About Me

Long time MCT, technical trainer and consultant. I freelance for clients big and small. Consulting and teaching my way round the world

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Entries in London (3)


The Godfather of Crystal Palace

Pizza, after work, after drinks, before drinks. A cheap night out, a cheap date. Pizza for sharing, pizza for a movie, pizza for fast food, or pizza for pleasure.

Pizza is meal, pizza is a snack, pizza is fattening, but pizza is not what you might think of as an event.

Often bastardised rarely perfected, like many foods that can be put in that category of ‘comfort food’ it lends itself to the rapid expansion of franchises and restaurants that are bought and sold on paper, agreed upon by accountants and funding managers looking at the numbers on the paper not the food from the kitchen. The hamburger, the kebab, fried chicken, and pizza. Each deconstructed and reassembled by the men with the pens and paper rather than the men with the spatulas and knifes. A successful model, and I myself am guilty of buying into this world, there is nothing better for a hangover or for that ‘bit of what you fancy’ than a greasy buttery McDonalds breakfast. God… fill my liver with fat and lubricate my heart. McDonalds, you have me in the mornings and draw me in like an alcoholic crawling back to the corner shop. This is what pizza has become. The greasy, cheesy addiction for the late night delivery from the teenager on the L plate scooter.

So how did we get here, show an Neopolitan a Pizza Express and be met with look of confusion and distain. This isn’t how its supposed to be, order them a Dominos and be met with the offending concoction directed at speed towards your ever so slightly chubby visage.

I cant blame these endeavours, you begin with a good product, build a successful little restaurant, open another when the times are good and the business keeps coming, so open another, and another. Soon you have a brand, then you have the equity funds come knocking on your door waving a big bundle of cash in your face and who can turn that down as payment for all your hard work slowly building your little pizza empire. There is a small issue, the quality always seems to suffer in the end, attention paid to the books and the people with the pens, too much tomato, can save a few pence here taking a single slice of ham off the topping, no one will notice. Chopping and changing, creating a soulless marketed product for the consumption of the unwashed poorly…. Errr… I seem to have hit a wall. If you are un-educated you may say ‘poorly read’ as opposed to someone who is ‘well read’. Yet what you say when there are people who, for no better term are ‘poorly eaten’ ? I think this needs to be pondered, maybe over a glass of crisp white wine, some sunshine, cold meats and cheese. Hmmm…

Back to the pizza though.

Godfathers Pizza of Crystal Palace, a small, unassuming place perched and nestled atop Crystal Palace, nothing to really see from the outside apart from a couple of guys in the window working at a stone oven, the kind you see in every trendy pizza place today. Nothing to see here, move along. The same you find upon entering, wooden table and benches, olive oils available for dripping, drizzling or just all out drenching your dinner in. Same same. Menu tattered with the typical trendy pizza place dishes, names in Italian, underneath, the ingredients in English thanks to the mono-lingual nature of the British population.

Lets take stock, 2 pizzas, one cheese tomato and pepperoni, one rocket, cured ham and parmesan.

Take one bite and the world has changed. Where am I ? Who am I ? I suddenly want to talk with my hands waving, I cannot stop it, my voice, raising with inflection at the same time, my hair seem to be slicking itself back, that stubble sported from a few days unshaven suddenly become the centrepiece of a more fashionable, passionate me. This pizza is so Italian its seeping into my DNA, there is no longer espresso there is only café in this world. This world is good.

The spice of the sausage, a tang and a kick but never overwhelming with the fats and the paprika melting into the mouth like a spicy ice cream of flavour working its way down. The cured ham, dancing and salting the palate, offsetting the flavours of the cheese and fresh rocket.

This is an experience to be savoured, something that can be held up to the face of God and to say this is creation of man. And God shall look upon it, and God will be beam with affection for this creation on the Earth.

Pizza is not your late night greasy food, taken with a side order of barely identifiable fried chicken. Pizza is the soul and the passion of region of a country that might be as disorganised as the cables running down the back of your TV but holds to account cuisine that travels through the ages.

The Godfather pizza restaurant of Crystal Palace is worth the journey out of the centre of the metropolis, to a world of pure fantasy. Your late night pleasure delivered by the slightly stoned scooter rider will never be the same again.

Visit, eat, drink, and ruin pizza for ever more because you will always know what this should taste like. 


Traveling to London for Business and Serviced Apartments


A city that is not a city, London, has in the past, been compared, not to other sprawling metropolis like New York or Hong Kong, but to a collection of villages that have slowly molded together over the years. I believe this label, for such a diverse and exciting city, is more than accurate. The West/East, North/South divide slices the city into large component parts. The city then finds itself subdivided, filtered by the people who live there, the restaurants you eat at, the tipple you’re most partial to and the job you commute to. A city where you can walk around, taking any turn that grabs your fancy, and find yourself in anything, from a second hand book shop, to an al fresco movie showing attended by viewers sitting in inflatable hot hubs (the latter, surprisingly, happens quite often).

         Anyone who as met me in my personal or professional life knows that I spend most of my time on the road, flying around Europe and bouncing between various cities in the UK. Invariably work takes me to London, so much so that now I don’t see myself as a tourist but as more of a semi-resident. I have my bars and my hangouts. My favorite places to eat, places to take a walk and my favorite book shops. I can tell you how to hunt down the best coffee, have zone 1 and 2 of the tube map seared into the back of my brain allowing me, like any good Londoner, to stumble back home after one too many refreshments through the rabbit’s warren that is the tube (often resulting in waking in the morning not quite knowing how I got back).

Yet where is back? Where is home in London when I’m here? London is the only city I spend a lot of time in where I don’t stay in hotels. It just does not make sense anymore. Hotels in London during the week, well, any hotels that a regular business traveler would want to stay in, can run to £200+ a night for a central location.

What do you get for this? Admittedly, sometimes, quite a bit, there are some fantastic places to stay. However, there is a better option.

         In nearly two years of bouncing in and out of this city I have been staying in serviced apartments. In fact, I write this from one now. I’m sitting on the sofa on the 12th floor of Discovery Dock East in Canary Wharf looking out onto an amazing view over the south of London. I have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a balcony, full kitchen, internet access and in the basement, a swimming pool and gym. Yes, that’s a swimming pool and gym in an apartment block a two minute walk from Canary Warf tube station.

What is this costing?

A heck of a lot less than the equivalent hotel, that’s for sure. This is only one of the many villages of London though, it’s my little village. I like the towers and I like the quiet. It feels like home for me and more of a 21st century town than anywhere else in the UK. What if you want something else? Chic Mayfair maybe? Perhaps the seat of power in the middle of the City Of London or, perchance, some night time pleasures up in Shoreditch? I know someone who will have it covered.


         Protem apartments (0845 519 7956) are the guys I have used now for the past two years. Sure, they have a great website for browsing around the many (and I really do mean many) apartments in the capital. But, I take great pleasure in telling people I have an ‘apartment guy’ in my phone, on call for all my London business residency needs. This, I find, is the best thing about having Protem in my phonebook and online. I no longer have to think about where to stay and to have to struggle to find the best hotel deals. With so many hotels in this city to stay and so many websites promoting them, how do you really know if you are getting the best deal? Booking.com, Hotels.com, Laterooms.com and many, many, more. If you want the best deal, booking a hotel is not an easy feat. 

It now takes me less than five minutes to complete the whole process. I just shoot off an e-mail with the dates I need to my apartment people at Protem and they sort out the rest; providing easy credit card booking and nicely formatted directions to where ever I end up staying.  There’s also the advantage of late night check-ins with many of the apartments (which I cannot say the same for some hotels). Quite simply, all I need to do is tell them my budget and where I want to stay. Absolute magic!

         Plus, when you have your own place for a week or two, rather than a hotel room you can cook J and actually invite people over for a drink and a film. Asking any of your friends to come back to your little - and it will be in London, unless you want to pay through the nose - hotel room is just plain creepy.

         So put away the Hilton rewards card and the Club Carlson member’s card and give Protem a call next time you come down to the big smoke or drop them an e-mail for what you are looking for . Tell them Mike sent you, they will look after you. I promise you won’t go back to a pokey hotel room when you can have a place like this for less money and less stress.