The London Grill: Robert Lordan

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.


[R]obert Lordan is author of the excellent website View from the Mirror. If spending nearly five years getting his bill wasn’t enough Rob then went on to successfully complete the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers course to become a tour guide and he conducts murder, Harry Potter and American themed tours.

What’s your secret London tip?
We all love a good cuppa, so head for “Twinings” on the Strand (which has been at the location since 1706) and make your way right to the back of the premises.

Once there, you’ll find a little, communal kitchen-type area. From here, you sample the wide array of tea on
offer . . . all for free! You might want to buy a packet of Darjeeling on the way out though.

What’s your secret London place?
The area beside Cherry Garden Pier in Bermondsey. It’s always peaceful, and has great views across the Thames towards Tower Bridge and the City. If you have time for a drink, The Angel on the corner of Cathay Street is superb.

There’s a bit of history here too; the ruins of an old manor house, built by King Edward III, can be seen.

More sadly, a bench in the area was once home to my favourite London sculpture; Dr Salter’s Daydream; a poignant statue representing a famous, Bermondsey doctor remembering his long-deceased, young daughter. In November 2011, the statue was nicked (probably for scrap metal). Broke my heart when I found out.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
I know it’s an obvious answer, but it has to be the colossal number of CCTV cameras – or, to be more accurate – the way in which they are employed.

Do a u-turn in the wrong place or pull up for 1 minute on a double yellow, on a quiet road at 9.30pm (both real-life examples which I and many others have suffered) and wallop! You’re branded a crook and forced to cough up your hard earned dough.

Meanwhile, a mile or so down the road, someone’s getting mugged, or a gang of kids are having a knife fight. Sure, they sometimes catch footage of such events, but inevitably, they will be blurred, lazy and of no use at all. CCTV generally excels at snapping number plates with draconian efficiency, leading the likes of us to live in fear of a PCN every time we pass an orange light.

Where was the CCTV when Dr Salter’s statue was being lifted, hey?

What’s your favourite building?
St. Paul’s Cathedral. Apart from being a beautiful piece of architecture, the fact that it emerged from the ashes of the Great Fire of London, and survived the devastating air-raid of 29th December 1940 (during which the famous photo of the building amongst the smoke was taken) means that it is the ultimate symbol of London’s defiant spirit.

If you look up on the cathedral’s south side, you’ll see an image of a phoenix, above the Latin word: “Resurgum.” That says it all really.

What’s your most hated building?
“50 Farringdon Road”, that long, grey, blocky building really is architecture at its worst. Bland and overly-imposing at the same time, it shuts out daylight and turns that section of Farringdon Road into what feels like a deep, dark trench. Must be soul-destroying for the poor sods who have to work there.

What’s the best view in London?
It’s from Waterloo Bridge; especially at dusk. From there, you can see the two historic centres of London; The City and Westminster and everything which binds them together, glittering like a length of tinsel. If I’ve had a tough day, I’ll often take a drive over it, just to remind me how gorgeous the city I work in really is.

What’s your personal London landmark?
“Quality House” on Willesden Lane. A dull building I suppose, but it used to be Brent registry office; the place I was taken as a baby and rubber-stamped into the world.

What’s your favourite London film, book or documentary?
Very difficult to pick a favourite. I love anything made by the old Euston Films Company; The Sweeney, Minder – and of course, Jack Rosenthal’s, The Knowledge, mainly because they were always filmed on location and are pure London.

If I had to choose though, I would probably go for a rare, film called Babylon. It was made all around New Cross and Brixton in 1980, long before gentrification. It also has glimpses of Soho when it was at its seediest, and contains a great reggae soundtrack.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
“Lemongrass”, which is on Royal College Street in Camden. It’s the UK’s only Cambodian restaurant; the food is terrific (a kind of fusion between Thai and French cuisine), reasonable prices and all cooked by just one chef, who you can see working at close quarters (the flames leaping off of his hob can be alarmingly high!)

As for pubs, I’m very fond of the ‘Ye Old Swiss Cottage’. The beer is fairly priced and, being in the middle of a major junction, few people are willing to cross the road to get there; something which means the place is always nice and quiet. And it has its own tube station!

How would you like to spend your ideal day off in London?
I’d start with a hearty breakfast at one of the early-morning Smithfield pubs (maybe even a pint or two with the market boys as they clock off!)

I’d then head off to the Museum of London, one of our capital’s best and check out their latest exhibition (Charles Dickens at the moment). I’d also spend a good while in their book shop, which is a treasure-trove of London trivia.

After that, I’d take a stroll through the city, enjoying the secret parks and the pure history of the place. If there was time, I’d squeeze in a visit to the top of The Monument.

For lunch, I’d hail a taxi over to Little Georgia on Goldsmiths Row in Hackney. This is another fantastic restaurant; the food is all home-cooked by a motherly chef. Their borsch is fantastic; made with cream, tasty sausages and enough spice to give it a kick; you can’t beat it during a winter snap.

After a few pints of London Pride at the Old Ship on Mare Street, I’d head back west and catch an evening show- ideally, Warhorse which is just breath-taking. After a late night coffee at Bar Italia, I’d then catch a taxi home, and enjoy a good putting the world to rights chat with my fellow cabbie.

This ‘Grill’ was first posted on the Radio Taxis blog.

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