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Shepherd Market, Mayfair, London

September 17, 2014


Tucked into a corner that sits behind Piccadilly and runs up to Curzon Street, near to Park Lane and Hyde Park Corner, is a gorgeous little area of central London known as Shepherd Market. While other nearby roads blend seamlessly into one another, Shepherd Market retains its own distinct identity: you walk ‘into’ it rather than through it; you are immediately struck by a difference and something a little special. I could say it was a haven from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly yet that wouldn’t really be accurate. For arriving at Shepherd Market early evening when workers, set loose from their offices, cram into its small pubs and restaurants and spill out into its streets – even in winter – it’s not exactly ‘quiet’. Yet it is peaceful. You feel you have somehow escaped the madness of central London for a time.


Despite the proliferation of fashionable markets popping up all over London selling artisan foods, Shepherd Market is no longer a market. Mayfair itself is named after a 15-day fair that took place on the Market’s site back in the 17th century when cattle were traded. The gentrification of the area in the 18th century killed the market off – those posh residents weren’t going to want smelly cattle around. Shepherd Market’s small square, and its surrounding warren of little roads, was developed by the architect and developer Edward Shepherd between 1735-46. By the early 20th century it had become one of the most fashionable places to live in London, but with a slightly bohemian, even at times risqué, air. It appeared in plays by Noel Coward; the fictional Bertie Wooster lived in Half Moon Street; Mama Cass Elliott died at 9 Curzon Place in 1974 and writer and politician Jeffrey Archer met a prostitute there – an event that he lied about in court, which led to his imprisonment.


It’s still one of the most fashionable and expensive places to live and I head there quite often because it’s the home of the Curzon Mayfair, one of London’s best cinemas. I always feel a slight frisson of excitement going into this Curzon (there are a few of them in London) as a couple of years ago, while standing in the foyer waiting for a friend, I found myself standing very close to the wonderful actor Bill Nighy – who was also waiting for a friend. I was very English about it and made no sign of recognition at being so close to one of my acting heroes, but since then I’ve always had a good look round on arrival to see if he’s there again! I was there last night for a live film showing of the Young Vic’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Gillian Anderson as Blanche du Bois, which has been attracting rave 5* reviews and is the hottest ticket in town. If you can get one, of course. As I couldn’t I decided to join my friends Lucia and David at the Curzon to see it via live film instead. I’ve always been slightly dismissive of these live films (which are becoming popular), but then I can afford to be, living in London as I do and frequently going to the theatre. But if you don’t live in London or you can’t get a ticket for a popular show, then seeing it this way has to be a whole lot better than missing it altogether. In fact, it has the advantage of allowing you to get close-ups of the actors for it isn’t filmed in a stationary way but the camera moves around, as it would for any other film; tickets are cheaper than most theatre seats. I was so glad I saw it; it was amazing, stunningly good. It isn’t the same as actually being in the theatre (and there was a rather embarrassed, uncertain fumbling at the end as people weren’t sure whether to clap or not), but it was very good indeed. One little irritation was that Curzon Mayfair have introduced popcorn to the cinema. Curzon cinemas have always – thankfully! – been popcorn-free zones until now. I hadn’t managed to get a seat right by Lucia but she remarked in the interval that she found it very annoying having someone sitting next to her munching popcorn noisily through a play like this.


I’d purposely arrived a bit early to look around and take some photos for the blog. (This intention was slightly hampered because there was scaffolding round many of the buildings – obviously lots of decoration and refurbishment going on – so I didn’t get as many photos as I’d hoped for.) I also wanted to have something to eat and wasn’t meeting Lucia and David until just before the play started. There are so many interesting and varied little restaurants in the area, a lot with tables outside, but I chose to go to the familiar Sofra where I’ve eaten a few times. Sofra is a small chain of Turkish restaurants in London and this one in Shepherd Market has been a favourite for some time where, with friends, I’ve usually enjoyed a selection of mezze early evening, pre-cinema.


On my own last night, I decided to have just one main course – a moussaka. Moussaka is generally thought of as Greek, but as so often, a popular dish has variations in the surrounding geographical area and thus I enjoyed a Turkish version last night. It was quite early when I went in so only a couple of other tables had people sitting at them – it gradually filled up while I ate and I would normally book a table. The service is always friendly and efficient and as the evening was warm, the big windows were open, letting in the pleasantly cool air from outside. I was immediately brought bread and a dish of hummus.


The hummus was excellent: very light, creamy and fabulously smooth – a very authentic Middle Eastern version. These are ‘complimentary’ – although there is a £1.50 cover charge on the bill, so you are kind of paying for them. It was very nice to have as I love this kind of mezze and when I told the waiter how good I thought it was, he offered to bring me more. However, by this time my moussaka had arrived.


This was good too and I chose a glass of Turkish rose wine to go with it; rose wine because it’s such a summery drink and I’m all for enjoying the last of summer for as long as I can! I finished with an espresso, then headed out for a little wander before going into the cinema. There are some interesting shops. A traditional cobbler:


A cigar merchant:


An old-fashioned barbers:


Then it was time to head into the cinema. Coming out late into the dark when the play ended, it was a short walk back to Green Park tube station. And no doubt it won’t be long before I’m back at the Curzon Mayfair and Shepherd Market again. If you’re in the Piccadilly area of central London, do make a little diversion off the main streets and explore this gem of an area too.

For more on Shepherd Market see:

For what’s on at Curzon cinemas see:

To find Sofra Mayfair and other branches see:

Sofra Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

  1. It sounds like a lovely evening. I enjoyed seeing the cobbler’s shop. For the life of me, I don’t have any idea where I could get shoes repaired in our area…cobblers seem to be a thing of the past.

    • It was thank you, Karen. We still have a number of cobblers here; there’s a high street chain, but I’m lucky to have a good independent guy close by who has extended the life of many a shoe for me and my family!

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