A day well spent in St. Martin’s Courtyard, London

March 10, 2016

Living in London means you get accustomed to all the popular places, but still go to the same pub, eat at the same restaurant, walk on the same street. There are many hidden treasures locals won’t share with tourists, but I’ve decided to break the rules, and tell you more about one particular place in London, where I absolutely adore spending my time. St. Martin’s Courtyard is located at the heart of Covent Garden, and it is a shopping and dining destination everyone should have on their radar. An urban oasis with unique shops, restaurants and experiences, it is a pleasure discovering something new every time.

Contemporary boutiques and international flagships are centred around an open air courtyard and have been handpicked to create an exclusive shopping experience. Fashion, beauty and lifestyle shops include Banana RepublicPretty Ballerinas, The White Company, L.K. Bennett and COS. St Martin’s Courtyard has introduced a range of delicious restaurants to the London dining scene. From bustling cafe Bill’sSudaJamie’s ItalianDishoom and the newly opened Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. All restaurants have al fresco seating or terraces. You can’t be missing the day spa, relax, for indulgent massage and natural beauty, Blow LTD for fast beauty fixes, or try hot yoga at Yotopia.

One rainy day I have decided to spend my time to St. Martin’s Courtyard, and attended a Hand tied bouquet class at The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers. This has been one of the most beautiful workshops I’ve ever attended, surrounded by magical flowers, students eager to learn about floral art, and excellent teachers dedicated completely to their passion. Three hours went by really quickly and I’ve learnt a few tricks such as cutting the stem diagonally right before putting the flowers in a vase, so they will absorb more water; to condition flowers 4 hours before using them; finding a binding point to fill a vase properly (this step was pretty difficult, thank God for the instructor explaining me over and over about the proper way of doing it); also, we’ve spent a good amount of time learning about foliage, so important for the base and shape of any bouquet and floral structure. And most importantly, don’t ever touch the flower head!academy of flowers academy of flowers

The academy offers four different course types to teach flower design as an art form: Professional Flower Design courses, Day Courses, Evening Courses and Special Events. Professional flower design courses include a Classic 30-week programme alongside Fast Track, Intensive and Three-day Taster opportunities, and shorter courses include flowers as art, table decoration and even headwear. The Academy’s shorter courses are ideal as gifts or to explore personal passions, giving students the chance to learn the art of the perfect wedding bouquet, experiment with colour and seasonal flowers, or have the ultimate Covent Garden day experience by visiting the flower market then creating their own arrangement.

I finally made my first bouquet and I was so impressed with my work, and also extremely proud, couldn’t wait to brag with it on all my social media. It got quite the attention on the tube and all the way back home, feeling I needed to shout I didn’t buy it, but made it myself! With the help of my trainer, of course, who did most of the work actually, as all the other girls knew exactly what they were doing. DSC_2349 DSC_2401

Working with flowers made me famished, so right next door I popped into Jamie’s Italian. The famous restaurant chain is not famous for nothing. Rustic dishes, fresh ingredients prepared and cooked with passion, the aim of Jamie’s Italian is to create exceptional food and an environment with a “neighbourhood” feel, inspired by the “Italian table” where people relax, share, and enjoy each other’s company. Jamie’s Italian was designed to be accessible and affordable, a place where anyone is welcome and everyone will feel comfortable, no matter how much you spend or how long you stay. I started my lunch with the famous juicy calamari, served with mayo and chili flakes, together with backed cheese mushrooms with crispy music bread, smoked mozzarella & thyme. For mains I couldn’t resist a plate of spaghetti nero with flash-fried squid & mussels with tender octopus, capers, chilli, anchovies, tomatoes & white wine. I regretted not ordering dessert, but I couldn’t justify any longer the extra kilograms I’ve been trying to hide all day. jamie's italianAfter a short walk in the area, admiring the new collections already in stores, I felt the need of a massage, so Relax seemed the obvious choice. The luxurious urban day spa is the perfect antidote to London living. Led by a team of highly trained massage therapists and natural beauty therapists, Relax work their magic and make sure you’re as relaxed, healthy and gorgeous as can be! Natural beauty treatments include facials, body scrubs and wraps and a selection of treatments for both men and women. You can choose between a sublime 1 hour full body deep tissue massage or a more relaxing treatments. The popular chair massage is an energising way to recharge your batteries.  All the products Relax uses are as organic as they can be. And if there’s a sustainable choice, Relax make it. You never know how much your body accumulates stress until you’ve had a proper massage. The staff at Relax is so professional and friendly, and the ambiance is peaceful and elegant, that you would consider doing regular massages a habit. Your body&mind will thank you.

St.Martin’s Courtyard in Covent Garden has plenty to offer, from casual lunches, to fancy dinners, from workshops, to shopping and relaxation, you definitely won’t be needing a special occasion to make this place one of your regular hangout spots in London. Share it with your friends, they will thank you!