If the festivities of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee earlier this summer swept you off your feet and left you wanting more, England’s capital awaits. Indulging like a monarch is a London trademark; this is a city that really knows how to pamper. And whether you’re searching for theatre, spas or fine dining, there’s a tiara for every queen.
Though New York City may be the international capital of stage productions, it can’t top London’s pedigree. The incubator of such playwrights as William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, London boasts an impressive playbill. The city’s mix of old and new, Broadway and British, fills theatres from Leicester Square to Victoria Square.
In the West End, audiences queue around the block for such time-tested favourites as Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables and new blockbusters Matilda: The Musical and War Horse. During Priscilla’s two-and-a-half year run, the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Ave was the place to be for gays local and visiting. While the flamboyant show’s queer successor is yet unknown, Matilda: The Musical has turned a few heads since its October 2011 opening. The charming tale by Ronald Dahl is highlighted by the brilliant casting of Bertie Carvel as the cantankerous Miss Trunchbull. His drag performance steals the show.
Since its world premiere last summer, Ghost has been giving goosebumps to both romantics and thrill-seekers. Its illusions, tricks and special effects generate more than a few “How’d they do that?” head-scratching moments.
After the show you can rest your head in a distinctly queer site, synonymous with scandal. Many sleeps ago, Oscar Wilde was arrested at The Cadogan hotel for “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons.” The Oscar Wilde Suite features a velvet smoking jacket in the closet, silver bling wallpaper and violet feather accents.
Nestled in the city’s most posh neighbourhood, The Mayfair Hotel and its bustling lobby attract celebrities and party-seeking Londoners. The Mayfair spa’s dark marble interiors and dim lighting lend a nocturnal feel to this subterranean oasis, which features a relaxation room, complete with heated hammam beds, a steam room, sauna and cold-plunge shower. The hot-stone massage, which includes a head-to-toe coating of warmed oil, is a special treat.
For spa services catered to men, Londoners turn to the Nickel Spa in Covent Garden. “We’re able to tailor our treatments for men,” says massage therapist Zach Taljaard. “Our massages are generally deeper and target the bigger muscles of the male physique.” The stainless steel features, slate flooring and indigo-blue walls add to the masculine aura.
When you’re ready to shed the scruff, Gentlemen’s Tonic, tucked away on the second floor of Selfridges department store, is worth the search. Reclining in barber’s chairs, stubble-sporting clients soak under hot towelling, the first of many steps in the wet shave. The salon’s secret to a knick-free treatment is its signature pre-shave oil (available for sale, along with a full product line).
A Queen who Eats Cake
It’s pinkies up these days as afternoon tea experiences a renaissance at landmark hotels across the city, each with its own take on the traditional lunch-to-dinner tide-over.
The Lanesborough Hotel’s sophisticated and opulent dining room is balanced by the airiness of a vaulted ceiling with skylights. A tea concierge will guide your selections, matching the perfect cuppa to each savoury or sweet bite-sized snack.
Up from the Lanesborough, along Park Lane, the Dorchester hotel serves up tiered tea in the opulent promenade. Amongst the feminine touches of pink draperies and silk cushions, it’s difficult not to cross your feet at the ankles and take small, ladylike bites. But those with healthy appetites will be more than satisfied by the all-you-can-eat replenishment of the carb-heavy courses.
The Langham hotel’s lavish Palm Court is a fitting backdrop to an afternoon tea that chefs have taken up a notch in celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee. Enjoy foie gras sandwiches, chocolate scones and jewel-inspired pastries, all perched decadently in tiers, to the sound of a live pianist.