London Ledger: A Minimalist Architect Maxes Out on the Best of Clerkenwell
Want to know why I find that Blurred Lines song so particularly offensive? It’s not the gross sexism (although of course I’m not in favour of that). No, it’s because I like my lines, crisp, clean, and ideally super straight. I am an architect after all.
It’s not a cliché, it’s an aesthetic. It just happens to be one that pervades my entire life, from my minimal, modern apartment in the Barbican to my choice of morning coffee spot – J + A Café if you’re wondering. I’ll pop in on my way to the small practice where I work in Clerkenwell for a perfectly prepared black coffee and an Irish porridge or fruit salad. It’s also a great lunch spot. I’ll go there with colleagues or clients, or I’ll meet friends from the other firms and design studios in the area at Exmouth Market, where you can get the perfect £6 lunch. My favourite stalls are Spinach and Agushi for Ghanaian food or the crepe stand, where the French guy who runs it will humour Francophiles by speaking French. Pretentious? Yes, but I enjoy it.
I don’t usually bother with the Moro stand, not because it’s not good, but because I prefer to go to the actual restaurant – or its sister spot, Morito – for some of the best, most inventive North African-infused tapas in London. It’s managed to remain a hip spot for 20-odd years and is still notoriously difficult to score a table at, but they do at least take bookings.
Another dinner spot where I’m guaranteed to run into someone from the design or art world is St. John. I love an evening sitting in its pleasingly minimal bar – concrete floor, white walls, industrial ambience – knocking back the great house red with a Welsh rarebit, green salad, and maybe some freshly baked madeleines to finish. If I’m going upscale, the Modern Pantry is one of London’s best restaurants in a stylishly converted Georgian house (I notice these things, ok?) serving Anna Hansen’s incredible fusion food. The Zetter Townhouse, next door does great fancy food too, but it also works pretty well as a date spot for good cocktails – the surroundings are a little gaudy for my personal tastes but I’ll put up with a little opulence for a good drink.
If real ale, rather than cocktails, is the order of the day then it’s straight to the Jerusalem Tavern, the sort of “typical” London pub that rarely exists in reality. The Slaughtered Lamb has live folk music downstairs – it won’t surprise you to learn that I favour their minimal acoustic electronica nights. I’m also a heavy user of the Barbican for everything from modern composition concerts to European theatre, art exhibitions or just a stroll round its iconic Brutalist architecture – heaven. Sadlers Wells is another go-to for modern dance. I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse to work somewhere that caters so lavishly to my design obsession but I’ve spent many happy lunch breaks parting with my hard-earned cash in the Vitra showroom, getting bike accessories in Look Mum, No Hands!, or stocking up on essential design-related reading material in Magma books.
My fastidiousness – I’m not fussy, I just have high standards – extends to every aspect of my life, even exercising. I’m obsessed with swimming and, luckily, Ironmonger Row baths is my local pool. It’s a beautifully restored building from the 1920s with an original Turkish baths-style spa, and it’s all run by Islington council too, so membership is cheap. And you know what? I even swim in a straight line.