CAPTAIN Smidge, our chihuahua, is no stranger to being fussed over in luxurious hideaways. He has wallowed in the pleasures of the Good Hotel Guide B&B of the year, done his bit for the environment in an eco-friendly Natural Retreats lodge and spent quality time in fine Lake District hotels with all the fresh game he could gobble. Each trip recorded on Planet Confidential. The term dog-friendly holiday could have been invented just for him.
'Eccentric? Yes, and never more so than in its trio of resident pampered pooches – Constance, the one-eyed cocker spaniel, Modesty the lumbering French bulldog and Rocky, their own 16-year-old pensionable chihuahua'
But London, that’s another matter – the Big Smoke where Tiny Pets might get trampled underfoot? Where theatres, art galleries, cinemas and most restaurants and shops are all out of bounds. I’d love to smuggle our hound on the London Eye for his one big chance to look down on the wide world rather than up, but it’s not going to happen. It’s constricting, yes, but also strangely liberating as we discovered on a recent four day visit. We had, of course, to make sure the chihuauhua was the focus, the star. And he was.
An amenable base is important and we were encouraged by the welcoming approach of Citadines Apart’hotels across all their five central London lodgings. As soon as we arrived our Citadine close to Holborn Central Tube Station (understandably we had to carry our pet on the Underground) we were offered bowls, leads and any other canine back-up, including the services of a dog-sitter or dog-walker (neither of which we required). Plus there’s a very useful leaflet, entitled Wuff Stuff, outlining possible walks and dog-friendly establishments; even where to locate a vet in an emergency.
One recommendation we had already earmarked for imminent lunch – Andrew Edmunds, a Good Food Guide listed restaurant that promotes itself as one of the remaining bastions of Old Soho. If that sounds more lap dance than lap dog, fear not. A radical, bohemian Soho pre-dates Raymond’s Revue Bar and its ilk. It’s still there – it just takes longer to uncover these days.
More lamb, Smidge?The restaurant grew out of Edmunds’ old prints business in an 18th century townhouse on Lexington Street. Upstairs hosts the Academy, a private members club for literary folk founded by the late Auberon Waugh. The big attraction downstairs is the minimal mark-up on an extraordinarily good wine list. Our Crozes Hermitage Rhone red was a steal, so I also took up the option of a glass of Oloroso with my half a woodcock on toast starter, which seemed well suited to the Dickensian surroundings. Smidge wolfed rump of lamb and behaved impeccably, even when another pooch checked in. Note: they only take small dogs because space is at a premium.
The Society Club, around the corner in Ingestre Place, is of a different vintage. It’s a cafe cum cocktail bar cum cultural space/bookshop that seems to be celebrating a vanished demi-monde of Soho society, from Jeffrey Barnard, Francis Bacon and their cronies to the “Last Dandy”, Sebastian Horsley, the junkie artist famous for crucifying himself on screen. Be careful you don’t trip up over copies of his autobiography or piles of Jacques Brel CDs on the way to the cellar loo. Eccentric? Yes, and never more so than in its trio of resident pampered pooches – Constance, the one-eyed cocker spaniel, Modesty the lumbering French bulldog and Rocky, their own 16-year-old pensionable chihuahua.
Smidge mingled with them all and Alex, a visiting chihuahua clad in Hello Kitty costume with blue leggings, who apparently has his own blog called fashionpaws and, so his owner told us, was recovering from his recent castration (ouch).
Back at the apartment, our chihuahua chilled – and so did we. Serviced apartments, with their own kitchen are an affordable alternative to hotels, adding that private pied a terre feel. Citadines offer a complimentary breakfast, too, and warm front of house service. For our immediate needs – ie wine – there was a Waitrose across High Holborn and Lincoln’s inn Fields for Smidge’s walkies.
The second Apart’Hotel of our visit, Presidential Apartments was of a slightly higher specification and dog-friendly, too, but without catering so specifically. It offers Marylebone and Kensington bases. We chose the latter because the area seemed to offer more dog-friendly options, in particular characterful pubs with good food.
Again Tube transport was terrifically convenient; Earl’s Court station was around the corner and our luxurious eyrie looked across a well-heeled quarter. Breakfast is extra here, so we took coffee at The Troubadour at the Brompton Cemetery end of Old Brompton Road. The Cemetery, overshadowed by Chelsea Football Ground is an old favourite of mine – and obviously of local dog walkers (on a set route only).
The Troubadour I had never been to before despite its legendary status in folk music circles since the Sixties. The likes of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, or now departed British greats such as Bert Jansch and Davy Graham, played here in the past. Today there are still gigs by lesser lights in the downstairs cellar most nights and the wine bar attached to their own wine shop is welcoming, but we especially liked the quirky cafe where Smidge developed a taste for burritos.
It was our supremes of chicken he was happy to help us out with at The Builder’s Arms, a charming gastropub just off the Kings Road, Chelsea, but the horseradish put him off the beef sandwich at the amiable Anglesea Arms, a few roads away. In between he romped in the gardens of St Luke’s Church and tested the posh equipment at Mungo & Maud’s Pet Boutique (while turning his little black nose up at the organic pumpkin dog treats!).
Despite all this Sloane rangering, we sensed Captain Smidge needed wide open spaces like he gets at home. Hence the trip down to Greenwich and Blackheath south of the river.
For humans, Blackheath has a lovely village feel with individual shops (Hare & Billet the best dog-friendly dining pub,) while Greenwich offers the riverside Cutty Sark (main picture featuring Old Sea Dog Smidge), the Royal Observatory (no dog access alas) and good markets (Richard I is the cosy canine retreat here). Above all, there’s abundant parkland with spectacular views along the Thames and right across to Canary Wharf, the Shard and beyond. Oh, and there’s plenty of places to sniff, too.
Neil Sowerby's Capital Canine Lowdown
The Society Club, 12 ingestre Place, W1F 0JF. 020 7437 1433, thesocietyclubsoho.wordpress.com.
Andrew Edmunds, 46 Lexington Street, WF1 0LP. 020 7437 5708, www.andrewedmunds.com.
Troubadour Club, 263-267 Old Brompton Road, SW5 9JA. 020 7370 1434. www.troubadour.co.uk.
The Builder’s Arms, 3 Britten Street, SW3 3TY. 020 7349 9040, www.geronimo-inns.co.uk/london-the-builders-arms.
The Anglesea Arms, 15 Selwood Terrace, South Kensington, SW7 3QG. 0207 373 7960,
Hare & Billet, 1A Hare and Billet Road, SE3 0QJ. 020 8852 2352, www.hareandbillet.com.
Richard I, 52-54 Royal Hill, Greenwich SE10 8RT. 020 8692 2996, www.youngs.co.uk/pubs/richard-the-first.
Organic Dog TreatsMungo & Maud Dog Outfitters, 79 Elizabeth Street, London SW1W 9PJ 020 7467 0823. Also at Ledbury Road, Notting Hill and in Harrods. www.mungoandmaud.com.
Notting Hill is obviously pooch-centric. It’s also home to Mutz Nutz Pet Boutique, which has just opened a luxurious pet spa with illuminated grooming tables and Italian baths, using only ‘Wildwash’ products apparently. 221 Westbourne Park Road, W11 1EA. 020 7243 3333, www.themutznutz.com.
I didn’t make it (had to cancel a lunch there) to another highly recommended dog-friendly gastropub, the Newman Street Tavern. Water bowls provided for your hound and for owners seasonally influenced victuals. Observer critic Jay Rayner, on heat, described it as “the perfect country pub... where you feel the Lawrencesque throb of nature and appetite working as one.” It’s just north of Oxford Street! 48 Newman Street, London W1T 1QQ. 020 3667 1445, www.newmanstreettavern.co.uk.
Some oddball, dog-friendly options if you are staying in the Capital a while longer:
Doga. In Fulham dog owners adopt traditional hatha yoga positions while performing canine acupressure and massage on their mutts. Weekly at Dance Attic Studios , 368 North End Road , SW6 1LY. www.dogamahny.co.uk/doga-in-fulham-chelsea.
Gaucho Hampstead Doggy Sunday Brunch. First Sunday of every month. There’s a £35 head three course set menu for owners in a glass of champagne. Their pets get complimentary beef and chicken empanadas, a water bowl and a goodie bag. Gaucho Hampstead, 64 Heath Street, NW3 1DN. 020 7431 8222, www.gauchorestaurants.co.uk.
Also in Harrods, The Pet Spa – “3,000-square-foot pet-pampering offers the world's most exclusive selection of bespoke pet-grooming services and indulgent spa treatments to ensure that your precious companion looks and feels its very best.” Caters for hamsters and tortoises, too. 0845 094 6257; www.petspalondon.com.
Perhaps the most cutting edge site for the contemporary dog-owner is Styletails. They were connected with the Ciao Chow Pop-up Canine Bakery in Frith Street last autumn. For continuing projects visit this link.
Pets are welcomed in all five Central London Citadines Apart’hotels (Citadines) serviced apartment residences – at Barbican, Holborn/Covent Garden, South Kensington, St Mark’s and Trafalgar Square. For £10 per pet per night, guests’ four-legged friends are able to stay with their owner. Prices from £100 per executive studio per night (up to two sharing). For reservations see www.citadines.com. Up to two pets per accommodation are permitted; advance reservation is essential as there is a limited number of dedicated pet-friendly apartments. On arrival pet owners may discuss a personalised housekeeping programme to keep disruption of the pet’s routine to a minimum. They’ll even advise on which butchers will provide marrow bones. There’s every amenity and comfort for owners, too.
The Presidential Apartments, based in Marylebone and Kensington, welcome small, well-behaved dogs but don’t offer a service akin to Citadines. Three times winner of the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award, Presidential Apartments are perfect for those looking for either short or long term stays and provide guests with their very own city crash-pad from just £170 per night.
The Kensington lodging contains 58 beautifully designed suites with Siberian oak floors and bespoke walnut fittings in a classic Victorian red brick mansion block situated in a conservation area garden square. Bathrooms feature under floor heating, the kitchens black marble fittings and the lounges plasma screens, wifi, satellite and DVD players. Most suites have designer sofa beds for extra guests and families. There’s a 24 hour reception and concierge. http://www.presidentialapartmentslondon.com
If it has to be a hotel, and upmarket, then look no further than the London-based Red Carnation Hotels. My favourite is The Milestone near Kensington Palace, but they are all amazing – at a premium price.
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