Where to find a taste of Greece in London

Last time I visited Toronto, Canada, I stayed in Greektown, home to one of the largest Greek communities in North America. Several scenes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding were filmed here, and street signs are in Greek as well as English. On the day I arrived, jetlagged and disorientated, I happened upon a restaurant that was so authentically Greek I imagined I could smell the pine trees and hear the soft chirp of crickets. A couple of elderly men sat drinking ouzo at the bar, and rather than being led to a table I was taken into the kitchen where Maria (reader, that was her name, what can I do?) was

Rum deal: the fight to save Trader Vic’s

I have just been proposed to in a somewhat slatternly tiki bar in Mayfair. Not just any tiki bar, but Trader Vic’s, the Polynesian-themed restaurant and lounge underneath the London Hilton on Park Lane. Approaching its 60th anniversary, the bar has seen better days, but for historical purposes my partner of 12 years decided that this dimly lit den would be the location for the proposal of a lifetime. Then wouldn’t you know it – just two weeks later I discover that this cavern of delight where I spent many birthdays is being evicted and will close on 31 December. Trader Vic’s began in the 1950s, when Victor Jules Bergeron

Is North London’s housing market recession-proof?

Of all the suburbs in Britain none has become quite so politicised as North London. This slightly leafy (and lefty) swathe in and around Islington – with Hampstead Heath marking its northern edge and Regent’s Park its southern boundary – is treated by our recent political leaders as a kind of shorthand for, to borrow a phrase from Suella Braverman, the ‘tofu-eating wokerati’. Liz Truss took a dig at her privileged metropolitan enemies who ‘taxi from North London townhouses to the BBC studio’ to criticise her, ignoring the fact that Islington is not all Upper Street boutiques and multi-million pound homes. Islington is one of London’s most deprived boroughs, and more than

The pomp and pageantry of the Lord Mayor’s Show

The Lord Mayor’s Show is a mix of traditional buttoned-up pageantry and let-your-hair-down carnival. A bit like the state opening of parliament without all the MPs, and Notting Hill without the jerk chicken. I am a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, one of the ‘Great 12’ livery companies of the City of London. The Lord Mayor’s Show is an occasion in which the City’s livery companies – there are some 110 in all – have prominent place. What’s more, the incoming Lord Mayor has a special link to the Merchant Taylors as a member of the Company’s Court. Which is all a roundabout way of saying: I have been roped

London’s best jazz bars

When jazz music arrived on our shores in 1919, with the first British tour of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, it received a frosty welcome from many. Other performers tried to get the group kicked off theatre bills, and the tour ended abruptly – with the Original Dixielanders being chased to Southampton docks by a lord who had just found out the lead singer had been trying to seduce his daughter. Happily, in the subsequent 100 years or so, jazz has gone on to earn a firm place in our hearts and record collections. With the return of London Jazz Festival, which runs from today until 20 November, we hunted down

I’ve found the only gastropub worth eating at

The gastropub, an invention of the early 1990s, is a terrible idea. They burst on to the scene when breweries were made to sell off many of their pubs for a song to make way for competition, encouraging Marco Pierre White wannabes to snap them up and replace cheese sandwiches and pork scratchings with kidneys on toast and anything that could be put together in a kitchen the size of a shoebox. Many of them have food prepared off-premises but charge restaurant prices. There are no proper tablecloths, the glasses are made to survive if dropped on concrete floors and it all feels a bit like going round to your

Yours for £3k a week, the townhouse with royal history woven into it

The 34 early Georgian houses that line Fournier Street, in the heart of Spitalfields, are a perfectly preserved microcosm of East London life through the centuries. Since it was built in the 1720s, the street – which runs between Brick Lane and Commercial Street, in E1 – has variously been home to the city’s wealthiest and poorest. With many of its first residents Huguenot weavers escaping religious persecution in France, the street is characterised by its series of highly glazed lofts, harnessing the light vital for the skilled textile work, with many of the houses subsequently bought by those in the silk trade. Arguably one of the finest houses on the

Who wants to live in the Square Mile?

Mixing business with pleasure can be risky business. For decades the City of London has upheld this doctrine, religiously prioritising office space over new homes to preserve its reputation as a global financial centre. In his 29-year tenure as the City of London’s planning chief, Peter Rees famously allowed only one new residential tower to be built in the Square Mile: The Heron, a 285-apartment building which was completed in 2013. But the aftershocks of the pandemic – recent data suggests that the number of workers at their desks in the Square Mile’s offices is down by around a third; office vacancy rates stand at almost 10 per cent –

How to live like a Parisian

I wanted to hate it. In the weeks leading up to my trip to Paris, I was told incessantly about how much of a dump it was, about how I’d be faced with overflowing bins and skilled pickpockets. I was even warned against drinking the tap water.  According to some, to be properly British means hating the French. And there’s plenty to take against: rude waiters, deliberate incompetence in maintaining their side of the Channel crossing, awkward double-cheek kissing, obsessiveness about cheese, astounding corruption in farming subsidies. My trip to France had one rule: do not enjoy it. Do not let them win. But I have a confession to make. It

Inside the recharged Battersea Power Station

At its peak, Battersea Power Station supplied a fifth of London’s electricity, including to Buckingham Palace and parliament. Today, the most electric thing about it is the virtual reality gaming venue on site. Times have changed – but the reopening of the power station allows us to rediscover one of our finest pieces of industrial heritage and to take stock of the neighbourhood’s £9 billion makeover. The iconic Grade II*-listed building was decommissioned and shut down in 1983. Over the past ten years, in Europe’s largest urban regeneration project, it has been restored and repurposed. The project reaches its climax today when the power station reopens as a residential, retail

Lost property: where have London’s overseas buyers gone?

It has been almost a decade since the first apartments at Battersea Power Station went on sale. Such was the excitement about its redevelopment that buyers queued in the chilly dawn for the chance to pick up a £343,000 studio flat or a £6 million penthouse. Most were from overseas, and in four days in January 2013 they collectively spent £600 million. These kinds of scenes are something London’s housebuilders and estate agents can today only dream of. Although we have moved on from worst ravages of the pandemic, and traveller numbers are very much in recovery, many foreign property buyers – for years the mainstay of prime London’s property

What a greasy spoon in West London tells us about the threat of nuclear war

All-day diners feasting on the full English, the cheese omelette or the celebrated sausage sandwich (£3.80) at George’s Café, at 36 Blythe Road, Hammersmith, probably don’t realise they are dining at an address which is pivotal in global cultural history. So pivotal, in fact, that it might just tell us whether human civilisation is about to be extinguished in a nuclear holocaust. A claim like that needs fleshing out. Here it is. Some 120 years ago, 36 Blythe Road was living a very different life to that of a humdrum suburban greasy spoon: it was the headquarters and archival nerve centre of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a fin

The return of the speakeasy

A global pandemic, a booming stock market giving way to painful economic shock, a technological revolution… there are many parallels to be drawn between the 1920s and the 2020s. But if you look very closely, you might find there is another thread linking the two eras: the rise of the speakeasy. These clandestine drinking holes rose to prominence during America’s Prohibition era (1920-33). Following the hardships of the first world war, speakeasies provided a sense of raucous escapism – where jazz music boomed and genders and races mixed freely. The same search for escapism (and nostalgia) is what draws drinkers to them today, says Marco Matesi, bar manager of Downstairs at The Dilly, one

Sadiq Khan’s strange stabbing statement

What an odd thing Sadiq Khan said following this morning’s stabbings in central London. Shortly before 10 a.m., three people were attacked by a man on a bike in Bishopsgate. The criminal is still at large, according to the Telegraph. This horrifying incident was no surprise to Londoners, so you would think that the Mayor would – from experience – strike the right chord. Instead, Khan had this to say: The good news is, it’s not a terror attack. And another piece of good news is the three victims of the stabbing are not in life-threatening situations, thank God. But it’s just a reminder of the dangers of carrying a knife… Where was

The secrets of London by postcode: W (West)

It’s the area that unites James Bond, Rick Wakeman and both Queen Elizabeths. In the first of our series looking at the quirky history and fascinating trivia of London’s postcode areas, we explore the delights to be found in W (West) – everything from fake houses to shaky newsreaders to dukes who are women… Answer: the other Tube station whose name contains all five vowels is Mansion House.

What the weak pound means for London property

Having written recently about how Prime Central London is enjoying a time in the sun after almost a decade in the doldrums, buying a property there just got even more tempting – if, that is, you’re spending dollars. And 66 countries worldwide are linked to the currency and affected by fluctuations in its value. A property in Kensington and Chelsea will now cost dollar-based buyers two-thirds of what it would have cost them in 2014 Over more than four decades it’s been clear that the fortunes of PCL are affected more by geopolitical events and exchange rates than by domestic interest rates. Any global ‘black swan’ event – such as

Neon signs have a curious power

In a corner of St Pancras station, Tracey Emin is always turned on. ‘I want my time with you’, a neon sculpture by the artist, has been on show here since 2018. It was part of the ‘annual’ Terrace Wires public arts programme, in which a new work is commissioned every year to hang from the station’s roof; but the pandemic distended time, and Emin’s words have stayed put. Though a new commission was unveiled yesterday, an installation by Shezad Dawood, that hangs on different wires, elsewhere in the terminus. Assembled from bright pink tubes, and shaped like Emin’s looping script, ‘I want my time with you’ looms over the grand

The enduring appeal of Arnos Grove station

It’s not in Whitehall nor Westminster; not on the central London tourist trail. Instead it’s ten miles away, on the wrong side of the North Circular, an obscurity in the suburbs, rarely visited for its own sake. But Arnos Grove Tube station is one of the masterpieces of 20th century British architecture – and this week it celebrates its 90th anniversary. Until September 1932, the northern branch of the Piccadilly line ended at Finsbury Park. Then five new stations were built: Manor House, Turnpike Lane, Wood Green, Bounds Green and, finally, Arnos Grove, all commissioned by Frank Pick and designed by Charles Holden. Suddenly it was only 20 minutes to