I popped into the TK Maxx next door to my gym at the weekend to find another box of these excellent Christmas crackers, and was struck by how much useless tat there was lining the shelves. (Yes, I know that crackers well and truly top the list of yuletide shite, but I’ve tried to phase them out and nobody is having it. So if I have to have them, I’m at least going to have some that present a fun arts and crafts challenge for a couple of minutes.) I know it’s the thought that counts but there is no scenario in which a limited edition Lynx gift set constitutes thoughtfulness.
In any case, I LOVE giving presents and generally try quite hard to buy people things that are useful and that they’d like, even though there are a few individuals in this world (specifically, anyone who is a middle-aged man) who are just a bloody nightmare to buy ANYTHING for. But it’s also so important to spend your money on small, independent businesses, who actually value your hard-earned coin (and, unlike Boots, Apple and Topshop, don’t dodge their taxes and/or are run by arseholes). London is teeming with amazing artists and entrepreneurs but here are some of my favourites.
The biz: Bottle Shop & Bar, Catford (https://bottlebarandshop.com/)
The goods: Pre-mixed classic cocktails and flavoured spirits.
The damage: £25-30 for a 500ml bottle of summat summat.
Awhile back I had a go at making Old Fashioneds, my favourite cocktail, thinking ‘HOW HARD CAN IT BE???’ Turns out, more difficult than you’d think, because mine were pretty terrible. However, I’ve since found that Bottle Bar in Catford sells bottles of truly delicious pre-mixed Old Fashioneds, including this ‘Twisted’ version with maple syrup and a spiced ‘Christmas In A Bottle’ mix which is great with Old Jamaica Extra Fiery Ginger Beer. Festive as fuck.
They also do a bunch of other classic cocktails, including negronis, which is handy because last year my sister made a batch of proper grim ones on Christmas Eve, ended up having to drink them all herself and ended up totally shit-faced and vomiting in my kitchen sink. So that’s what she’s getting for Christmas this year.
The biz: Heist, Covent Garden (https://www.heist-studios.com)
The goods: Tights.
The damage: £19-24 a pair.
I have been raving on about Heist on Twitter with such frequency that people probably think I am being paid, but no, I just love them A LOT. Most gentlemen won’t know the tyranny of a really rubbish pair of tights – the sagging, the chafing, the wrinkly knees – but in my opinion the shit we ladies go through in the name of not having chilly legs is just further proof that god hates women. Yes, Heist tights are expensive, but they also wash well, don’t sag, and have a wide, soft band that never digs in no matter how much you ate for lunch. And they’re packaged nicely, so they make nice presents too.
The biz: Paul A. Young, Soho, Angel and City of London (http://www.paulayoung.co.uk/)
The goods: Chocolate.
The damage: It’s really, really, really good chocolate…about £16 for a box of nine.
Paul A. Young is best known for its chocolate brownies and ‘Aztec’ hot chocolate, but it’s also a great source of chocolatey stocking fillers. I can highly recommend the Chocolate Brownie Mince Pies and the Salted Caramel Spread (not for the faint of heart), and all the bonkers flavours they bring out for Christmas – last year they had Goose Fat Caramel and Eggnog flavours.
AND if you have an American Express card they’re part of the Shop Small promotion in December, so you can get £5 credit when you spend £10 or more.
The biz: Emma J. Shipley (https://emmajshipley.com)
The goods: Scarves, textiles, home accessories in whimsical, fantastical fabrics.
The damage: Around £100-300 for scarves (and £500 for a gorgeous wingback chair!)
I am obsessed with everything this woman makes and have in fact asked for something of hers for Christmas. Her fabric designs are insanely beautiful and they’re available on everything from silk scarves to coasters. I’d like to wallpaper the entire inside and outside of my house in her stuff but I’m not allowed.
The biz: Japan Centre, Piccadilly Circus (https://www.japancentre.com/en)
The goods: Everything Japanese.
The damage: Honestly, any amount of money.
Muji is so passé, but Japan Centre has all kinds of interesting bits and bobs for the Japanophile in your life, including cute homewares, cookware, skincare, crafty bits (origami, calligraphy and so on), and a vast, vast array of Japanese booze, including sake, whisky, rum and this yuzu sochu-based gin.
The biz: Rory Dobner, available at Liberty and online (https://www.rorydobner.com/)
The goods: Homeware.
The damage: £30+
I really want a giant feature wall of Rory Dober’s weird plates but Mike won’t let me on the grounds that ‘plates are for grandmas’ (!?) I’m not entirely sure what he means by this but decorating our place is a constant battle between his aesthetic (‘Scandi-style’, apparently, like all men who don’t really know what they like) and me, who would have the whole house decked out in House of Hackney wallpaper and neon lights and gigantic golden tortoise statues if I was allowed. Boo. Anyway, he does some lovely whimsical stuff if that’s your cup of tea and if your partner will allow it.
The biz: The British Library Shop, King’s Cross (https://www.bl.uk/shop/)
The goods: ‘Books and gifts for the curious and literary minded’.
The damage: All prices.
Have you ever actually BEEN to the British Library? It’s titting amazing. Obviously you know there’s going to be loads of books but then you go and there are just SO MANY of the things. It’s lovely. You can just walk in and have a mooch so pop it on your list if you’ve never been, and don’t forget to stop by the gift shop because the BL is a charity and it’s very nice to help it stay afloat. The gift shop is available online too and is full of highly giftable stationery and literary-themed things, many of which have been designed in collaboration with local artists and designers.
The biz: The Design Museum Shop, Kensington (https://designmuseumshop.com)
The goods: Gifts, homewares and other bits and bobs with a design edge.
The damage: All prices.
Similar to the British Library, the shop at the Design Museum helps support to institution behind it. Products include jewellery, furniture and home accessories, toys, books and cleverly designed thingamajigs.
The biz: Jar & Fern, Peckham (https://www.jarandfern.co.uk/)
The goods: Terrariums.
The damage: £35-120.
Highly-prized for how difficult they are to kill, terrariums are really nice home-type gifts for people like me who like a bit of greenery, but who are utterly terrible at remembering or being bothered to look after them. Jar & Fern run workshops (and they do vouchers if you’d rather give someone an experience over A Thing!) but they sell beautiful ready-made terrariums too. I gave my grandma one awhile ago and she’s clearly some sort of succulent whisperer because the thing is like a triffid and keeps trying to escape. Shame it doesn’t run in the family.
The biz: Super Superficial, Covent Garden (https://supersuperficial.com/)
The goods: T-shirts and sweaters.
The damage: £40-60.
This store sells clothing with quirky prints by a whole bunch of different artists. Sadly most of their designs are only available in men’s sizing, but that hasn’t stopped me from buying myself a sweater with a print of a man with a cat on his head. I also bought the same design on a t-shirt for my housemate a couple of years ago so now sometimes we can be TWINS, which I just know he’s just absolutely delighted about.
(FYI it’s a bit big around the boobs but a men’s size small is a loose fit on a ladies’ 10/12.)
The biz: East London Liquor Company, Hackney (http://eastlondonliquorcompany.com/)
The goods: Booze.
The damage: From £22.
Since the meteoric rise of Sipsmith in 2009 dozens of gin distilleries have popped up in London (the story of exactly why is quite fascinating), but I like the East London Liquor Company because a) it is about a mile from my house and b) they do other spirits too, including vodka, rum and, from the end of this year, whisky. They don’t have an online shop, but their products are available at The Whisky Exchange and at bottle shops all over town (there’s a map on their site).
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.