The London Grill: Melissa Wareham

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.


[M]elissa Wareham was born in London in 1969. A mad-keen dog lover, she began her working life at Battersea Dogs Home, looking after London’s waifs and strays. After leaving Battersea, Melissa wrote about her 15 years at the world’s most famous dogs home, and Rescue Me – My Life with the Battersea Dogs was published in 2009. It reached number four in the Sunday Times bestsellers list. Since then, Melissa has written, Take Me Home – Tales of Battersea Dogs, a children’s adaptation of Rescue Me; Winston Windsor and the Diamond Jubilee, also for kids; and her fourth book, Rescuing Gus is a humorous account of life with Gus, an elderly mongrel with a wonky heart, whom she rescued from Battersea Dogs Home. Melissa lives in south-west London with her partner.

What’s your secret London tip?
Get up early and head into the West End at the weekend. It’s deserted before 11am and you’ll have the centre of this incredible city with its stunning landmarks all to yourself.

Rescue meWhat’s your secret London place?
Temple Church off Fleet Street. The Church itself is really interesting and dates back to 1185 but what I love about it is the secret, enclosed area surrounding it. It has quaint little courtyards, pretty gardens, ancient buildings and is a sea of tranquillity in an otherwise hectic city.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
The time it takes to get across town.

What’s your favourite building?
St. Paul’s Cathedral because it is more than just a beautiful piece of architecture. It represents the spirit of London and its people, as Winston Churchill well knew. Those evocative images of firemen trying to save it during the Blitz encapsulate just how important it is.

What’s your most hated building?
The Elephant & Castle shopping centre. Even though it’s no longer bright pink, it still has that 1960’s bad construction whiff about it.

What’s the best view in London?
Cliché alert: the view from Waterloo Bridge at Sunset or after dark. This born and bred Londoner still can’t get enough of it, and it’s equally stunning whether you’re looking up or down river.

What’s your personal London landmark?
Battersea Power Station. I used to gawp at this iconic London landmark every day for 15 years when I worked at Battersea Dogs Home. The dog walking area and some of the kennels back straight onto it. Talk about a room with a view!

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
Best film: The Bank Job with Jason Statham. I watched it when I was living in Australia and horribly homesick. For 90 minutes I was back in my beloved hometown.
Best book: The Spirit of London by Paul Cohen-Portheim. It’s a factual book about London’s suburbs, it’s parks, and it’s people and traditions. Even though it was written in the 1930’s so much of it is still true. It’s also a bit non-PC; another reason for its appeal!
Best documentary: BBC2’s The Secret History of Our Streets, aired at the beginning of the summer. Fascinating stuff.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
Bar: Oxo Tower, it does the best Pimms in London and has great views.
Pub: the Red Lion, Crown Passage (a tiny little alleyway in SW1). It is at least 330 years old and is the holder of the second oldest licence in London. The courtyard of a nearby wine merchants held London’s last legal dual and the loser breathed his last breath on the floor of the Red Lion. A sobering thought as you’re downing your pint!
Restaurant: Indian Room, my local curry house in Balham. It does the best chicken Madras in the world.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
If distance and travel were no object, I’d begin with breakfast at Brew on the Northcote Road, a pleasant stroll across Wandsworth Common from where I live. It does excellent food and great coffee. Next, a bike ride around Richmond Park to burn off breakfast, followed by lunch at the Electric Brasserie and a movie in the plush and comfy Electric Cinema next door. Then I’d wander down to the Portobello Market for some mooching and shopping (and perhaps a red velvet cupcake from Hummingbird Bakery to keep me going). Finally, a curry at my local followed by a show at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre (assuming the weather behaves itself!).

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

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