Cultures & Contrasts
“When a man is tired of London,” Samuel Johnson famously opined, “he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Discover just some of the city’s wonders with the guidance of Toru Machida, Head Concierge at Belmond Cadogan Hotel.
By Daniel Hayden
Nicknamed ‘The Old Smoke’, London is a city of intrigue and excitement. Balancing the ancient and traditional with the daringly modern, you could walk the streets every day for years and still find new things to discover. As Vice President of The Society of Golden Keys of Great Britain with over 15 years of Concierge experience, Toru Machida can guide you to the city’s best sights.
“Everyone comes to London for different reasons,” Toru tells us. “Whether you are a culture vulture, a foodie or a fashionista, my team will open every door in London to make your stay a memorable one.”
Belmond Cadogan Hotel is perfectly positioned between two worlds. Walk in one direction and you’ll find Knightsbridge, with its high-end retail stores and bustling luxury. Here you’ll find the world-famous Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Or take the side exit to explore quirky Chelsea, brimming with small boutiques, delis and galleries.
Looking for a little more culture? Broaden your horizons at the many museums and galleries nearby. Art lovers should make a point to visit the famed Saatchi Gallery, just heartbeats away from the hotel. The gallery has a rich history of showcasing undiscovered talent. It has launched artists like Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.
For museums, Toru recommends the Churchill War Room: “It’s my favourite attraction in London, hidden underneath the streets of Westminster. All the secrets kept led to the Allied Victory of World War Two. Our concierge team can even arrange a private tour outside normal hours, taking you behind the glass.” The nearby Guard’s Museum is a fantastic second stop. It unveils the history of the Sovereign and Royal Palace guards. If that hasn’t scratched your itch for history, the Imperial War Museum is just a short ride across the river, and well worth a visit.
While London’s inside spaces are magnificent, there are a host of alfresco experiences to enjoy too. The Chelsea Physic Garden is a captivating space and the city’s oldest botanical garden. Over 5,000 medicinal herbs and useful plants are waiting to be discovered, with events and workshops staged throughout the year. For those truly lazy weekends, you’ll have access to the private Cadogan Place Gardens. Play a round of tennis, or let the hours slip by with a picnic in our own city-centre Eden.
As night descends new entertainment opportunities unfold. Cadogan Hall is in the heart of Chelsea, and the venue of choice for the world’s leading orchestras. The Royal Court Theatre is moments away, and has a reputation as one of London’s leading venues for emerging new writers. “London’s theatre scene is one of the best in the world,” Toru comments. “You should treat yourself to some West End tickets. From big-budget musicals to classic English comedies, London can entertain you whatever your taste.”
Hungry? London is also leading the way when it comes to gastronomy and mixology. Order a glass of wine and soak up the elegant atmosphere at Chelsea’s Ritorno. Or take your place among the socialites and select from a fun cocktail menu at the botanically-themed Bluebird. 606 Club is also something of a badly-kept secret, and one of the area’s best venues for live jazz.
Where to dine? Of course, Toru knows the best Japanese restaurants in the city. “Umu is on top of the game offering high-end kaiseki cuisine. The chef goes out to the seaside to teach Cornish fishermen how to catch fish his way, so the restaurant maintains the best freshness and quality. It deserves its two Michelin stars.”
London has something available at every hour, so it is understandable if you stay out till dawn. Perhaps, though, the allure of your suite is just too strong to resist.
But don’t worry, tomorrow is another day, with another adventure. As Peter Ackroyd said, “London goes beyond any boundary or convention. It is illimitable. It is Infinite London.”
Photograph © IWM (CWR 000177)Discover London with Belmond