ask Ramsay about
record stores • food markets • indian food • music venues • parks • art galleries • vinyl shop
What are the London spots a first-time visitor can’t miss?
1. St. Paul's Cathedral with its towering dome is the definitive symbol of London after Big Ben. 2. The former oil-fired power station that is Tate Modern is the best gallery in London hands down with Picassos, Dalis, Warhols, Rothkos and more. 3. The extraordinary Hyde Park with its roller-bladers, picnickers, swimmers and boaters in the Serpentine Lake, and rowdy protestors at Speaker’s Corner. 4. The foodie paradise that is Borough Market packed with gourmet goodies and atmosphere. 5. The Globe Theatre - watching Shakespeare in the open air at this fantastic reconstruction is a must.
Do’s and don’ts in London: (Ex: Tipping: yes/ no, public transport tips, safety tips etc.):
Use the City Mapper app to work out the best way to get around town - it tells you not only which tube train to get but which carriage to sit on for the quickest exit. Buses take longer but are cheaper. London is pretty safe, look out when crossing the busy roads though. Tip 10 percent but only if the service is worth it, it's not obligatory and check if service is included in your bill - no reason to tip twice. Walk - the city is great for walking and it's the best way to discover different areas and hidden places you'd never see otherwise.
What do you do and why do you do it?
I am journalist and travel writer, DJ and record collector. I make radio docs and podcasts and I do it all because it allows me to meet people, tell stories, create words and art, and of course play music. For what is life without music and what is music without records. Speaking truth to power is important for me too - people who don't have a voice need journalists and others who do to speak up for them if we want to make the world a better and more equal place for all.
How much do you spend on an average night out on the town?
That depends - fine restaurants can be expensive, and if you're going to the theatre you can expect to part with plenty of Benjamins. But there's plenty of cheaper good food options and venues with no entry fees. On average, some drinks with friends and maybe a small gig and a bite, I'd say £50.
Which London shops do you hit up when you’re itching for something new?
For new records I always go to Sounds of the Universe or Phonica, both in Soho. They've always got the latest cuts. Clothes are a different matter - if I am not buying online I'll go to Carnaby Street and nearby as they've a lot of concept stores there from Asics trainers to jeans stores and more.
Your all-time favorite musicians:
John Coltrane, James Brown, Janelle Monae, A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu, Prince, Led Zepellin, MoodyMann, Theo Parrish.... the list goes on.
Which neighborhood is it best to experience during the day / night?
Hoxton/Shoreditch/Dalston are a night owl's paradise with numerous hip bars, restaurants, pubs and venues to sample. Plus the street life and people are so vibrant and diverse you'll never lose interest. I'd hit Camden Town in the daytime, the market, the canal, the people and all the stalls are always exciting and happening and packed with both tourists and locals looking for bargains and sunshine and atmosphere.
What’s the area in town you’ll never be caught dead in?
Fulham... too many Chelsea fans and the super rich. Not for me.
What’s the one place in London you think is underrated?
Foyles Bookstore - I get a wondrous feeling when I go into a bookshop, like a kid in a candy store of potential knowledge. This massive and historic store on Charing Cross Road is just filled with books of all sorts to expand the mind and warm the soul. People don't rate bookshops much these days. But this one is not to be missed.
Where would you take a date for a romantic night out?
Food makes or breaks date night, so don't scrimp. I'd go to Gymkhana, expensive but exceptional Indian food that'll impress with the venue as well as the taste and drinks. Then perhaps some late night comedy at The Comedy Store - because laughing with your date is always a good plan. A nightcap at a member's club, perhaps Soho House or Quo Vadis nearby (naturally I am member). And then if I am really pulling out the stops, a stroll up Primrose Hill to see the London skyline sparkling in all its nighttime glory. Perfect.
Drunk and hungry - where do you go in London?
Edgware Road close to Marble Arch in central London is the place to eat late and drunk. It's Lebanese food shops and restaurants are always open late, from Beirut Express to Maroush, serving incredble kebabs, falafel and full dishes if that's what you want that will soak up the booze and let you sleep happy when you eventually roll into bed.
It's freeeeezing out - what should a visitor do?
Stay in! Seriously though find a nice pub and stay there. My recommendation one with comfy sofas and a fireplace and history and food. Try The Spaniards Inn in Highgate, super special with great craft beers and fine food where you can settle in for the day, get warm and only emerge when it's last orders. That or go watch a movie trilogy special of nighttime screenings at the Imax Cinema in Waterloo.
Where do you take your guest when you want to impress?
The Royal Opera House. There's something magical and special about dressing up, sipping champagne and experiencing Verdi in the grand auditorium from an opera company that is exceptional. High art done well in a wondrous venue. You will be moved.
Your go-to brunch spots:
Hawksmoor Covent Garden, The Bull & Last Pub in Kentish Town
Your perfect night out in London includes:
A gig somewhere intimate, taxis, dancing till late, dinner at Nobu (cos it's so so good), and ending up in bed with a loved one.
Which local creators do you admire?
Hassan Hojeij - the art and furniture maker originally from Morocco but with a showroom in Hoxton is brilliant and still affordable. Spoken word poet and hip hop artist LowKey, his politically-charged wordplay and delivery is exceptional. There are so many more. Racil - fashion designer famous for her Tuxedo suits for women, has a wonderful eye and great designs.
Special views that mainstream tourists don't know about:
Everyone knows The Shard, Primrose Hill and Greenwich but there are incredible views to be had of London for free from a couple of other spots too: Dartmouth Park Reservoir, in Zone 2 accessible from either Archway or Tufnell Park tube stations via a short walk, is a reservoir with a small park attached and from the top you can have as good a view of London night or day as from anywhere else looking south to the river and all the central landmarks. It's great at New Year's Eve too because not many people know that you get better view of the fireworks show here from most of the ticketed venues in town.
Best place for a cheap bite on-the-go:
E Pellicci, a greasy spoon cafe in Bethnal Green, is just perfect. Fast service, traditional food, and super filling. Pop in and pop out. Better than Pret a Manger.
Tomorrow’s your last day in London. How do you spend it?
With friends who live here, eating, talking and drinking somewhere nice. Maybe visit Borough Market to bring back some special goodies for loved ones back home. But overall take it easy - perhaps fit in one last site I've neglected on my list. But no rushing around - too stressful!
You’re meeting the mayor of London - what constructive criticism would you give them?
Nothing. London's got everything and he can't affect the weather. Just don't make it so expensive that creative people can't afford to live here in anymore. London should and must be a city for all, not just those rich enough to afford a £4 cappuccino.