This corner of west London has long been my favourite part of this sometimes overwhelming and over-crowded city. It has the plushest hotels, restaurants, department stores and wine bars. Tourists flock here in their millions, both ordinary and well heeled, which amazingly hasn’t detracted from the areas’s character. Yet for all the hustle and bustle you can chill out in Knightsbridge, just take a stroll in Hyde park and it can seem a million miles away.
Knightsbridge is to be found south of Hyde Park, in London’s most exclusive residential district. Brompton Road in South Kensington serves as roughly its south-western border, head directly south and you’re in Chelsea, another rather moneyed part of London – botox galore, ladies and gentlemen! Historically, the area was a tiny settlement, located outside the City of London. It remained a rather provincial, albeit prosperous neighbourhood until the 19th century, after trade opened up between the UK and Asia Knightsbridge organised an exhibition of Japanese culture, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors and putting Knightsbridge firmly on the London map as a place for international jet-setters to head to. It hasn’t looked back since, although today’s tourists generally come to shop rather than be awed by Japanese art.
So, let’s start with the most importance consideration for the first-time visitor — where to stay in this über-expensive part of London. Plush hotels abound, but my two favourites for (relative) value for money, excellent service, rooms and location are the Halkin and the Capital. They occupy the opposite ends of the hotel spectrum, but both deliver exactly what they promise — the Halkin has 41 very comfortable, modern rooms and a snazzy gym to boot. The staff are extremely polite, efficient and everything in the hotel works, including the bedroom’s WIFI. The Halkin also has an award winning Thai restaurant – Nahm – I can attest to the quality of the food so well worth a trip if you’re in this part of the world. The Capital has a historical pedigree, a wonderful homely feel, charming staff and 50 classically British guest rooms, complete with fireplaces and Edwardian furniture. Not to mention an inviting bar and one of the best value afternoon teas in London. If the Halkin is modern, slick and polished then the Capital is cosy, intimate and perhaps more authentically British – take your pick!
Gourmets are spoilt for choice in Knightsbridge, although those on a strict budget will struggle in all but the most basic eateries. If you have some money to spend then try Outlaw’s Seafood and Grill at the Capital, I dined there earlier in the month and was thoroughly impressed by the service and in particular, my fantastic main course of sea-bass, the fillet seductively coated in a mussel sauce. Since we ate at the restaurant the head chef, Peter Biggs, has started working with Nathan Outlaw, a renowned chef in Cornwall to bring the focus squarely on top quality seafood. It is re-opening in October and they can expect more than one visit from me.
If you fancy excellent Italian food in relaxed, comfortable surroundings, then try Zafferano. Although prices have been rising steadily in recent years, the set lunch is still good value and they fly in ingredients and produce from Italy daily, so you can’t really get fresher than that. Just be careful about choosing wine, some of those mark-ups are hard to swallow! Another good choice for lovers of Indian food is Amaya, which serves totally authentic Punjabi cuisine, without the major expense that usually accompanies dining out in Knightsbridge – lovely staff to boot.
Ok, ok, we all know the real reason you came to Knightsbridge – shopping. Welcome to paradise, Knightsbridge is famous world-wide for its department stores, Harrods and Harvey Nichols, both a short walk from the Knightsbridge metro station. Harvey Nichols is the place for designer fashion (and ladies who lunch), while visitors swoon over Harrods’ food halls and amazing collection of wine and spirits. Sloane Street is the address for men’s fashion, Prada and D&G have flagship stores there, women will get just a little excited over the Jimmy Choo collection. And all accessible on one street!
My last piece of advice is this – don’t come to Knightsbridge on a strict budget. These temptations play havoc with the credit card. But, if you some money to burn, there is no better place to eat, drink, party and shop!
0044 (0) 207 333 1000
The Capital hotel
22-24 Basil Street
0044 (0) 207 589 5171
15 Lowndes Street
0044 (0) 207 235 5800
0044 (0) 207 7823 1166