#9. BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane
Thanks to programs like Children in Need, this was one of the first London buildings that I became aware of . It’s one of my all time favourites. An icon of my childhood – with its question mark shape, ‘atomic dot’ decoration and, of course, the Blue Peter garden. I was lucky enough to visit it several times thanks to generous housemates past; we frolicked around the corridors of BBC comedy, visited the Top of the Pops bar, and hung out backstage at Jools Holland recordings. It had a wonderful dusty smell. And a strange feeling as you walked about; a curious mix of creativity and bureaucracy, baked into its very foundations. The BBC recently sold the building to property developers, so it will be interesting to see if they keep much of its original character. Unfortunately the cranes and hoardings were already up by the time I got around to taking a photo.
#10. Natural History Museum, Cromwell Rd
After I’d finished university, I started interviewing for graduate jobs in London. But being short of a bob or two, I used to ride the Megabus into town. The bus would always crawl past the Natural History Museum on Cromwell Road, so I spent quite a bit of time craning my neck to look at it. It’s a wondrous structure of beautiful brick patterns and intricate window carvings. A cathedral for science. Inside, the main atrium is jaw-dropping. Bridges at either end draw the eye, and elongate the proportions. And at the top of the far staircase, a statue of Darwin sits proudly over a domain given up to rational thought and nature’s beauty.
Restaurant: Anzu, Norris St
Time: Monday evening
Stand-out dish: Seafood katsu teishoku
New restaurant in St James market, from the folk behind Tonkotsu. Pristine inside, with that new furniture smell. We visited on their first day of full trading, with the soft launch having finished the night before. There weren’t many customers in, but there were lots and lots of staff on. I wasn’t feeling too well, so plumped for the greasier options on the menu. The prawn korokke was fantastically gooey. And the seafood katsu teishoku was enormously generous. The miso had a deep mushroomy flavour, the pickles were crisp and sour, and the fish was lightly fried and tasty. Nice one Anzu.
Restaurant: Kulu Kulu, Brewer St
Time: Wednesday lunchtime
With: James F
Stand-out dish: Prawn tempura hand roll
Shabby inside. Horse-shoe conveyor at the centre, with primary-school-sized stools following in parallel. Coat hooks line the walls around the conveyor. Staff conversations are minimal; you’ll have to flag one down if you’d like a drink. Many people arrive and leave in the time we’re there – if you’re after a lightning-quick lunch stop, it provides. The most expensive dishes are £4; it appears cheap, but adds up fast. The food isn’t fantastic, but it’s perfectly good for lunchtime sushi. I picked a few wild cards – including something that looked a bit like a Japanese style sausage and mash. Which turned out to be Japanese style sausage and mash. Who’d’ve thought. But the best dish of the day was the prawn tempura hand roll. Lovely.
#7. The Captain Kidd, Wapping High St
The Captain Kidd is a beauty, overlooking the Thames. Its a warehouse conversion (coffee I think), converted in the 1980s,so the details are all surface, but the atmosphere doesn’t suffer for it. From the beer garden, you look directly onto the water. The HQ for the Met’s marine division is to your right, and their fleet is often bobbing up and down in the water. Inside, it all goes a bit nautical. But it’s a friendly boozer and one you can settle into for a session. The pub is run by Sam Smiths – headache beer – so I recommend you only stay for one or two, to take in the view.
#8. Fifteen, Westland Place
Jamie Oliver’s first restaurant opened back in 2002. The space inside is pretty fine, but it’s on this list for its exterior. As you walk up the cobbles of Westland Place, the building juts out at a sharp angle, perfectly framing it against the warehouse buildings in front and behind. It’s a muscular industrial structure, offset with awnings and warm lighting. Red brick, with sandstone banding. And a beautiful circular pediment on the top. For me – it’s the best looking restaurant in London. The area around it has monstrously gentrified in recent years, and I often worry that property developers will decide it will make more money as a bunch of swanky warehouse flats than a swanky restaurant. But so far, so good. The cocktails and food served inside aren’t half bad either.
Popped along to the Edward Ardizzone exhibition at the House of Illustration the other day.
Johnny the Clockmaker was one of my favourite books when I was a child, so it was wonderful to see them roughs and layouts up close.
Here’s Ardizzone’s self portrait.
He was commissioned by quite a few commercial clients, including the Radio Times. I thought this Guinness poster was great. Ardizzone wasn’t so sure. It was his only poster to be displayed on street hoardings, and he wrote to his daughter once it was posted to say ‘London is now plastered with a rash of them, and I creep around feeling rather ashamed of myself. The multiplicity is overpowering and destroys what little virtue there may be in the job.’
I also was excited to see the illustration he’d created of the Festival of Britain’s tin fountain. A guide I’d spoken to at the Southbank had referred to the bucket fountain, but didn’t have any reference for how it looked. Now we know.