The London Grill: Michael McNay

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.

Mike McNay

[M]ichael McNay is the author of Hidden Treasures of London (published by Random House Books). Michael worked for the Guardian for some thirty-seven years, during which time he wrote and edited features, was the paper’s first arts editor and wrote frequently on fine art and cinema. He was closely involved in the paper’s root and branch redesign of the late 1980s, and, to see it through, moved on to laying out and editing the front page for several years. He is now a freelance writer. His other books include Hidden Treasures of England and a study of the St Ives painter Patrick Heron.

What’s your secret London tip?
Set out at dawn.

What’s your secret London place?
Southside House, Wimbledon: a mixture of genuine 17th century with witty fakery and containing genuine old master paintings (and some that aren’t genuine).

Hidden-Treasures-of-LondonWhat’s your biggest gripe about London?
When you want to hail a taxi . . .

What’s your favourite building?
Richard Rogers’s knockout Lloyds.

What’s your most hated building?
Renzo Piano’s Shard. It would be great in Dubai.

What’s the best view in London?
From Tate Modern, fourth floor and above, across to the City from St Bride’s to London Bridge with the wonderful visual cacophony of Wren churches and the new towering citadels of capitalism, like a rock ‘n’ roll rendering of Oranges and Lemons.

What’s your personal London landmark?
St Paul’s Cathedral.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
Non-fiction: Out of print, out of date, but a great read: David Piper’s The Companion Guide to London. Fiction: Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags, a comedy of London in the blitz. Film: Jules Dassin’s Night and the City (1950)

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
The City Pride in Farringdon Lane: the last pub where I got comprehensively hammered, on my retirement many years ago.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Not drinking at the City Pride. Probably exploring the hidden depths of the V&A: always astonishing discoveries to be made.

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