Location Vacation? London Shines in Disney’s New “Cruella”

(Disney)

Disney’s new live-action film "Cruella" may feature a star-studded cast, but in our mind the real star of the show is London. The plot of the movie, a prequel to the animated "One Hundred and One Dalmatians," set in London’s iconic 1970s punk scene, explains the origin of the style-hungry villain Cruella de Vil. Emma Stone is the talented young Cruella—known then as Estella—and British actress Emma Thompson, as fashion royalty Baroness von Hellman. 

London itself steals many of the scenes—there were 40 different location shoots, most in the capital and a few in Berkshire. Since the story is set in the 1970s, some backdrops have been altered with CGI to erase some of the changes over the last 50-odd years, but remain recognizable and will have you yearning to visit. We guide you through the top spots in the film, offering up suggestions to stay and eat nearby. 

Luxury Style at Liberty

First featured is Soho’s famous department store, Liberty—a shop so integral to the story that it was 3D scanned and filmed in an exact replica! It’s here that Estella is first immersed in the world of high fashion and introduced to the influence of style guru Baroness von Hellman. Fun fact: Founded in 1875, the modern-day Liberty opened in 1924 and was built using timbers from two 19th-century battleships, lending a striking Tudor-style exterior.

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Liberty London // Photo by Ben Pipe Photograph

Stay: The Langham, in fashionable Marylebone just north of Oxford Circus, puts you in a perfect position for shopping. Or, opt for the glam Hotel Cafe Royal, where David Bowie and Mick Jagger actually used to hang out in the 1970s; it is on Regent Street, just down the street from Liberty.

Eat: Two show-stopping restaurants are a stone's throw from Liberty—the fanciful Sketch London with it’s Instagram-worthy pink gallery for afternoon tea or the Art Deco Bob Bob Ricard, where each steel blue leather-clad booth has a button to press for champagne (guests under 15 are not allowed).

Vintage Delights at Portobello Road

Next, follow in Estella’s footsteps with a shopping trip to Notting Hill’s Portobello Road—home to one of the world’s biggest antiques markets. Stretching for half a mile, it is known for its rows of statement vintage fashion and second-hand jewellery. 

Stay: The Distillery, an artisanal gin distillery, where you can make your own gin in the basement bar, has a few plush rooms overlooking Portobello. Or, head just to the other side of Hyde Park for a favorite boutique hotel, The Milestone, because you know Cruella would opt for the leopard-carpeted “Noel Coward Suite” with views of Kensington Palace.

The vegan cookies at The Tin Shed

Eat: Mix with in-the-know locals one block away on iconic All Saints Road at The Tin Shed for coffee or brunch (insider’s tip: they have London’s best vegan cookies!), or for dinner and drinks, head to the trendy multi-story Gold on Portobello Road for mouth-watering Italian fare and a chic bar scene.

Kings Road

Those wanting to step back into the heyday of London’s punk movement can plan to visit 430 Kings Road. Back in the 1970s, Vivienne Westwood—a source of inspiration for Estella’s character—opened a shop here that defined the aesthetic of the era.

Stay: Two luxe choices on leafy Cadogan Square, the newly redone Carlton Tower Jumierah, perfect for respite with its massive pool and rooftop spa, or the elegant The Cadogan, A Belmond Hotel that has one of our favorite tea rooms in London.

The Cadogan, A Belmond Hotel

Eat: Just a few blocks from 430 Kings Road is stylish all-day cafe Bluebird; once an Art Deco garage complex, now you can enjoy Meditteranian nibbles with the Chelsea set.

Royal Style at Westminster

Visitors can also sample the royal world of Baroness von Hellman in Westminster, as the exterior of “The House of Baroness” was shot close to The Mall in London. This royal ceremonial route, connecting Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square, is bursting with extravagant buildings to admire.

The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences

Stay: Choose from three favorites that surround the Royal Parks, The Athenaeum at the top of Green Park, Rubens at the Palace which literally looks onto the Queen’s back gate, and The Lanesborough at the junction of Hyde Park Corner.

Eat: For true fans of the film, you must sample the Cruella-themed afternoon tea at The Lanesborough, which is billed as “a stylish celebration of fashion and rebellion, blending traditional patisserie expertise with an unexpected, modern aesthetic that is utterly Instagrammable and “a little bit mad”—just like Cruella herself,” which is on now through August 4, 2021.

Grand Designs at the Old Royal Naval College

Visitors wanting to see where Cruella’s show-stopping red carpet scene was filmed can explore the Old Royal Naval College. Nestled beside the River Thames at the heart of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site, the building’s Baroque pillars and grand towers provide a taste of London’s grand history. The rich architecture is mirrored by equally dazzling interiors, such as the Painted Hall and historic chapel. (Film buffs might also recognize the site from other big name productions, including "Sherlock Holmes," the James Bond film "Skyfall" and the Netflix series "The Crown.")

Stay: The sleek Intercontinental London – The O2 sits in a glass tower overlooking the dome of The O2 Arena and the Thames. Reopening on June 23, this is the top choice for musicians, celebs and sports stars performing at one of London’s biggest venues.

Eat: Local-favorite The Hill has a mix of Latin and Mediterranean flavors and is near Greenwich parks; or, for pure English sustenance, Heaps Sausage cannot be beat for a classic “sarnie.”  

Historic Gardens at Englefield House and Estate, Berkshire

Englefield House and Estate

The magic of Cruella was also captured in the county of Berkshire, home to the royal residence of Windsor Castle—and if it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for Baroness von Hellman! The stunning Elizabethan mansion of Englefield House was used as the exterior of the Baroness’ country home, Hellman Hall. Although the mansion itself is private, visitors can wander through the immaculate Englefield Gardens, which date back more than 400 years. Open every Monday, Cruella fans can look forward to the terraces, vibrant blooms and ancient forests nestled behind the Baroness’ grand home.

Stay: As Englefield is about an hour and 10 minutes drive from London, we suggest combining a visit with a country escape for a night or two. For serenity, it is hard to top the stunning Monkey Island Estate, on a private island in the middle of the Thames in Bray, or the equally gorgeous Coworth Park in Ascot—part of the Dorchester Collection. At the latter, you can often watch the Royals playing polo in the summer. Both are about 40 minutes drive from London and Englefield House.

Eat: You won’t go hungry at either of those two hotels, but you may want to pitstop in the posh village of Bray, home to two three-star Michelin restaurants, Heston Blumental’s famed The Fat Duck, and Alain Roux’s The Waterside Inn, which has held three Michelin stars since 1985.

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