WHAT’S your idea of perfect Sunday relaxation? Climbing into a barber’s chair and getting lathered up probably isn’t first on many lists, but after discovering the grooming service on offer at West London’s smartly idiosyncratic boys’ own shop Carter & Bond, it’s shot to the top of mine.
Carter & Bond is like finding the perfect men’s magazine (no, not that kind) in shop form. It’s named after Jack Carter (Michael Caine’s Get Carter character) and James Bond, for a start, and sits across the road from one excellent pub – well-known W2 hangout The Westbourne – and a few doors along from another (Tom Conran’s The Cow). And it’s run by a former tank commander, 38-year-old Joe Cotton.
The little interior is a classy paradise for the modern bloke who hasn’t quite grown up. Shelves are filled with retro toys – 1950s-style robots, beautiful wooden bi-planes (a few of which swing from the ceilings) – as well as funky modern watches and colourful lifestyle knick-knacks. There are groovy prints of 1950s glamour models and vintage copies of Playboy.
Along one wall run shelves stacked with men’s grooming products of the smartest, hardest-to-find, most beautifully packaged variety. It’s a veritable apothecary of splendid niche brands with names like Baxter’s of California, Aqua de Colonia and Zirh.
It’s these fine grooming products that form the heart of Carter & Bond’s business, an online trading operation that’s existed for eight years. Cotton only opened the shop a couple of years ago, sourcing unusual products that play to every chap’s sense of nostalgia and cool. He’s recently added a barbering service, which is available on Sundays (and Wednesdays, for anyone who can make it from the office).
The shop is on Westbourne Park Road near Notting Hill, a quiet and pretty area to stroll through on a sunny Sunday. Having installed a barber’s chair and grand Victorian sink, Cotton needed a barber with the skills to do the place justice. I can attest that he’s found this in Moustapha Boussain, a friendly Moroccan gent with – blade in hand – a virtuoso touch.
With the gentle murmur of pub chatter from The Westbourne in the background – not to mention the odd passing dad and son wandering in wide-eyed – Moustapha applies an enlivening facial scrub and carries out a face massage. Next he wraps the face in a pair of hot towels loaded with scented oils, leaving them on for a couple of minutes – I started to drift off at this point. After elaborately lathering up the face in layers of cream, he sets the open razor dancing across the skin with all the skill and intuition of a jazz musician.
Next comes a clay mask and another massage, a further hot towel, moisturiser, eye replenisher, cold towel and final balm – my skin felt like putty and my mind was drifting at about 30,000 feet. The brilliant thing is that after this kind of shave you don’t need to reach for the razor for a couple of days, making Monday mornings easier – and you can top off this flawless relaxation with a pint across the road. Now that’s what Sundays are about.
Hot &?Cold Towel wet shave, or haircut, from £30. Carter & Bond, 83 Westbourne Park Road, W2 5QH. 020 7727 3141, www.carterandbond.com