My alternative London

Daniel Van Gelder, founding partner, Exemplar

The most unusual restaurant in the city?

Oslo Court on Prince Albert Road. It is like stepping back to the ’70s, including an old-style pudding trolley – with lashings of happy childhood memories.

Surprising retreat from the city?

The Hut in Colwell Bay on the Isle of Wight. Fronting a sandy beach with a tender to pick you up from your boat, on a nice day you would think you were in the South of France.

Most bizarre thing seen in London?

My team at the London Fruit & Wool Exchange all dressed up as Romans for the lord mayor’s parade.

Where do you go to experience something totally different?

My flat for the worst home cooking in London (cooked by me, of course).

London’s most alternative area?

It is still Shoreditch. I stayed at the Ace hotel during London Fashion Week last year and was refused entry by the bouncers for looking too “uncool”. Can you believe it?

The hidden gem you are almost too protective of to share?

Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack on Foley Street, W1, a tiny restaurant serving only what has been caught the day before – a daily-changing menu that reminds you of being by the sea.

Who would make up your alternative dinner party guest list?

Donald Trump, and then I wouldn’t turn up, but at least it would keep him away from voters for an evening.

You get one weird and wonderful law to introduce in London. What is it?

Ban all private cars. Except mine.

What does London need more of?

Colourful people who don’t take themselves, or their positions, too seriously.


Jennifer Ross, director, Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design

Your secret escape in the city?

Hackney Lido on a cold winter morning when the sun is shining and the mist is rising off the water – bliss.

Where to go for drinks with a twist?

Ruby’s in Stoke Newington, N16. Speakeasy, hole-in-the-wall feel, but amazing cocktails.

Most bizarre thing seen in London?

The annual naked bicycle race, which passes the Houses of Parliament, is surreal.

Where do you go to experience something totally different?

Fish Island, E3. I love to cycle there along the Regent’s Canal and around Victoria Park and then when you arrive there are pretty low-grade warehouses and structures inhabited by artists, makeshift bars and galleries that have grown organically. The area feels like you are in a part of London that has yet to be discovered.

London’s most alternative area?

The railway arches and viaducts that weave their way through Southwark and Lambeth. They provide endless opportunities to encourage small businesses, artists, galleries, theatres, places to meet and new open spaces and places.

I am particularly excited by the prospect of the “Low Line” and the regeneration opportunities that could flow from the implementation of this initiative.

Careful curation of these spaces and places provides the opportunity to introduce an exciting new layer of alternative activity and culture across the city. An essential partner in this curation is Network Rail and its recognition of the importance of such places and spaces.

The hidden gem you are almost too protective of to share?

Many. The arches of Maltby Street, SE1; the Boot and Flogger in Southwark for the quintessential traditional pub experience; the rooftop of Brooksbys bar on Brooksbys Walk in Hackney, E9; Chelsea Physic Garden, SW3; the yurt at the Royal Foundation of St Katherine in Poplar, E14… the list goes on.

You get one weird and wonderful law to introduce in London. What is it?

The public sector cannot sell its land. It must hold on to it, curate and deliver true social, economic and environmental benefit over time and form partnerships with those who want to deliver such benefits over a longer time period.

What does London need more of?

Affordable housing for everyone, affordable workspace, affordable artist/creative spaces. And sunshine.


Oliver Peyton, restaurateur and judge on the BBC television series The Great British Menu

The most unusual restaurant you have ever discovered in the city?

The revolving restaurant at the Post Office Tower, W1. It has always been my dream to have a restaurant there.

What is your surprising retreat from the city?

Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Where do you go for drinks with a twist?

Bar Termini on Old Compton Street, W1.

What is the most bizarre thing you have seen in London?

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife turned up at Inn the Park (Peyton’s St James’s Park restaurant, SW1) with a busload of security. They picked up two trays, queued up and had self-service.

It’s also always quite surprising how many people have sex in restaurants.

Where do you go when you want to experience something totally different?

The Tate has a massive store of art that is not on display but the public have the right to see. All you have to do is fill in a form. Amazing.

The hidden gem you are almost too protective of to share here in case the worst happens and it becomes the next big thing?

The Turkish baths in Bayswater, W2. Or Alfies Antique Market in Lisson Grove, NW8.

You get one weird and wonderful law to introduce in London. What is it?

Have a committee that can veto the shocking rise of poor-quality buildings.

What does London need more of?

Cycle lanes.

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