London offers me a sense of familiarity. There have been some noticeable changes in the transport system, and of course, the skyscrapers within the city and the dockland area add to the shift to a new era of a modern city, but these changes are not really felt within central London.
There is no dearth of good hotels in London. While I now stay in a flat in central London, I used to use the hotels around the Marble Arch, which gave me access to the city, shopping and restaurants. Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch and the Hilton at Edgware Road are two of my favourites.
It is a city of restaurants; I do not believe that there is any city in the world which offers such variety. There are clusters of different kinds of restaurants, notably in Leicester Square, Soho, Edgware Road, Mayfair, Chinatown and Duke Street. For Lebanese food, try Maroush (Seymour Street), Fakhreldine (Green Park) and Al Hamra (Mayfair). Some other picks: Zafferano (Italian; Knightsbridge), Wolseley (English; Piccadilly), Thai Square (central London), Busaba Eathai (Thai, Wardour Street), Nobu (Japanese; Berkeley Street), Ping Pong (for dim sum; central London). And for an English Tea, visit Fortnum and Mason (Regent Street).
Traffic, like in any big city, is maddening. Using one’s own car is expensive (there’s a congestion charge) and it’s almost impossible to find parking. The quickest and easiest way to travel is by the Tube. Even for a first-timer, it is simple to understand and it is well networked, so you can travel to any part of London.
Get an Oyster Card for travel. You can buy one at a tube station or at some newsagents. For a social evening, black cabs are best.
There are umpteen museums which do not have any entry fee. Go for a walk in the beautiful Hyde Park, St. James’s Park, Green Park or Trafalgar Square. The shopping in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly is great. Sale season is in summer, in July, and in winter after Christmas — that’s when you get the best bargains.
(This article is excerpted from the latest Forbes India 05 November, 2010 issue which is now available at news stands and book stores. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com)