Travel Black Book CEO Series

Travel Black Book: Eye on London

From art and architecture to food and shopping, the British capital is abuzz with activity

WHO: Mr Warren Foster-Brown, 47, managing director and founder of interior design consultancy FBEYE International.

Favourite destination: London, England.

I studied there and, of the many places I've been to, London holds a soft spot for me. Each time I visit, I find new things to do and places to explore and I discover new aspects of its unique culture. I try to visit at least two or three times a year.

SEE

I see something new on every visit to the Tate Modern (tinyurl.com/78rj53l), which has a diverse and dynamic programme of international modern and contemporary art exhibitions in a converted power station in London's Bankside neighbourhood.

Until April 2, the museum is showing a comprehensive retrospective of work by Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani. An exhibition by Russia-born, American-based artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, titled Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future, is on until Jan 28.

Walk there if you can. There is no better way to discover the city than to walk through it and soak in the atmosphere by wandering down side streets, admiring the architecture and finding hidden treasures.

The London Eye (www.londoneye.com) commands the best views of London and the surrounding counties, but my favourite view of the city is from Hampstead Heath.​

Hampstead is a lovely village about 6km from Charing Cross. It is best known for having some of the most expensive real estate in London.

The heath houses one of the highest points in London and I have spent many a happy Sunday afternoon there with friends, enjoying a picnic, a bottle of chilled wine and magnificent views of the city.

The easiest way to get to Hampstead from the centre of London is via the London Underground, the public transit system, avoiding all traffic, which can sometimes be a nightmare. Located on the northern line between zones two and three, the fare is under £5 (S$9), if paying in cash.

EAT

Picnic items can be found in many London food stores. For a casual picnic, Paul, the French bakery chain, can be found throughout London and one can easily assemble sandwiches, pies and cakes for £20.

For a special occasion, such as a date, you cannot beat the hamper for two from Fortnum and Mason (www.fortnumandmason.com), which is full of savoury and sweet delights, and wine starting at about £125.

Fortnum and Mason's Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is a wonderful place to watch the world go by. You might spot the odd celebrity or royal there while indulging in afternoon tea.

Restaurants in London come and go, particularly those that serve five-star meals at five-star prices.

While I am not averse to a fancy restaurant, for a snack or a feel-good meal, I like Burger and Lobster (www.burgerandlobster.com/en).

There are several outlets in the city and they serve everything from oysters and sea bass ceviche to beef carpaccio and burgers.

There is also a Singapore chilli roll with prawn and lobster and the B&L combo, which is a 1.25lb lobster and a 5oz burger for £32. It is filling and delicious.

It is a must to indulge in a full English breakfast: sausage, bacon, a fried egg, baked beans, fried bread, toast and a large mug of tea. It sets you up for the rest of the day. As I am not an early riser, it usually serves as brunch for me.

For a delicious breakfast, head to The Breakfast Club (tinyurl.com/y8eplbox) and its original location in Soho.

This place, inspired by the 1985 John Hughes film of the same name, has been around since 2005 and it has made breakfast an art form.

You also have to try English fish and chips. A trip to London is simply not complete without eating it.​

  • WHO: Mr Warren Foster-Brown, 47, managing director and founder of interior design consultancy FBEYE International. He has lived in Singapore for 17 years. PHOTO: COURTESY OF WARREN FOSTER-BROWN

  • GETTING THERE
     

    Singapore Airlines, British Airways and Norwegian Air offer direct flights from Singapore to London.

    TIPS
     

    •The best time to visit London is during the height of summer. There is nothing better than wandering around and seeing what the sun brings out in locals and tourists. London is a hub of nationalities - from English and Chinese to Japanese and Jamaican - which provides an abundance of design inspiration.

    •There is so much to see in London - something new every time - so I recommend staying one to two weeks.

    •Take along a good pair of walking shoes and always have a raincoat handy. The weather is unpredictable but charming.

    •London, on the whole, is a safe city. Just be street-smart - ensure your bag is zipped, keep your eye on your belongings - and you should be fine.

    •The traffic in London can be a nightmare, so it is best to avoid it by walking or taking the Tube. If you are staying in London for more than a week, it pays to get an Oyster card (oyster.tfl.gov.uk/oyster/entry.do). It is available at most newsstands and will reduce your costs on all travel on the Tube or buses.

Some of my favourite spots include Fish House (www.fishouse.co.uk), a modern restaurant serving ethically sourced seafood near Victoria Park, and Poppie's Fish & Chips (poppiesfishandchips.co.uk), a more traditional shop with numerous locations throughout the city.

PLAY

London's calendar is full of festivals throughout the year, but three highlights spring to mind.

Taste Of London (london.tastefestivals.com) is a five-day event in June in which Regent's Park hosts pop-ups by some of London's top restaurants.

They show off their newest dishes and age-old classics. Everyone can savour the dishes and participate in cooking classes, talks and tastings

The Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show (rhschelsea.seetickets.com) is a gardener's dream come true. More than 150,000 people from around the world visit in May every year to see the vast array of award-winning gardens and floral sculptures which are created specially for the event.

More than 500 exhibitors showcase their designs and visitors can get advice from some of the world's best gardeners.

There is also Winter Wonderland (hydeparkwinterwonderland.com) in Hyde Park every December, with stalls selling Christmas wares, local and exotic food and warm brewed ales. There are also fairground rides for children.

If you want to get off the tourist route, visit Mercato Metropolitano (www.mercatometropolitano.co.uk) in Newington Causeway, a 15-minute drive from central London.

The Italian market is packed with fresh produce from Italian and local producers. There are also artisan beer-makers, coffee roasters, fishmongers, butchers, bakers, eateries and bars across 4,000 sq m of space in a disused paper factory.

Here, you will find amazing food and artwork and some of the best gin and tonic in London.

All walks of life gather at the market - from the after-office crowd to families. It is a great way to get to know the local community.

If you want to get out of the city, I recommend heading south. I grew up in Romsey, Hampshire, on the south coast of England, about two hours by car from central London.

Romsey was the home of the last viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten. His family still lives in the town and his home, Broadlands, (www.broadlandsestates.co.uk), is occasionally open to tours.

All around Romsey is the New Forest National Park (www.newforestexplorersguide.co.uk), 571 sq km of ancient hunting ground where cattle and horses roam free among untouched heath, natural lakes and beautiful picnic spots.

There are 17 walking paths and 10 cycle routes, which make it easy to enjoy the countryside. There are villages around every corner and streets lined with English tea shops and antique shops.

SHOP

The world-famous Harrods (www.harrods.com) in Knightsbridge offers a fascinating array of products from some of the best designers and manufacturers from around the world. It spans several floors and is interspersed with food and beverage offerings.

For an off-beat shopping experience, Carnaby Street (www.carnaby.co.uk) in Soho is a haven of fashion shops and trendy cafes and bars. Made famous by several fashion designers, it is a place to see and be seen.

For the best of interiors and design, Design Centre Chelsea Harbour (dcch.co.uk) houses more than 120 showrooms, restaurants and bars.

My favourite souvenir to take home are pork pies. I crave them when I am back in Singapore. They are a traditional regional product and does not appeal to everyone's tastes.

The pies are made of fresh chopped pork, jellied and wrapped in a pastry cover and generally served cold with pickles or mustard.

My favourite brand is Melton Mowbray and it is available at good supermarkets at £6.80 for a large pie or £2.60 for a pack of six mini pies.

STAY

My favourite hotel in London is Claridge's (www.claridges.co.uk) in Mayfair, one of the city's oldest and best-known hotels.

It is centrally located with beautiful architecture, stunning interiors and wonderful bar and dining establishments.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 17, 2017, with the headline 'Eye on London'. Print Edition | Subscribe