Following For Folk’s Sake’s charming London recommendations are a few that probably shouldn’t be top of your London must-see list, but will evoke a knowing, hollow laugh from seasoned Londoners. Patrick Dalton of Shit London – a blog celebrating the less glamorous and more hilarious corners of our city – digs out five places of note using a taste compass that he admits is ‘askew’ after spending so much time in crap locations.
This is London at its most futuristic. It is beyond astounding, like a Bladerunneresque dystopia but with a branch of Claire’s Accessories. Take the intermittently working escalator to the gamezone and witness lasers slice through the air as the bored-looking cyber punks and Matrix fans lurking there are bathed in sickly neon light. Downstairs you can have your portrait taken as a Victorian or even a cowboy and if that’s not enough fun for you there is also a man who will bend a piece of coat hanger into a loved one’s name. Intense. There used to be a virtual reality machine in the basement but sadly that’s now gone. I remember going on it as a kid and thinking ‘Wow! I’m in a virtual room… made of really shit graphics’.
The Coach and Horses, Greek Street
This is the quintessential Soho pub. It feels like it hasn’t changed at all over the past 60 years. I had memories of it being a sticky carpet kind of place but last time I was there the carpet had gone (if it had ever been there at all). Every Wednesday they hold a cockney singalong around the old Joanna (piano). The tables outside are a great place to people watch and, for the more philanthropic minded, to meet some of the city’s homeless. I’ve met a lot interesting people there. Bring change.
Camden Lock Bridge
Aside from sun bleached postcards outside Central London newsagents, this is one of the few chances most people will get to see a true London punk in their natural environment. Most days you will see a gaggle of them congregated on the bridge sharing a bottle of cider and charging tourists a quid a photo. Their mohawks may be thinning and their bondage trousers may be a little tighter than intended but they are the real deal. Nobody can quite recall when or how they they got there but local legend has it that if they ever leave, the borough of Camden will fall.
Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre
If you like your shopping experience to have an ever-present and often overwhelming sense of impending doom then this really is the place for you. Built in the 1960s, it was the first large indoor shopping mall in Europe but ultimately failed to become a success. It’s a vision of the future gone tits up. Even painting the building bright pink hasn’t been enough to lure businesses into the complex which retains a whiff of sadness, although that could just be the popcorn stall downstairs. On the plus side, it houses an excellent pound shop full of odd delights and aficionados of Nollywood movies will find their needs met from a stall outside the Tesco.
Daddy Donkey Burritos
I used to work in the most phenomenally depressing place in Clerkenwell just around the corner from Leather Lane Market and a lunchtime burrito from this stall would be just about the only thing that kept me going. The first one I ate span me off into a giddy burrito-induced euphoria and from that moment on I was hooked. If I’m out taking photographs I often try and make a detour here to get lunch. These really are some outstanding burritos. You may have to queue but trust me, they’re worth it. Ashleigh Arnott