We challenge our contributor to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat will face the same questions that range from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out just what Londoners really think about their city. The questions might be the same but the answers vary wildly.
Originally from Northern Ireland, I’ve been to more than 100 countries, and lived in eight, but have now been in London for more than 15 years – my longest in one place. I was Features Editor of Metro for 10 years and am now editor-in-chief of TRVL, voted best iPad magazine in 2012 and the highest-rated on iTunes. Before Metro, I worked on the Camden New Journal and was a restaurant critic for the Daily Mirror. I started Secret London about 10 years ago and am alternately fascinated and frustrated by how much there is to discover in London.
What’s your secret London tip?
Walk around the City on Sundays. You will have much of it to yourself and discover a world of new things. Be bold when you see something interesting – people are usually helpful if you are genuinely curious.
What’s your secret London place?
Well, I have a website full of them. Let’s say it’s the Red Room off Park Lane, Henry VIII’s former hunting lodge overlooking Hyde Park, but my really secret place stays secret.
What’s your biggest gripe about London?
People who charge out of shop doorways and are surprised to find that other people are walking along the pavement. In a city of 7million people?
What’s your favourite building?
Notre Dame de France, a hidden oasis of calm off Leicester Square, right next to the Prince Charles cinema. Some lovely artwork inside and you might be lucky enough to catch a West African wedding or an incense-rich Latin mass.
What’s your most hated building?
Canary Wharf has no soul and its private army of security guards, while individually pleasant enough, can combine to make you feel very unwelcome.
What’s the best view in London?
Coming back down the Thames from Greenwich to Westminster at night. I once drove a powerboat at 55knots from Tower Bridge to the Thames Barrier – that was magnificent.
What’s your personal London landmark?
I am fascinated by postboxes, each one is different with royal cyphers dating back to Queen Victoria and each has a unique key, meaning older ones have deep grooves scored by decades of being opened by postmen with large bunches of keys. I’m afraid I bore my friends about them. Have you ever seen an Edward VIII one? I only know of two in London.
What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
It’s starting to date but I like Withnail and I, if only because I have a Swaziland connection with Richard E Grant, as does Matthew Paris.
What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
It has to be Soho’s Secret Tea Room, which is the room above the bar in Norman’s Coach & Horses, used by Private Eye for its famous lunches. I love the retro feel, right down to the old gramophone and lament how bad coffee shops have replaced a proper afternoon tea. Not a bad pub, either.
How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Breakfast in a proper East End café, then exploring and photographing a part of London I haven’t yet discovered, with bangers & mash in a good pub for lunch. Then an evening of martinis from Antonio at the Egerton, followed by dinner at Richard Corrigan’s.
This ‘Grill’ was first posted on the Radio Taxis blog.