Britain's hottest spot

Move over Soho, WoBo's in town. Jonathan Brown reports on the capital's trendiest new enclave, home to its hippest boutiques and classiest hotels
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The Independent Online

Lord Byron's valet James Brown must have thought the location of his eponymous hotel in Mayfair would satisfy even the most fashion-conscious guest. But as Brown's Hotel reopened this week after a £20m make-over - everything from the brand-new spas to the sumptuous fittings in its cocktail bar had been improved. Everything, that is, including the address itself. For Sir Rocco Forte, the present owner of Brown's, is keen for it to be known that his grand old establishment is located not simply in stately Mayfair, but sits slap-bang in the middle of WoBo.

In London's ever-changing psycho-geography, WoBo is the acronym that stands for West of Bond Street, a small but harrowingly expensive patch of real estate bordered by Piccadilly to the south and Berkeley Street to the east.

London's gilt-heeled consumers are converging on WoBo, drawn by some of the most glittering names in the retail firmament. Paul Smith sells interiors and museum-quality furniture from his understated new premises at 9 Albemarle Street. David (Lord) Linley recently opened his second shop, just up the road, at number 46 - a building designed by modernist architect Erno Goldfinger. Garrard, the royal jeweller, just round the corner at Grafton Street, has undergone an image makeover with the help of Jade Jagger.

One street to the west is Dover Street Market. Conceived by Rei Kawakubo, of Comme des Garçons, the market offers only the most exclusive labels. "Stallholders" include Hedi Slimane, Alber Elbaz, Junya Watanabe and the Los Angeles vintage clothing outlet Decades. Kawakubo was among the first designers to move into New York's Meatpacking district - and her appearance in this part of London sent trend-spotters' pulses racing.

A couple of minutes' walk north, in Bruton Street, Stella McCartney's flagship store rubs shoulders with the Matthew Williamson shop. Nearby, on Bruton Place, the Belgian designer Martin Margiela has his "Maison".

Dick Ford, of estate agent Knight Frank, believes Mayfair has been undergoing a subtle transformation since the days when it was the preserve of aristocrats and film stars. More residential property is becoming available as special consents given to convert residential homes into offices after the Second World War begin to lapse. A decent-sized family home, however, will set you back £2m.

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