The quintessential freshers experience: you’ve met someone so cool and fun and interesting on a night out, had a great time talking in the smoking area, exchanged details, and then never work up the nerve to speak to them again, stuck seeing their posts until the end of time (or when you finally suck it up and unfollow them).
If this sounds familiar, or you’re already sick of Ministry and fancy a different type of night out, or even just want to discover some places around campus with a new friend—this is a tried and tested way to have a fun afternoon or evening out around Strand or Waterloo.
Head towards Charing Cross Road (a 15-minute walk from Strand) and stop at Lanzhou Lamien Noodle Bar to grab a bite to eat, staying firmly within a fresher's budget. Truly a hidden gem, Lanzhou Lamien is tiny, busy, inexpensive, and most importantly, open very late. It will never disappoint, whether you’re just having a bowl of noodle soup alone or ordering a feast with a group of friends. Skip the takeaway options and squeeze into one of two shared tables and order some hand-pulled noodles, which you can watch being stretched and rolled in every direction by a very muscular man a few meters away while you wait. The vegetarian options are fantastic and abundant; the most notable include vegetable fried noodles, noodles in a savoury peanut sauce with cucumber, tofu with chives, and various selections of aubergine. Served on flat metal plates or in blue-patterned bowls, the presentation is nothing fancy and allows the food to speak for itself—simplicity and gratification reminiscent of a meal at your grandparents’ house (though this is certainly a biased comparison as my grandfather previously owned a Chinese restaurant). Everything is delicious and filling, guaranteed to leave everyone satisfied.
Just across Charing Cross Road, head to the Prince Charles Cinema to catch a film. The West End’s only remaining independent cinema screens a diverse and extensive range of films. What’s on changes daily, but recurring showings include Tommy Wiseau’s horrible and hilarious The Room, Won Kar Wai’s beautiful Hong Kong romance films, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Prince Charles truly has something for everyone and provides a unique selection that won’t be found with a trip to the ODEON. If you love seeing films regularly in cinemas and appreciate a good discount, for £15 a year you have access to discounts on every showing and concessions.
While Soho seems like the obvious option for where to go for a drink near campus, personally, I prefer to head south of the river. For a busier, rowdier night, Soho is a fine option, but the crowds and prices can often turn a fun night into an endless search for a better location. Instead, two spots on Lower Marsh below Waterloo station are frequented enough for a lively ambiance, but not so much that you’re stuck squeezing past sweaty patrons and sloshing pints in a futile attempt to reach the bar. For a solid pub option, Vaulty Towers is a whimsical alternative to the classic English pub, full of eclectic decor and creative raised seating options if you’re lucky enough to find one available. Down the street, Scootercaffe is a cosier setting where you can find moderately priced drinks (including coffees during the day) to be consumed sat on mismatched chairs with occasional live music, in basement booths playing board games, or in the quaint garden frequented by their adorable resident cat.
Throughout your studies at King’s, you will definitely discover a wider range of establishments around campus, but these four are universal crowd-pleasers to start off with. Give one or all a try with a new friend, or even alone, and maybe my favourites will become yours as well.
Edited by Faye Elder, London and Beyond Editor