Vouched for services, now vouchsafed unto you…
Consider this your little black book to guide you through the sea of search results that just popped up in google. From catering to floristry, health, hair and home- these are the pairs of capable hands that we’d bring with us to a desert island for a life of luxury.
The Best Services We’ve Heard About by Word of Mouth
By Flora: Flora Budenberg’s therapeutic cooking uses the principles of culinary nutrition to help people feel their best. She delivers food packages tailored to her clients’ needs and runs cooking classes to make a habit of clients’ long term, realistic dietary changes. Flora trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City and has worked both the New York and London healthy restaurant scenes.
Kaboola: Boring catering, be gone! The innovative caterer Kaboola serves fresh food in every sense. Think miniature scotch eggs arranged around flowers, shot glasses of dessert and ambitiously arranged mountains of seafood paired with baskets of toast. Kaboola Kitchen in Brixton also does monthly 5-course supper clubs, serving seasonal food from local sources.
Ginger Snap: Tania and her team travel all over Scotland and the north of England, finessing intimate dinner parties to large scale weddings for clients who value the provenance of ingredients. Ginger Snap offers a full range of service from immaculately laid tables to smiling staff in striped shirts and cufflinks, and of course, creative, delectable food. We recommend the foie gras bonbons and beetroot-cured salmon, or for the more tartan-minded amongst you, the Stornoway black pudding puffs. IA
More More More: It is 2018, folks and this is gourmet catering delivered to your door. The service is more than your usual ingredients delivery: all the food needs is to be warmed up. Like a restaurant menu, you select from starters, mains, sides and desserts – over 70 options of healthy and additive-free food. More More More guarantees date nights and dinner parties like never before, that is, without the stress. The range includes comforting classics such as beef bourguignon, chilli con carne or bread and butter pudding as well as dishes like Indonesian coconut chicken, miso cod or pomegranate marinaded lamb loin.
Heartcore: A single class will set you back £27, but who can really put a price on the best workout of your life? Heartcore’s signature dynamic pilates classes will stretch and tone you, head to toe, thanks to the CoreFormer, a new model of Reformer created by Heartcore founder, Jess Schuring. A workout for the mind as well as the body. CJ
Studio One: This boutique Islington fitness studio runs a delightfully calming Candlelit Vinyasa class three times a week: the perfect way to close your working day. Lead by two sisters, classes are small, with community spirit, in a nurturing environment – possibly one of the few places like this left in London (with no plans to change). CJ
Radiant Hand: South London gets little love by way of personal recommendations for boutique-y and individualised approaches to health–but this is the only tip-off you’ll need anyway. With space enough for about 5 mats, the studio achieves the miraculous feat of intimacy rather than stuffiness. For such a little space, the studio is ram-packed with talent, too. Looking after their dedicated rota of long-time students, instructors are detail oriented and talented yogis themselves (who are known to blend smoothies for the class after shavasana). You’re in good hands, especially good, if in the (radiant) hands of teachers Stephan Coberg and Diccon Wilks. Beginners’ classes get seriously into the nuance of poses while dynamic classes bring new meaning to the ‘post-yoga glow’.
Edward James: For fabulous blow-dries, honey-blonde highlights and an unbeatable shoulder, neck and head massage, Edward James is your man. This much is known throughout SW London, but one well-kept insider secret is the salon’s cutting-edge invention: the British Blow-Dry. As tempting as it is to imagine this as a post-Brexit version of the Brazilian blow-dry, Edward James’ creation is entirely natural, using cacao extract and keratin strengthener to deeply nourish the hair and seal in moisture, resulting in smoother, more manageable hair that still has volume. Perfect for colour-damaged hair and frizzy manes, results can last up to 12 weeks. A secret worth keeping… CJ
GLOSS: The charming Lise has run this North London hairdressing salon for almost a decade, and is responsible for the styled tresses of half of Islington. Whether the punky pink and purple locks of the arty crowd, or others’ elegant caramels and bright blonde highlights, she’s known for her colouring skills and can always be found with brush in hand. Clients are life-long and loyal – and the prices are well worth the detour. CJ
Gielly Green: Having had our fair share of blow dries, Gielly Green’s is by far the best. The cushioned chairs recline fully as your hair is washed and you’re treated to a shamelessly indulgent 10-minute head massage. The resulting blow dry, completely bespoke to each client, is the kind that will have you searching for reflective surfaces to admire yourself in for days afterwards. CJ
Brian Drumm: Have you ever wondered what Scarlett Johansson would do if she were in the deepest, darkest depths of Scotland, sporting red hair that simply would not do for an impending awards show? Well, a few years ago, the actress found herself in just this predicament. She summoned Barrie Rutherford from Brian Drumm salon on George Street, Edinburgh to her rescue. This comes as no surprise – our insider tells us he is ‘the best for blondes in the whole of Scotland’. High praise indeed. Brian Drumm’s iconic George Street salon opened in 1974 and is the first outside London to have graced the pages of Vogue and Elle. Well worth the trip over the border, this family business boasts an impressive team of dynamic and fresh stylists who will ensure you bounce out of the door feeling like Scar Jo herself (almost). IA
Linda Meredith: Known as the facialist to the stars, Linda Meredith’s magical hands are what insiders swear by for flawless skin. Her London studio is hidden away in Knightsbridge, where highly-trained therapists customise each facial to clients’ individual needs and skin problems. Multiple stages of cleansing followed by steaming, extraction, micro-peeling and plumping ensure your skin never looked better – and you can take the products home for longer-lasting results, too. You’ll never look back. CJ
Young LDN: Mother of two Sue Carroll discovered a gap in the market for a swanky salon that entices all generations. This Notting Hill newbie is particularly popular for its treatments that tackle teen-specific issues – and the only kicking and screaming you’ll have to deal with is that of trying to drag them home afterwards. With a focus on educating young people on how to treat their skin properly (now and for the future), it’s the kind of place that mums and daughters visit together, and continue to for years – whether for a mani in the funky nail lounge (complete with Netflix and Beats by Dre headphones) or downstairs in the hi-tech beauty Lab for a specialist skincare treatments. Everything is totally personalised – you can even connect your iPhone to the in-room Sonos to chill out to your chosen soundtrack for the duration. Cutting-edge tech addicts will love the Hollywood Peel which is fresh from LA, and helps with acne, dull skin, pigmentation and fine lines by blasting your carbon-filled pores for a lasting glow. Just don’t watch the videos first…
LVL at Blush + Blow: This Fulham hair and beauty bar is the office’s go-to for tamed manes, bronzed skin, nails and… basically everything else. But our best-kept secret? Luscious, long lashes that last over a month thanks to the in-house LVL treatment. It takes just under an hour, which means you can essentially spend your lunch break snoozing (your eyes have to be closed throughout which is as good an excuse as any) and come out looking visibly refreshed and bright-eyed. No damage as with extensions either: LVL just entails a serum to straighten the lashes at the root, making them look curled up and longer, followed by a tint for volume. Even the office mascara addict went without for weeks after the treatment. We’re sold!
Beyond Medispa at Harvey Nichols: Nestled discreetly on Harvey Nichols’ fourth floor, Beyond Medispa touts Dr. Wassim Taktouk, one of the city’s top doctors for Botox and injectables. He’s in every West Londoner’s little black book – not that they’d ever admit it! He tends towards a more natural approach so as to enhance your beauty without arousing too much suspicion – and specializes in the ‘lunchtime nose job,’ which uses fillers to correct asymmetry (with no downtime). Check out his Instagram for the impressive results. @drwassimtaktouk CJ
Nails & Brows: The place to go for perfect brows. The keen observer will notice a constant slew of fashionable and famous-looking ladies quickly nipping into this Mayfair salon, hidden so well amongst the big-name restaurants and bars that it’s easy to miss. Discreet, quick and thorough, you’ll emerge with perfectly tinted, threaded and tweezed eyebrows that give the face an instant lift. There’s a whole list of treatments designed by celebrity brow stylist and expert Sherrille Riley – the Audrey Brow is a favourite of Meghan Markle’s. CJ
Abel & Cole: Simple, Foodie, Veggie and Light are the four meal options that organic delivery service Abel & Cole offers. Indian Lamb Kebabs with Golden Rice & Yogurt & Lemon on a weeknight? Sure. Leek & Toasted Almond Risotto with only 15 minutes of prep? Yes please. A wide selection of produce, in addition to recipe ingredients is tempting, too. Heirloom tomatoes almost too beautiful to eat, avocados with perfectly light, creamy flesh, and plump scallops hard to find elsewhere are favourites. Products include information about their producer. For example, organic chestnuts have been ‘grown by Anne Langan in a mountain forest region north of Lisbon. Anne originally faced some opposition as a single woman farming in a traditionally male dominated region, however in time Anne’s great perseverance and strong character has won over her local farming community.’ Another description claims that Amadora Gahona’s orange groves at her farm, Huerta Ave María, which is currently basking in Spanish sun, yields ‘the best’ oranges known to Abel & Cole. The singular zing of the plump, taut, sweet oranges that arrive in the delivery box removes any question of hyperbole. Honest ethos, breadth of products, standard of recipes, and fast customer service make delivery day very exciting indeed.
Bifulco: If something founded in 1924 can be considered one of the capital’s best-kept secrets, then this is it. Bifulco is a first-class family butcher that was in Soho then St John’s Wood until 1991 – before moving to focus almost exclusively on home deliveries from its outpost in Cricklewood. They sell meltingly excellent Aberdeen Angus delivered direct to them from the Highlands – owner Anthony Bifulco even knows the cattle by name – top quality Irish salt beef to tasty corn-fed French chickens. (‘We only use long-trusted or RSPCA-approved suppliers,’ reveals Anthony.) Anything – ostrich steaks, kangaroo or suckling pig – is available. Even at short notice. There’s no minimum order – clients ring for a pound of mince – no delivery charge and, hey, this quality produce is even competitively priced. They supply top restaurants and top tables. And feed endless carnivorous celebrities and others on the world stage. Princess Margaret was wild about their Toulouse sausages. They deliver London-wide free of charge and with no minimum order requirement. 020 8452 2674 CP
Clifton Greens: You can email or call Kamil at Clifton Greens to order a delivery of a ginormous selection of you’ve-probably-never-seen-or-eaten-these-before things. (That’s if you don’t want to venture forth for market-style shopping – you bag up your own produce at this cool Maida Vale greengrocers with double height ceiling and exposed brickwork.) Nearly everything they deliver is straight from Mother Nature’s garden. On site, there’s box after wooden box of fruits, veggies, roots, berries and legumes. And purple, yellow, baby and common-orange carrots in bins. Plus a fridge of herbs and 15 sorts of mushroom – from King Oyster to Shiitake, round and button. Fargo fruit, star fruit, custard apple, grandillo or rambutan, anyone? Mooli radish, horseradish, plantain or pink guava? Little wonder Yotam Ottelenghi loves the ‘extraordinary’ array. Just download a PDF of their stock, and click away. But first make sure you know the difference between a Sharon fruit and Kaka. Free delivery on orders over £30 to most central London postcodes. CP
Pravin Garara: Pravin Garara and his band of three merry genii design and install bespoke audio and video systems – fitting and fixing unfathomably complicated music systems, TVs and complex HD bits. (Think technology solutions for the elite with A*** customer service and support.) They’re also superb at home automation – so you can control your lights, heating and security from your phone. ‘We can amalgamate all your electronic gadgets into one remote control,’ says Pravin. ‘You can close your curtains or run your London bath from you’re iPhone when you’re in Australia, if you want.’ Known as the best for smart AV solutions for new and retro projects, they’ve worked their magic in Marrakesh palaces, Monacan villas and super yachts in Cannes. But the nice thing is that no job is too small for them. Who could possibly say no to such an intelligent house and such a smart company? From £1,000 to £150,000+. CP
Big Soda: Founded by long-term BFs James ‘Rolo’ Rawlinson and Sam Adams, Big Soda works with lots of fizz and enthusiasm. They’re the duo who hang art for the cognoscenti and Croesus-rich – there’s hardly a picture from Mayfair to Azerbaijan that hasn’t had their expert touch. ‘Move it just a centimetre higher,’ Sam says. ‘Ah, that’s just right,’ murmurs Rolo, as they place that Damien Hirst. Whether hanging Old Masters in Moscow palaces or contemporary works at White Cube, for over ten years they’ve been helping artists, galleries and private collectors realise their arty dreams. From £350 for a half day. CP
Buckingham Dry Cleaners: Buckingham Dry Cleaners, the Mayfair dry cleaners and launderers of distinction, offer a tip-top service. They deliver and collect for no charge, six days a week, even at anti-social hours by appointment. (Theirs is the white Citroën emblazoned with a red and black guardsman driven by the charming Jason.) They’re the number one choice for folk with air-conditioned cupboards crammed with red carpet numbers – but also perfect for clients with stained M&S shirts. They also offer an express tailoring service – for sewing a cuff to altering a wedding gown. Everything is dry cleaned on site, hand-finished and passed through tighter-than-tight quality control. Alan is the techie genius; his wife, Stella, knows her McQueens from her McCartneys. Unsurprisingly they’re recommended by Burberry, Lanvin and Brown’s. Plus VVIPs staying at the Ritz and the Connaught call on them. They’re so good that clients even send their cleaning to them from India and the USA. Yes, really. From £5.50 for a laundered shirt to £300 for a beaded gown. CP
Floom – Floom, of course, is a website for ordering beautiful flowers but, ‘above all, we support the best local, skilled florists who might not otherwise have an online presence’, says founder Lana Eile. A money-back-guarantee that the bouquet on your computer screen will look exactly like the one that arrives in the mail is Floom’s level of quality assurance. Oh, and did we mention same day delivery?
Wild at Heart – One of London’s highest profile florists, Nikki Tibbles is the sort of recommendation whose name is often followed by sigh of ‘She’s simply the best’. From carnation flamingos, fluffy gypsophila clouds and miniature mushrooms for a Kate Spade installation to masses of roses at Somerset House, Wild at Heart also does single bouquets and events. Weddings are a highly mood boarded event, down to the planning of every petal.
Lucy Vail Floristry – Lucy specialises in creative, bold and beautiful designs that retain a classic edge. Her studies in Italy with a world leading events’ florist allow Lucy an unparalleled grasp of colour. Last year she recreated an entire English garden within a church for a wedding, including temporary beds of English garden roses and delphiniums spilling out of the church entrance onto the pathway. Her trademark is flower ceilings – work for a party themed ‘Weird, Wacky and Wonderful’ included hundreds of shocking pink, bright orange dahlias and French tulips tumbling from the marquee ceiling. Clients include Topshop, Annoushka Jewellery and Lillingston Parties. You have just missed her bespoke bouquets for Valentine’s Day, so get your order in quickly for Mother’s Day. IA