Give or take the odd stint in restaurant kitchens, I've been a food and travel writer all my working life. I love the thrill of taking off for Las Vegas or peering into the shiniest shop windows in Lyon, but for me there's no place like the UK, and in particular the North's grand cities. I write for The Guardian and Food and Travel Magazine and contribute to many guides and books.
Covering Liverpool lifestyle, arts and ents stories for the commuter newspaper Metro's North West edition gave me a chance to reaquaint myself with the grown-up side of a city I knew from childhood visits. As a kid, the greatest thrill of a trip to Liverpool was the chance to see Fred the TV weatherman's huge map floating in the Albert Dock like a bizarre waterlily. Now I live close enough to go anytime and am tall enough to see the bigger picture, it's the scale of the place - the sweeping Mersey vista, towering Anglican cathedral and rewarding clamber to the Georgian terraces - that's the real draw. Add the possibility of acquiring a decent flat white - a fairly recent phenomenon - and it all falls wonderfully into place.
Where I always grab a coffee: Bold Street Coffee strikes a pleasant balance between self-conscious cool (there’s vinyl and turntables behind the bar) and an inclusive vibe. They take their hot drinks seriously.
My favourite dining spot: For sheer mind-boggling, multisensory genius, Marc Wilkinson’s Michelin-starred restaurant Fraiche is a short cab ride over to Oxton, and worth every tick of the meter.
Best place for people watching: Take a seat on Church Street and watch the world and his wife pass by.
Where to be seen: Prop up the curvy blue-lit bar at San Carlo and you’re likely to be sandwiched between celebrities.
Most breathtaking view: The Panoramic restaurant, on the 34th floor of Beetham’s West Tower, has extraordinary views all the way to Wales. It’s glorious at night.
My favourite stroll: Liverpool’s waterfront never seems to be quite finished, but a walk around the Albert Dock, particularly the riverside path, offers historical perspective and cobweb-clearing in one.
The best spot for peace and quiet: St James’ Garden is a sunken green space in the quarry whose stone built much of the city centre. It used to be a cemetery – don’t trip over the gravestones.
Where I’d go on a date: To see something at the Everyman theatre. Shakespeare or a visiting comedian? Depends on the date.
The best shopping opportunities: The Liverpool ONE development keeps attracting interesting new tenants, but for shiny geegaws, don’t forget Chinatown.
Don’t leave without: Humming a bit of The Beatles.