Toru Machida, Head Concierge at the Belmond Cadogan Hotel
What is your favourite cultural institution in London?
The Churchill War Rooms, hidden underneath the streets of Westminster, is my favourite sightseeing attraction in London. The rooms were the heart of Britain’s government during the Second World War, and all the secrets kept there contributed significantly to the Allied victory.
Meanwhile, the Natural History Museum is one of the most popular attractions in our area – I’d recommend you use the side entrance on Exhibition Road to avoid the crowds. For music, Cadogan Hall is our local concert venue, home to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and regular host to evening concerts and events.
What activities in the local area would you recommend for someone on their first visit to the Belmond Cadogan Hotel?
The Belmond Cadogan is perfectly positioned to enjoy the endless things to do in London – whether it’s indulging in a little retail therapy, broadening your horizons at the many nearby museums and galleries, or sampling the local nightlife. With Knightsbridge on one side and Chelsea on the other, it’s an ideal starting point for a London shopping spree at world-famous Harrods, the luxury boutiques on Sloane Street, or the quirky shops of Chelsea.
Which restaurants do you most like to go to in the capital?
One of the things visitors most frequently ask about is where to eat. Being a Japanese concierge, I’m often asked about my favourite Japanese restaurants. Two-Michelin starred Umu is at the top of the list, offering high-end kaiseki cuisine by chef Ishii-San, who is obsessed with perfection with his dishes. He goes out to the seaside to teach Cornish fishermen how to catch fish his way, so it maintains freshness and quality, and even crafts his own tableware to bring the best look to his cooking.
In the local neighbourhood, Dinings SW3 is my pick. Tucked away on a backstreet of Knightsbridge, it offers Japanese Tapas and traditional Japanese cuisine with a modern European twist. It’s a truly unique experience.
Roberta Cremoncini, Director, Estorick Collection
What is your favourite London museum?
It is so difficult to choose one special place, as London offers so much. My all-time favourite is the Victoria & Albert Museum. I visited it daily for years when I was studying in the library there and during each visit I would come across something new and different. These days it has some splendid displays: the photography collection is absolutely fantastic.
What museums do you like that are a little more off the beaten track?
My escape is Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath – that way I can combine a beautiful park walk with some great interiors and stunning period paintings.
Commercial galleries have become more and more interesting and important, and I particularly enjoy visiting Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac and Hauser & Wirth. There is nothing better to keep yourself updated than Frieze week every October – exhausting but perfect for immersing oneself in what is happening now.
Ziba Ardalan, Founder, Artistic and Executive Director of Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art
What London museums are special to you?
My tastes are both classic and adventurous at the same time. I love tiny inspirational institutions in any city, particularly if they are off the beaten track. They might have nothing to do with contemporary art, but nevertheless can be inspiring for anyone.
In London, I enjoy the Estorick Collection in Islington for its collection of early 20th-century Futurist Italian Art, and Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Sherlock Holmes Museum and Leighton House for their inspirational and quirky settings. When visiting London, I roam for a day to get inspired and see how the city residents live. The Estorick Collection is in the leafy Canonbury Square, while the Sherlock Holmes Museum is a couple of yards from the superb Regent’s Park with its amazing Rose Garden and Zoo. Leighton House also has a peaceful garden.
Tell us how a great day in London might unfold for you.
A weekend day might unfold as follows: an invigorating early morning walk in Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill, followed by a cappuccino and croissants at the charming but tiny espresso bar inside the park, on Broad Walk. It is fun to see people busy, moving around, doing their sporting rituals.
I then walk to the farmers’ market behind Marylebone High Street to get some fresh fish, cheese and loads of vegetables. Once everything is back in my kitchen at home, I embark on a visit to some of Mayfair’s art galleries and possibly lunch at Sotheby’s delightful restaurant or a similar place. The afternoon could be a visit to one or two contemporary art institutions. Then I head home to prepare dinner with family members, or maybe a couple of close friends or some lovely neighbours. I am really lucky to live in an area with great neighbours.