Local Knowledge: Kit Kemp’s guide to London

Interior designer Kit Kemp takes us through her favourite spots to visit in London.

Hyde Park, London


My daily ritual is walking from my home in Kensington across Hyde Park to work, and popping into Serpentine Gallery along the way.

The thing I love most about London is its little streets and all its diverse architecture. The Borough Market is among my favourite spots, filled with treasures such as places that serve pots of raclette and fresh oyster bars.

We’re long-time fans of The River Café. It’s magical in both summer and winter. My favourite dishes are the smoked Dover sole, mushroom risotto and the chocolate nemesis cake. Many of the world’s best chefs have worked in the kitchen; you feel like you discovered them first.

The best places to find cutting-edge design ideas are Contemporary Applied Arts on Southwark Street, which features the work of more than 350 artisans. The New Craftsmen in Mayfair is fabulous for inspiration and unique design. And I always try to go to the Royal Academy Schools’ summer show and meet the students. You can’t get more cutting-edge than meeting the artists of the future.

The place I always find inspiration is the V&A. There’s always an exhibition by an artist in residence, and its lectures are marvellous.

I like to take a chai tea latte at Fernandez and Wells on Exhibition Road, around the corner from my office, to add spice to my morning.

When I need a day away from the city we head to the New Forest, particularly the village of Buckler’s Hard, where Henry Adams designed Lord Nelson’s favourite ship, HMS Agamemnon. I was brought up near there. The area has the best of both worlds: forests and the sea.

I take out-of-town friends to Prawn on the Lawn, an amazing seafood restaurant in Islington, serving sustainably sourced fish. After lunch I take them to the Barbican Centre for an exhibition or to a play at the Southwark Playhouse.

For solitude, nothing beats eating on the fourth-floor terrace of our Ham Yard Hotel in Soho. I go up there with an Alexander McCall Smith book to escape.

Kit Kemp is co-owner and design director of Firmdale Hotels, with a portfolio of nine hotels, bars and restaurants in London and New York. The Whitby is scheduled to open in Manhattan’s Midtown later this year.

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