The London Grill: Jane Northcote

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.

Jane Northcote ( is an urban sketcher and printmaker based in the City of London. She sketches in pen and ink and watercolour. She aims to show the changing city: new and old structures together, the often surprising juxtapositions that result from patchwork planning decisions and historical changes of use. Drawing a building is a good way to notice it. Jane’s drawings take about 1-2 hours, done mostly on location. Looking at a building for that length of time reveals architectural details and odd quirks of design, which enriches the experience of the city. Image above shows The Globe Moorgate, sketched 29 August 2022, details can be found here.

What’s your secret London tip?

It’s often quicker to walk. Look at a street map, not the Tube Map. For example, St Pauls to the Barbican is a 5 min straightforward walk north, but a complicated and lengthy Tube journey. It looks a long way on the Tube Map, but the two locations are really close.

What’s your secret London place?

Cleary Gardens off Queen Victoria Street. This garden is almost invisible from the street, it looks built up. But go inside and you find a terraced garden, sheltered by vines and trees, with benches. A lovely quiet sanctuary in the City.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?

The air quality. Cars running their engines when stationary. People leaving rubbish, especially takeaway food containers, in public places. Often they stack them neatly, or line up the discarded cans, as though that makes it better! Bicycles jumping the lights. I am a cyclist. A minority of cyclists zip through red lights and onto pavements, often at unexpected angles. This scares pedestrians and irritates motor vehicle drivers. As well as this being unbelievably dangerous, these selfish miscreants give all cyclists a bad name, and drivers get angry at all of us. I’m in favour of bike registration, as in the Netherlands.

What’s your favourite building?

The ruined church of St Mary Aldermanbury, North of the Guildhall in the City of London. The truncated columns of the church are still there, and the old walls are covered in moss. I like to imagine the church. Sometimes the best buildings are those of the imagination.

What’s your most hated building?

122 Bishopsgate. It’s huge, bland, and has a forbidding entrance at street level. Perhaps it’s nicer on the inside?

What’s the best view in London?

From the Millennium Bridge, early in the morning, looking east.

What’s your personal London landmark?

The Post Office Tower, now the BT Tower. It is often visible from the most surprising places. A sudden view of the BT Tower helps me orient myself.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?

There are many. My current favourite is the Slough House series by Mick Herron, starting with “Slow Horses”. He evokes the enormity and the detail of London.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

Am I allowed two? The Turks Head Wapping: a great restaurant, tables in amongst the trees. The Wren Café in St Nicholas Cole: wonderful views of stained glass windows inside, wonderful views of St Pauls outside.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?

A walk up the river to the Turks Head, lunch outdoors under the trees, a walk back, sketching on the river foreshore, a stroll around exploring city lanes, tea at the Barbican lakeside.

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