Exploring Soho’s newcomers and old favourites

Soho is always changing, always interesting and always somewhere I enjoy spending time wandering around.  Constantly changing and yet keeping a great deal of its character is what makes it so worth a visit. You’ll still find some sleazy sex shops but the vibrant restaurant and bar scene, top entertainment and long standing favourite make it an exciting part of London .

Ronnie Scott’s has been hosting top jazz names on Frith Street since 1965 and although I’ve not been going quite that long (!), I’ve seen a good few shows in this iconic jazz haunt. Sitting at a table virtually on the stage when Georgie Fame was headlining and needed to use our table to rest while Guy Barker riffed through his trumpet solos is one of my top memories. Ronnie’s probably the first place I think of when Soho is mentioned and I’ve seen it change over the years but somehow keep the faith. My top tip is to grab a ticket during the week when you can stay all evening and see two sets if you wish to whereas at weekends there are two sets and you can only stay for one as they clear the room in between shows. On my most recent visit w were lucky enough to see the French star trumpeter and flugel horn player Stephane Belmondo making his Ronnie’s debut as a band leader – very smooth and dreamy….. 

Ronnie’s classic sign

Slightly fuzzy shot of inside Ronnie’s before the band arrived

If you are aiming for a late set at Ronnie’s, you’d be well advised to pop in across the road get a shot of strong espresso at Bar Italia. They’ve been keeping London awake since 1945 and it’s a great place to watch Italian football matches, but only if you support Italy or you will think you are in the wrong country!  

Any time is coffee time here

Alongside old favourites there are always new places to try out and I was lucky enough to be invited to Bar Termini and Piada Bar recently to see what they have got to offer.  Bar Termini has been on my must see list for a while and the chance to attend a coffee masterclass there was not to be turned down. 

Arriving at Bar Termini

Classy retro interior

When Marco Arrigo, of Illy’s coffee university, and Tony Coniglario, of the hip cocktail bar 69 Colebrooke Row, teamed up the resulting bar was definitely going to be one worth looking in on.  Marco gave us a coffee masterclass, running through their short and original coffee menu.  He is very clear about what he believes makes good coffee and he is definitely of the school that life is too short to drink bad coffee!  We checked out their smooth espresso, bianco, latte, cioccolate and affogato – just sipping each so as not to be bouncing off the walls full of the great caffeine!  He has very strong views about ‘latte art’ and how it spoils a good coffee, we learned about good and bad beans, how long it takes to make their top espresso and the importance for him to be able to serve a £1 coffee option in the Italian tradition of accessible coffee. There is no doubting his passion and expertise and this comes across in the coffee, the snacks and the drinks. 

The we moved onto their drinks and I was completely taken by the bespoke bottles and matching styish glasses as much as the unexpectedly great taste of their Terroirs vodka which has flint, clay and lichen distillates – yes it was a complete surprise!   Everything about this little bar is stylish, simple and classy and has a retro feel and a welcoming vibe that will see my back for an evening very soon!

Enjoy this gallery of coffee, cioccolate and cocktails:

Led astray by the Terroirs vodka, we stayed on for a full glass of this tasty sophisticated drink, but just the one as it packs a mighty punch! 

My second invite was to the new Piada Bar – what is a piada you may ask, I did! It’s a flat bread from Romagna, Italy and so devoted are they to authenticity in this bar that they import every single piece they use directly from Italy!  They have an extensive menu of different fillings from the traditional hams and cheeses to a salmon one to appeal to more English tastes and even a fruity one for a more healthy feel. They are a great snack and this bar is open all day and well into the night.  We were given a wonderfully warm welcome and some really tasty snacks along with some good wine – what’s not to like!!

Classic ham piada
Irresistible cheesy piadas
Pork belly piadas

Piadas even come with fruit!

There is so much more to Soho than just these four picks, so head in and explore the area. But if you want to find these here are the addresses:

Ronnie Scott’s  47 Frith Street, London W1D 4HT
Bar Italia  22 Frith Street, London W1D 4RF
Bar Termini 7 Old Compton Street, London W1D 5JE
Piada Bar 3-5 Batemen Street, London W1D 4AG

Bye for now,

Cocktails and sunshine!

Last week it felt like summer even tho’ it was only spring and it seemed like there was so much going on it was hard to decide where to turn first! Highlights were: the launch of a new cocktail ; a jazz show; 2 new restaurants; and, the beauty of spring!

Firstly the launch of Good Godfrey’s at the Waldorf Hotel. I was invited to this but as ever the comments are completely unbiased! The Waldorf Hotel (now part of the Hilton Group) is on Aldwych and is steeped in history, being over 100 years old and is well known for its opulent Palm Court, tea dances and having lots of style. The cocktail bar’s name comes from Howard Godfrey who was the house band leader in the 1920s and a household name at the time. The decor aims to evoke the ‘opulent and theatrical’ past of the hotel and does that rather well. The cocktails and the champagne were wonderful and their mixologists can delight any requests so this bar is well worth knowing about for pre/post theatre or a longer stay!

We’ve had the most wonderful week of spring weather in London as the trees erupted into a blaze of pink blossom. Good humour always accompanies good weather and these photos give you a glimpse of the beauty and the fun – look closely at the window box where you can see a mini Easter Island Moai head with sunglasses on! The trees are in Notting Hill where I live, which is one of the prettiest areas of London. I had visitors over from America who now believe London is like this all the time as I didn’t have the heart to tell them otherwise….

Regular readers will know I love to try new restaurants and there are 2 to report on this week. Galvin La Chapelle is in Spitalfields, which hosts a very fine market, especially on Sundays. The restaurant is set in a spectacular 19th century listed building, which was formerly a chapel so has a wonderful open feel with massive roof space. The food is top notch French so not cheap and we lingered happily for our Sunday lunch which was rather special. Photos show the exterior and interior of this fine building. The second restaurant worth a mention this week is Dishoom which recreates the feel and menu of the Mumbai cafe although I’m sure both are somewhat more luxurious than the originals. These cafes are dying out in their home land but given the Brits’ love of Indian food we’ll have a good try at keeping them going here! We had a selection of sharing plates, many of which were new to us but they were tasty and zingy. It’s a no booking, turn up and reasonably fast turnaround so as long as you go outside peak hours it’s a great place to drop into on the way to theatre or cinema as it’s right by the West End.

One more event to squeeze in was our visit to Ronnie Scott’s, the Soho landmark jazz club where the evening show starred Georgie Fame and his current Blue Flames (his band has seen many changes of membership during his long career). Georgie is a real pro and gave us a lively, varied and polished show ably supported by my favourite trumpeter Guy Barker. Polly Gibbons deserves a mention as a great bluesy jazz singer who was new to me and a wonderful find so watch out for her!

Bye for now,


Star struck!

The highlight of last week was a trip to the Donmar Warehouse to see Dominic West, lately of ‘The Wire’, being interviewed. He’s an unassuming and amusing interviewee and the time passed all too quickly. He talked about his career, The Wire and his new play opening in a few weeks – a 16th century Spanish play called ‘Life is a Dream’ which is quite a contrast to 21st century urban Baltimore! Thanks to the intimate nature of the theatre we’d seen him walk past us on the way in and wondered if we might see him leaving. So after a few minutes, when the main crowd had left, Dominic came out and posed for photos. I would never normally do this but he was there and I was there so I asked and you can see the result…… What a lovely man!

We topped the evening off with drinks and dancing at Ronnie Scott’s upstairs bar to recover from all the excitement. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we’d been sitting outside Bar Italia earlier which is opposite Ronnie’s and enjoyed great people watching, Soho really is the place for this.

Yesterday I did part one of a photography course using East End markets as a way of learning more about taking shots of people and busy places to give a stronger impression of the character of somewhere. We wandered around Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane and although my photos weren’t as good as I’d hoped, it was fun and I’m looking forward to part two next week. Brick Lane had some amazing graffiti and here’s one photo that did just about work. It was fun to see the markets on a busy Sunday and we were all tempted by the wonderful food smells and extraordinary bargains- perhaps we will succumb next week.

Had a lovely lunch at Bloody French in Notting Hill – yes it really is called that! We chose the very authentic French Onion Soup and had a good gossip. Notting Hill is packed with high quality and interesting restaurants and I do my very best to work my way through them all!

Bye for now,