If you’re looking for a bonafide James Bond location in the UK then, much of the time, you’ll either need a time machine or a valid pass to the sound stages at Pinewood Studios. But, particularly in the more recent Bond movies, there has been an increased amount of on-location shooting around the capital. Combine this with the destinations name-checked by Ian Fleming in the original novels and you’ll find enough sites to make for a tour of, naturally, London’s more chi-chi neighbourhoods. Here’s our guide for the spots and streets to visit to truly get to know the clubs, restaurants, hotels and even homesteads where Bond drinks, swaggers, sleeps and, occasionally, kills.
Reform Club, Pall Mall
You’ll need to be a guest of an existing member to gain entry to this, one of the most prestigious of the West End gentleman’s clubs. If you can somehow get through the doors then be sure to make a beeline for the upstairs drawing room. For it was here, back in 2002, that Madonna and Pierce Brosnan went toe to toe in a fencing lesson scene from the mostly abysmal Die Another Day film. Later that decade, the club appeared again in the almost as disappointing Quantum of Solace, where it doubled up as the Foreign Office for a visit by Daniel Craig.
Rules, Covent Garden
The oldest restaurant in London (it’s been open since 1798) is exactly the kind of place where you could imagine Bond reluctantly agreeing to dine on the signature grouse with MI6 top brass. It’s a bit of a tourist trap these days but, on weeknights in winter, the dark woods, ancient watercolour prints and air of atavistic discretion still cast a strangely crepuscular and sepulchral allure over diners. If you don’t fancy the expense of dinner here, you can see the interior in the Spectre film as M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), sit around a dining table to sort out the world’s problems and, obviously, eat immense amounts of premium meat.
Duke’s Bar, St James’s
There’s a two drink maximum when it comes to the Vespers served at the bar just to the right of the lobby in the Duke’s Hotel, located in a tiny mews off St. James Street. That’s because there’s five shots of gin in each serving and, put bluntly, the staff would prefer not to deal with anyone who has had ten shots and still wants to drink more. This was another favoured bar of Ian Fleming and is where he would drink a time-honoured concoction of vodka, gin, bitters, aperitif wine and citrus peel, which is neither shaken nor stirred and was recommended to him by a bartender of the era. After Fleming’s death, and Bond’s world domination, the drink was added to the menu and named the Vesper after Vesper Lynd from the Casino Royale novel.
National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
Austere, magnificent and ideal for a surreptitious rendezvous, the Sackler Room at the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square was used in the most London-centric Bond movie of them all: Skyfall. Bond meets with Q here to get his ticket and instructions for a mission to Shanghai and, while he waits, stares at an oil painting by JMW Turner called The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838. The ship in question was a royal battleship deployed in the Battle of Trafalgar and is shown being dragged down the Thames to be destroyed for scrap metal. The meaning of the painting in this context is obvious: is Bond another old fighter whose time has now passed?
It’s moved from its original location off Piccadilly Circus into a deeper Mayfair spot on Mount Street but Scott’s restaurant still exudes a muscular, modish appeal that suits Bond down to the ground. Impeccable preparation of simple British dishes is the modus operandi of the place and Fleming adored it here; once confiding to an American journalist that he imagined James Bond always having his lunch at a corner table so he could watch the leggy females of the West End cavort by while he devoured smoked salmon.
Wellington Square, Chelsea
It took an enormous amount of detective work by amateur Bond fans to find it but, by piecing together the clues laid by Fleming in his novels, the home of 007 was recently revealed to be 25 Wellington Square, just off the Kings Road in Chelsea. The address was once home to Desmond McCarthy, book reviewer at the Sunday Times at the same time as when Fleming was on the foreign desk, making it all but inevitable in the clubby Fleet Street atmosphere of the time that Fleming went to parties here in the late 1950s. You can’t go inside the house today, of course, but the square itself has altered not one iota since Fleming’s time. This is a high storied, whitewashed Georgian terrace with a thin, rectangular-shaped green in the centre. It’s easy enough to hop over the black railings to wander around the tiny strip of green but there’s nowhere to sit and it’s highly unlikely the local residents would welcome your having a picnic there so, like all the best spies, keep your visit discreet.