A SPECIAL ASSET IN THE HILTON
The Hilton Park Lane is the one place in central London where you can get a ‘Proper’ shoeshine. I thought it was a thing of the past now that too many people can hardly discern the difference between leather and plastic – and now that shoes are made to be thrown away and now that classic elegance of design in excellent leather is hard to spot on feet – say on the underground.
What is a proper shoeshine? We decided to call some hotels and got lucky with the Hilton where they have a resident expert on shoes right there in the foyer.
Steven has been resident there for eleven years and has built up a massive amount of knowledge regarding leather of all kinds. shoes are his principal love – there is not much he does not know about them – however he has polished the cream leather interior of a Jaguar with cleaners and polishers sourced mainly from abroad, and he also restores leather and suede coats and those marvellous favourite bags that can be seriously transformed on the spot. They are never so nice when they are new as when they have been worn for a while – immaculately maintained.
“Smell that – isn’t it lovely?”
he said, handing me an open jar of some creamy emollient. The smell of leather is part of its appeal and Steven is all too aware of this aspect of leather care.
I remember with some regret having thrown away wallets and watch straps which I need not have done at all. I am very pleased to have met Steven and learned so much from him that I suggested he puts leather restorer and advisor on his next card. He is generous with his information
There is Leather and there’s the kind with ‘real’ leather writ large on it so that the buyer can tell – similarly there are shoeshiners at the airports and stations that haven’t time to take the real care that makes a shoe look its best for weeks.
Having drycleaned trousers, jacket and shirt – why not go for the ha’peth of tar a pro shine? [for anyone unfamiliar with the expression this is short for why spoil the ship (which cost a lot to build) for a trivial sum a half penny) spent on the tar that makes it all watertight.] there is actually a growing demand for shining the shoes – however Steven offers more and anyone can wander into the Hilton Park Lane, sit down and relax for as long as it takes to make the shoes or boots look their best. It is often said – the first thing someone looks at is a person’s shoes and then there’s the watch.
Of course having inherently good taste works too – and that’s what people come from all over the world to savour within these three square miles.
Steven has some opinions on shoes. After all many of the ones he works on cost hundreds. He says that even the Chinese are getting better at making the classier ones – as well as wearing them…. or did I hear that right Steven?
He uses his hands to apply the different creams and waxes which shoes his light touch and strangely – he need not wash his hands because they are quite clean enough to work on the next shoes when they arrive – and quite clean enough to shake hands.
He was quite amusing about using brushes to apply polish and he clearly doesn’t use the polish I’m used to – I have to put newspaper down to polish my shoes because the pigment stains anything it touches. You can even phone Steven in advance (07941045275)- or of you are really short of time drop the shoes over and pick them up later.
MAYFAIR – a more general view
Mayfair is becoming the locale of top class transients. The sort of people who pick the Dorchester to stay in when they have some embassy do to attend. Or maybe prefer the Hilton for the view and the extras (see an example above) while the Knightsbridge sales are on. This map thumb links to the Main Map on covent-garden.co.uk – (best to approach this from the home page by clicking on the framed section – it loads up straight away from there)
Driving up and down Park Lane is fun when you are not driving (driving is fun too but you don’t catch all the scenery because of course you are watching the lanes and exits and keeping a close eye on some pretty competitive limos with pro chauffer drivers, intent on precise appointments)
I heard of a few people who ask the chauffer to go up and down so as not to be too early for the appointment. Being there on time is an upper class thing. I believe it was Getty who attributed his success to “Puncutality, clean linen and a first class ticket”.
It’s old world romance. The trees are old magnificent – tall, elegant all couple of dozen of them. Now in the Spring/Summer they gently shade and let in enough sun to bathe in it.
It used to be Berkley Fields in 1675 and by 1745 the bricks made from the fields made houses around what is now the Square. Number 44 is one of the few survivors of the original houses.
Gwynn’s Tavern. A carpenter, wax chandler, woollen draper, undertaker, distiller, hosier, tailor and apothecary were all based in Berkeley Square mid eighteenth century. Now it is the home of banks, coffee houses and car showrooms. Jack Barclay first sold Bentleys and Rolls Royces from Berkley Square.
Just lately they put up a sculpture of a nymph like creature in a wind – being pulled by a globe…. or is she restraining it? It was too dark to read the little sign.
‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square‘ was a song first performed in the year war was declared in 1939. In a bar local to the Square. It became a famous standard in the years following. a hit then
The modern Berkley Square retains the old elegance. This lady in a high wind is placed well, I’m Looking forward to seeing her in sunlight.
No need to worry about crime?
I gather when translated this repost says -“You English Bobbies are awesome. I think criminals stay away being so impressed with the tall hat.” or something along those lines.
Grab yourself a Pret’s Chef’s chicken salad and a lemon cheesecake and a drink and take it out to the square on an early summer evening. Or a sandwich they really have a chef and twice delivered food. The sandwiches are unbeatable.
[Ads not allowed - I just said just that voluntarily and I reckon you'll be glad if you do – Ed.]
The 12 London squares on our map are all unique. Great trees
Naturally there is the charm of Shepherd’s Market off Curzon Street which used to be the top beat for classy streetwalkers. Now they are never far away on their mobiles as the sort of walking they do is to nip up to Hanover Square for an Itsu salad – really good for you.
Curzon Street is the home of the Curzon Cinema. This famous independent cinema now has a place next door where you can smoke hookas on the pavement outside. That’s not a pun I hasten to add.
Car showrooms abound – from Jack Barclays Rolls Royce to Landrover, Porche, Minis, Audi, Jaguar, Bentley – the essence of ‘Motorcar’. All these showrooms are amazing – make you want to dive back into that book on the law of attraction. Jolly good place to go off to for some solid visualising.