The London Grill: David Long

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.


[A] writer and journalist since graduating with a second class degree from a first class university, David Long is the author of more than a dozen books, mostly on London and with titles titles reflecting an unquenchable thirst for the quirkier, lesser known aspects of its long history, continually changing streetscape and hugely diverse architecture. His latest book Bizarre London takes a look at the city’s colourful stories and historical tit bits.

What’s your secret London tip?
The Monument. I frequently climb up it with the children, but hardly ever meet anyone British on the way up or down, and can’t believe that such an historic building and such a fine view can be had so cheaply yet still be ignored by the locals.

Bizarre-London What’s your secret London place?

Trinity Buoy Wharf. It’s on my way into and out of London – I drive up from Suffolk – a good place for a picnic, there’s always something odd going on there and I love the ever changing view of the river.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
Too many people, as a consequence of which I will happily miss the show of the month (whatever it is it will be rammed) in favour of something a bit more offbeat which I might have to myself.

What’s your favourite building?
That’s a tough one, too tough, which is probably why when I wrote my book about strange buildings in London it ran to two volumes and 200 favourites. Let’s just say York Watergate for today, but I’ll change my mind again tomorrow.

What’s your most hated building?
Tower 42 because it displaced the Post Office Tower as Britain’s tallest but doesn’t look anywhere near as remarkable.

What’s the best view in London?
The one you get flying up the Thames in a 1930s biplane, which I’d love to do again. From ground level it has to be that from the Isle of Dogs looking towards Royal Greenwich.

What’s your personal London landmark?
I can walk around St James’s all day, and never get bored.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
It’s not perfect, but I’ve been addicted to the late Ben Weinreb’s Encyclopaedia since the first edition appeared 30 years ago and must have read it in its entirety at least half a dozen times.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
An early breakfast in the sun-lit Yellow Drawing Room at Sir John Soane’s house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a private tour of St James’s Palace followed by a long lunch at Wilton’s with three friends. After 10 minutes alone in front of Wright of Derby’s An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump at the National Gallery, what remained of the afternoon I’d happily spend at Kenwood – my grandmother lived in Hampstead so we were frequent visitors – and then back into the West End for jugged hare at Rule’s but with the old dress code restored and fewer tables than they now have.

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

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