Secret Streets: Dansey Place, Soho

‘Refreshing’ may seem like an odd term to describe a Chinatown alley. Especially one ripe with the sweet, fetid odour of meat putrifying in sun-roasted binbags, and the glutinous, ammonia-tinged perfume of fresh noodles puffing through dusty ventilator shafts. But that’s exactly how I’d describe Dansey Place, a deliciously grimy and wonderfully authentic Chinatown alley…

Secret Streets: Leicester Place W1

I didn’t give this drab alley that links Leicester Square and Chinatown a second glance for years; on first take it it has absolutely nothing about it apart from an r’n’b nightclub popular with Miss Selfridge-stilettoed aspirationals who like the glamour of the crowd-control barrier and ‘guestlist’ that everyone can get on anyway. Oh how…

Secret Streets: Foubert’s Place W1F

Forget Carnaby Street. Her much lesser known little sister round the corner- Foubert’s Place – is much more interesting. Especially if you appreciate chocolate. Or Hawaiian burgers. Or mobile phone cases covered in sequined pineapples. Start at flamboyant artisan chocolate boutique Choccywoccydoodah (yes, Choccywoccydoodah) at Number 30-32. Think white chocolate love birds with red hearts…

Secret Streets: Manette Street W1

From Greek Street it looks like a the kind of alley that would only be of interest for graffiti-tag bingo or catching chlamydia. In fact this tiny Soho thoroughfare just off Foyles has a fascinating backstory and a smashing secret rock-and-roll bar. First the history: the street is named after Dr Manette from Charles Dicken’s Tale…

Secret Streets: Webb’s Road SW11

Clapham is deeply uninteresting – a cultural wasteland of rugby louts, not-quite-nightclubs and restaurants with bench seating serving Instagraminedible food (when it looks good but tastes nasty). Webb’s Road is an intriguing exception. At first glance, it may look like nothing more than a wriggling tongue of suburban terraced houses that stretches parallel to the…

Secret Streets: Cecil Court WC2

  I cannot recommend enough this real-life answer to Diagon Alley; think Victorian street lamps gently glowing on the windows of zany shops framed with black pilasters and crowned with hand-painted signs. Bargain boxes of old records, ancient maps and tattered books gobble up the pavement space. This seventeenth-century street just seconds from Leicester Square…

Secret Streets: Bell Street, NW1

Head to this hidden Marylebone street just behind Edgware Road Station for Ai Weiwei, London’s messiest bookstore, an Aladdin’s cave of Nineties ghetto blasters, and a Lebanese nut emporium. This is the kind of street where you’re off to a cracking start as soon as you turn into it. At number 1, you’ll find the…

8 quirky, fun things to do in London pubs

Because it’s cold and all anyone wants to do is go down the pub…. Watch a spot of pub theatre Pubs have had a habit of popping up in the shadow of theatres since Shakespeare’s era (at The Shakespeare’s Head, opposite Sadlers Wells, the patron would even ring a bell just before the performance and…

A secret guide to Oxford Street

Oxford Street. I don’t like it much. But it’s remarkable. As familiar as a favourite song. The trudging rush of people. The shop windows that wink and coax. The wheezing buses that start and stop, like sick men climbing stairs. Is there any street in London capable of teasing out such an emotional range from…

My top ‘alternative’ steak restaurants in London

Most of the top London steak restaurants are like Chelsea FC at its zenith. Full of talent, but stinking of money and overconfidence. It took me years to realise this. Usually, I’m a product woman. I’m indifferent to setting. It’s why I have a messy room. But Gaucho and Hawksmoor are both too awful to…

The Secret Life of Tube Escalators

Escalators. They fascinate me. The act of climbing one is both meditative and ugly. Several sounds jab at each other for prominence: the rubbery rattle of the handrail, the harsh hiss of the safety brushes, the baritone murmur of the shifting stairs. Superimposed on this deliciously hideous cacophony is the clunky, resentful pounding of commuters…

Secret Streets: Elizabeth Street SW1W

I commute to Victoria station every day. It’s something I’ve had to accept as a part of life – like the inertia of British politics, PPI calls, and Ant and Dec. Victoria is like a vast, polluted dodge ball field – except it’s human zombies armed with knackered wheelie bags that spray at you from…