Mike Smith

Music Man and Illustrator

Tell me about your jewellery. I’m loving what you have on your wrists today.
Mike Smith: I’ve had this for a long time this bracelet. Probably from ’92-93. Growing up … I’m from a place called Birkenhead.

I grew up in the 70s. At a time when Jewellery – specially on men – would make them to be slightly more macho. That isn’t really what I am. But I looked up to (and quite admired) those kind of working class guys done good. They would have a big watch or big ring or bracelet … I admired that look. Clothes were quite important where I grew up. But it would be the working class kids who would be dressing up the best. From whatever they had they would put into clothes … It always stayed with me. I never had the money to do it, but then when I started to earn a bit of money I loved the idea of trying to get silver jewellery. So I’ve had this bracelet for over 20 years, but I got it engraved. See there (Mike shows me the engraving), it’s got my wife and daughters names, hand written.

And the beads?
Oh the beads! Of course, I should remember. It was a gift from my wife. It’s got a crucifix with black diamonds in it. It was a present from her last year. There is a great jeweller in Notting Hill called Ming. She does the most amazing silver jewellery. I actually went to see her to get a bracelet made up for my wife. It was based around Wallis Simpson’s bracelet.

Tell me a great restaurant that you and your wife go to in London?
I’m not a huge fan of fancy restaurants. One of my favourite restaurants is still Mildred’s in Lexington Street. Soho was where I used to live for years. It’s where I was living when I met my wife and we always talk about retiring back there, even though It’s right in the heart of the city and it’s still pretty mental.

What do you order?
Smith: If I’m being healthy I’ll have a detox salad. If I’m not being healthy I’ll have the Veggie Burger, you can get sweet potato fries with that. They also do wicked desert, puddings and crumbles. Great coffee. The staff are amazing and there are always interesting people in there. It was going when I first moved to Soho in the early 90s. It was an institution. It was on Greek Street then.
If I was going to a pub I would go to The Three Kings in Clerkenwell. I don't drink anymore, but that was my one place in London. It was the best local imaginable.

When I lived in Soho I used to go to the Coach and Horses on Greek Street. It’s an amazing proper old school boozer. Back then St Martin’s Art School was just round the corner. All the writers used to go in there. Actors.  It reminded me of being on a ship. You’d go in there at about 4pm in the afternoon. You’d think “I’ll just pop in for  a quick one”. Then you’d end up talking to somebody. Invariably you’d end up talking to somebody else. Then a sailor would turn up … all of a sudden it would be ten or eleven at night and the whole place would be rockin’. People would be singing! There would probably be a fight in the corner. It was like the greatest New Years Eve party every night … Probably the greatest pub in the world.

Love it! Do you drink coffee?
I do drink coffee! There is a fantastic Australian place on Great Titchfield Street. It’s called Kaffeine. I’m so delighted that the world has gone up in good coffee. The introduction of the flat white has definitely been a step forward.

Do you have the “London’s Best Coffee” app?
No. But that sounds brilliant!

You must download it. I insist! It will tell you where to get the best coffee based on the location of exactly where you are standing in London. It even details the type of beans, machine and grinder.
Smith: Wow. So you’re a big coffee fan?

I worry because I could so easily become completely obsessive about it.
* As told to Michelle Sullivan of The Manifesto. This conversation has been edited.