London Hidden Gem: The Mansion Bar and Parlour

Tucked away down the quiet Barkston Gardens near the bustle around Earl’s Court station is the charming Mansion Bar and Parlour, a cocktail bar that opened less than a year ago on the ground floor of the 4-star boutique Hotel Indigo.

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Dimple and I popped in for a drink on Friday night, but definitely plan to take advantage of the 2 for 1 happy hour that runs Sunday through Wednesday!

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I didn’t have my camera, so apologies for the terrible iPhone photos.

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It’s much better in person!

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We didn’t know what to expect, but were happily surprised.

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It’s sophisticated, elegant, colourful and contemporary with vintage vibes, taking inspiration from its original setting as a Victorian mansion.

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The wallpaper is made of old classified ads and there are old school newspapers folded on each table.

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After perusing the extensive cocktail menu, we put an end to our indecisiveness and took the advice of the waiter.

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Hemingway Daquiris were an excellent choice.

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Cheers!

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We noticed the staff’s name badges with Lord or Lady titles.

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Apparently, according to View London, “Far from being an empty gimmick, each member of bar staff has been bought a small plot of land so they legally possess the title, making sure guests are really served by members of high society.”

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Interesting.

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I’m looking forward to going back on a Sunday when they do a traditional roast with live jazz in the afternoons.

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The waiter told us to keep an eye on Living Social for deals and I see they have one on now.

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They also run loads of fun networking events, molecular cocktail masterclasses and charity fashion soirees.

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I can’t tell you how the food is, but the staff were lovely and so was the decor so hopefully it lives up to my expectations when I return!

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Scents and Sounds of Brompton Cemetery

I lived around the corner from West London’s Brompton Cemetery about two or three years ago.

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it didn’t seem quite as wild or untamed as it does now.

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I like it this way, less groomed, equally inviting.

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It feels more natural, more like a nature reserve that just happens to be a cemetery.

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Now, there are more tousled vines engulfing crooked gravestones.

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There are delicate pink wildflowers poking up in between hard surfaces.

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Wild berries hang, juicy and ripening in the Summer sun.

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Tangled plants sweep over the untidy edges of trails that deviate through the grass off of the main walkways.

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The main strip is still pretty orderly, but there are large patches that have been left to grow as nature intended.

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Weather-worn gravestones are marked with brown patches of moss and bird droppings faded in the sun.

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The names are becoming more difficult to decipher on some of the older inscriptions.

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Despite being a cemetery – one of the Magnificent Seven in London – it’s full of life.

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I used to run here, as do many others.

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People come to settle on benches and spend their lunch breaks or early mornings with a newspaper.

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Others walk, slowly and contemplatively, without the sense of rush that goes on beyond the cemetery walls.

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I settle in on the steps across from the domed chapel in the middle.

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It’s easy to think back to three years ago and how much life has changed since.

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I have a completely different set of friends now.

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Many have moved away – to Toronto, to Sydney, to Mongolia, to the US, to the countryside.

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I’m in a different relationship, happier.

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I went off to Colombia for six months and New York for three and then came back and have been back for almost two years again now.

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I’m happier at work with a different and more interesting, creative and fulfilling job.

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I thought not so much about the death all around me but about the different cycles that life takes us through, the many changes that come year after year, especially living in a huge global city like London.

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A slight breeze stirs the ferns and a train faintly clacks over the tracks beyond the wall.

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There’s a background hum of soaring planes above, but it’s muffled here.

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What stands out most is the buzz of crickets and other insects.

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You can actually hear the breeze slip through the leaves.

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Squirrels sniff at the ground.

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Pigeons grovel.

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No dogs in sight though.

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There are what seems to be a million stoic black crows stand still, glaring our from their headstone perches.

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It smells of earth.

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It sounds like peacefulness of death.

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But it feels quite alive.

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If you’re a cemetery fan, check out some previous posts from Nunhead, Plumstead and Woolwich!

Listen to a Londoner: Jay Barrett

Jay Barrett

Jay is the owner and director of Neighbourhood hair salon. Bringing a pocket of Shoreditch cool to Earl’s Court, Neighbourhood not only has a quirky interior complete with antlers and copies of Wallpaper magazine, it’s a lot of fun to get your hair cut there. Jay cuts mine, so I asked him to interview for LLO, of course.

Read on for stories about some of London’s diverse characters, some of Jay’s favourite places to hang out near Earl’s Court and which Londoner’s hair he’d most like to get his hands on.

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
JB: Although originally a northern lad, I mainly grew up in Essex – the style centre of the UK – but gravitated to London like most creative folk at the tender age of 17 to join Toni & Guy. I started London life in a dodgy bedsit in Willesden Green with an aging hooker, an alcoholic and a schizophrenic landlady who frightened the life out of me, but were genuinely the nicest people on the planet.

LLO: You opened your hair salon in Earl’s Court in 2009. Tell us a bit about the vibe of Neighbourhood. What’s its “personality” like?
JB: We originally opened the salon under the name of ‘Concrete’ but because of legal reasons were forced to change the name after our first year. So after a busy Saturday with a glass of wine, we all set to thinking of a new name, and I remember saying to the team: “The name has to be something that reflects all of our clients’ personalities in the neighbourhood.” Thus Neighbourhood was born, so its personality comes from all the colourful characters that made it really.

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LLO: Tell us a bit about your clientele.
JB: We’ve attracted a really diverse clientele, mainly because I think people like the concept of going to a friendly local salon, and not necessarily just on a professional level, but with each other. More often than not, there’ll be laughter and banter going on between clients and I’ll stand back and think you’re a banker, you’re a single mum, you’re a singer and you’re a student all on the same level having a giggle. That’s pretty cool.

LLO: You must hear all the gossip from the area. Without giving away any names, what’s the best story you’ve heard recently?
JB: Blimey, I could write a soap opera on all that goes on in Neighbourhood, who’s linked to who, etc.. but I can’t divulge any recent stuff. We have a ‘what’s said in the salon, stays in the salon’ policy out of respect. My favorite though was a regular married couple who booked simultaneous appointments one Saturday morning, only to discover his mistress of six months sitting there having highlights, which no one knew about. It was definitely a ‘hide the scissors’ Jeremy Kyle moment  !!

LLO: What sort of products do you use in the salon?
JB: We’re are exclusively a L’Oréal salon, using Serie Expert, which is the salon professional range of shampoos, conditioners and treatments. They’re more cost effective than Kerastase. Last year we introduced the Innoa colour range into the salon, which are ammonia-free and are amazing. No smell, no stains and glossy, healthy hair after..

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LLO: How long have you lived in Earl’s Court? Tell us about your favourite little gems within walking distance from the salon. 
JB: I’ve been here for eight years now, and while it seems everything has shifted East, there’s some great little gems around here: The Devonshire Arms for chilled Sunday roasts with the papers or friends. Evans & Peel Detective Agency for lethally good cocktails. The Troubadour is also a bit of a gem, for chilling with a coffee, sharing a bottle of wine in their secret garden in Summer or watching a gig downstairs.

LLO: What was the biggest challenge you have had to face in setting up a business in London and how did you overcome it? Most rewarding aspect of your job?
JB: Probably my own naivety (ha ha)! After a lot of begging with the bank to get finance, negotiations on the shop lease dragged on for five months, so the entire loan was swallowed by three party’s solicitor’s costs. I literally had an empty shop without a penny to put anything in it, so it was furnished with eBay and a credit card. I also became a master builder, plumber, tiler, plasterer, decorator overnight. That was pretty rewarding, but I will leave it to the professionals next time!

LLO: Best place in London for food and drinks away from the tourist trail?
JB: The Betsey Trotwood on Farringdon Road, EC1, is the best hidden gem in London.

LLO: Which Londoner’s hair would you love to cut and why? What would it look like when you finished?
JB: Definitely would have to be Victoria Beckham! She’s a girl with her finger firmly on the style pulse, and whether you like her or hate her, clients copy her look time and time again. Maybe it’s time to edge her up a bit with a wig and see how many Twitter followers copy it overnight (ha ha)!

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
JB: SOUTHBANK!! Winter, Summer, rain or shine, there’s always something random going on that opens your eyes a little bit more. It’s also the perfect place to just sit people watch.

Thanks Jay!

Neighbourhood
60 Kenway Raod,  London SW5 0RA
Nearest tube: Earl’s Court
http://www.neighbourhood-hair.com/
020 7373 9666