Tag Archives: The Grill

The London Grill: Marie-Louise Samuels

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.

My name is Marie-Louise, and I am a London Black Cab driver. I have been a cabbie for just over four years and I absolutely LOVE my job, making passengers smile and giving them a great lasting impression of me! I’m not the usual type of cab driver that you would expect when you hail me down. You will be met with a welcoming smile and big positive, vivacious energy, my flamboyant personality is as much versatile as my dress sense. I enjoy travelling, learning new things, as I don’t know it all and laughing as it’s good for the soul, try it!

What’s your secret London tip?

My secret London tip is to get lost! You’ll find out so many new things or may end up in a bar or two!

What’s your secret London place?

My secret London place wouldn’t be a secret now as you’re going to know! But as I’m one to share it would be Peckham Levels something about being in familiar territory.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?

London’s cycle lanes the length of a car space but are not being used! Take Euston underpass for one, get rid of the lane and revert it to its original two lanes and get London moving again – well eastbound anyway.

What’s your favourite building?

My favourite building or one of them is the Shard! Been there a few times and the view of London/surrounding areas is amazing even better at night.

What’s your most hated building?

Most hated building in London? I don’t have one! I reckon if you give them a good clean then they would look nicer, well to look at anyway.

What’s the best view in London?

The best view in London as told by a passenger would be in Highgate (Southwood Lane), you can see the Dartford Crossing without wincing, but the view is amazing.

What’s your personal London landmark?

My personal landmark is the buildings in Canary Wharf, just something about staring at it from Greenwich or from the Emirates Air Cable gives me at ease love my city vibes.

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

London’s best film for me personally is Rocks (2020), it gives a true reflection of London where I grew up and have come to know.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

Balthazar in Covent Garden.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?

I would usually spend my day off by going to the gym and getting a workout done as it helps me start my day off right and then go catch a film as I like to keep on top of the latest films. I then go to my favourite place in London which is Southbank, taking a long stroll down the Embankment, watching everyone around me go by and take in the incredible London sights, grab a coffee and not think about work or being in my cab!! There’s so much to appreciate around us and some parts you can’t get to in a cab.

The London Grill: Gavin Marriott

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.

I was born in New Zealand and brought up on a farm. My Yorkshire born dad was a NZ policeman who was sent to Samoa during WWII and my mum posted as a nurse there. Dad had to line up for an injection and I’m the prick as the result! In my 20s in an ambulance service in NZ, I found out I could get a British passport so ventured to London to the London Ambulance Service and posted to Chelsea then Battersea. I came back when dad was dying but wish I’d stayed. On retirement I wrote an autobiography (privately published). My dream to own an London cab.

What’s your secret London tip?

Make good use of the London cabs. They work out cheaper as you will save the crowds, the queues, the walking, the weather, and have more time available – plus the banter and the knowledge they have.

What’s your secret London place?

Barnes SW13

What’s your biggest gripe about London?

Doggy doo

What’s your favourite building?

Harrods

What’s your most hated building?

County Hall

What’s the best view in London?

Outside Lambeth Palace looking east

What’s your personal London landmark?

Barnes Bridge

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

Paddington Bear

What’s your favourite restaurant?

The Bluebird, Kings Road Chelsea

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?

Boat trip to Hampton Court

The London Grill: Tom Hutley

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?

FilmThe Knowledge by Jack Rosenthal. It’s just timeless, it gives me shivers and makes me so proud to be a cabbie. BookThis 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.

The London Grill: Roundel Round We Go

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.

Roundel Round We Go is a podcast created by two London Underground nerds. In each episode, we draw one of the 272 stations out of a bag, research it, and make a show. Though we love trains, the show goes beyond just the Tube and looks at architecture, local history and how London has been built around the underground network.

What’s your secret London tip?

Emily: In 2018 I rode on every bus in London (they’ve added a few since – I need to catch up), and some take you on remarkable journeys around the city. I love the 210 (Finsbury Park to Brent Cross), 319 (Sloane Square to Streatham Hill), 52 (Willesden to Victoria), 36 (Queen’s Park to New Cross Gate), 139 (Golders Green to Waterloo) and W3 (Finsbury Park to Northumberland Park – great views from Ally Pally). I think I’m showing my north Londoner bias here, but if I’m ever at a loose end in London I’ll always just hop on a bus.

Paul: Despite being a massive enthusiast for public transport, when I’ve got time I love to walk across central London. I’d always visualised London as effectively a series of islands around tube stations, but one day not long after getting a smartphone with maps on for the first time decided to try navigating town on foot. Suddenly I realised not only how close together so much of it is, but also just how quiet and beautiful the many side roads and squares can be only a few dozen metres from even the busiest roads. So my tip is, if you get the chance, don’t hop on the tube or a bus, try wandering through the backstreets of London.

What’s your secret London place?

Emily: Not a specific place per-se, but I absolutely love cycling at night in London, particularly on the quiet side streets. I used to be an usher at the National Theatre, and I’d cycle home at about 10:30 most nights up Hampstead Road and swing off at Mornington Crescent and then cycle up along the railway lines out of Euston. It was such a different world from the business of Camden just a couple of streets away, and it always felt a bit magical.

Paul: South East London Combined Heat and Power – also known as the giant municipal waste incinerator near the Millwall stadium. Not strictly secret given its chimney can be seen for miles, but what is less apparent is that it’s often possible to visit during London’s annual Open House weekend, and is one of the most impressive and exciting buildings to look around. You can see the sci-fi-like control room, open a hatch to stare through a window straight into the flames of the furnace, get almost deafened by the generators, and look over the vast bunker full of waste to watch rubbish lorries empty their loads onto the mounds far below. Best of all, they once even let me have a go operating the crane that moves the waste from the heap into the furnace – it’s like a giant version of the seaside arcade grabber crane games!

What’s your biggest gripe about London?

Emily: Probably a pretty standard one, but the cost of living. I’ve paid way too much of my income to live in mice-infested, falling-down flats in the past – and I’m one of the lucky ones! When I was a teacher, I saw so many families living in poverty, and the level of disparity between people all living in the same city really upsets me.

Paul: I can’t stand the politicisation of transport policy and funding in London. It’s particularly prominent at the moment, but goes back decades, whether that be mayoral vanity projects, imposition of privatisation, starvation of funding… All done for ideological reasons, or even worse political scheming, and totally detached from the genuine needs of the city.

What’s your favourite building?

Emily: The Houses of Parliament – I know that’s the most basic, touristy answer, but my reason is a little more interesting! I used to be a tour guide there for school groups and one of my favourite parts of that job was when we got to do morning inspections of the tour route before the building opened to the public to make sure there weren’t any unforeseen obstacles, and it was always quite magnificent to stand in the middle of Commons or Lords completely on my own and think about all the things that had happened in those rooms. I’d also usually have my headphones on, and so had a history of dancing through the voting lobbies to the great amusement of the security guards.

Paul: 55 Broadway. Until 2019 it was the headquarters of Transport for London, having originally been built as the headquarters for their privately owned predecessor the Underground Group back in 1929. I first visited as a volunteer giving tours of the building for the Transport Museum, and later many times while working for TfL. It is one of those buildings where every visit from my first to my last had a real sense of occasion; entering through teak doors into a marble-clad lobby; climbing the stairs decorated with old enamelled metal tube maps; attending lectures in what was once the chairman’s vast wood-panelled office and holding meetings around what had been the same chairman’s table. The view from the top was quite spectacular too.
At the end of 2019, it was sold to a hotel company, so I’m hoping to be able to visit again in a few years’ time.

What’s your most hated building?

Emily: I have nothing particularly personal against Arsenal fans, but I hate Emirates Stadium. Compared with the beautiful Highbury one (I love walking through the housing complex it is now) and various other recent stadia, I just think it’s not very attractive. Plus, when I lived in Finsbury Park, every time there was a game on, the whole area was massively overcrowded and I could barely get on the tube or a bus. Ironically, however, Arsenal Station is my favourite tube station – I love that it is in the middle of a bunch of terraced houses and it has beautiful platform tiling – so at least something nice came out of massive football overcrowding!

Paul: I absolutely detest St George Wharf in Vauxhall. It’s a giant block of multi-million-pound flats by the Thames which looks absolutely hideous. They form a solid wall of five near-identical buildings, providing no variety or visual interest along their length, blocking all views past them, towering over their surroundings, visible for miles, with a badly-proportioned, ungainly design that combines the excessive size of Soviet-style apartment blocks with the cladding and glazing of a nineties office park.

What’s the best view in London?

Emily: I have a friend who lives in Dawson Heights in East Dulwich – it’s the big, brutalist housing estate by Kate Macintosh you can see really clearly on the Horizon if you’re at the Horniman Gardens. He lives on the north side of the building, and the views from his flat are immaculate. I was once there entirely by coincidence on Bonfire Night, and I saw fireworks go off over all of London – you can see from Wembley to Stratford to and everywhere in between. And the flats are rent-controlled – it’s a very enviable situation! If you ever get a chance to go up there, even to the little park below the flats, I highly recommend it (just don’t be too loud or I’ll hear no end of complaints from said friend).

Paul: Standing on the south end of the platforms at London Bridge station, you can see for over two miles of almost dead straight railway, with up to eleven tracks running in parallel. By daylight, you can see five or more trains running beside each other to and from the station at busy times, like a fantastic synchronised dance that carries tens of thousands of people. At night you can just see the trains’ headlights and tail-lights and above them the rows of signals shining from gantries over the track, controlling this incredibly complex system.

What’s your personal London landmark?

Emily and Paul: I guess for both of us it would be Moorgate Station? It’s where we met in 2020, just before lockdown at a work training event. It was Emily’s birthday and she had made a roundel-shaped cake. We basically haven’t stopped talking since that day.

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

Emily: White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I read it when I first moved to London and was living in NW very close to where it was set. Smith is a great storyteller, but I love the intimacy with London geography that her writing has. I haven’t lived in NW for years, but it’s still a place close to my heart.

Paul: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – originally a 1996 BBC TV series, then a novel and also a radio drama, telling the story of a man accidentally pulled into a magical underworld version of London. I love how familiar landmarks are reimagined, like the bizarre Earl’s Court complete with jester, and the terrifying Knight’s Bridge which one must risk death to cross.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

Emily: Saki in Crouch End. Vegetarian Sushi is usually pretty lacklustre, but they do this thing called the Rock ‘n’ Roll with sweet potato tempura and avocado that is to die for! I moved out of their delivery range over a year ago and I’ve still not over it – but I still go up there in person when I can and it’s a good excuse to walk up part of the abandoned railway line that is now the Parkland Walk.

Paul: Piccolo Mayfair sandwich bar on Shepherd Street. When I’m doing tours of disused stations for the Transport Museum I like to treat myself to lunch somewhere nice each time, and Piccolo is where I always go when I’m at Down Street. It’s one of those classic deli-greasy spoon-sandwich shop type places, used by a huge variety of the people who live and work in the area. I particularly love their extensive range of delicious toasted paninis.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?

Emily: Riding buses, and then walking. I’ve walked the Capital Ring, and am about ¾ through the London LOOP, and I love just exploring all the natural spaces that exist within London, particularly whilst listening to podcasts or non-fiction audiobooks. After a long walk, I’d go to the theatre, as I’m a huge theatre fan – ideally to see an exciting new work at somewhere like the Young Vic, Royal Court, or Donmar – but I’m happy in any theatre!

Paul: Working for both TfL and the Transport Museum, I’ve got to see some amazing parts of our transport infrastructure that are usually hidden from the public, either long-closed or not yet opened. But my ideal day off would be to explore all the tunnels I’ll probably never get to see, like the secret government tunnels around Whitehall and quite possibly well beyond. There are rumours of them extending all over central London, maybe out to the suburbs, and I’d love to see how much of that is true.

The London Grill: Jack Chesher

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.

Jack is a London history lover. He is the founder of Living London History (www.livinglondonhistory.com); a blog with a focus on the quirky hidden history in the city. He has also recently launched guided tours to share his love of the city with others. When he is not guiding or walking around the city, Jack loves going to the theatre and a good pub quiz/pint!

What’s your secret London tip?

If open, always pop your head inside London’s churches. They often have amazing free little museums, such as the crypts of St Bride’s and All Hallows by the Tower. These are great places to see the layers of London’s history before your very eyes!

What’s your secret London place?

The City of London is full of little tranquil pocket parks and secret spots. My favourite would have to be the courtyard of St Vedast alias Foster off Foster Lane, but shush don’t tell too many people!

What’s your biggest gripe about London?

My biggest gripe would probably be the number of cars in London and the air pollution that comes along with them. If there were fewer cars, a greener public transport system and better provisions made for walking and cycling; then I think we would have a healthier, happier and more attractive city.

What’s your favourite building?

I think my favourite building is probably St Paul’s Cathedral but another, quirkier one is Two Temple Place off the Victoria Embankment. It was built in 1895 for the richest man in the world at the time, was built to the highest possible standards of the time and looks like an Elizabethan stronghold inside and out! Look out for its magnificent gold weathervane in the form of the Santa Maria; Columbus’s ship to America. They hold art exhibitions and are open for open house weekends.

What’s your most hated building?

I am not a fan of the newest member of the City of London’s skyscraper family: 22 Bishopsgate. I can see it from the window of my flat and I think it is a bit of a bland behemoth that just dominates the landscape too much.

What’s the best view in London?

For inner-city views, I would have to say the Sky Garden in the Walkie-Talkie. For seeing the city from afar I would say the majestic view you get from Greenwich Park with the Queen’s House in the foreground: it never gets old.

What’s your personal London landmark?

My personal landmark would be the Tower of London. I grew up in Essex, so when getting the train up to London, it is the first landmark you see after leaving the train. It, therefore, represents all those day trips up to the city and gives me that buzz of excitement of being in London.

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

My collection of research and local interest books for London is ever-growing. My favourite in terms of enjoyment would probably be Matthew Green’s London: A Travel Guide Through Time. It is very well written, immersive, fascinating and really sparks inspiration for London’s history.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

Currently top of the list is Dishoom. Both their breakfasts and dinners are amazing.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?

Well, it would naturally be a day walking around London. If at the weekend I would walk around the City of London, as it is quiet and there is always something new to discover. I love being by the river so I would also walk along the South Bank and grab a drink at one of London’s historic pubs: the George in Southwark perhaps. I would finish the day off by seeing a show at the Globe; an experience that never disappoints.