Jolly Well!Wellness Flourishes In London's Covent Garden
If the Brits had a national mantra, it would be ‘Stiff upper lip.’ In recent years, however, posh Londoners have succumbed to the seductions of ‘om,’ embracing the notions of mindfulness and wellness with un-British enthusiasm. The still point at the center of London’s self-care universe is Covent Garden. Nowhere else in the city will you find such a concentration of right-minded spots. There are cafés where the baristas prepare matcha lattes as carefully as they do pour-over coffee. Fantastic small restaurants devoted to sustainably-produced whole foods abound. And body work studios cater to a ready clientele where everyone seems to be rushing off to a yoga class — in newly fashionable Birkenstocks, no less — all the time. Feel the need for some mindful indulgence, London-style? Here’s where to find it, no stiff upper lip or boot-strapping required.
1. The Light Chamber. Located in Conduit Court, this mirror-lined archway is an experiment in so-called “restorative color therapy.” The tunnel-like structure is outfitted with hundreds of colored lights which its creators say were chosen for “their ability to enhance moods and uplift spirits.” Who knows? One thing is certain: What with all the twenty-something tourists taking pictures of each other inside the Light Chamber, the place is good for a giggle.
2. 26 Grains. Forget the English fry-up. This tiny place, located in the cobbled courtyard known as Neal’s Yard, deals in Nordic-inspired whole-grain delights. Although the seasonally-driven menu changes frequently, this is the place to go when only a bowl of almond milk porridge with roasted fruit and orange flower water will do. Locals come for the avocado, mint, and pistachio pesto on sourdough, though the chocolate chip-tahini cookies are nothing to sneeze at either. Go early, as they only have a few tables and they’re usually taken. (1 Neal’s Yard)
3. Neal’s Yard Remedies. Long before the word “wellness” entered the contemporary lexicon, this herbal apothecary transformed plants and essential oils into cult beauty products in lovely cobalt bottles. Caveat emptor: hardly anyone leaves the shop empty-handed. (15 Neal’s Yard)
4. Petersham Nurseries. Located in a Grade II listed building, the storied lifestyle shop sometimes hosts lectures and workshops on mindfulness, but there’s no need to wait. A wander through the dreamy space with its terribly English selection of elegant home and garden objets is guaranteed to clear your mind. (2 Floral Court)
5. Buddha on a Bicycle. Acquisitional impulses sated, head to this Eastern philosophy-oriented bookshop, to contemplate more serious matters. There’s also a therapy room that offers a wide range of body work including energy healing and massage. (27 Endell St)
6. Yotopia. The neighborhood has loads of yoga studios, but few can match the diversity of offerings at Yotopia: Hot Flow, Acro Yoga, Ashtanga, Yin and Yang Yoga, Rocket Yoga, and more. (13 Mercer St.)
7. Jacob the Angel. For lunch, head back to Neal’s Yard, to Jacob and the Angel, a small café that serves wonderful salads and other light foods at midday. Try the broad bean, green bean, and wild arugula salad with elderflower vinaigrette or the finest canalés de Bordeaux — fluted pastries with a crisp shell and a custard-y interior — on either side of the Channel. The choice is yours. (16 1/2 Neal’s Yard)
8. Redemption. If you’ve spent too many nights pub-hopping and want to dry out, an evening at Redemption, a vegan restaurant and alcohol-free cocktail bar, could be in order. An alcohol-free cocktail bar? Only in Covent Garden. (15 Shorts Garden)