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Unmissable Restaurants in Soho, London.
Anyone visiting London for theatre or nightlife is likely to end up in Soho. With a plethora of restaurants, bars and cafes scattered through winding alleys and narrow streets, it can be hard to pick the best places to eat. Stretching from Oxford Street to the north through to Leicester Square in the south, Regent Street to the west and Charing Cross Road to the east, Soho encompasses Chinatown. It’s part of the West End and one of London’s main entertainment districts. Originally farmland, it became a royal park during the reign of Henry VIII and was developed further in the late 17th century. The original aristocratic inhabitants moved away by the mid 19th Century and Soho grew in popularity, with a bohemian, multicultural population. The district became edgier and by the twentieth century, it was perhaps best known as a base for the sex industry, in addition to night clubs and theatres rather than Soho restaurants. And, as a base for media companies – advertising agencies and film companies. Home to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, the 100 Club and the Boulevard Theatre, it’s still an important entertainment destination.
By the Millennium, Soho was becoming increasingly well known for restaurants – from the speciality Asian restaurants of China Town to Italian bars, pizza and pasta joints. In my head, though it was always a great foodie destination. I worked there in the 1980s when Berwick Street Market was still the go-to place for local chefs who flocked there in the early hours for fresh fruit and veg and when you could buy ingredients from the ethnic shops that were impossible to find anywhere else in London. I remember live lobster crawling around on the floor of the Chinese fishmongers and fresh pasta dusted with snowy polenta flour to take home (unknown anywhere else in town) from Lima Stores. Then something had happened. For as long as I can remember, there had always been good restaurants in Soho, but a few new players seemed to breathe life into the area. The first I remember was Randall and Aubin, an eclectic French/English brasserie. And, Alan Yau’s restaurants in Soho, Busaba Eathai and Yauatcha. People arrived on the scene like Russell Norman with Polpo and a whole series of themed casual dining venues where the food was really good and really authentic. Princi – a joint venture between Alan Yau and Rocco Princi was often so busy I wouldn’t even go in. Dining-out grew in popularity – but, a casual, relaxed version of the formal meals my parents had enjoyed. Perhaps because of the timing, since this step-change happened in parallel with a growing interest in travel, Londoners were more than happy to explore different cuisines.
Soho today is still a multicultural food hub. Places like Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street have sprung up and became popular so quickly that they might have been there for fifty years. What’s not to like about three floors of excellent restaurants and bars around a central open courtyard? And, most of the places I remember from when I first worked there – Rules, Lima Stores and l’Escargot are going strong too. Where do you start though if you are exploring Soho’s Restaurants? We’ve rounded up all our favourites so you can easily find the right restaurant in Soho for you – from quirky Soho restaurants through to classics like l’Escargot.
Meanwhile, if you are thinking of visiting, why not pin this post for later