Despite the best efforts of greedy property developers and noise abatement notices, Soho remains one of the most quintessentially stylish, creative, exciting areas in Central London. Located between Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, it’s the sort of geographical triangle we love to get lost in. You can uncover hidden book shops, tiny museums, delicious eateries, sharp cocktail joints and a whole host more with our sneaky guide to the best bargain curiosities in London’s underbelly:
1. Photographers Gallery
Founded 44 years ago, this was the first gallery in the world to be dedicated solely to the art of taking photographs. Since then it has housed exhibitions from major international practitioners including Robert Capa, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Dorothea Lange, Sebastião Salgado, as well as much respected British names too.
Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm; Thursday 10am – 8pm (during exhibitions); Sunday 11am – 6pm. 16–18 Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LW
2. Bodega Negra
Cunningly and coquettishly disguised as an old-fashioned Soho sex shop on the outside, Bodega Negra contains some of the finest South American and Mexican food available in London. The main restaurant is a little pricey, but you can still eat well on a budget in the cafe with a delicious array of burritos and tacos.
Opening Times: Monday – Wednesday Midday – Midnight; Thursday – Saturday Midday – 1am; Sunday Midday – 11pm. 6 Moor Street, London, W1D 5NH
3. Shoryu Ramen
What was once a niche gastronomic trend has blossomed around Soho and there are certain areas where you can’t move for Ramen restaurants. Whilst the much-vaunted Bone Daddies is great for some raucous late night fun, this more traditional and meditative miniature eatery has a cracking selection of authentic Japanese cuisine at excellent prices.
Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 11:15am – Midnight; Sunday 11:15am – 22:30pm. 3 Denman Street London W1D 7HA
4. Milk Bar
For connoisseurs of the coffee bean, this espresso-sized coffee bar has everything you’d hope for. Smart interiors, Drop Coffee direct from a Swedish roastery and all of the milks from coconut through to almond (by way of cow) to keep your lattes and flat whites just how you’d want them.
Opening Times: Monday – Friday 8am – 5:30pm; Saturday/Sunday 9:30am – 6pm 3 Bateman Street, London W1D 4AG
5. Thirst Bar
Soho has never wanted for good cocktail bars and this is one of the best. There are more experimental and pricier bars in the area, but if you want the classics done well without having to pay investment banker places, then Thirst should be high on your list of priorities.
Opening Times: Monday 4pm – 12:30am Tuesday – Saturday 4pm – 3am. 53 Greek St, London W1D 3DR
6. Gaz’s Rockin Blues Club at St.Moritz
There are Soho institutions and then there is Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues Club. Hosted by a true, big-hatted Soho original, this dive bar in an old fromagerie (of course) always plays the finest cuts of rock ‘n’ roll, northern soul, Motown and ska to keep parties going long into the night. Check the listings to see when live bands are playing – we don’t like to brag but we saw ace rockabilly family quintet Kitty, Daisy and Lewis there.There was joyous sweat raining down from the ceiling! One of London’s finest party spots.
Opening Times: 10pm – 3:30am. 159 Wardour Street, W1F 8WH
7. Jazz After Dark
If you’d like something a little more sophisticated, but still capable of delivering the celebratory vibe, then head to this fantastic cocktail bar and late night jazz venue. It’s been a home to some of London’s most talented jazz performers, including the late, great Amy Winehouse. By day the space is also used as an eclectic art gallery.
Opening Times: Tuesday – Saturday 5pm – 2am. 9 Greek Street, London, W1D 4DQ
8. Garlic and Shots
To be enjoyed as part of an enjoyably grubby night out with Gaz’s Rockin Club. Garlic and shots does exactly what it says on the tin – no food will be served without the magical bulb and it stocks over 100 different varieties of vodka. If you’re feeling brave then their mixture of the two to ensure you won’t be French kissing any vampires on the dance floor later.
Opening Times: Monday – Thursday 5pm – Midnight; Friday/Saturday 6pm – 1am; Sunday 5pm – 11:30pm. 14 Frith St, London W1D 4RD
This completely charming tapas bar first came to our attention in Covent Garden, since then it’s been popping up all over Central London. The model is very simple, grab as many of the little bites as you can – and your waiter will tot up your bill at the end based on how many short (£2.25) and long (£3.25) skewers you use up – like a Spanish Yo Sushi. Highlights include marinated fig and goats cheese and the diablo meatballs! Grab their Pandillero card to become a special gang member for extra offer!
Opening Times: Monday – Friday 5pm – Midnight; Saturday Midday – Midnight; Sunday Midday – 10:30pm. 16 Bateman St W1D 3AH
A joyous mix of Korean invention and Willy Wonka style wizardry. Grab yourself a refreshing drink, complete with endlessly happy-making bobas of popping flavoured tapioca. If it sounds like drinking fruity frogspawn…it is! But much, much tastier than that.
Opening Times: Monday – Thursday 11am – 11:30pm; Friday – Saturday 11am – Midnighy; Sunday 11am – 11:30pm. Cafe Plaza, 49 Rupert St, London W1D 7PF
Across the road from delicious and classy (but way too pricey for us) Italian restaurant Bocca di Lupo, this is its much more accessible and no less delicious little sister. The menu of flavours is vast, varied and ever-changing as the ice cream makers constantly try to push the boundaries of gastronomic invention and you can also get all kinds of different ice cream flavours hidden inside coffees and cakes.
Opening Times: Monday – Thursday: 11 am – 11 pm; Friday / Saturday: 11 am – Midnight; Sunday Midday – 11 pm. 7 Archer St, London W1D 7AU
12. Ain’t Nothing But Blues Bar
Secluded behind Regent Street and Carnaby Street, this is the nearest London will get to an authentic Chicago blues bar. It’s stocked with every kind of bourbon you could hope for and welcome the fastest-fingered players in town. Get there early to get a seat as it always packs out quickly.
Opening Times: Monday – Thursday – 5pm – 1am; Friday 5pm – 2am; Saturday 3pm – 2am; Sunday 3pm – 11:30pm. 20 Kingly St, London W1B 5PZ
13. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs
The faux self-important name totally nails what this excellent little coffee shop is about. As well as being a great haven for the efficient super-shoppers of Carnaby Street it also has the atmosphere of a hive of creative activity. Grab your laptop, grab a coffee and cake and get to work on that new teen werewolf novel the world is crying out for!
Opening Times: Monday – Friday 8am – 7pm; Saturday 9:30am – 8:30pm; Sunday 10am – 7pm. 3 Lowndes Court, Carnaby, London, W1F 7
Party like your Nana and Grandad if they’d discovered hip-hop and radical cocktails in between fighting off Fritz. Located in a disused Tube station, and with the décor to match, Cahoots is a wonderfully innovative venue and the most unabashed fun you can have in town. Pop on a tank top, wax your moustache and get ready to swing dance down the Tube aisles.
Opening Times: Monday – Wednesday 5pm – 1am; Thursday/Friday 4pm – 2am; Saturday 4pm – 3am; Sunday 3pm – Midnight. Kingly Court, 13 Kingly St, London W1B 5PG
15. Frith Street Gallery
The beauty of Soho is that almost every window you pass is a picture. There are a number of cracking art dealers hidden down its streets, as well as world-renowned mini-galleries such as this one. Stick on your horn-rimmed spectacles, pretend that you’ve actually got Great Uncle Scrooge’s Trust Fund to blow and go check it out.
Opening Times: Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm; Saturday 11am – 5pm. 17-18 Golden Square, London W1F 9JJ
16. Soho Joe’s
Most of the time London’s Soho has a very distinct character compared to New York’s. However this little bit of Italy made it back over the Atlantic and we’re delighted it did. Cheap, scrumptious pizzas – ideal to gobble down before heading out to see a show.
Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 7am – 11:30pm; Sunday 10am – 11pm. 22-25 Dean St, London W1D 3RY
17. Ma’ Plucker
For authentic Deep South fried chicken with all the trimmings, Ma’ Pluckers is the place to go. It finds its home, appropriately, on Beak Street and has very quickly build a reputation for tasty food that makes your fingers as sticky as can be. Don’t miss out on wing it Wednesdays 6 wings for £12 deal! Opening Times: Sunday – Tuesday Midday – 11pm; Wednesday – Saturday Midday – Midnight. 75 Beak St, London W1F 9SS
18. Spice of Life
Nuzzled at one of the openings to the beast of Soho, this cracking bar has long played host to an array of good time bands and nimble melodies. Pop in for lunchtime jazz to stick a swing in your step for £6 or enjoy an even funkier party on a Friday and Saturday nights.
Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 10am – 11pm; Sunday Midday – 10:30pm.6 Moor St, Soho, London W1D 5NA
19. Phoenix Arts Club
A private members club for performers which has now been opened up to the public for a small fee (unless you’re lucky enough to be signed in by a performing mate.) Ridiculously competitive drink prices (well actors are permanently skint), a cracking atmosphere and the even chance you might meet someone famous make this a tremendous place to hang out any day of the week.
Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 10:30am – 2:30am; Sunday Midnight – 1:30am. 1 Phoenix Street, London, WC2H 8BU
20. Upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s
Along with Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues Club, Ronnie Scott’s is the musical spine of Soho. Everyone who’s been anyone in jazz has played here. Even if you can’t get into the packed main room, the upstairs bar is a room steeped in history, good times and tasty drinks.
Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 6pm – 3am; Sunday 6pm – Midnight. 47 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 4HT
21. Maison Bertaux
Like all of London, Soho is steeped in history and this is a lesser-known but much-loved part of it. Eat cakes and buns like the finest of Victorian gents at this 144 year old patisserie!
Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 9am-10:30pm; Sunday 9am – 8pm. 28 Greek St, London W1D 5DQ