Find a Thriving Café Culture (and Lots of Shopping) in London’s Sloane Square

Yahoo! Contributor
Visit Britain

Sloane Square, the front door of London’s Chelsea neighborhood, is a busy hub — which means it can never have too many places to grab an espresso. One of the city’s favorite department stores, Peter Jones, faces the Tube exit across a small square. A steady stream of cars, taxis and buses circumnavigate the square a clockwise direction.

The Royal Court Theatre is a longtime fixture on Sloane Square, which branches off into well-to-do residential areas and to the luxury shops of Knightsbridge. Cafés abound, some with outdoor seating for people-watching weather. Just five minutes' walk from the Tube exit in Duke of York Square, a mixed-use development on just off Sloane Square, is Saatchi Gallery, an innovative launch pad for contemporary art.

A coffee, then Tiffany's
Aside from being a player in the fashion stakes, Peter Jones carries a diverse set of items from hoover bags and nappies to brollies and knickers (that’s vacuum cleaner bags, diapers, umbrellas and ladies' underwear), so the store is useful to many households in West London. Offices, schools and doctor and dentist offices are scattered about. Lots of mass-market "high street" fashion brands are here, too.

At the corner of Sloane Street sits baby-blue Tiffany & Co. Farther along, Chanel, Gucci, Bulgari, Cartier, Chloe, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Fendi, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent sit side by side; it's enough high fashion to rival New York, Paris and Milan. A few blocks along the King's Road, there's a Pret-à-Manger and other quick-serve takeaway lunch counters.

The rise of Duke of York Square
Duke of York Square was a redesign project 10 years ago. In 2003, it became the largest new public space to open in London in two decades. Prior to that, this prime piece of land situated less than five minutes' walk from the Underground station was unused, except as a former military barracks.

Duke of York now boasts water features, restaurants, 33 shops and an open-air farmers market on Saturdays. It’s also home to the prestigious Saatchi Gallery.

What the Duke of York area needed was a new café, and it’s going to soon get a most impressive one. A whopping 147 designers entered an international competition held to determine the design of a £2 million ($3 million) new café for the square, where the existing smaller one was overwhelmed by demand.

The Architects' Journal said this call for fresh design thinking to replace the "transparent temple to the cappuccino" was a unique opportunity to make what the organizers called "a lasting and high-profile contribution to a glamorous part of London."

Winners announced
Announced in December 2012, the winning design by NEX Architecture was hailed as sleek, inventive, and fun. The Cadogan Café's "organic, coiled form" will have a retractable glass wall to raise and lower depending upon weather conditions. Visitors will have access to its roof terrace, but even the interior will have plenty of natural ventilation. Building permit applications for the new mini-landmark now go forward before a projected opening date is announced and, eventually, a barista steams the milk for the new café's first latte.

by Laurie Jo Miller Farr

Top: The prestigious Saatchi Gallery, home to contemporary art, is one of the showpieces of Duke of York Square near Sloane Square, London. (Photo by Jim Linwood via Wikimedia Commons)

Left: A new Fendi store opened in 2011 on Sloane Street, a home for high-end shopping. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)