Soho area guide

Discover countless drinking holes, excellent restaurants and unforgettable entertainment in London’s vibrant Soho

Soho area guide 2018

Soho is a hard place to pin down. The district – and its southern subsection Chinatown – teems with tourists going to West End shows, media professionals marching to work, hungry patrons sampling some of London's best restaurants and people looking to have a long night out at one (or several) of the area's clubs, bars and pubs. But Soho was also home to many historical figures, including Mozart, Karl Marx and The Sex Pistols. Many Londoners still think it’s all about sex, but the fact is, Soho should be as notable for its history and culture as it is for the sleaze. Explore the best of Soho by wandering its busy streets, settling down for some unbeatable people-watching at a pavement café and soaking up the neighbourhood’s unique vibes. 

Watch our video below to find out five hand-picked venues in the area:

RECOMMENDED: London by area

The best bits of Soho

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News

18 great things to do on Berwick Street

If Berwick Street were a person, she’d be your favourite rock chick auntie

18 awesome things to do on Old Compton Street
News

18 awesome things to do on Old Compton Street

A street pulsating with theatre-goers, people-watchers and parading Soho characters

The best restaurants in Soho

10 Greek Street
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10 Greek Street

A perfectly formed menu and an easy-going conviviality

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Bao
Restaurants

Bao

A take on Taiwanese street food

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Xu
Restaurants Book online

Xu

A love letter to 1930s Taipei

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
3 out of 5 stars
Book online
Temper
Restaurants Book online

Temper

Venue says: “New breeds of cow are coming in every week – come and find out which is your favourite…”

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online
More incredible eats in Soho

More great places to eat in Soho

Cheap eats in Soho
Restaurants

Cheap eats in Soho

Have a ball on a budget at these Soho restaurants and cafés

Where to eat in Chinatown
Restaurants

Where to eat in Chinatown

Feast on the finest Chinese restaurants the West End has to offer

See all restaurants in Soho

Things to do in Soho

Soho Square
Things to do

Soho Square

The perfect central London spot for a G&T tin in the sunshine

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Liberty
Shopping

Liberty

Peruse the silk scarves at whimsical London icon Liberty

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Carnaby Street
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Carnaby Street

This famously fashionable shopping street was once the epicentre of the swinging ‘60s 

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Curzon Soho

Curzon Soho

Arthouse film fans have been known to go weak at the knees at the mention of the Soho Curzon

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Bars in Soho

Bar Termini
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Bar Termini

When someone calls two people a ‘dream team’, my hype-detector lights up. But with Bar Termini, the DT moniker seems fitting. Bar Termini does two things: coffee and cocktails. Coffee is overseen by Marco Arrigo, head of quality for Illy, who has probably trained more baristas – and trained them rigorously – than anyone else in the UK. Cocktails are supervised by Tony Conigliaro, the alco-alchemist behind 69 Colebrooke Row and Zetter Town House, among others. Teams don’t get much dreamier than this. So, have they found a supersized venue to match the giant reputation? Ha ha ha. There’s room for 25, and seated service only, though you may stand if you order a single ‘espresso al bar’ (£1) for Italian-style drinking-and-running. The coffee list has just four brews, all of them classics but with a twist. The alcohol list has three negronis, four ‘aperitivi’, three wines, one bottled beer. There is also a small food offering: baked goods from L’Anima in Shoreditch by day, charcuterie and cheese in the evening. I went for coffee at lunchtime. The ‘espresso al tavola’ (they’ll explain what it means) was unusual but flawless. On my second visit later the same day, I had a marsala martini: Beefeater gin, sweet marsala, dry vermouth, almond bitters served straight-up. A model of simplicity and balance, this is one of the best cocktails in London. Prices for hot drinks are higher than the norm (£4, apart from single espresso), but that’s a for triple espresso shot. Cocktails, by c

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online
Blind Pig
Bars and pubs

Blind Pig

Though technically an upstairs adjunct to Jason Atherton’s celebrated Social Eating House (which itself garnered a five-star review in Time Out), The Blind Pig is a worthy destination in its own right. Perhaps as a nod to its Prohibition-flavoured nickname (‘blind pig’ being US underworld slang for a good old-fashioned den of iniquity), it’s not immediately obvious how to find it at street level; look under the vintage ‘Optician’ sign for the blindfolded hog doorknocker and boom, you’re in. The decor is authentically retro but never schmaltzy; lovely touches like the antique mirrored ceiling, copper-topped bar and charmingly mismatched (yet never discordant) wooden furniture made me feel (on date night) like a wide-lapelled Capone crony painting the town with his broad. If this all sounds a little contrived and too-clever-by-half, the cocktail menu brings welcome comic relief. Who could resist a Slap ’n’ Pickle (gin, brandy and pickle brine), Kindergarten Cup (incorporating ‘Skittles-washed Ketel One’), or Robin Hood, Quince of Thieves? (brandy, quince liqueur, mead). The puns are employed with abandon, but everything I tried was ace (even, yes, Dill or No Dill). Better yet, the bar snacks are made downstairs, so the grilled baby peppers, confit pork rillettes and duck fat chips are straight-up gangster.

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Cahoots
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Cahoots

I really wasn’t expecting to like Cahoots, the vintage tube-themed bar that’s a bigger hit with tourists than Madame Tussauds. From its ‘tally ho’ e-comms after making a reservation, to the awkward ‘train guard’ actor on the door and his sheer refusal to break Mockney character, it was more fear-inducing than rush hour on the Central Line, and that’s before we’d even reached the ‘platform’ (you know, the bar). Once inside though, we quickly relaxed into cocktail hour thanks to efficient staff, low lighting and retro (read kitsch) underground paraphernalia. It’s a little confused about what era it’s portraying (we figure it’s the Blitz), but you’re not really looking for historical accuracy – Cahoots sure isn’t taking itself seriously. It’s all aided by a list of drinks spread across a newspaper-sized menu – plenty of options to get in the mood but a bloody long read. Luckily they flag a few from the menu to best suit certain tastes, and staff give recommendations.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, a Judy Garland (£10) arrived in cup and saucer. It was a refreshing citrusy mix of gin, aperol, grapefruit and camomille tea. For more of an edge, the old fashioned (£11) was a jolly good show, its foundations made from the bar’s ‘grog’ mix on the clever ‘Cahooch’ section of the menu. Snacks are basic, failing to nail the retro thing (we can’t remember our ‘vintage’ relatives ever craving a crisp and salad cream sandwich) but are an extra bit of silliness presented in ration trays for qu

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online
Swift
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Swift

From the couple who brought us cult faves Nightjar and Oriole comes Swift, swooping into the former site of the celebrated, groundbreaking Lab Bar. Frankly, if they’d named it Tit I’d have still been excited, since here they’ve also teamed up with folks who’ve worked across Milk & Honey and Callooh Callay, to overwhelming success. Swift is split in two: a buzzy, casual-yet-sparkling bar on the ground level and a dark lounge below. Upstairs, the look is faintly Italian, mirrored in a menu of affordable aperitivos. This includes an unmissable sgroppino – a thick and frothy prosecco-based drink with lemony sorbet floating on top. For snacks, nearby drinkers ordered oysters, but I was happily ensconsed in a Guinness welsh rarebit, heavy with pungent cheese and onion. Pongy titbits notwithstanding, Swift makes a great date spot. If it’s going well, take it downstairs. The basement is lit for romantic trysts, the showy side of Oriole and Nightjar eschewed in favour of pared-back sophistication. Staff are attentive, guiding you through an original menu edging towards nightcaps. I tried a powerful Amber Cane, a reinvented manhattan using rum in place of whisky. So taking over the spot where London’s cocktail-making reputation was cemented doesn’t seem too bold. Doing it in such a stripped-back way was the ballsy move, but, boy has it paid off. Time for a Swift one.

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online
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Hotels in Soho

Ham Yard Hotel

Ham Yard Hotel

A buzzy hotel with colourful, quirky and eclectic decor

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Hazlitt’s

Hazlitt’s

An eighteenth-century (potentially haunted) gem in the heart of Soho

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Pubs in Soho

French House
Bars and pubs

French House

If you like to drink in places where the history’s as important as the drinks list, the Grade II-listed French House should be on your list. Charles de Gaulle used the pub as a workplace during World War II; Dylan Thomas and Francis Bacon both drank here… the list goes on. The interior reflects both the Gallic connection and its long standing in this most exciting of London neighbourhoods. It’s small, memento-filled, and very crowded when the place is busy. You may end up joining the regulars on the pavement outside, but that’s just part of the French House experience. Food is served during the daytime only, and beer, famously, is served only in halves. This is Soho history. Come and suck it up.

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
The Lyric
Bars and pubs

The Lyric

Small, slightly shambolic and with a jovial share-a-table type of vibe, The Lyric is a longstanding favourite, not least because its location near a fantastically crowded part of London—the West End, Soho, Piccadilly, Regent Street—makes it a diamond in the rough (albeit a happy-scrappy one) amid disappointing pricey traps. The Victorian pub’s 18 taps pour out reliable pints including Camden Hells and Brooklyn Lager, as well as more unusual fare such as hyper-citrussy High Wire Grapefruit brew (the clue is in the name) from Magic Rock. For something quieter, retire upstairs for a fish finger sandwich and an unfiltered Electric Eye Pale Ale from new brewers Big Smoke. This is your safe haven away from the fray.

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
3 out of 5 stars
Old Coffee House
Bars and pubs

Old Coffee House

It's not a coffee house, it's a pub – but if they called it 'The Old Pub', it would just sound daft. But what the Old Coffee House lacks in coffee it makes up for in Assorted Pub Crafts; vintage ads on mirrors, copper kettles and amateur taxidermy pieces adorn every available wall space, and a fire crackles away in the corner, while two inoffensively sized screens broadcast sport, thankfully silently on our visit. It has an unfussy proper-pubness to it, even if a more cynical eye might put the 'proper' in quotes. Fortunately, the craft beer on tap from Leyton microbrewery Brodie's completes the effect – it's excellent. What might be a slightly dingier boozer elsewhere in town absorbs vital Soho energy from Soho and becomes brilliant, as old geezers, creative types and tourists (and probably at least one old creative tourist geezer) happily intermingle.

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
2 out of 5 stars
Coach & Horses
Bars and pubs

Coach & Horses


This Soho institution may have mellowed somewhat since self-proclaimed ‘London’s rudest landlord’ Norman Balon finally hung up his polishing cloth in 2006, but there’s still plenty to make it stand out from the crowd. There are ten flavours of pickled eggs, for starters, plus an all-vegetarian food menu and, upstairs, a small ‘secret’ tea room. Decor, meanwhile, is stuck firmly in the past, with carpets worn threadbare by decades of post-work sessions. It all adds up to a curious mix of old-timey standards and progressive ideas which, crucially, work together like a charm. We seriously doubt there’s anywhere else in the city you’ll hear a rendition of ‘My Old Man’s A Dustman’ while chomping on a tofu burger.

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
3 out of 5 stars
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The perfect weekend in Soho

Buy: Berwick Street Market
Shopping

Buy: Berwick Street Market

Spend your hard-earned at global street food stalls, vintage boutiqes, record shops and more

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Laugh: Soho Theatre
Theatre

Laugh: Soho Theatre

A hub for comedy – and cabaret – that showcases numerous Edinburgh Fringe acts

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Drink: Blind Pig
Bars and pubs

Drink: Blind Pig

A covert-ish cocktail bar with a cool and creative selection of drinks

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Queue: Hoppers
Restaurants

Queue: Hoppers

These savoury Sri Lankan crepes are worth the wait

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars

Comments

1 comments
Sarah Dunbvand

Foxcroft & Ginger A Great little food emporium, run by a dynamic husband and wife team, founded upon the principals of great British food, with locally-sourced ingredients and given an original twist. With a seasonally changing menu, from hearty/recovery breakfasts to daily special sandwiches made on their own sourdough. All bread, pastries, muffins, cakes and muesli are all made and baked in the premises. Also opening on 3 December 2011, Foxcroft & Ginger in Shoreditch, 42-43 Boxpark Mall, 2 Bethnal Green Rod, Shoreditch, E1 6JY.