Soho retains a reputation for entertainment and eating, thanks to the wealth of restaurants, bars and clubs that lines its main roads and narrow side streets
A brief introduction to Soho
Once the centre for London’s sex industry, Soho becomes cleaner, shinier and respectable with every new shop and restaurant that opens here today. While many fear the loss of the unique qualities of this central London area as some of its iconic bars and music venues close up for the last time, the popularity of this area shows no sign of declining. Soho retains a reputation for entertainment and eating, thanks to the wealth of restaurants, bars and clubs that lines its main roads and narrow side streets. Many of the restaurants uphold a ‘no reservations’ policy, promoting a casual vibe that also defines this area. In Soho there is room for all; for residents, shoppers, tourists and Londoners seeking somewhere to dine, drink and dance the night away.
Food and drink
The food in Soho has gone through a renaissance in the past 5-10 years, with dozens of tiny and trendy restaurants taking the spot of former sex shops and mastering authentic dishes from all over the world.
Soho – including its southern enclave of Chinatown – is an eclectic and edgy neighbourhood famous for its theatres, clubs, restaurants, sex shops and book stores. This district has a rich history and culture, it’s also closely connected to the London’s music industry (from jazz to rock, from punk to pop). Today it attracts thousands of tourists going to see West End musicals, media professionals on their way to work, the LGBT community but also increasingly more it attracts foodies. The food in Soho has gone through a renaissance in the past 5-10 years, with dozens of tiny and trendy restaurants taking the spot of former sex shops and mastering authentic dishes from all over the world.
Owned by Australian chef Ross Shonhan, Shackfuyu is the little brother of Bone Daddies and Flesh & Buns. While all three restaurants have very different concepts and menus, they all share influences from Japanese cuisine and Shonhan’s modern approach to traditional dishes. The idea behind Shackfuyu is to “playfully highlight foods current in Japan today”, with influences from Korea and China. The short menu features Japanese-style tapas, with small dishes that are meant to be shared.
Thom and James Elliot are two British brothers who started selling pizzas as “The Pizza Pilgrims” at Berwick Street Market in Soho in 2012. Their “Neapolitan style” pizza – cooked in an oven they built inside an Ape Piaggio van – was so popular that Pizza Pilgrims started appearing at other markets and festival all over the country. Today they have published books, featured in TV shows and opened two successful restaurants, both in Soho (Dean Street and Kingly Court).
Shoryu has several branches in London, of which two are in Soho: Denman Street and Kingly Court. They specialise in Hakata tonkotsu ramen from the region of Kyushu in southern Japan. This ramen is made with a thick, rich pork soup, and added different toppings to change the flavours and spices. If you don’t fancy ramen, you can order gyoza dumplings, steamed buns or yakitori. They also have a large selection of sake, a traditional Japanese spirit that is brewed from polished rice.
Terrone & Co. Coffee Roasters
Established in 2011, Terrone is an independent, Italian-owned speciality coffee roaster in London. Besides supplying coffee to several London restaurant, they also have two shops: in Hackney and Soho. In Soho, Terrone Coffee operates from a small kiosk adjacent to Pizza Pilgrims in Kingly Court, which after-hours becomes an aperitivo bar serving Aperol Spritz.
The day coffee menu features espresso-based drinks prepared with a La Marzocco machine, while the beans are hand-roasted in small batches in Italy using a “Vittoria” 1950’s roaster.
Pitt Cue Co.
The tiny American-style BBQ joint serves incredibly tender, juicy and perfectly grilled meats, slow-cooked for 12 hours. Chef Tom Adams launched Pitt Cue Co with his friend Jamie Berger, first they grew a cult following while trading from a street food truck under Hungerford Bridge on the Southbank. Then they took a leap and opened this Soho restaurant in 2012 and it’s been popular ever since. They only have 30 covers and a no-reservation policy, so get there early (queues for dinner start around 6pm) or at off-peak hours.
Health and wellbeing
While your lunch break away doing anything from a spin class, personal training, swimming, running to just taking a moment to sit back and watch the world go by.
Soho is one of central London’s most unique and exciting areas which attracts a wide mix of people. Covering just one square mile but your options are endless; browse the boutique shops, relax in Soho Square watching the world go by, or treat yourself to a West End show with dinner and a delicious cocktail. Enjoy a full body massage, shop the latest fitness gear and then wind down with a yoga or Pilates session.
This Cowshed spa is located just moments from Carnaby Street and brings a little piece of country heaven to the heart of London. It’s the place to go to for party prep and recovery treatments. Offering a wide range of beauty and therapeutic treatments which in their own words will be from your ‘horns to your hooves’! The decor is glam and so will you be when you’re done and dusted.
A beautiful studio located just off the hustle and bustle of Carnaby Street where you cam relax and rejuvenate. Indulge in yoga, pilates, hot yoga or barre classes in any of the 3 beautiful yoga studios including a far infrared heated studio, two treatment rooms in addition to a lifestyle shop and an organic café + juice bar. Open 7 days a week and just a five minute walk from the nearest tube station Triyoga Soho is a great place to escape the bustle of urban life.
Being a fashion forward fitness clothing store first and foremost is the job of this intimate boutique space. But they also play host to a number of fitness clubs including workouts, yoga dance and run club throughout the week and at weekends. Check out their website to see the latest offerings and also book online. You can even purchase exclusive club apparel like a “I’m just here for the savasana” tank.
The perfect spot in the heart of Soho; grab a spot on the grass in this small park, sit down and enjoy your lunch or just the view. Located just off of busy Oxford Street with the garden area at its centre. You’ll catch all the nearer workers soaking up the sunshine during their lunch breaks and you can join them too or just stop through before / after work to spend some time to relax your mind.
Sohot Bikram Yoga
With over 82 classes per week on offer at Sohot Soho, you are sure to find something to meet your needs. Located just a few minutes walk from five different tube stations this studio has a great atmosphere and experienced teachers. Weight loss, body toning, back problems, sports performance, injury rehabilitation and stress, are just a few areas that you can gain benefits in from your classes here!
The Third Space
The Third Space is a health club and spa all under one roof who pride themselves on being innovators in bringing together the best experts and facilities to cater for all requirements in exercise, health, medicine, nutrition, and fun. With a boxing ring, cardio floor and climbing wall, plus a hypoxic chamber and pilates studio there really is everything you would need for your health, wellbeing and fitness gains.
Just a few minutes from Oxford Circus tube you’ll find this light, airy and stylish studio. Choose from dynamic reformer pilates (beginner, intermediate and advanced levels), HIIT (high intensity interval training), pilates circuits, jump board and personal training. This studio also offers Sports Massage facilities to release sore, tired muscles.
Urban Golf Soho
It might be tough to find green spaces in London but you can find a different kind of golf course. Urban Golf is a central London indoor venue with state of the art golf simulators, fully stocked bars plus friendly and knowledgable staff. Urban Golf also offer lessons from golf pros, custom club fittings and membership packages. If you’re after a chilled out opportunity to polish your golf skills, this is the perfect venue.
Fitness First, Carnaby Street
Try out the latest training techniques and a wide selection of group exercise classes at Fitness First London – Carnaby Street. Open everyday for you to get your workout in and saunas for some post sweat relaxation. With the promise of expertise and customer care, go along and train free for a day to help you decide if this could be your fitness home.
Soho has an eclectic mix of shops to attract both tourists and local Londoners alike.
Soho has an eclectic mix of shops that attract both tourists and local Londoners alike. In close proximity to London’s bigger shopping streets, Oxford Street and Regent Street, Soho is home to smaller boutiques shops as well as more well-known brands, such as Agent Provocateur lingerie. Amidst plenty of bars and restaurants down the narrow streets of Soho, you can stop off for a bite to eat or a coffee, before continuing on your shopping travels.
At Grenson they believe in high-quality shoes, with each shoe being ‘Goodyear Welted’. The process was invented in the 1800s and makes sure you get the most from your shoes, as they are built to last longer and can be re-soled multiple times. Grenson also has a wide selection of men’s footwear, including leather brogues, suede Chelsea boots and tasselled loafers.
Sounds of the Universe
Vinyl records are becoming highly sought after and at Sounds of the Universe you will find plenty to add your collection. An eclectic mix of music genres from across the world awaits, with the largest selection of Reggae, Dubstep, Jazz, House, Disco, Funk & Soul, Brazilian, Latin, African & World in the UK. You can also pick up CDs, DVDs, new and rare books plus original rare vinyl.
Agent Provocateur has helped changed the perception of Soho – once associated with seedy backstreet adult shops. The upmarket saucy underwear brand takes pride of place in Broadwick Street, with its neon signage and provocative windows ensuring passes by cannot fail to be intrigued to enter. Inside you’ll find lingerie, pyjamas and a few saucy treats.
Not only does the Nudie Jeans store sell new pairs of the popular denim label, but also repairs them as well. Within as little as one hour you could have your Nudie jeans repaired, oh and did I mention it’s free. So take along those worn-in jeans and the guys in the Nudie Repair store will work their magic.
In the heart of Soho lies Absolute Vintage – a Mecca of fashionable vintage clothing, shoes and accessories for men and women. The store started as a market stall in Portobello market and has grown to have concessions in Topshop & Miss Selfridge, in addition to its own standalone shops. The clothing is reasonably priced and they regularly run a number of offers for students.
Soho has a wide range of must-see places waiting to be discovered, many of which often house a treasure trove of unique stories and experiences. Explore some of our top recommendations below and get the insiders’ take on Soho’s hidden gems.
The Cafe at Foyles
On the fifth floor of Foyles’ flagship bookstore is a stylish cafe that is the perfect place to sit and read or to catch up with a friend over a glass of wine. Whether you fancy tea and cake or soup and salad, The Cafe at Foyles provides an inspiring place to eat. Beside the cafe is a small but cleverly-curated exhibition space, showcasing exhibits on wide-ranging subjects, from fashion to cities.
‘This is not a brothel’ sign
Amidst signs advertising ‘models’ and the red light bulbs of Soho, a plaque like the one on the door of 7, Meard Street – stating “This is not a brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address” – might not seem particularly special. Yet this plaque was installed by artist Sebastian Horsley, on his own front door, both as a deterrent for would-be patrons and, reportedly, as a piece of art in its own right.
The Photographers’ Gallery
Hidden between Oxford Street and Great Marlborough Street is a narrow street, on which sits the Photographers’ Gallery. Dedicated to showcasing the finest in photographic art, the Photographers’ Gallery features everything from fashion shoots to photojournalism. There’s also an excellent cafe on the ground floor of the gallery, and a shop where visitors can buy prints to start their own photography collection.
This is a truly hidden gem – there is no signage outside, except the number 61, to indicate the location of one of the original ‘no reservations’ restaurants. Spuntino channels a Lower East Side Manhattan vibe; exposed brickwork, cracked tiles and bearded hipster barmen. The excellent food is pure upscale American comfort: truffled mac and cheese, miniature slider burgers and a creamy, semi-fredo PB and J ‘sandwich’.
Casa at Floridita
Soho can be a tough place to find a good cocktail bar where you don’t need to have booked your table months in advance. Casa, well-hidden behind its low key facade on Wardour Street, will always tuck you in, providing you with a warm welcome and a stiff, expertly-mixed drink. Cigar fans can pop into the climate-controlled humidor alongside the bar to sample a Cuban or two with their cocktail.
Berwick Street Market
An increasingly rare relic of Soho’s less-gentrified days, the Berwick Street Market, originally established in the eighteenth century, once ran down the middle of a street filled with cheap caffs and independent record shops. Now its neighbours are mostly trendy coffee shops and sleek comic books shops, but the stalls on the market remain refreshingly down-to-earth; selling fish, fruit and vegetables and fresh bread.
Like the look of Soho?
Soho started life as a hunting ground for aristocrats but is now well known for its office space, popular restaurants, pubs and members clubs, such as The Groucho or Soho House.