The Carlton Tower’s executive chef and head concierge share their favorite places to eat, drink, and shop.
London landmarks surround The Carlton Tower Hotel: Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey to the east, Kensington Palace and Royal Albert Hall to the west, Hyde Park to the north, and Harrods, the high-end department store, just a five-minute walk away. This coveted location between Knightsbridge and Belgravia puts London’s sights in easy reach, along with neighborhood staples recommended by staff who know and love this part of the city. Executive chef Marco Calenzo and head concierge Michal Beneda recently shared some of their favorite places.
Forget the milk debate, the real afternoon tea question is whether to add a glass of Dom Pérignon (we vote yes).The Carlton Tower Hotel
A Multimillion-Dollar Makeover
Start by orienting yourself within the UK’s capital city with suite views stretching from Cadogan Place Garden to the London Eye. The Carlton Tower’s $137 million redesign, completed in 2021, upped the sophistication factor throughout the historic building, including its 186 rooms and two new restaurants. Afternoon tea at The Chinoiserie pairs England’s favorite beverage or a glass of Dom Pérignon with tiers of sweet and savory treats, while the more intimate Al Mare restaurant serves contemporary Italian fare. These large-scale changes come with smaller, thoughtful details, including monogrammed room keys and slippers and welcome notes made with edible white-chocolate Scrabble letters. “The personalization is top-notch, and some of the best I’ve seen,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Janelle Ruhumuliz.
Chef’s Tips from Marco Calenzo
Al Mare’s executive chef cares as much about sourcing ingredients from the country’s best vendors as he does about transforming them for the plate. At The Carlton Tower’s signature restaurant, the Tuscan native incorporates seasonal produce, sustainably raised meats, and fresh-caught seafood. Having helmed top kitchens in Beijing, Tokyo, Hawaii, and beyond, Calenzo is a master of delicate details. “We all have memories stowed away in the crevasses of our mind just waiting to be released,” he explains. “Others release them through writing, reading, and art. Our task as cooks is to release them through food.” Calenzo finds inspiration right outside his own doorstep and around the Knightsbridge neighborhood, and offers the following tips for visitors.
Stroll Pavilion Road: “There are plenty of cool shops and concepts, and I believe it’s the ideal place for a person who, like me, loves food.” Calenzo appreciates that Pavilion Road isn’t just a place to shop, but a chance to explore the flavors of London and beyond.
Find Seafood Surprises: “I shop at The Sea, The Sea for fish and shellfish, especially the daily catch right off the boats,” Calenzo says. He frequents the shop-by-day, oyster-bar-by-night to find ingredients for his Japanese-inspired pescatarian menus.
Where Cheese Is Life: To get a taste of the good stuff, Calenzo recommends booking the upstairs tasting room at London Cheesemongers, renovated from a market stall into a brick-and-mortar spot along Pavilion Road. “They’ll guide you through details like the taste, provenance, and technique behind each production,” he says.
Garden Delights: For the freshest vegetables, Calenzo looks to Natoora, which started as an online farmers market and now provides seasonal produce to chefs across London, Paris, New York, and Copenhagen. “I love all the vegetables, including the microgreens and very rare products coming from France and Italy,” he says.
Concierge Advice from Michal Beneda
The Carlton Tower’s head concierge delights in directing guests to his favorite spots around London. He’s quick to share secrets on getting into the hottest new restaurants, the up-and-coming band you need to hear, and where to find the most gorgeous gifts and flowers. Beneda is a proud member of The Golden Key Society (known as Les Clefs d’Or), connecting concierges across the globe, and brings more than 16 years of hospitality experience to the role. For both trendy and undiscovered experiences, Beneda offers some of his London favorites.
For Chocolate Lovers: Beneda describes Rococo Chocolates as “a dream place for any sweet tooth.” He suggests taking a chocolate-making workshop or finding a seat in the secret garden courtyard for “one of the best hot chocolates you’ve likely ever had.”
Mozart Market: Find room to roam and space to sit at Pimlico’s Saturday morning farmers market, held weekly on Orange Square (southeast of Knightsbridge) under the gaze of a Mozart statue. “There are around 25 vendors every week, selling everything from organic fruit and vegetables to fresh juices, and smoked fish to homemade bread,” Beneda says. “Remarkably, everything is grown, cooked, or fished within a 100-mile radius.”
The Next Shakespeare: Sloane Square’s Royal Court Theatre showcases new works by undiscovered and established writers from the UK and abroad. “It’s been described as one of the most important theaters in Europe for supporting some of the best wordsmiths going around,” Beneda adds.
A Quiet Pint: Tucked away from the rush of modern London, the cobblestone streets of Wilton Mews are home to colorful cottages and The Grenadier, an ale house with eighteenth-century roots. “Reputedly, the pub’s upper floors were once used as the officers’ mess of a nearby barracks,” Beneda explains, “whilst its cellar was pressed into service as a drinking and gambling lair for the common soldiers.”