Restaurant: Sosharu, Turnmill St
Time: Thursday lunchtime
With: Leo B-J
Stand-out dish: Tuna open temaki
Swish interior. They’ve not dropped any details; everything is beautiful, from the wallpaper to the glassware. The staff are curt but quick. Lots of business meetings happening around us. It’s expensive, but not at the Sushi Tetsu extreme. The chashu pork belly was messy but fantastically tasty. The assorted sashimi was masterfully served and delicate in flavour. But the Tuna open temaki was the stand out dish. It was beautiful – served taco-style (rather than rolled) on a crisped seaweed shell, with spiced mayonnaise and scallion tobiko. Well worth a trip.
#5. St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell
Hidden behind trees, and flanked by two rather ugly buildings, sits St John’s Gate. Built in the early 16th century, it’s one of the few remaining structures linking Clerkenwell with its monastic past. From Clerkenwell Road, its barely visible. But as you walk closer, it rears up all muscular and solid. Inside, a small but well-curated museum about the Order of St John.
#6. Underwood St, Old St
A feature on many morning walks to work, this street never fails to rouse me. Warehouse buildings on either side – once storage for feather merchants and the like, now airy office spaces and swanky flats. A little slice of New York’s Meatpacking district, here in London. Unfortunately its over almost before its started; by the time you hit Nile Street, that Manhattan feeling is gone.
Cocktail #3. Manhattan
Source: Café Royal Cocktail Book, William J Tarling
1/3 Rye or Bourbon Whisky.
1/3 French Vermouth.
1/3 Italian Vermouth.
Stir and strain into cocktail glass, with cherry. A dash of Angostura can be added if desired.
Nairn’s London #11
St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, West Ferry Rd
THEN: I always expect this astonishing little building to have gone by my next visit: it seems such an improbably fierce survival. The chapel committee chose the young Mr Knightley, who afterwards went on to do many other things, including the old Queen’s Hall and the late wild Westminster Bank in Holborn. Mr Knightley in turn chose to recreate Pisa on the Isle of Dogs: a fussy piece of Romanesque, fighting mad, polychrome from end to end. The front diminishes in arcaded tiers, the four bays are given a circumstantial arcaded clerestory, slate-hung for good measure. It is a very loveable firework, and needs to be much better known.
NOW: A little walk from the Cutty Sark, but with influences a long way from London. The building ceased being a church years ago, and now operates as ‘The Space’ – a community theatre and café. But the exterior remains unchanged, and it’s a fine and elaborate structure surrounded on all sides by ugly residential flats. Worth a look.
Nairn’s London #15
THEN: Cutty Sark has leapt like a dolphin into a concrete dry-dock next to Greenwich Hospital. The superstructure is impressive enough, but the really marvellous thing is the view from the bottom of the dock, reached by steps from either end. The part of the boat that nobody every saw billows out in a proud copper sheath, as necessary as the shape of an aerofoil. The thing that Victorian architecture missed, and modern architecture has missed also (though modern aeroplane design has reached it because it had to): sheer need, pared of anything inessential. But sheer need on all levels – as much a spiritual need for the figurehead as a functional need for the precise shape of hull. Everything has got to be just where it is, and the rightness is worth more than any artificial tension. Inevitably; and you can try for all your life and miss, like George Bernard Shaw.
NOW: The Cutty Sark site is probably unrecognisable versus Nairn’s day –the entrance and support structure was only built around ten years ago. But the ship remains at the centre, as beautiful as ever. Almost entirely reborn from the ashes of its 2007 fire, the upper and tween decks both have the feel of a new build. But it’s the gleaming copper hull, as Nairn mentions, that is remarkable here. And with a café at the south end, it’s a great place to stop, have a cuppa, and enjoy the passing of time.