The Duke of York Square is one of my favorite places in London to eat, shop, and generally hang out. The Saatchi Gallery is a must-visit for any art enthusiast and Partridges food market is somewhat of an institution for American expats in London, thanks to its plentiful supply of American products (I go there for my Lucky Charms fix).
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Square to experience the festive decorations, get gift ideas (I'm still not done with my Christmas shopping - I really wanted to finish it early this year!), and try the tasty new Festive Menu at Gallery Mess restaurant.
Thanksgiving is on Thursday (!), so I was super excited to sample Partridges' pumpkin and pecan pies - which did not disappoint. Pumpkin pie is by far my favorite Thanksgiving dessert and Partridges' version was delightful: the filling was rich and creamy, offset with a light and flaky crust. I'm dying to try it with a generous dollop of whipped cream on top! Luckily for me, they come in convenient personal-sized portions, so I'm definitely going back to get my own.
I also loved their Christmas-themed hampers, which I'm thinking of getting for our next door neighbors as a "thank you" for putting up with all our disruptive garden work over the summer (oops). Nothing says, "Sorry-about-the-drilling-at-7:45-a.m. like a hamper full of Christmas puddings, panettone, and champagne.
From Partridges, we stopped in for a visit to L.K. Bennett to view their seasonal gift options. I've been a long-time fan of L.K. Bennett (and even wore a pair of their beautifully-made, nude-colored heels to my wedding) and am always admiring the shoes, although their accessories are tempting as well.
I spied this chic, light grey cross-body bag in their seasonal offerings, and was instantly smitten. Inspired by the shape and design of vintage camera bags, it looks achingly cool when paired with the personalized initial stickers from L.K. Bennett's recent collaboration with Boyarde.
I immediately made a mental note to put the exact color on my Christmas/birthday wishlist (since my birthday is in December).
The luxurious wool and cashmere pom-pom hats and corresponding pom-pom bag charms also caught my eye - ideal for the sudden drop in temperature. I particularly liked the eye-catching magenta, which tempted me to step away from my usual uniform of grey and black (who am I kidding? If I had to choose, I'd probably choose black. Again.).
L.K. Bennett's new range of candles would also make great gifts for colleagues, or as a stocking stuffer. I left with a gorgeous Red Berry candle, which I've happily added to my collection of winter candles at home. Come Christmas Day, my house will be beautifully scented (which it'll have to be, to cover the inevitable burning coming from the oven)!
Reluctantly tearing myself away from the colorful pom-poms and dream handbags, we made our way to Liz Earle, a brand that has been a staple in my skincare repertoire for years. In fact, I liked it so much after I tried it, I bought it for my mom, my mother-in-law, and even ... John (he's a devotee of their men's range).
The Duke of York Square branch of Liz Earle regularly holds workshops and events; we were lucky enough to take part in a wreath-making workshop, led by Jo Woodward of Columbia Creative.
As Jo taught us how to pin, tuck, and arrange the deliciously scented pieces of our wreath, the lovely ladies at Liz Earle described how some of the very same items we were adding (for example, lavender, berries, and oranges) are also found in Liz Earle products.
Liz Earle has some fantastic gift sets and fragrances available at the moment (I personally love the limited edition hot cloth cleansers - this year's "Winter Icon" is the Sweet Orange & Clove Limited Edition cleanser and it smells divine) and it gave me great gift ideas for my girlfriends and mother-in-law.
The wreaths we made were also designed to fit a luxurious botanical candle - it would make a beautiful Christmas table centrepiece, which is how I intend to use mine.
I posted this photo of my wreath on Instagram and was inundated with questions about where to make one! Liz Earle at The Duke of York Square will be hosting more wreath-making workshops before Christmas, so head to their website and social media channels to receive updates.
After working up an appetite pinning our cinnamon sticks and coconut husk stars to our wreaths, we made our way to Gallery Mess at the Saatchi Gallery for dinner. They're currently showcasing a Festive Menu, which features dishes with a decidedly Christmas twist: Barbary duck breast with mulled red cabbage, clementine and star anise jus, stone bass with sage roasted parsnip, salsify and kale, plus a delicious veggie option of broccoli and blue cheese souffle with salt baked celeriac, shaved celery and candied walnuts.
I confess to eating my duck breast in a hurry, because I couldn't wait for dessert. But, while we're on the subject, my duck breast was beautifully cooked: tender and slightly pink in the middle. Not usually one for citrus flavors in savoury dishes, I was surprised by how much I liked the clementine wedges, each charred and finished with a delightfully smokey taste. I closed my eyes for a second and imagined wood-burning fires and warm country pubs.
Before long, my main course had disappeared and I eagerly anticipated dessert: chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream. Too much? Perhaps. Indulgent? Definitely.
But so worth it.
I loved slicing my fork into the middle of that chocolate fondant and seeing the molten-hot chocolate center ooze onto the plate. I admit that the addition of the salted caramel ice cream might have been a tad too sweet for the dessert, even for my sweet-tooth-inclined palette, but it's a Christmas dessert - so it's got to be a little over the top. Still, no regrets.
Also: I don't usually like Christmas pudding, but even Aftab's dessert looked enticing from across the table.
Suddenly, the realization that my parents were arriving in less than three weeks' time made me super excited. And while I'd taken my mom to Cadogan Hall for a concert before (it's my favorite classical music venue in London - I performed there a couple years ago and wrote an article in TimeOut London about it!), we never had a chance to visit the Duke of York Square in all its Christmas-sy glory. So, right then and there, I added it to our itinerary.
I can't wait. Pumpkin pie and all.
I was a guest of The Duke of York Square. All opinions are my own. Special thanks to Mina, Evie, and the staff at L.K. Bennett, Liz Earle, and Gallery Mess restaurant for making our visit so very special!