Ask The Concierge: Toru Machida

Words by Belmond Editors

Ask The Concierge: Toru Machida

Introducing our new series Ask The Concierge, we spoke to Toru Machida, Head Concierge at The Cadogan. With him, we dive in to find out more about the best spots in Chelsea and beyond.

Originally from Tokyo, Toru Machida started his hotel career in Japan after being inspired by watching the iconic British television show, Fawlty Towers. He worked his way up from roles as a Luggage Porter, Night Porter, Doorman and Concierge Clerk. He has been Head Concierge at the Cadogan since 2018 when he joined ahead of its doors opening so that the very first guests could benefit from his local knowledge. The best part of his job, he says, is the challenge of being able to open every door in London for his guests using the personal contacts he has nurtured and developed over the years. We sat down with Toru to discover the best bits of his personal guide to the city he knows so well.

What is the best local dish to order for breakfast?

Having a bacon bap from a Cabmen’s Shelter is a quintessentially British experience. Cabmen’s Shelters came about in the late Nineteenth century when horse-drawn carriages called Handsom Cabs were the vehicles of choice. While the paying customer got a seat inside the carriage, the humble cabbie had to sit on top exposed to the elements. This left them in dire need of frequent pitstops for hot drinks so that they could warm up in order to keep working. In January 1875, The Globe newspaper editor George Armstrong created a charity to erect purpose-built shelters providing hot food and non-alcoholic drinks to cabbies. Between 1875 and 1914, 61 shelters popped up across London and their statement green colour is also strictly enforced. The one just outside of The Cadogan, located on Pont Street between North and South Cadogan Place Gardens, is one of the only 13 remaining Cabmen’s Shelters in London.

What is the best walk to properly explore Chelsea in London?

Pavilion Road has been transformed into a beautiful village in Chelsea. This one street has everything Chelsea locals want and need from coffee shops to wine stores. The street offers the best of British food with a fishmonger, butcher and a cheese monger that all feature the most exceptional products. From there, get a coffee and keep walking towards the King’s Road and try to get intentionally lost in the back streets of Chelsea. Here you’ll find some of the most architecturally beautiful streets in London, tucked-away Michelin starred restaurants and perhaps the previous residences of the biggest names in music including Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger and Bob Marley marked with the cities signature ‘blue plaques’.

A coffee shop to visit to feel like a local?

Sit outside on Motcomb Street and have quality coffee and classic cake with a Japanese accent at Café Kitsuné.

What is the best place to visit to bring home something special that you can’t find anywhere else?

Walk into Pont Street and you will find Anya’s Village in Belgravia. A British fashion icon, Anya Hindmarch, created her own village in Belgravia with six of her own stores on the same street. The specialty of the brand is bespoke personalisation of accessories like bags and purses (including items for your dog). There is no better place to go in our neighbourhood to find something truly special and unique for your loved ones.

Where would you go to for a quick working lunch?

Maybe go for an iconic British meal like ‘fish & chips’ or a pie. If you are looking for classic British dishes, The Cadogan Arms in Chelsea has a Michelin starred team in its kitchen and is a great place to have a quick working lunch. Oh, I almost forgot, they do a good pint too!

The best place to book a romantic dinner for two?

Daphne’s has been an institution in Chelsea and Kensington since it opened in 1964, it is elegant, intimate and overall, romantic. The thick red sauce of the tiger prawns with chilli, garlic and parsley is out of this world and it’s impossible to resist the urge to “scarpetta” by dipping a piece of bread in the sauce. The restaurant once had a power cut on a busy night, they didn't want to ruin the romantic night of their customers, so they decided to fill the entire restaurant with candles including in the kitchen, giving enough light to the chefs to cook and serve their food. The evening turned out to be the most romantic and unforgettable dining experience for everyone that was there.

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