a coffee shop is selling a flight of espressos, and immediately wonder how many one could get through before you start feeling your heartbeat in the hairs on your head. Caffinated-torture-devices-disguised-as-fun aside, it’s peaceful here. You hear the thrum of life from Bond Street and the surrounding offices, and it only serves to calm you.
This is a different bustle compared to The City. It’s closer to the gentle buzzing of bees than the cacophony of finance bros screaming from the fourth circle of Hell. Today, I am the beekeeper, and Mayfair is the hive. It’s said that beekeepers live longer than the rest of us. There has been research into the telomere length of beekeepers; these folk are eating so much honey it’s actually affecting their DNA. Longer telomeres = longer cell life = longer life for you! The other theory, and why I’m rambling about bees, is that the frequency of their wings is at such a vibration that these beekeepers are kept perpetually calm and meditative by this white noise (or is it black and yellow noise?), and a chilled life is certainly a long one.
A heavenly combination, Montecristo's No. 2 with WatchHouse's Batch Brew
Anyway, I’ve spotted a ‘no smoking’ sign, so my Montecristo No. 2 is going to need me to get moving. Time waits for no Cuban! I light up in Hanover Square, stopping to take in the recently plonked sculpture in the middle of the gardens. It’s a big chrome egg. As I stare into the egg, like Cameron in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ gawping at Seurat's painting, it reveals the outline of a figure hugging the entire egg itself. I am sure there’s a metaphor here, but the message it’s giving me is that I need to consume more art. With Cameron in mind, I head to the Royal Academy to stare at the brushstrokes of other impressionism masters. Deep into the midway point of this cigar, its subtle sweetness echoes the notes in my coffee, and I feel pleased with the pairing.
Mike takes in his surroundings in Mayfair
Satisfied with my cultural indulgence, it’s time for some lunch. I wander down through Berkeley Square and onto Mount Street, sticking my head into Sautter to collect the perfect Petit Robusto for the extremely necessary post-lunch espresso, plus a Ramon Allones Specially Selected... specially selected for Rikesh.
Sautter Cigars, Mayfair; Mike picks up a Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto and Ramon Allones Specially Selected
We're meeting for lunch, and we’ve come to North Audley Cantine. The cool kids call it NAC, and NAC themselves call it NAC, so that tells you all you need to know about me, giving it its full name. We haven’t booked, but they fortunately squeeze us into a narrow table before the place immediately fills up with the lunch rush. It’s a great spot though, and I have the vantage point from the banquet. Poor Rik has to put up with my head peering up and down the length of the whitewashed bistro like I’m watching a tennis match. Staff push down the gangway, narrowly missing each other's heads with trays of drinks and small plates. I have a huge soft spot for the entire hospitality industry, and I revel in watching the dance of service take place.
Discussions over the menu result in us agreeing on the same thing—the kale salad, with added sumac chicken. We’re in our thirties y’know, and calorific indulgence isn’t the free ride it once was. The salad does sound pretty sweet, we muse, especially that honey and za’atar dressing. Yes, yes, aren’t we being good! Except when the waiter arrives, Rik orders a side of fries with his salad, and I blurt out, “I’ll have the burger!” Calories be damned.
I hungrily eye up the left-hand-side neighbouring table’s roasted cauliflower, cooked simply with olive oil and salt, and am already excited for the occupants to our right, as they’ve ordered the miso aubergine which I can attest to being so good it’ll convert any picky member of the anti-aubergine cartel within one bite. Stupid burger; what was I thinking?
Our food arrives and my burger is a thing of beauty. No aubergine-related FOMO for me, phew. Surely Gods themselves sculpted this demi-brioche bun first thing this morning, which through no coincidence at all is the exact size of the burger within. Allow me to put this controversial thought into writing: I prefer a single patty burger to a double or (Heaven forbid) a triple patty behemoth. The proportions between the bun, meat and cheese are infinitely better than some sloppy thing that looks incredible in pictures but in reality is a nightmare to eat.
Rik’s salad certainly looks good, but he’s staring straight at this burger while he eats it. Sorry mate, I think, as I throw the final bite towards my face and squish the delicious grease-soaked bun into my mouth.
We wander to Grosvenor Square, light up our tobacco dessert substitutes and sit quietly, watching Mayfair go by. “What are you up to later then?” Rik asks me. I sit back, pausing as if I am about to reveal some great masterplan: “Oh mate. Absolutely nothing”.