NFT London Piccadilly / Soho (West)

Piccadilly / Soho (West)

Forget visions of Austin Powers "yeah baby" grooviness, Carnaby Street is a slick study in consumerism with all major streetwear labels present, but the grand dame of department stores, Liberty, retains top marks for a unique shopping experience. Have a coffee in Sacred if you can find a seat or else retreat to Milk & Honey for a cocktail. Polpo restaurant is a winner in the small plates game.




         



On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow

Freggo
A few weeks ago I was invited to a press night at the Menier Gallery for Freggo ice cream. Freggo is a cafe-gelateria run by the folk who own Gaucho. Their USP in a sea of gelaterias that have opened in the capital these past few years is that they are Argentinian, hence the flavours Malbec and Berries and Dulce de Leche. The event at the Menier was called Taste based upon some technical wizardry which apparently lets you "see what your tastebuds saw". Basically, I ate some free ice cream then rocked up to a computer where I rated factors such as "creaminess" and "tartness" out of 100. Once I'd completed all sections, the computer did some crunching and produced a visual which morphed and undulated before my eyes. It was kind of cool--but not as cool as free ice cream: "Hiya, yes, me again! Can I try the Banana Split again?" (which incidentally is the stand out flavour). If you happen to be on Regent Street duck in to Swallow Street and give Freggo a try but Scoop in Covent Garden is still serves the best gelato in London.




Posted By:  Joel Northcott
Photo:  Joel Northcott

Nordic Bakery
Soho has some nice independent cafes, there's no doubt about that, but with many a tight squeeze, where can you go and swing more than the proverbial cat? The Nordic Bakery on sunny Golden square has yummy coffee, fabulous pastries, and importantly for that rainy Saturday or hectic Sunday brunch session, loads of space. Based on simple Scandinavian principles of design--high ceiling, minimalist clutter--upon walking in you'll have avoided that feeling of having entered some kind of literary conspiracy. The coffee is top-notch, strong like the Scandinavians like it, and served in plastic crockery designed by a trio of Nordic artists. Besides the coffee culinary delights include Tosca Cake, Karelian pies (with a slathering of what we would call egg mayonnaise), and the Cinnamon bun--almost too much pastry but worth it at 2 quid a piece. Come to the Nordic on purpose--forget all the fluffy 'nice for coffee if you're in the area' business. It's a tasty treat in lesser-known west Soho that's hard to beat.



Posted By:  Lee Mannion
Photo:  Lee Mannion

Taro
Things were bad. My beloved was not coping well with the idea of grabbing something quick to eat in Soho on a cold evening before we headed to a comedy night. I sometimes get PMT mixed up with Michael Jackson's PYT but I knew which one I was dealing with that night. Taro, admittedly not much to look at, at least looked clean, cheap, filling and like it might be quick. A big bowl of Chicken Ramen arrived for me, Chicken Curry Udon for her. Mine was good; punchy flavours, thoroughly warming and very filling. After eating about half of hers and pushing the rest of it around the plate for a bit, an embryonic scowl started to appear on her face. I looked at the gelatinous sauce before tasting it: pretty basic and unmemorable. While I slurped away she rapidly downed her wine and I got the idea that a few more glasses might well produce an upturn in the mood so we got the bill and headed for the pub. Taro is good for a quick fix if you choose right; it's cheap and the staff are nice. And for the record, more red wine did help.



Posted By:  Anne Seymour
Photo:  Anne Seymour

The Diner
For the few among you who have never previously had to identify yourself with either a red or black lightning bolt, knowing which loo to use at The Diner will be a moment fraught with foot-hopping anxiety: their baffling lightning symbols are all you have to work with. However, pass this obscure test of your toilet selection intuition--a brave move in a place where people are full of cocktails--and you can kick back to enjoy a well-delivered good time, as The Diner provides everything your cholesterol level hopes you never find: burgers, pancake stacks, pecan pie, dog. Yes, dog. Not the waggy, loyal, big-eyed kind though, promised our perky waitress, whose warm and attentive American-trained customer service will no doubt confuse many a customer into thinking she's gagging for their number. With a decor and drinks menu aimed more at adults than the pink-and-blue neon of many of the city's more family-aimed diners, it avoids the normal theme-bar cheesiness. Not that it quite hits classiness either, but it does stump up a good time in a very fun part of town.



Posted By:  Michael Kasparis
Photo:  Michael Kasparis

Beyond Retro
Reason dictates that we feature Beyond Retro East End for a multitude of reasons. It's the original, it's bigger, it's got bands on a Saturday, it's off Prick Lane blah blah blah. Put it this way: If you've just trawled around Liberty being blasted with prices so high you didn't know they existed, and you come across a wildly exotic tunnel of love adorned with dashing reds and mind-bending patterns, it amounts to an aesthetic balm to your inner shopper. Once you descend the staircase, a mini wonderland of vintage eccentricity is at your feet. The stock has been pruned, probably because the space is more industrial cellar than industrial warehouse, but the reasonable prices and spot-on selection are testament to the reason why the Beyond Retro empire is taking over the world. The staff is dressed in de riguer for vintage clothing staff: either extremely twee, extremely camp or extremely rock-dude. The difference between these people and the sort you get from Williamsburg to Shoreditch is that they're friendly, helpful, and fun in a way that doesn't make you want to puke. Go West!




Posted By:  Anne Seymour
Photo:  Anne Seymour

Taro
It's always reassuring to see lots of Japanese diners endorsing a Japanese restaurant. The Brits, of course, have such deadened and whorish taste-buds that we'll cheerfully trough down whatever muck's in front of us with no clue how to distinguish the authentic from the MSG, so it is much to Taro's credit that many of its customers are homesick Japanese looking for a little respite from our transfats. Eating here will make you feel like you're a busy business-person in Tokyo, chowing down some cheap and tasty grub before heading back to the office for the evening (unless you're like me, laboriously spearing one grain of rice at a time with that impossible utensil--the chopstick--before heading out for the evening with beansprout down your front). The food is prepared expertly in open view by cantankerous chefs whose bandanas, scowls and sinister moustaches have convinced me they're pirates on community service. Taro won't confirm this, but they do make delicious sushi and serve it efficiently (they'll want their table back sharpish though, so don't enjoy your food TOO much).




Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Courtesy of Jori White PR

Tibits
Ugh, vegetarian food. What's the point of a curry without meat? How is a burger a burger if it's made from vegetables or some other meat "substitute"? Moo-cow, baa-lamb, chickadee, piggy--they were all bred for mangetout-ing, got that potato-head? Well, I have to say, I ate my words--a little--at the opening of Tibits restaurant--I would've eaten them a whole lot more if there hadn't been such a scrum for the buffet. A successful Swiss franchise, Tibits offers up fresh, tasty vegetarian food which is sold by weight. Aside from the novelty, the courgette lasagne went down pretty well and quinoa salads, dhal (perfectly cooked lentils how they should taste--not the mushy pap that so many veggies declare highly nutritious yet, they fail to acknowledge, disgusting in texture) and crumbed falafels all filled the hole nicely. However--and this is where it becomes clear that the emphasis is on taste, not just healthy options--the desserts were sublime and I would happily spend my complimentary £10 voucher on tiramisu alone. And finally, Tibits has a very well stocked bar and menu of delectable cocktails, something surely agreeable to vegetarian and carnivore alike.




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