Times may be tough, but Charles Dunstone remains as affable as ever. He sits in a blue Prada suit beneath a vast photo of a smart New York office that hangs on a bare concrete wall in the new, Brutalist block housing his TalkTalk landline and broadband operation on the edge of trendy Notting Hill, west London. And he gently mocks it all.
'It's industrial chic,' he says with a wink, gesturing around. Outside his glass-walled booth, rows of workers sit at desks in a bleak, brushed-concrete space that looks, frankly, unfinished.
Or like an art gallery. He smiles. 'Our network people came down from Manchester and they know I am obsessive about every detail, and they looked around and said: "Charles, you must be furious they haven't finished it yet," and I said: "No, no, it is finished," and they said: "You are taking the piss, surely?"' He shakes his head and giggles. 'Then they said they were going back to Manchester to take their ceiling tiles down ...'