There’s nothing more frustrating when travelling than cherry picking three or four places you’d like to go and  then discovering they’re scattered across all sides of a city like stray mittens. Cue a day where you spend more time on public transport and battling with maps than actually seeing things.

There’s also nothing more frustrating that realising later that you were gallivanting through a neighborhood and missed out on one of its gems.

In the spirit of efficiency (and in the understanding that in the next few months London’s going to be host to a few more visitors than normal), here’s the first of a few posts on great things to eat, see and do in different ‘hoods of London.

They’ll cover breakfast, coffee; lunch, drinks and dinner. They’ll also give some suggestions on a few ‘must see’ things (and some to avoid).

There’s also a google map for you, so you can see how close everything is to each other.

Happy travels, from one fanatical planner to another.

A great day in the West End

Tube: Oxford Circus/Picadilly Circus/ Bond Street

Eat, shop, drink, wander over the Buckingham Palace (and avoid Hamleys Toy Store and Madame Tussauds at all costs).

Breakfast at Nopi

Yottam Ottolenghi’s  Nopi (North-of-Picadilly) is a sound spot for breakfast in a busy part of London.

It’s a serenely white room, with space to spread out a newspaper on your table. Ottolenghi specialises in pastries, vegetables and inventive dishes with a Middle Eastern influence.  A fresh carrot, apple and ginger juice (£3.5) is a sound way to up your vegetable quantity for the day.

Good choices from there include the shakshuka – baked eggs in a piquant tomato sauce with a cap of smoked yogurt cheese (£11), with wodges of fresh baked bread or the berry salad with yogurt and granola (£6.5).

If you just can’t face another morning of muesli or eggs, the sticky black rice with banana, mango and coconut is also a novel start to the day.

Have a cup of tea. Calmly plan the rest of your day. Nb, you may need to hold off on coffee. There’s better in the ‘hood.

Nopi
21-22 Warwick Street  London W1B 5NE
020 7494 9584
(Nb, also open for lunch and dinner)

www.nopi-restaurant.com

Coffee at Speakeasy

Just around the corner from Carnaby Street in a small lane opposite Diesel’s women’s store is Speakeasy Espresso and Brew Bar.

The espresso is from Coffeesmiths. There’s proper latte art and they know how to pour a decent flat white. If you choose a piccolo latte as, you might get a sly nod of approval. There are pastries, bowls of muesli and sandwiches and plenty of space to sit in, but you might want to get a coffee to go while you hit the nearby shops.

Speakeasy Espresso & Brew Bar
3 Lowndes Court
Carnaby,  W1F 7HD

http://speakeasycoffee.co.uk/

Morning activity
Shopping at Liberty, Carnaby street, Regent Street or up to Oxford Street.

Lunch option 1  (rough and fun) Pitt Cue BBQ

This won’t be for everyone. But if you like very tasty meat, spicy beans and hard drinks and want a rollicking good time it’s hard to go past Pitt Cue BBQ. It’s a recent favourite among food-loving folk in London. It came to life  after the success of the Pitt Cue bbq stall on South Bank last summer. It’s delightfully unpretentious. There’s a bar upstairs and most of the seating is underground.

Food is served in formica trays, probably last seen on a family caravan excursion.  Beef and pork ribs are spicy, sticky, kissed with smoke-  and large (around £9).  A side slaw of kholrabi, apple and fennel helps keep things fresh, while bone marrow mash is as hedonisticaly rich as it sounds and served in a squat glass jar. There’s a great selection of cider and bourbon, but to me the ‘hard lemonade’ is a tricky one to go past. It’s bourbon, cointreau and home made lemonade muddled together. It’s like the tough kids of the neighbourhood got hold of a streetside stall and started making money from vice.

Nb, you can’t book at Pitt Cue and queues form quickly. If you want to be guaranteed of a spot, get there a couple of minutes before it opens at 12pm. Otherwise, wait at the bar.

Pitt Cue Co
1 Newburgh Street
Soho, W1F 7RB

www.pittcue.co.uk

Lunch option 2 – (civilised and restrained) Hix Selfridges

If you’re after something genteel and you’re shopping up at Selfridges on Oxford Street, you might want to join the other ladies who lunch at Hix, Selfridges. Part of the appeal of Hix  for many must be that it looks over the accessories floor of this shiny department store. You don’t even have to halt your shopping spree to eat (or drink). Here are some other appealing aspects; here you can carry on a conversation without shouting. There’s wine in generously portioned carafes. And the food comes from Mark Hix.

So you know the food will be seasonal. It  will showcase some of the best of British produce. It’s comforting. And the price tags are relatively friendly (particularly in comparison to what’s on display in Prada below you).

A plate of broad bean puree and another of De Beauvoir Smoked Salmon with a side of Corrigan’s soda bread and a glass of pink wine is a perfectly civilised way to spend a lunch time in Central London.

Hix Selfridges
400 Oxford Street, London,
W1A 1AB
(Entrance via Duke Street)
Tube: Bond Street
T: 020 7499 5400

www.hixatselfridges.co.uk/

Afternoon activity
Walk off some of the indulgence by heading west over to meander through Hyde Park or down to Buckingham Palace.

Drinks and dinner at Bob Bob Ricard

For some, it’s the sheer novelty value of the button. There it is, next to you in your booth;  ‘Press for champagne’.  Mere seconds after you push it someone will appear by your side.

For others it’s the cocktails; the rhubarb gin and tonic is a fluffy, sprightly delight.

Bob Bob Ricard is a jewel box of a restaurant and bar. It looks like the inside of the Orient Express. Floor staff are in daffy turquoise and salmon jackets.  It’s a  perfect special occasion restaurant that’s not too stuffy -it’s too busy having fun.  As for the food- well, it manages to be interesting without being arresting. The menu treads a line between Russian classics; from caviar on ice and blinis to British comfort food, like Beef Wellington, or roast leg of lamb for two.

The burger is good (£13.25). So are the pelmeni dumplings(£6.75) and the Veal Holstein (£21.75). But what you really must not walk out without trying are desserts. Striped strawberries and cream soufflé, is striped like a candy cane and stands proudly to attention. Puddled in the middle is a vibrant puree of strawberries and there’s a shiny jug of pouring cream for you to wield according to your taste. Suddenly you’re eating clouds and tasting summer’s days. It’s a fun place, with one of the best priced wine lists in London.

Nb Bob Bob Ricard also do high tea and have an atmospheric bar downstairs.

Bob Bob Ricard
1Upper James Street
Soho, London, W1F 9DF
Tel +44 (0) 20 3145 1000

www.bobbobricard.com
Opening: 7am – late (last orders 1am)


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