London Ledger: A Soho Star Is Born
When I first moved to London as a starry-eyed graduate from the sticks, I was especially chuffed that my dream internship at a film production company was based in Soho, not least because my parents warned me that the streets around my office were nothing less than a cesspit of seedy strip clubs and gangsters’ drinking dens. Excellent, I thought, exactly the atmosphere I was hoping to discover once I’d made my escape to the big smoke. Breathless with the excitement of ambitions about to be fulfilled, I was disappointed to find that the Soho of today is a significantly cleaned up and yuppified affair.
I soon realised, though, that there were multiple benefits to a degree of gentrification, not least when it comes to the really incredible dining spots in the ‘hood, from old-time classics to London’s hippest new openings.
Let’s start with breakfast – as is habitual. After an early yoga class at triyoga (some of my colleagues go to the super luxury Third Space in Soho, but it’s a bit much for me, in every sense of the word) I like to hit Press for a juice. It’s a tiny spot so I take it away and walk the five minutes to my office on Wardour Street, down Soho’s few remaining insalubrious alleyways past the sex shops, gay bars, and film people on their way to work. I still find it thrilling when I pass a famous face en route.
If I’m not feeling so virtuous I’ll pop into Flat White, where (I’m going to call it) they serve the best coffee in Soho. We’ll take clients to Dean Street Townhouse for poached eggs and avocado toast – it’s part of the Soho House takeover of central London and has their customary good service and comfortable decor.
If I need to be speedy for lunch then Princi is one of my favourites. This Milanese chain really does feel like being in Italy — the breads, salads and pizza slices are that good. Otherwise if I’ve got a bit of time to spare, it’s almost impossible not to spend money near my office. Nowadays it’s one of the best areas for record shopping in London – and I just got my first turntable so I’m building my collection with the help of Sister Ray, Reckless Records, and Sounds of the Universe. I make a lot of my own clothes too, so the Cloth House and other fabric shops on Berwick Street are regular browsing spots.
In the evening it feels like the whole of London joins us in this part of the world. Great dinners can be found in the form of cheap noodles at Koya, amazing pasta at Boca di Lupo, French at Blanchette, vegetarian at Mildred’s, candlelit fare at Andrew Edmunds, Spanish at Fernandez and Wells… and that’s just the tip of a very tasty iceberg.
For boozing I love the atmospheric, if extremely popular, French House, it’s a bastion of old-time artistic London where Francis Bacon used to drink. Just along from the artists’ pub is the writers’ pub, the Coach and Horses, also popular with both tourists and bona fide Londoners – amongst whom I’m starting to feel I can count myself. Bob Bob Ricard is a camp paradise where you can get pink rhubarb gin and tonics to match the waiters’ pink tail coats.
And if you’re still hungry after all that, Chinatown is just across Shaftesbury Avenue for a late bite after the pubs have closed. Just don’t tell my parents that I’m out after dark enjoying these dens of iniquity.