Rita Gilligan, Hard Rock Cafe London: My Perfect Day

Rita has worked at Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly since the day it opened in 1971. She's danced with Ronnie Wood, been serenaded by Noel Gallagher and kissed George Michael. She's now a brand ambassador for Hard Rock International.

Rita began working at Hard Rock Cafe on the day it opened in 1971. She’s danced with Ronnie Wood, been serenaded by Noel Gallagher and kissed George Michael. She is now a brand ambassador for Hard Rock International.

Piccadilly Circus, London, UK
Rita loves the bright lights of Piccadilly. (©istock)

Which are your favourite buildings?

It has to be the Piccadilly lights. On my 50th birthday, I was serving a man I didn’t know who turned out to be the chairman or CEO of Coca-Cola. He paid £11,500 for my name to appear on the lights! I was blindfolded and taken in a limousine to see them.

Tell us your favourite museum.

I like the Natural History Museum. I attended a charity event there for Pinktober with the TV presenter Gloria Hunniford about five years ago.

Where do you like to shop?

I’m a big lady, so I like the sizes in Marks & Spencer. I also like department stores such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Debenhams. I worked in Selfridges, so I have fond memories of the shop, and I think John Lewis has wonderful service.

Serpentine, Hyde Park, London, UK
The Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park is a tranquil retreat. (©David Callan/iStock)

Which is your favourite green space?

Hyde Park. For Hard Rock Cafe’s 40th anniversary, they built two pubs called Golden Oldie Rita’s Arms and Rita’s Arms after me in the park! I pulled pints and made cocktails.

Which London place holds a special memory for you?

My children were born in St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington and when they were young we lived in Queen’s Park. I liked the area because everyone talked to one another.

How do you prefer to travel around?

I do like a black taxi and because I like to talk to people, I use the Tube and the buses. A lot of people recognise me—especially when I’m in my waitressing uniform with the badges on.

The American Bar at The Savoy, London, UK
The American Bar, at The Savoy, makes a visit there really special. (©The Savoy)

Do you have a favourite hotel in London?

I’ve often had lunch and afternoon tea at The Lanesborough, which has a smart dress code and excellent service – staff open the door for you. Visiting the Savoy also creates a memory for life.

Where do you go for a drink?

The Rose & Crown pub on Old Park Lane, because I know the owners and everyone is friendly there. It serves great food, it’s not too expensive and it’s right across the road from Hyde Park.

What’s your idea of a perfect evening’s entertainment?

I’m 78 now so I don’t go out very much. But I’m Irish so I love Irish music. I used to go to concerts at Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith and I enjoy eating at The Wolseley, which is beautiful.

Harrods, London, UK
Harrods is a pinnacle of department stores in London. (©David Callan/iStock)

What makes London stand out from the rest of the world?

Royalty, Wimbledon and the shops: it’s all about Harrods, Harrods, Harrods! And the buzz – there’s nothing like sitting outside a café drinking a coffee and soaking up the atmosphere. It’s a wonderful city.

Rita and Paul McCartney, Hard Rock, London, UK
Rita has met many famous faces over the many years she's worked at Hard Rock Cafe, including Paul McCartney. (©Hard Rock Cafe)

150 Old Park Lane, W1K 1QZ. T: 020-7514 1700; 225-229 Piccadilly, W1J 9HR. T: 020-7287 4600.