The London Grill: Peter Watts

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.

Peter Watts

[I] am a London journalist and blogger. From 2005 to 2010 I worked at Time Out as their features writer, which allowed me to explore my fascination with London. In that time, I really got to see the city, going everywhere from beneath the streets in the old Fleet River to the top of a Hackney church tower to interview Iain Sinclair. I still write regularly about London for various publications, and blog about the city at www.greatwen.com.

What’s your secret London tip?
This might not be popular on a black cab website, but walk everywhere. It’s the best way to see those parts of London between main roads and tube stations, which is where most of the really fascinating London treasures are to be found, like the Russian tank in Elephant or the spoons of Clerkenwell.

What’s your secret London place?
So many choices but Bookmongers second-hand bookshop in Brixton is probably my favourite spot to spend an hour or two at the moment. Great book, lovely dog and always a decent soundtrack.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
House prices and transport fares.

What’s your favourite building?
Today, All Saints church on Margaret Street north of Oxford Street – it looks as if it has been plonked into its space by a giant hand from above. I am not religious, but I do love London’s churches. I also adore Senate House.

What’s your most hated building?
I’ve never liked No 1 Poultry.

What’s the best view in London?
People go on about Waterloo Bridge, but I’ve always enjoyed the view from Vauxhall Bridge, which gives a nice panorama of the Thames from further west. Height-wise, I’ve spent many happy afternoons on Primrose Hill admiring the vista. You also get a surprisingly good view from the dentistry department of Guy’s Hospital, which is on the 22nd floor near London Bridge.

What’s your personal London landmark?
Whenever I return to London on the train from the north, I always get a little thrill when I see the first tube train on a parallel track – it’s like a ‘welcome home’ sign. I also have a soft spot for the North Stand at Stamford Bridge and the canal at Lisson Grove.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
Film: Performance and An American Werewolf In London.
Book (fiction): Christy Malry’s own Double Entry by BS Johnson and King Dido by Alexander Baron.
Book (non-fiction): London Encyclopedia (ed Christopher Hibbert) and Pleasures of London by Felix Barker and Peter Jackson.
Documentary: Primitive London (DVD on BFI Flipside).

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
Bradley’s Spanish Bar in Hanway Street was a favourite haunt for many years. Upstairs on Acre Lane in Brixton is a great, little-known French restaurant.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Pancakes for breakfast at the Lido Cafe in Brockwell Park; then to a museum or gallery (any will do); a walk through somewhere like the City, Clerkenwell, Borough or Holborn; then to Hampstead Heath or Richmond Park for a picnic lunch and a wander. Back to town for dinner somewhere expensive, and then a whiskey in a cosy mews pub.

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

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