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Travel Guide London

Katy Katani a Jane of All Trades - London
July 25, 2012

London taste-maker Katy Katani is a true Jane of all trades—business developer, PR director, sales and marketing manager, and savvy global networker. As head of business development at the award-winning, eco-design architectural firm Llewelyn Davies Yeangshe, she knows her home turf well—both in business and pleasure. Today, she hands Galavante the keys to her local London and shows us the best doors to unlock.

Three words we would use to describe Katy:

Stylish, cutting edge and trendsetter

Three words Katy would use to describe herself

Travel Enthusiast, socialite, modest

Galavante: Can you tell us something about yourself and background?  How long have you been in London?

Katy: I am head of business development for an architectural company, and I’ve lived in London on and off for almost 25 years, of which two years were spent in Los Angeles and two in Spain. Prior to that, I was living in Iran.

I enjoy traveling, experiencing different cultures, and meeting people from different backgrounds. I am a real people person, and helping others is of great importance to me.  I would dedicate more time to charity if I had the opportunity.

Galavante: What drew you to L.A.  How was it different than London?

Katy: After graduating from university, I really welcomed the opportunity to live abroad for a while and experience a different way of life. L.A. was always on my list of places to visit. I was drawn by the weather, the outdoor lifestyle, laid back attitude, as well as the glamour of Hollywood!

L.A. has its good and bad points. Apart from the obvious good weather, there are  abundant outdoor activities; a healthier lifestyle given the abundance of organic foods, supermarkets, and restaurants; and a wide choice of beaches, vineyards, deserts, and mountains to explore within driving distance. One thing I miss about L.A. is its diners. I used to go to Mel’s Drive-In and Jerry’s Famous Deli all the time. I wish they would open one in London!

However, a few things did frustrate me, such as the heavy traffic and the need to always rely on a car. It was very easy to meet people and make acquaintances, but making real friends was difficult, although I was very lucky to make some life-long friends in the end.

Galavante: Where do you normally hang out in London? What are your favorite neighborhoods?

Katy: When in London, my favorite neighborhood to hang out in is Notting Hill. It’s in the heart of the city and the epicenter of bohemian London chic. I also love Marylebone Village, the King’s Road area in Chelsea, and Hampstead.

Galavante: What are your favorite pubs and restaurants in London?

Katy: I tend to prefer gastro pubs that have a garden, which are particularly nice on a summer’s day. I also love going to pubs in the countryside, which have a good atmosphere and good food after a nice walk or hike. The ones I always go to are The Spaniards Inn and Freemasons Arms in Hampstead, The Flask in Highgate, and The Stables restaurant at The Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire. The Abingdon and Windsor Castle in Kensington are also good pubs.

In terms of restaurants, my typical choice would be Asian food, especially Japanese, as I find this is the most difficult to make at home. However, I always love trying new places irrespective of cuisine. I prefer venues that are modern, trendy, and lively, such as Hakkasan, Umu, Aqua Kyoto, Busaba Eathai, Locanda Locatelli, Amaya, and Momo.

Galavante: Where would you suggest for a group dinner?

Katy: My favorite venue in London for a group dinner has to be the Supper Club. It doesn’t necessarily have the best food, but it’s a beautiful venue with a great atmosphere, especially if you like dancing. There’s also cabaret, which is always fun! Momo is another nice place for special occasions. They serve the best Moroccan food in town, plus entertainment.

Galavante: We heard you make a fabulous risotto. Can you share any tips on preparing this dish?

Katy: Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies, and I love trying new recipes. I make different kinds of risotto, but I especially like wild mushroom risotto. Porcini mushrooms are the key. I buy mine from an Italian deli, which imports them. The quality of the rice is also important, so only use Italian-grown Arborio rice. Risotto is best made with stock from fresh vegetables. Adding butter and Parmesan cheese also gives it an extra creamy flavor.

Galavante: You travel often. Where are your favorite places to travel? Any recommendations for hotels?

Katy:  It’s hard to say where my favorite places are. I love traveling more than anything, and every time I go somewhere new, there’s so much to discover.  I especially like destinations that are rich in culture and scenery and allow you to feel completely away from it all, such as India, Japan, Costa Rica, and Kenya.

I love trying new hotels and always look out for trendy new openings whenever I travel to a new country. Last year I went to Costa Rica and was lucky to find an incredible boutique hotel called The SUU.

My favorite city brands are The Thompson, Morgans Hotel Group, and Viceroy. In New York, 60 Thompson is one of my favorites. I also love the W in Miami.