Start at PIX Tapas Bar. Sundays all you can eat and all the Prosecco you can drink, £30; else noon to five £10 all you can eat. The bar downstairs is very special, best with some friends. Soho-themed.. and private.
Take a left. Walk down Bateman Street, past Frith Street, towards Greek Street, the end of the road.
Pick up a toastie at Pret across the road, grab a coffee at Milkbar, or head for a Happy Hour drink at Simmons across the road, the right hand side. This place gets quite lively later, best when there’s a live DJ on – you’ll know when that is.
Walk past THIRST bar for now, it’s open til three so there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself there at some point in the evening. Take a left around the corner. There’s Jazz after Dark on the other side, Lick ice cream shop on the left, you walk past Pillars of Hercules pub on the right and there’s a posh looking place, 68 and Boston, which is somewhat classy, subdued lighting and can get quite active. Two doors on, just before the Gay Hussar restaurant (they do lunchtime deals, great rustic Hungarian food and pleasant quirky atmosphere, it’s a media haunt), you’ll see Milroy’s whiskey shop. You enter and go all the way to the back. There’s a bookshelf.. open the door and explore the cave. Great cocktails.
At this point I wouldn’t bother going around the entire block. Rather, head back, see Trisha’s on your right, identified only by a doorman, it’s a no-nonsense Speakeasy, they sometimes charge £5 entry on a weekend, this stays open til 1pm, and it’s social, you can’t help interacting with people due to space constraints.
Now it’s late, you still have options: The off-licence will have closed at 11pm and no one will sell you alcohol in the small shops. THIRST on the corner is open til three, go there with friends. If you’re alone, it’s Crow Bar, on Manette Street, the little alley beside the Pillars of Hercules pub, there’s a £5 (or £3?) cover and they serve Red Stripe cans til three (they actually have a well-stocked bar), it is Rock / Heavy Metal and a bit grungy, what do you expect at this time of day..
The other block:
Walk down Frith Street towards Old Compton Street. There’s Ronnie Scott’s on the right, a legendary Jazz Club. You might have to reserve. Immediately after there’s the Delhi Brasserie, which frequently has an ambulance car parked outside – that’s not a reflection on the food, it’s easily the best Indian restaurant in the entire area and priced reasonably, you’ll get a discount if you pay cash, as with many places – the crew park there to have a coffee in Bar Italia opposite, where you can sometimes find police charmed into dance atmosphere too, it’s Soho
Bar Italia has a small dancefloor bar next door that’s open later. I enjoy sitting at Balans, on the corner, which can require getting a place earlier in the afternoon, it is very easy to spend a few hours there watching what goes by, the food is good too.
Continue left on Old Compton Street and there’s Bar Soho, go further and there’s quite a few small restaurants for every taste, and Lab Bar makes a very strong Martini, the Webster.
For pubs, after turning left past Balans and walking towards Greek Street, then take a right down it and you come past The Three Greyhounds (they have Timothy Taylor ale on tap), then Twenty Six Oyster Bar, which I haven’t been to yet, Maison Bertaux for French bakery delights, and then the Coach and Horses Pub, which is one of the oldest in London, features vegetarian Fish n’ Chips, and often has a piano man sing-along evening. This is quite quintessentially English, and you can also witness it at the Golden Eagle pub on Marylebone Lane (Bond Street station) on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, where Tony ‘Fingers’ Pearson rocks the pub with classics to ABBA to musicals to Queen, its quite an experience and everyone discovers their voice after a few pints of ale or Guinness.
Back on lower Frith Street, there’s Barshu and Bashan restaurants, both spicy (one is Hunan, the other Szichuan), they’re a little more trendy than in Chinatown proper. If you’re after Chinese, I can recommend Old Tree on lower Rupert Street, it’s Taiwanese and next to the Blue Posts pub which has great Sunday afternoon Jazz / Dixieland from 4pm that gets the place jumping, literally. You’d have walked right down Old Compton Street, all the way to the end, taken a left after the Café Espana (recommended for Tapas), then down Wardour Street, past St. Anne’s Churchyard on your left, which is incredibly and surprisingly peaceful around lunchtime, to Shaftesbury Avenue (traffic!), then right and next left, and a few pubs down its on your left.
Instead of turning left onto Wardour Street at the end of Old Compton Street, you could have continued on through a small alleyway, Tisbury Court, where on the corner there’s stairs leading down to Friendly Society, which has lots of Barbie dolls on the ceiling and does amuse me. Continue on to Rupert Street and you’re in a part that’s still a little Red, just be firm and friendly with anyone who tries to sell you something, there is CCTV everywhere, but you don’t want to get mugged so continue on to Snog for a frozen yoghurt. Rupert Street does have a good food market during the day. It’s a different place at night. Turn onto Brewer Street.
Less than fifty yards on there’s the Soho Family Center pre-school, just to show how family friendly this block is. On the right side as you’re walking down Brewer, west towards Picadilly Circus, there’s Randall & Aubyn’s, a great restaurant. El Camion has a cocktail bar open thil 3am. Lights of Soho can have evenings, a gallery like space.
Other Places in the Carnaby side of Soho:
Social Eating House on Poland Street.
The Duck and Rice on Berwick Street
Graphic Bar on Golden Square
Bodean’s on Poland Street
The Breakfast Club on D’Arblay Street always has a huge queue outside. No idea why. Blueberry Pancakes??
Ain’t Nothin but Blues Bar on Kingly Street
Sketch on Conduit Street
Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown on Gerrard Street
The Alley Cat for Jazz on Denmark Street