Chris Philp is making his mark on the Camden constituency. This Conservative party candidate is running around like a headless chicken in light of the upcoming election. So to pin him down was nearly as hard as getting Maria from The Sound of Music to the Chapel on time. Nevertheless, after a healthy game of phone tag and crosses in the diary, I finally did.
A very candid conversation ensued which touched a little more on the lighter side of life rather than the mundane talk of politics. Today it was all about Chris and what he likes to do. This was an opportunity to talk about The Camden borough and his passion for the social side!
Fluid: What does your Camden constituency have to offer in terms of night life and entertainment?
CP: A lot of the area is residential – there are some great pubs that are good to go to. My personal favourite is The Holly Bush in Hampstead. It’s got incredible character. It’s about 400 years old, low ceilings, beams everywhere. It feels like you’re stepping back into the 17th Century. Freemason Arms is also good, it’s next to Hampstead Heath, has a younger crowd and when it’s sunny there’s a garden outside. There’s not a lot of night life in the area but for one exception. A place called Paradise on Kilburn Lane. It’s a bar with a club upstairs.
Fluid: What needs to be improved?
CP: That’s a good question actually. I think you can find most things around here. Kilburn High Road is quite eclectic.
Fluid: How often do you go out socially in your constituency?
CP: (He laughs) Now that I am campaigning, I spend most of my time around here. In terms of going out it’s about once or twice a week.
Fluid: Are there any hidden gems in your area?
CP: I would have to say it’s The Holly Bush. Unless you live in Hampstead you probably wouldn’t know about it; you wouldn’t spot it if you came to Hampstead.
Fluid: If a visitor could visit only one restaurant/bar/club/pub in your constituency where would you suggest?
CP: The Walnut Cafe on West End Lane. Everything is totally organic.
Fluid: If you were eating on a budget, where would you recommend?
CP: The Salusbury Dining Rooms on Salusbury Road in Queen’s Park do good basic stuff.
Fluid: What’s the most unusual night you’ve ever had in London?
CP: I’m not sure it’s necessarily wise to ask that question! (thinks for a minute, and sips tea). I was taking my wife out for her birthday last year. We went to the Japanese restaurant Hakkasan. It turns out at the table next to me was the girl I went out with for 4 years at University with the guy she just married. So that was a kind of awkward moment. So much for a romantic dinner.
Fluid: Can you ever be spotted howling away at a karaoke bar? If so which song are you slaughtering?
CP: No, my voice is terrible. Singing in the shower is as far as I’d go. I used to go to Covent Garden a bit to watch. But I love ABBA songs.
Fluid: Do you tip?
CP: Do I tip? Yes! Always. Unless there’s a really compelling reason not to, I always tip.
Fluid: Are you a champagne or beer or cocktail man?
Fluid: Do you feel the smoking ban has had a positive of negative impact on the food and drink industry?
CP: I think it has a positive impact because it creates a more pleasant environment. And I think the smokers are now used to it.
Fluid: Do you find that boutiques and individual businesses have a different atmosphere to large chain establishments? Is there a place for both in London?
CP: Yes. I think individual businesses are always much better. Quirky businesses are always better; they are not following an instruction manual. There is a place for both in London. It is a free market and people will make their own choices. But my personal preferences are the quirky individual businesses.
Fluid: How has the recession affected your area of the constituency’s eating and drinking habits?
CP: I think there has been a downturn in trade. I hope that it is going to be better from hereon in. It’s not just restaurateurs. It’s all traders. They’ve been hit by a huge business rate increase effective on the 1st April. On average the increase rate across Hampstead and Kilburn has been 30%. It’s the worst possible time. It was a kick in the teeth for small businesses.
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