NFT London Covent Garden

Covent Garden

Covent Garden is a shopper's delight, especially on Endell Street and Neal Street. However, such activity will not offer a respite from the Piazza and its hordes of spatially unaware folk. Stop for fish and chips at Rock & Sole Plaice followed by gelato at Scoop. Come the evening, sip cocktails at Freud or convene with the ghost of Bernard Shaw at the Lamb & Flag.




         



On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Justine Forrest
Photo:  Justine Forrest

Oasis Sports Centre
Do the shoppers on Oxford Street realise that just ten minutes away, they could be swimming outdoors? Most of them probably don't. Somewhere between Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden, the Oasis Sports Centre is home to an outdoor swimming pool that is open all year round. Welcoming brave souls in the winter and skimpily clad masses in the summer, the outdoor pool in incongruously bordered on two sides by shabby council flats. The pool is heated in the colder months and perversely that is probably the best time to visit if you are serious about swimming as once the weather warms up and the schools let out, the pool becomes overcrowded with poseurs and children. There is still the indoor pool, but after outdoor swimming that never seems as good. So I recommend you wait until the winds are blowing, the snow or rain is falling, and then try out the Oasis pool. The Oasis also houses a gym and exercise studios, but the main draw for me will always be that outdoor pool.



Posted By:  Justine Forrest
Photo:  Justine Forrest

Pop Boutique
"Don't Follow Fashion. Wear Something Already Out of Date" is Pop's mantra, emblazoned on their window and it seems like a pretty good idea to me. Pop mainly sells clothes for men and women, which are a mixture of genuine vintage items and clothes that have been made from re-fashioned vintage material. Their new-from-old clothes do change to follow current trends somewhat, despite the company motto, so a few seasons ago they had hooded leather bomber jackets similar to those on the high street. Pop also sells vintage homewares, which decorate the shelves and window display. Vintage coloured glass seems a particular favourite and you'll probably always find a retro ice bucket. They have a small stock of greetings cards, which have a retro angle in keeping with the rest of the shop. I love Pop's stuff but I have one grumble. The staff always seem to be in the process of putting out new stock, make a big show of looking busy, and act as if you are in the way coming into shop. Being made to feel unwelcome somewhat spoils the shopping experience.



Posted By:  Justine Forrest
Photo:  Justine Forrest

Rokit
Even if you don't have an interest in vintage clothing, Rokit is worth a visit for its imaginative window displays. The themed displays demonstrate what can be done with the shop's vintage clothing, a lot of imagination and the nerve to wear it. Inside the shop is dark and vast (just the way we like our vintage stores), with multiple items in every clothing category you can think of. Prices are higher than charity shops, but nowhere near as extortionate as some other retro stores in the city.



Posted By:  Justine Forrest
Photo:  Justine Forrest

Blackout II
I have no idea what happened to the original Blackout, but judging by its second incarnation, it may have collapsed under the weight of vintage clothes. This tiny shop is crammed full of vintage delights, not the cheap stuff you'd wear for a fancy dress party, but beautiful old clothes for those with a serious passion for vintage or a special occasion to dress for. Clothes are organised mainly be period, so you know where to start if you want a Sixties mini dress or a 1920s gown, but still it can take some time work your way through the stock is everything is so tightly packed on the rails. There is a basement too, which contains more clothes and an enclave devoted to shoes if you can squeeze your way to the back of the shop to find the stairs. Every available bit of space is filled with hats and bags filling shelves above the rails. It can get very hot in the shop, and it takes some stamina to search through their stock. But it's well worth it!



Posted By:  Julia Dennison
Photo:  Stephen Dennison

Artbox
Just stepping into this new, larger branch of Artbox in Covent Garden is enough to send any sane human being into a visual sugar rush. Just one glance at the cute panda-ridden tea towels, large plush mushrooms, wasabi chewing gum and general Hello Kitty overload will have any emo hipster, slobbering five-year-old, or well-respected adult bouncing around the room like they'd been administered Harajuku crack. The stuff here is Japanese and cute. So cute it's almost annoying. That is until you look into the big, round eyes of the "Happy Virus" girls (yes, seriously) and can't help but buy the stuff. Enjoy the nonsensical broken attempts at English found on almost every product, which if nothing else, will have you leaving the crowded shop absolutely pissing yourself.



Posted By:  Justine Forrest
Photo:  Justine Forrest

Food for Thought
This place is a godsend for anyone looking to escape the tedium of pre-packed sandwiches on a lunchtime. Confirmed carnivores should not be put off by the fact that Food for Thought is a vegetarian restaurant. Whilst lentils do appear occasionally in their recipes (the delicious Spanish Lentil dish is highly recommended), it lacks the worthiness of other vegetarian restaurants, and it serves up some tasty, not always too healthy meals. Their menu changes on a daily basis, but you can always expect to find quiche, soup, a variety of salads and a choice of three hot dishes, one of which is always a stir fry, the others normally bakes and stews of some description. The portions are generous and you can have a decent lunch for under £5. They also make breads, scones and cakes, as well as their legendary dessert, the scrunch which involves fruit and cream. The downstairs is for eating-in, with basic wooden benches allowing communal dining for a small number of patrons, but where Food for Thought really comes into its own is in its take away service. Join the queue on the ground floor to buy food to eat off the premises. It is served in environmentally-unfriendly polystyrene tubs, but if you bring a similar sized container of your own, they will happily fill that up instead.



Posted By:  Justine Forrest
Photo:  Justine Forrest

Lamb and Flag
Covent Garden may have many attractions and distractions, but it is notoriously short on decent pubs, and despite its claims to being the oldest pub in London, The Lamb & Flag manages to attract a crowd that isn't just made up of tourists. It is located on Rose Street, a hidden-away street that could be difficult to find, were it not for the fact that the Lamb & Flag itself is sign posted off Floral Street. Inside the pub is cosy with a lot of wood panelling. It serves a few ales, if you like that sort of thing. The toilets are tiny with the Ladies being precariously balanced on the stairs. The food is a rather bland selection that doesn't help England's reputation for cuisine. But these are not the reasons for going to the Lamb & Flag. You go here for the atmosphere. The place is always busy, but more than that its patrons have a way of really making you feel that you are missing out on something if you don't have time to call in for a drink. There is always a happy buzz of laughter coming from here, and the pavement outside takes the overflow from the pub in all but the harshest weathers.



Posted By:  Michael Kasparis
Photo:  Michael Kasparis

The End
DURRR is the utopian, golden phoenix to Trash's electro-punk ashes. Like all things briefly edgy, the latter club fizzled out under its own legend, leaving a void in many clubbers' lives. Loosely related, DURRR is the ideologically pure spawn of that trendified monster. While previously at The End (the venue for both clubs) you could feel distinctly underdressed, under enthused and well, just under, now at DURRR the untermensch mix with the uber-hip. There's a genuine excitement in the air, even when the live acts seem to be confusing some demographics. And that's the beauty of the night. While there's no shortage of hipster fist pumping and dolled up kids, the focus is more on the music (man), both live and DJ'd. At any given night you can rub up close to French disco-proggers Zombie Zombie, spectacular touring bands like Mirror Mirror or pummeling techno misfit Drums Of Death. It's a rowdy mob of freaks and it's a Monday night, just tell your boss to get off your case.




Posted By:  Julia Dennison
Photo:  Julia Dennison

Scoop
The Italians know how to do it. Mounds and mounds of ice creams, made on site at this bubbly gelatoria, are the real thing. Flavours like ricotta e fichi or biscottino (kinda like cookie dough, but better) have an air of Tuscan authenticity (that's where they owner's from) and the array of fruit sorbets are tart and refreshing enough to go brilliantly with the creamier stuff. It almost seems blasphemous to watch them dig into the pristine mountains of dairy goodness, but it's worth it, if not for the array of cone choices then for the colourful toppings. The shop itself feels like a giant ice cream cone with its sorbet oranges and strawberry pinks, part of me kinda wanted to lick the walls too.



Posted By:  Julia Dennison
Photo:  Julia Dennison

Rossopomodoro
Finding good pizza in London is difficult, though you wouldn't think it. The right ratio of chewiness to crispiness in a crust with a perfect tomato sauce and the right amount of cheese are all factors to be taken into stern consideration. When I found my perfect pizza in what is actually a chain, I was surprised, but Rossopomodoro, which seems like Italy's answer to Pizza Express (it's everywhere over on the boot), seals the deal. There are only three locations in London, but I said to myself: if the Italians had to do a pizza chain, and accept it, what with their stubborn adherence to the 'slow food' movement, it would have to be pretty damn good. And good it is. Flavour combinations you would never normally see anywhere are all over the menu, which specialises in pizza and dishes from Naples, and the crust might just be a gift from the gods of fast food. But call these guys 'fast food' and you might receive a heated slap (or worse, there is an air of horse's head about the management, who had to be consulted before I could take pictures) as 'slow food' is all over the menu. What it all means, I'm not sure, but it's there and it's the best pizza I've had in a long time. And I'm from New York.



Posted By:  Julia Dennison
Photo:  Julia Dennison

Coffee, Cake & Kink
Vibrators, lattes, art and muffins aren't usually the most likely of bedfellows (I say likely because anything is possible, if not a little crumby). However, at Coffee, Cake and Kink the combo is an everyday occurrence. In this cozy nook of a gallery cafe in Covent Garden, sex, prints and baked goods are their speciality. Obviously someone went through the thought process of, 'hmm... I like sex. I'm arty and I also kinda like cake...' and brought to us a rather chirpy destination for afternoon snacks and sex toys (you might think you were in Starbucks were it not for the cabinet of strap-ons and bondage art on the walls). The cakes are good and the Monmouth coffee is deliciousness down to the details--nowhere else will you find an iced coffee with heart-shaped coffee ice cubes. Plus, the people who work here are all smiles and can balance about 10 carrot cakes down the precarious windy staircase leading to the, ahem, den of love where you won't find wi-fi, but according to a guy when I asked, what you see around you 'is a lot better than that'.



Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow

The Bead Shop
The Covent Garden Bead Shop has always been one of my favourite shops. From childhood Christmas visits to London back when it was located in Neal Street through to its current location on Tower Street, the shop's kaleidoscopic interior has never failed to draw me in for a browse--and almost always a purchase. There is too much good stuff in this store and they are always expanding the stock, a playground for magpies and creative minds yet a hazard to the wallet. This is not because the items are dear, simply that you cannot help touring the shop and saying to yourself, "I'll have some of those, and what are these? I definitely need these." Or maybe just, "ooh, sparkly stuff, pretty." If you're not particularly artistic, the staff are fantastic at doling out help and advice but some beads are so pretty you need merely string them on some thong to create a masterpiece. You can feel smug when others ask, "where did you get that?" and you reply, "oh this? Just something I threw together--literally."



Posted By:  John Parton
Photo:  John Parton

Monmouth Coffee Company
So it's pretty simple really: Monmouth's coffee is delicious, fantastically so. The company has been roasting and selling coffee beans snuffled-out of the far crevices of the world since 1978, meaning that they are no organic food bubble gate-crasher, and that they tend to know what they're doing. They also make a good song and dance about fair-trading with small-scale growers, ensuring that you can feel suitably like you're sticking it to The Man when supping on one of the finest espressos around. Stopping-off at one of their three little shops (one in Covent Garden, two around Borough Market) is a fine experience, you can try-before-you-buy your own beans, carouse away on coffee and croissants, or just get updates on when the next micro-lot of Pondok Gajah Sumatran is due in ('ripe fruit with tobacco notes, medium body and acidity,' in case you were wondering). Anyone know better coffee in London?



Posted By:  Julia Dennison
Photo:  Julia Dennison

Cybercandy
When I was little, my idea of a genius business venture was somewhere along the lines of replicating the chocolate room in the 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and then selling tickets. To bite into a giant edible daffodil has been a life-long ambition. The likelihood of this becoming a reality is slim to none, so in the mean time, I have Cybercandy, a sweet shop with few rivals, with everything you were never allowed neatly on shelves for the buying. Some of their offerings are wrong wrong wrong, like bright pink Bubble Yum soda, but you have to remember, if you were a kid, this would have been amazing, and if you're not already channelling your inner child in this place, go back and don't come out until you do.



Posted By:  Julia Dennison
Photo:  Julia Dennison

Candy Cakes
The sickly sweet array of coloured cupcakes in the window of Candy Cakes look like something the whole cast of Sesame Street, Rainbow Brite and the Teletubbies ate and then vomited up in cute peaks of sugary goodness with cherries on top. These cakes are adorable. So adorable that you might hesitate to even eat one, for fear of a hyperglycemia-inducing state of sugar rush that will leave you shaking in a corner. The only health benefit to these cakes, it seems, is that they pride themselves in not using artificial colourings, which actually leaves me all the more disconcerted trying to place where these colours actually appear in nature. Anyway, these cupcakes the size of your right hand are tasty, covered in coloured icing and each one is topped with an appropriate candy to match.



Posted By:  Julia Dennison
Photo:  Julia Dennison

Ben's Cookies
Despite the fact that customer service at this mini-chain of Quentin Blake-decorated cookie chains is about as personal as a McDonald's drive-through, the dribbly gooeyness of its chocolate chip confections more than make up for this oversight. The flavours of cookie vary nicely, and the pieces of melty chocolate inside them are generous and often outnumber the cookie three to one. The white chocolate and raspberry or cherry and dark chocolate are good ones to go for because the tart fruity flavours cut through the sometimes cloyingly sweet goo. Make sure you ask for a cookie straight from the oven, as due to the abrupt 'Who's next?' attitude of the people working there, this is not a given. One thing is, you can't leave without being covered in some shade of chocolate, be it dark, milk or white.




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