Although I come from London, I’ve lived in Paris for nearly 20 years now, with the result that I sometimes feel like a tourist in the town where I was born. But looking at London from an outsider’s perspective has taught me two things: it’s the perfect weekend destination; and its best addresses never go out of date.
The most creative museum or gallery
A bit of an obvious choice, but for me it has to be The Tate Modern (Bankside). The setting in an old power station remains dramatic, and I get a shock almost every time I step into the central Turbine Hall. Over the years I've been chilled by Louise Bourgeois’ giant spider, bathed in Olafur Eliasson’s spectacular floating sun, and bestrode Doris Salcedo’s quake-style crack in the floor – an installation called Shibboleth. And that’s just the entrance to this massive, comprehensive and excellently curated collection of modern art.
The café where you go to read, write or be inspired
London is really a pub city, and cafés always feel a little bit continental and decadent. Which is why I love them, of course. One timeless address is the Bar Italia – actually a steam-filled little Italian café – in Soho (22 Frith Street), where in the 1990s I sipped a cappuccino every morning before shuffling off to work at a PR agency nearby. The café has been owned by the same family since 1949 – and I can’t imagine it’s changed much. Just perch on a stool at the counter and watch the customers, preferably while pretending to read an Italian newspaper.
A restaurant with a difference
Restaurants in London come and go so quickly that it’s probably best to just pick the one that looks the most fun this week and enjoy the ride. However, being a nostalgic type I’ve always had a soft spot for Skylon, located at the top of the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank (Belvedere Road). It’s named after a (now non-existent) tower structure that dominated the Festival of Britain in 1951. Its style is described as “modern European with 1950s design touches”, which is pretty much my ideal environment. The views of the river are great and it's always a rather suave experience.
The most creative neighbourhood
Well, Soho was my old stamping ground and remains my focal point whenever I’m in town, thanks in part to a great pub called The French House. The area still has plenty of production companies – plus the legendary ad agency BBH – but hipper creativity is going on further East, in Shoreditch, Dalston and Hackney, and south in Brixton and Peckham. Vibrant and multicultural, Brixton has lost some of its former edginess to become positively bohemian.
The store you can’t walk past without going in
Without a shadow of a doubt, Daunt Books (84 Marylebone High Street). I have trouble walking past a bookstore at the best of times, but this Edwardian wonderland, with its skylights and galleried walkways, is a must. Plus it’s a travellers’ bookstore, so most of the titles are organised by destination rather than by author. You can buy a book from wherever you dream of going – or wherever you’re off to next. Usually, though, I just want to stay for hours.