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A Day Out In... Soho

Photo by David Skinner via Flickr (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Ah, Soho. The land of underground boutiques, cutting-edge eats and boho culture. It is one of London’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, a rather remarkable feat considering it is confined between some of the city’s most tourist-heavy areas. With Oxford Street to the north, Regent Street to the west, Piccadilly Circus to the south and Charing Cross Road to the east, stumbling into Soho can feel like an escape into a new world. Here are all the best spots to check out for a perfect day out in this lovely neighbourhood.

If your days begin with a caffeine hit, start at Café Leon Dore on Broadwick Street. The tasteful space, filled with patterned marble floors and walnut panelling, serves up freddo espressos and other Greek specialties. While you wait for your drink, wander past the green velvet curtains into Aimé Leon Dore to look at elevated, ‘urban prep’ menswear. If you’re more into a classic brew, head to Flat White on Berwick Street, an authentic Australian café that serves some of the best coffee in the neighbourhood.

While strolling down Berwick Street, pop into Good News, an independent newspaper and magazine retailer that stocks the coolest zines you’ve never heard of. Whether you’re looking for a hard-to-find fashion periodical, a compendium of experimental makeup techniques, or a collection of queer photography, Good News has you covered.

Next, it’s time to hit Soho’s iconic (and London’s best) department store: Liberty. Its charming Tudor exterior is unmistakable and its currently decked out with festive paraphernalia. Inside, fashion, cosmetics, homewares, and more are spread over six sprawling floors. A far more relaxed shopping experience than you will find in London’s other behemoth department stores, Liberty is an unmissable stop for any design lover.

Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Complete your morning with a walk down Carnaby Street, where you can admire an out-of-this-world Christmas installation and visit a range of boutiques. Don’t miss Diesel and Ksubi for modern denim and eccentric ready-to-wear.

All that walking making you a little peckish? It’s time to visit one of Soho’s many fantastic restaurants. For a quick, inexpensive bite that doesn’t compromise on flavour, head to BAO, which serves its namesake dish, amongst other delicious morsels, at its cosy Lexington Street outpost. If you’re visiting between 12-3pm or 5-6pm from Monday to Thursday, then the BAO 15 is an affordable set menu including a bao, a snack, and a rice bowl for £15. If you prefer a more substantial meal, Inko Nito, a self-proclaimed “unconventional Japanese robatayaki”, is also in the area. The kitchen serves up a rather eclectic selection of delicious, inventive bites that are cheaper (and better) than one could find at its luxe sister restaurants Roka and Zuma.

Should you instead wish to take advantage of Soho’s proximity to Chinatown, head to Barshu. Here, you will find fiery Sichuan cuisine that packs a flavourful punch. Those who are spice-averse beware; the menu champions chilli in all its forms, whether infused into oil and slathered on bean curd, served in a hulking pile with slithers of chicken and Sichuan peppercorns or loaded on top of a showstopping roast seabass. If your mouth is still burning as you make your way out, run to the nearby Xing Fu Tang for a sweet milk tea and get your fortune read whilst you’re there.

Spend your afternoon hitting some of Soho’s smaller boutiques. The area around Beak Street and Brewer Street is best for this, boasting an impressive selection to suit all sensibilities. For statement pieces that lean into grunge and youth culture, head to Heaven by Marc Jacobs. For reimagined classics with dramatic proportions and a youthful flair, visit Eytys. Should you prefer your garments more subdued, make your way to Officine Générale and Our Legacy, where timeless chic is the name of the game.

Photo by Alan Stanton via Flickr (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

If by now you’re feeling more ‘drop’ than ‘shop’, make a worthwhile detour to Crème for one of their decadent cookies. The milk chocolate is a gooey classic, but those who are feeling a little more adventurous should reach for the delectable white chocolate miso variety.

No trip to Soho is complete without a visit to the Photographers’ Gallery, which champions a diverse assortment of images that celebrate photography in all its forms. Exhibitions often explore esoteric ideas or unearth forgotten perspectives so like its surroundings, the gallery has a free-spirited and self-aware spirit. Its current offering, a retrospective of Daidō Moriyama’s striking black-and-white images, is not to be missed.

As evening approaches, it is time to find a restaurant to finish off your day in Soho. For modern Turkish sharing plates, head to Yeni, where chef Civan Er experiments with open fire cooking to great avail. Yeni’s second outpost (the original is still going strong in Istanbul) is a popular spot, so make sure to reserve in advance. Showstopping beef mantı, succulent prawns in vine leaf tempura and delicate Cornish scallops are served serialised. And make sure to soak up any leftover broths with some warm tava break and smoked butter. While prices are above average and plates are small, the fare at Yeni is inventive and delicious, making it the perfect choice for a night out.

Only a block away is another of Soho’s best, and busiest, restaurants, Kiln. Serving punchy Thai cuisine across an informal counter space and basement dining room, the restaurant is the place to go for big flavours. Plates are reasonably priced and designed for sharing, so start with the slow-grilled chicken and the Laap sausage. If you love some spice, then turn things up with the Chak Som Sour Curry, served with two delicate cuts of mullet. However, the best dish – also Kiln’s signature – is the Baked Glass Noodles, cooked over charcoal in clay pots and complemented by succulent Tamworth pork and brown crab. Add tasty cocktails made by bartenders spinning groovy records and you’ve got yourself one of Soho’s swankiest spots.

Should you find yourself reservation-less and aimlessly wandering, head to Barrafina on Dean Street. From the outside, this tapas bar is tasteful but unassuming, with large glass windows that showcase a marble counter lined with red leather stools. What makes you know you’re in for a treat is the inevitable queue that has formed outside, with its characteristic anticipatory buzz. The Dean Street stalwart does not accept reservations, so it is best to arrive early to beat the crowds. Once inside, prepare for the high-end, modern tapas that earned the restaurant its Michelin star. Make sure to pay attention to the daily specials menu, where imaginative dishes are created with the freshest produce.

Photo by Greg Funnell, Courtesy of Barrafina

If you experience something of a second wind following dinner, then perhaps it’s not yet time for your day in Soho to end. Whether you’re in need of a drink or a dance, wander down Old Compton Street and choose a bar, pub or club to your liking. This street is closely intertwined with London’s LGBTQ+ scene, so haunts like G-A-Y Bar and She Soho cater to the community and guarantee a fun night out.

Should you prefer a more eccentric nightlife experience, NQ64 is a basement arcade bar perfect for larger friend groups. Sip themed cocktails in the neon space while you choose between an array of games, from Dance Stage to Donkey Kong. If you are looking for something a little more low-key, then Cahoots is an upscale speakeasy where mixologists serve you drinks inside a train carriage.

Whether you decide to call it quits after dinner or dance until dawn, your day in Soho will no doubt be worthwhile. The charming streets bursting with culture make for the perfect day out and will guarantee your return time and time again.


Edited by Faye Elder, London and Beyond Editor


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