We challenge our contributors 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 they will face the same questions ranging from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out what Londoners think about their city. The questions are the same but the answers vary wildly.
Tom Hutley is a London cabbie who shares his working experiences on YouTube (nice to see he’s finally putting his degree in Film Production to good use).
Tom is also a qualified tour guide in the London Borough of Camden, Freeman of the City, and Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers.
What’s your secret London tip?
Links, it’s all about links. Ask questions and link them together. Everything links together. Street names, dates, places. You can uncover so much history if you just link it.
What’s your secret London place?
Lower Robert Street. Very rarely is it ever needed in the taxi. But when you do need it, wow it makes feel like James Bond, your passenger too!
What’s your biggest gripe about London?
When people don’t have a plan. If my friends come up I always ensure we have some kind of itinerary. Otherwise, you WILL just end in Leicester Square. It is a vortex, a lot of tube lines converge there or nearby. You follow crowds and hustle. Next thing you know, you’re having Pret for lunch followed by a pint in a Greene King tourist trap wondering where your money went and why your pint tastes awful.
What’s your favourite building?
This always changes for me, but currently; No. 1 London. Apsley House (the house of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington). For something so prominent, people often miss it. Going inside and observing the grand Waterloo Banquet painting in the Portico Drawing Room before stepping into the Waterloo Gallery (where the banquet was held). It just blew my mind, if those walls could talk.
What’s your most hated building?
Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. How was this monstrosity allowed when it’s surrounded by; The Supreme Court (at least now it is), The Institute of Civil Engineers, Central Methodist Hall, and of course Westminster Abbey.
What’s the best view in London?
My favourite ‘window’ is on the pavement between Sherwood Street and Glasshouse Street (almost under the Piccadilly screens). Under the arched Alliance Life Office you can see the Grand Old Duke of York, and then the Union Jack flying high on the Victoria tower at Parliament. I find it amazing how certain landmarks align from different viewpoints.
What’s your personal London landmark?
Holborn Circus and Rotunda. I broke down on my motorbike here at about 2:00 am in 2009. Way before I had ever heard of The Knowledge. I can remember being cold and having no clue where I was. I was at the entrance of Ely Place. When I got recovered, the tow truck driver took me over the deserted Holborn Viaduct, through the narrow restrictions, up Little Britain and into the Rotunda. I was just in awe, seeing the Giant cycle shop and how bright their display was. The way the Rotunda just hits you in the face as you approach it. The height of the buildings that surround it. The walkways that lead over to it. I had never seen anything like it. Fast forward to 2014 I took a job in a nearby office and I got to relive that journey every day on my commute.
What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
Film – The Knowledge by Jack Rosenthal. It’s just timeless, it gives me shivers and makes me so proud to be a cabbie. Book – This is London (Ben Judah). It illuminates a side of London that you often never see, the people who come to seek fortunes in London but end up being pushed to the periphery of society. Documentary – I really like some of Vice YouTube pieces. It’s more documenting underworldly criminal activity, but of course, generally taking place in London. Metaphorically, I’m just turning over the stones and seeing all the hidden facets of London.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
More cafe/eatery, but I love Sapori’s on Horseferry Road. It’s great value, and in the evenings just has a wonderful energy about it. Yes, it’s frequented by cabbies, but overhearing the conversations with the odd mention of a London road name or two. It just makes me feel at home.
How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Tube into town, reading a non-fiction book; Grab a drink from an independent coffee shop; Walk to a nearby museum; Grab a quick bite to eat; Bus across town a different area; Try a pub I’ve never been to; Walk to another nearby pub; Grab a cab to a tube station; Tube home; Repeat next weekend.