10 Ways To Explore London Like a Local, According to Lisa Periquet
A London resident for much of the 1990s, art patron and Museum Foundation of the Philippines board member Lisa Ongpin Periquet makes sure she spends at least a month each year in her beloved city. Here’s how she enjoys London like the locals do.
1. View a special exhibition at a museum or art gallery. For an art lover like me, looking up the special exhibitions that are on show tops the list. Among the memorable ones I have viewed in recent years were a Francis Bacon retrospective at the Tate Britain, Grace Kelly’s designer wear at the Victoria and Albert, an exhibit on fakes and forgeries at the National Gallery, and the egalitarian Summer Exhibition every August at the Royal Academy.
Victoria and Albert Museum
2. Splurge on a Michelin-starred restaurant. London has become one of the food capitals of the world, which was not the case when I first moved there in the early ’90s. Today, the city is teeming with Michelin-starred restaurants. A favorite is The Ledbury, a two-star restaurant in a quiet Notting Hill Street with understated décor and service. An eight-course tasting lunch I had there was outstanding in taste, presentation, and creativity.
3. Explore the high street. The London high street is the main shopping road of a neighborhood and is an easy way through which one can grasp the character of the area and get a good glimpse of British brands and trends. Try Marylebone High Street near Harley Street, King’s Road in Chelsea, or Kensington High Street.
4. Take home something special from the Linley shop. Owned by a furniture maker who just happens to be a nephew of the Queen, the Linley shop branches in Mayfair, Pimlico, or inside Harrods offer the most interesting finds of mainly bespoke furniture and elegant accessories. The design influence melds neo-classical with modern, with an emphasis on special and rare wood veneers and inlay, all sourced from around the world. Finds are pricey, but anything from here is a keeper.
5. Stroll through a London Park. London's parks are beautiful oases that dot the city, and each has its own personality. Special to me is the relatively small Holland Park in Kensington. More of a neighborhood than a city park, it features sports grounds, children’s playgrounds, the ruins of an old mansion that transform into a venue for opera in the summer, a formal garden that changes with the seasons, an old ice storage house used for art exhibits, a former orangery transformed into an elegant restaurant, a peaceful Japanese garden with flowing water and koi, and peacocks strutting around during the warm months.
St. James Park
6. Eat your way through Borough Market. Borough Market in Southeast London is the city’s version of the Salcedo Community Market. Locals and tourists alike flock here from Thursday to Saturday to sample a wide variety of food and market goods offered by enterprising individuals. Here, one gets a good sense of how cosmopolitan London is, apart from a wonderful gustatory experience.
7. Experience high tea in style. High tea the British way is served up with much more pomp and splendor than anywhere else. Usually available between 3 to 5 p.m., this special meal is served in many London spots, from department stores to hotels and cafes. Try the Ritz Hotel for a fancy version or the Orangery in Kensington Gardens for something more casual yet still elegant. Choose from simple to lavish combinations of sandwiches, scones, and cakes. Tea, plus champagne if you’re feeling flush, is essential.
8. Browse the antiquarian bookshops and print shops. London is a haven for lovers of antiquarian ephemera, prints, and rare books. The small shops that line the cobblestone streets of St. Martin’s Court and Cecil Court, which are very close to the Leicester Square tube station, are just one of the many areas to explore. Each year I visit a one-of-a-kind bookshop that specializes solely in second-hand and rare children’s books.
9. Drop by Fortnum and Mason's. Fortnum’s is my favorite food emporium in London. Everything is beautifully packaged and just oh-so-traditional, from teas, biscuits, and chocolate confections to old-fashioned candy, cakes in keepsake tins, and the famous picnic hampers. One can have a classic English meal or its popular high tea in store. Few are aware that the distinctive building on Piccadilly also houses several floors of elegant department store goods. Fortnum’s lavish and whimsical shop windows—a visual treat for the passerby—are also a special attraction.
10. Have a great Chinese meal. It may be a surprise to some, but London has excellent Chinese food. My all-time favorite is Royal China in Bayswater for