Category Archives: The Grill

The London Grill: John Kennedy

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 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 really think about their city. The questions might be the same but the answers vary wildly.

[W]ell known for his campaigning on London cab issues, John Kennedy was a regular contributor on the late Big George’s BBC London Radio evening show. He has recently become an urban trainspotter, seeking out the myriad of London’s bollards some over 200 years old, and featuring them on his website, and has recently been featured in Time Out’s blog.

What’s your secret London tip?

Always use a licensed London taxi-cab.

What’s your secret London place?

The benches built into Hammersmith Bridge, take a close look next time you cross.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?

The failure and huge cost of Transport for London. I honestly think this company is not needed nor required. Each part of London’s transport infrastructure has its own management structure.

What’s your favourite building?

The Palace of Westminster, the Gasworks . . .

What’s your most hated building?

My most hated building is City Hall, it sums up the London Government. You go round and round in circles yet never end up where you want to be.

What’s the best view in London?

The roof of Bush House, I was lucky enough to be invited up there on New Years Eve by BBC World Service, the fireworks were fantastic.

What’s your personal London landmark?

It must be the bollards in the City of London.

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

The Long Good Friday is my favourite film, I like to read non fiction and presently I’m reading about our constitution.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?

My favourite pub is the Crown & Greyhound (the dog) in Dulwich Village SE21.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?

My ideal day off in London would be just walking around Regent’s Park with my wire haired fox terriers . . .

The London Grill: Brian Wright

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.

[B]rian was born in Pimlico in 1951 and lived there till 1984. When he left school in 1968, he served an apprenticeship and then became a compositor in the print but was finally made redundant in 1975. He has been a taxi driver for 38 years, on Radio Taxis for 32 years and a chauffeur on and off since the mid-1980s. He says that this is the best job in the world if done right because its flexibility allowed him to get a degree in Irish Studies and Modern History at the University of North London in 1994. Following that, he did some minor journalism, wrote one one unpublished play and is currently writing another about being a teenager in Pimlico in the 1960s. Having recently and finally migrated from film to a digital camera, he hopes to use his recently-started blog, www.capitallettersblog.com, to show off the real London that he sees in his daily travels.

What’s your secret London tip?

Go into the City of London on a Sunday and just walk through the back streets and alleys. It’s hard not to be affected by the weight of history that will meet you and easy to imagine how life was back in medieval times. Just get lost, don’t try to get anywhere in particular.

What’s your secret London place?

St John’s Lodge, Inner Circle, Regent’s Park. Completed by Sir John Nash in 1819. It’s close to the junction of Chester Road, around one o’clock as one looks at the map. The Lodge, a private residence, has a secluded garden open to the public which is accessed through a pergola. It’s one of the most tranquil spots in London that I know.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?

People who move out of London saying that London is no place to bring up kids. Rubbish. I took my daughter to everything that I could think of from Club Row with people just selling shoes on the pavement to the English National Opera, from The Oxo Tower to pie and mash shops. She has a set of mental tools now that she’ll draw upon for the rest of her life.

What’s your favourite building?

The Queen’s House, Greenwich. I love Palladian architecture and this was one of Inigo Jones’s first such efforts. It’s graceful, in a beautiful location and just one illustration of what makes London the greatest city in the World.

What’s your most hated building?

1 Poultry, London EC2. The worst (or best?) example of Post-modern architecture I can think of. When I was a kid, I had a building set consisting of geometrically-shaped wooden blocks and this building reminds me of that. It replaced a beautiful neo-Gothic Mappin & Webb building and the only good thing about its demolition was that they found a Roman wooden drain during excavation. Whenever I can bear to gaze at this stupid building, I expect to see Di Caprio and Winslett on the balcony atop its axis a la Titanic, the movie.

What’s the best view in London?

It’s a cliché, but Waterloo Bridge, any direction, any time of day or night.

What’s your personal London landmark?

The junction of Warwick Way and Denbigh Street. My parents met in 1936 in the basement of the draper’s shop in Denbigh St that was The Madrid Club, the headquarters of the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. My father sold The Daily Worker on one corner of the junction while Sir Oswald Mosley and his thugs sold theirs on the opposite corner, the site of many a battle against fascists. There used to be a menswear shop on one corner in the 1960s called Phillips where I bought lots of Mod gear in the day. Just up Wilton Road was also one of the first Wimpy Bars in London.

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

The London Encyclopaedia, essential reading for anybody curious about this great city.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?

La Famiglia, 7 Langton St, Worlds End SW10. Opened by Alvaro Maccioni in the mid-1970s, I ‘ve been going back again and again since then and am yet to find better Italian food in London served con amore, with love. Alvaro also had a pizzeria in King’s Road in the late 1960s to which I and my mates used to go to on a Sunday night after coming out of the Bird’s Nest pub and they’re still the best pizzas I ever tasted. Alvaro is still seen in La Famiglia these days, keeping an eye on their very high standards.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?

I believe in using public transport wherever possible. So it’s a quick continental breakfast at my local St David Coffee House opposite Forest Hill station. On to the recently extended East London Line from there to Rotherhithe and then I’ll walk along the south side of the river as far as the Southbank for some of the best views of London.

Cutting through Trafalgar Square into Soho and it’s lunch at Pizza Malletti in Noel Street for the best pizza al taglio this side of Napoli. A browse through the used record shops that still exist in Soho and Hanway Street, I’m still trying to fill the gaps in my collection of jazz and 1960s soul and ska.

Over to Bar Italia in Frith St for the best coffee in London and, recharged, I’m walking down to the National Portrait Gallery for a leisurely gaze and some temptation in its shop. Then my beloved 24 bus that I went to school on to IL Posto restaurant in Vauxhall Bridge Road for my favourite spaghetti vongole. If I’m lucky, I’ll bomb back to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club for the second house and a taxi back to Forest Hill.

The London Grill: Malcolm Edwards

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.

I’m a 60 year old West Londoner, born in North Kensington I moved all the way to Notting Hill 30 years ago and have remained here ever since. I am a strictly amateur photographer and an irregular blogger (London Ramblings for those interested!). I can’t imagine ever living anywhere else.

What is your secret London tip?
There is a whole lot more to London than the famous historical sites. Wander freely, there is something of interest just about everywhere. Don’t forget to look up, there’s a lot going on above eye level . . . and don’t be afraid to go south of the river LOL

What’s your secret London place?
Never give away too many secrets but for a quiet plce to sit and think in the City, try he garden of St Dunstan in the East . It’s best avoided during the middle of the day as it’s a popular spot for the local office workers to spend their lunch hour, but at any other time it is certainly worth a visit.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
The usual, uncoordinated road works, traffic congestion, expensive public transport. Museums and galleries that close too early. People (both tourists and locals) who treat the city as one huge litter bin.Oh yes, and the Olympics!

What’s your favourite building?
St Paul’s, closely followed by the Natural History Museum.

What’s your most hated building?
One New Change, no contest!.

What’s the best view in London?
I love a high viewpoint such as Primrose Hill or Greenwich but the cliched truth is that it is the view from Waterloo Bridge. Both upstream and down stream. A great place to watch the sunrise and, especially, the sunset.

What’s your personal London landmark?
The Post Office Tower (yes, I am several name changes behind!), with special mentions for the much maligned Centre Point and Trellick Tower.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
The Lavender Hill Mob for it’s views of the war torn area around St Paul’s.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
The Angel, Bermondsey Wall. A good place to sit outside on a summer evening with a pint and some friends and watch the sun go down behind Tower Bridge. Plus, everyone should visit E. Pellici on Bethnal Green Rd at least once in their lives!

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
On a good day. Breakfast and a book in Holland Park. Followed by a walk through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’s Park down to the river. Across Westminster Bridge and along the South Bank to Tower Bridge. If the tides are right, that would include a walk along the foreshore from the Royal Festival Hall to Bankside. From the Tower I would head back west through the City until either the time or my legs suggest that it would be a good idea for me to hop on a bus home. On a bad day, either South Kensington and the big three museums or the British Museum, lunch in the Great Court followed by an random wander through the galleries.

The London Grill: Geoffrey Riesel

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.

[T]ODAY WE GRILL Geoffrey Riesel ex-Chairman and CEO of Radio Taxis Group for his responses. His interests include music, reading, movies, theatre, Manchester United, Formula 1, driving, food and drinking champagne. He should know a thing or two about London for he has held a taxi licence for many years. Rather against the spirit of “The Grilling”, he claimed that it was quite nice to do, but he did have to think quite hard because he has so many favourites, so his answers must come under favourite favourites.

What’s your secret London tip?
Take the river bus from Greenwich Park to Westminster and back; London looks so magnificently different from the river.

What’s your secret London place?
The Goring Hotel, it is such a calm, old fashioned and gentile backwater.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
It has to be the “traffic calming” bumps and street furniture along with CCTV cameras being used to “nick” cab drivers who are just going about their work.

What’s your favourite building?
The Savoy Hotel fantastically restored luxurious art deco building.

What’s your most hated building?
Centre Point. I attend the CBI London Regional Council there and even the inside is totally soul-less.

What’s the best view in London?
From the top of the London Eye.

What’s your personal London landmark?
The Gherkin is a smashing and iconic building.

What’s your favourite London film, book or documentary?
It’s a toss-up between The Lady Killers filmed at Kings Cross starring Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom and Passport to Pimlico starring Stanley Holloway.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
Also the Goring Hotel restaurant with crystal lights by Lord Linley and cordon bleu English food including one of the Queen Mothers’ favourite recipes.

How would you like to spend your ideal day off in London?
Taking my grandchildren to play around Primrose Hill, then lunch at Harry Morgan’s Salt Beef bar in St Johns Wood and finally taking the grandkids around the toy department at Selfridges (I’m sad to say the music department there is no more). Then finally buying some deli from Selfridge’s food store before spoiling the Grandchildren with chocolate from Selfridge’s resplendent sweet shop.

The London Grill: Lloyd Shepherd

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.


[L]loyd Shepherd is a writer, journalist and digital producer. He is the author of The English Monster, and lives in South London with his wife and children.

What’s your secret London tip?
The Vale Street Recycling Centre in Lambeth. It’s not a proper tip anymore, but you can recycle almost anything there, and the blokes who work there are always friendly and helpful.

What’s your secret London place?
Either Wapping or Rotherhithe. Either side of the Thames, both are still strangely undeveloped and filled with old buildings, intriguing walls and, best of all, great pubs. Try The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping or The Mayflower in Rotherhithe.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
People who are always griping about London. If you don’t like it, do feel free to move.

What’s your favourite building?
County Hall (1922-1986)

What’s your most hated building?
County Hall (1986-present)

What’s the best view in London?
The view from the top of Brockwell Park.

What’s your personal London landmark?
There are two, each one the birthplace of one of my children: my house and St Thomas’s Hospital.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
From Hell, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. An extraordinarily rich graphic novel retelling the saga of Jack the Ripper.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
Pub: the Half Moon in Herne Hill. Restaurant: Franklins in East Dulwich.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
I’d take the Overground to Wapping, have lunch in the Prospect of Whitby, walk along the river into the City and along the Embankment, watch the lights of London come on from Waterloo Bridge, and then see Richard Thompson playing in the Festival Hall. Followed by a boat down to Hammersmith and supper and a beer by the river. Note: this may not be physically possible.