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Soho area guide

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

© Jim Linwood

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.

VIDEO: Here's what Soho looked like in the 1980s

The best bits of Soho

18 great things to do on Berwick Street, Soho
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18 great things to do on Berwick Street, Soho

Linking the bustle of Oxford Street to the seductive scuzz of Soho’s ex-red light district, Berwick Street is one of central London’s most varied thoroughfares. Its place in history has been guaranteed since it appeared on the cover of Oasis’s mega-selling ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ album. Back in the Britpop era, Berwick Street was home to so many record shops it was known as the ‘Vinyl Mile’. But the rise of iTunes and Spotify have ravaged it: now there are only a few remaining, though they’re well worth a rummage. What it’s lost in record retailers, however, Berwick Street has gained in a lively variety of coffee shops, restaurants and quirky clothes stores, all nestling next to the same fabric outlets who’ve been trading here for decades. At the Soho end, you’ll find the historic Berwick Street Market, a mainstay since the eighteenth century. Marc Bolan worked there as a teen, and it’s been smartened up but not sanitised (it recently saw off a privatisation bid). Shadowing it on one side, major renovation works are taking place: soon Berwick Street will have a boutique hotel, swanky flats and a row of smart retail units. In the meantime, there’s plenty to do here. If Berwick Street were a person, she’d be your favourite rock chick auntie: a little fancier than she once was, but still up for a good time. Eat this A post shared by Certified Nosh (@certifiednosh) on Nov 3, 2016 at 4:36pm PDT Delicious manaeesh (Levantine pizzas) from Tab

Seven late night pudding pit-stops in Soho
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Seven late night pudding pit-stops in Soho

Most restaurants treat dessert as an afterthought, but with so many sweet treats to be found on the streets of Soho, it's worth looking beyond the pudding menu. So, the next time you're in the mood for a post-dinner pud or desperately need an emergency sugar fix in between pubs, check out these late night locations.      A photo posted by 🍦chewie (@chewiefoods) on May 7, 2016 at 2:44am PDT    Yauatcha When you think about it, patisserie is just one small step from dim sum: beautiful, brightly coloured and fiddly as hell to make. It comes as no surprise, then, that Yauatcha, undisputed doyen of dim sum, has a patisserie counter. And yeah, it’s awesome. For the ultimate indulgence, get the Chocolate Pebble, a smooth round of velvety chocolate with a fudgey brownie centre. 15-17 Broadwick St, W1F 0DL, takeaway available until 11pm.     A photo posted by Date Night LDN (@_datenight_ldn) on Mar 17, 2016 at 11:41am PDT Basement Sate Earn some brownie points on date night with a post-dinner trip to Basement Sate, a hidden underground bar serving decadent desserts and matching cocktails. 8 Broadwick St, W1F 8HN. Open until 11pm Sunday and Monday, and 1.30am Tue-Sat.     A photo posted by Carly G (@carly1276) on May 8, 2016 at 12:39pm PDT   The Café at Hotel Café Royal Make pudding a formal affair at The Café at Hotel Café Royal, whose multi-course after-dinner menus include a selection of wildly creative tasting experiences from executive

Restaurants in Soho

Breakfast in Soho
Restaurants

Breakfast in Soho

Wake up to the best restaurants for breakfast in Soho

Soho's best restaurants
Restaurants

Soho's best restaurants

West End eats don't come better than these

Cheap eats in Soho
Restaurants

Cheap eats in Soho

Find the best places for cheap food and best budget restaurants and cafés in the Soho 

Where to eat in Chinatown
Restaurants

Where to eat in Chinatown

Dine at the finest Chinese restaurants the West End has to offer

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Soho highlights

The Chapel of the House of St Barnabas
Attractions

The Chapel of the House of St Barnabas

Soho was a very different place when the Chapel of St Barnabas was completed in 1864. Now, nipping into this holy spot off rowdy Greek Street feels like stepping from the ridiculous into the sublime. The chapel’s architects were inspired by the rustic majesty of the medieval Montmajour Abbey in the south of France, and created a simple yet wonderful place for worship, which is now also used for gigs. Discover the capital's most magical music venues

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
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Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Attraction showcasing weird and wonderful items from around the world, such a 13-foot-long Tower Bridge made out of matchsticks, a piece of the Berlin Wall, shrunken heads, a copy of 'The Last Supper' painted on a grain of rice and a Swarovski crystal-covered Mini Cooper. New displays include the laser beam LaseRace.

Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs in Soho

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
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
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Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel
Bars and pubs

Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel

The greatest thing about the scene here is that there is no scene. This basement bar, part of the Brasserie Zédel complex, is equally wonderful whether you’re treating it as a way-station en route to dinner, a nightcap-dispensary before heading home, or an evening’s entertainment all in itself (with terrific bar snacks). It’s also one of the loveliest bars in London, with an art deco look that’s changed little in decades of its existence (under various names). And just as lovely (and unchanging) is its approach to building a cocktail list: short, classic, no need to blind with science. The Martinez (vermouth, gin, maraschino, curaçao and orange bitters) is as good as we’ve had in London; and everything except champagne cocktails comes in at under £12. When people ask for a bar recommendation around Piccadilly Circus, we always raise the Américain flag.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Brewdog
Bars and pubs

Brewdog

Another week, another new Brewdog bar opening in London – that’s how it sometimes seems. The Scottish brewery’s Dog Eat Dog hotdog bar opened in Islington a few weeks ago, and now this central spectacular in the heart of Soho joins its roster of branches in every corner of town. No great surprises in the styling, which has the same prison-yard chainlink-and-concrete thing as the other bars. No surprises in the craft beer selection, either – it’s typically great. Twenty taps represent Brewdog (we enjoyed the limited-edition Hop Fiction at £2.80 a half) and there is a healthy influx of guests. San Diego’s Stone brewery had an Anniversary IPA at £4.70 a third, which might seem extravagant but was worth it, exploding with fragrant Pacific Northwest hops. There’s something for the hesitant lager fan as well as the dedicated explorer of craft beer’s outer reaches. What was surprising at Brewdog Soho, however, was the food. We’re used to pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, things served in plastic trays with checked greaseproof paper. Here, it’s subtle, seasonal, light, vegetable-heavy: someone here can really cook. There was a jar of lightly pickled ‘market’ veg, a small plate of pearl barley and wild mushrooms, an avocado salad with micro herbs. Maybe not traditionally booze-friendly food, but it cements this new bar’s position as more than just another post-work beerathon.

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

Dean Street Townhouse & Dining Room

Dean Street Townhouse & Dining Room

As it’s owned by the Soho House group and is surrounded by some of the capital’s media heavyweights (the ground floor restaurant is a popular meeting spot), Dean Street Townhouse can feel a bit glitzy, though essentially these are nobodies – if it’s celebs you’re after, try the Soho Hotel around the corner. Rooms – albeit small ones – can be bagged for as little as £115, but our favourite thing about it is the unassuming terrace out front which offers superlative people-watching.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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SoHostel

SoHostel

It’s not all high-end hotels here though. Sohostel is perfect for those not fussed about frills. You’ll find dormitory rooms, twins and doubles (starting at £55), a roof terrace and guest-only bar and roof garden, free wifi, and breakfast (£5). But really it’s the location that’s the star of the show: in the thick of the action, meaning that you could spend a week exploring central London from your base here on Dean Street and never have to set foot on – or have to pay for – public transport.

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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
Explore: The Chapel of the House of St Barnabas
Attractions

Explore: The Chapel of the House of St Barnabas

Look out for gigs and art exhibitions in this incredible building

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars

Love London Awards: last year's winners

Oliver Maki
Restaurants Book online

Oliver Maki

Venue says: “We offer two lunch bento boxes for only £15 and £25, from noon-4pm on weekdays only!”

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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My Place
Restaurants

My Place

When someone says, ‘Come back to my place’, you don’t expect to see mud tiles on the ceiling – especially in Soho. But that’s just one of many quirky features in this charmingly eccentric coffee shop. What’s more, its decorative brass wall panels, heavy latticed doors and copper-topped tables make a refreshing change from the pared-back, #iwokeuplikethis decor of many cookie-cutter coffee shops in London. The café is open from morning coffee and pastries (make a beeline for the vanilla-scented cannoli) all the way through to post-theatre nightcaps. Its menu is long and varied, spanning soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta specials and charcuterie and cheese platters. Everything we tried was perfectly good without being pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming great. What tips the balance for this place is the warm welcome extended to customers by genuinely friendly staff; clichéd as it sounds, we were made to feel right at home. Our apple, carrot and ginger soup had astutely balanced flavours; a chicken and pesto sandwich featured a good ratio of tender meat to airy, lightly toasted ciabatta; while a generous portion of nicely burnished homemade lasagne came with a carefully prepared side salad. Best of all was a small platter of headily smoked Corsican coppa. We could have bedded in for the afternoon with a couple of coffees and a cannoli – and no doubt Soho’s office-less contingent will be doing so soon. We think you’ll dig the mud too, and will want to come back.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Berwick Street Market
Shopping

Berwick Street Market

Situated on the stretch of Berwick Street between the Soho strip joints of Walker's Court and the elegant Yauatcha restaurant, this fruit and veg market is one of London's oldest. Its roots go back to 1778, and at one point the thriving market ran the length of Berwick Street. While the friendly and vocal grocery hawkers have thinned in recent years, they have been joined by a clutch of hot food and sandwich sellers during weekday lunchtimes, including Pizza Pilgrims – a pair of dough-spinning brothers famous for their Italian treats. Berwick Street is also blessed with good shops and cafés, including several vintage boutiques (look out for Reign and a branch of Absolute Vintage), renowned fabric store the Cloth Shop, coffee house Flat White and brunch favourite Foxcroft & Ginger.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Curzon Soho
Cinemas

Curzon Soho

Arthouse film fans have been known to go weak at the knees at the mention of the Soho Curzon, which has some of the best programming in London – a mix of arty new releases and documentaries, often introduced by the filmmakers themselves. Watching a film at the Curzon always feels special, surrounded by film lovers without it being pretentious. The coffee is good, the bar relaxed, and if you’re watching a British film, you’ll likely be seeing the finished product a stone’s throw from where it was edited in Soho. Perfect for whiling away a rainy afternoon.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Comments

1 comments
Sarah Dunbvand
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.