Officially the Best Possible Way to Spend 24 Hours in Covent Garden & Holborn
Covent Garden and Holborn may make up some of the oldest parts of the city, but their lasting appeal can be generally attributed to the fact that their bars, restaurants, and shops have, ironically, always made up some of the newest parts of the city.
And if you’re going to try and squeeze all of that time into just one day, here’s how to do it…
If you want to wake up the right way, there’s nothing quite like the bracing kick of an espresso from The Monmouth Coffee Company just off the Seven Dials. Then, to counterbalance, you can head a few yards away to, well, Neal’s Yard where you can find a nourishing, comforting bowl of porridge at 26 Grains. In fact, you can find hazelnut & butter porridge; banana cacao porridge; chai bircher muesli, and a lot more.
For those in more of a Scandinavian frame of mind/stomach, there’s always Bageriet, where you can get various cinnamon-assaulted pastries.
It’s time to stretch the legs and start exploring the neighborhood/s. And there are worse ways to do that than by heading to a place like Stanfords, a map shop where you can explore the entire world thanks to its vast collection of antique, rare, collectible, and straight up cool maps. After that, maybe take a jaunt down to design store Magma and explore the unique design books, magazines, and objects they have on offer. You won’t find another shop like it.
Suitably inspired, you can then head down the riverbank, and casually pass by Cleopatra’s Needle, which was built in Egypt around 1460 BC, and is technically London’s oldest landmark. A little further up, you’ll come across something a little more modern; the Roman Baths, and a little further after THAT, there’s a little side street off The Savoy Hotel (Carting Lane) where you’ll find the last surviving gas-powered streetlight in the city. Congratulations. You’ve just traveled two thousand years in under an hour.
At this point, your hunger for history will be gradually being supplanted by hunger for actual food – something which the people at Cut & Cure will happily cure with one of their delicious Rueben sandwiches, pastrami on rye, and smoked salmon bagels.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more challenging, then head down to Homeslice to try and tackle a slice from one of their landscape-like 20″ pizzas. Toppings include the likes of bone marrow & spring onion, or strong fennel salami, and they rotate daily. If you’re feeling frisky, you can drown it with a little wine from their draught taps.
Belly full, you’ll want to walk off the calories by taking a gentle stroll down to a pub to take on some more calories, and the best contenders are the Lamb & Flag in a quaint courtyard, or Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street (which was burned down and rebuilt after The Great Fire of London), featuring one of the nicest original wooden paneled interiors you’ll find.
After that, if your waistline can still take it, you can hit some of the cooler clothes shops in town – Rokit for vintage, second hand duds, or Orla Keily/Blackout II/ Paul Smith for something fancier. If you have company of the right variety, you might want to drop into Coco De Mer too.
Time to take a well-earned breather and head to The Delauney for a coffee and a Viennese pastry. If you fancy, you’re a stones throw from the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, so consider popping in for a quick dose of magisterial beauty. If you’re into something more modern, Atomica Gallery has you covered.
By this point, you’re probably wondering when you’re going to end up at Gordon’s, the best wine bar in the city. Well, the answer is now. And just when you thought nothing could be more atmospheric than its candelit, cave-like ambiance, you end up at St. Martin’s in the Field, where you have all of that, plus live orchestral music.
If you’ve had quite enough of all that sedate culture, however, make the wine bar a cocktail bar, and make the cave-like ambiance a room full of table tennis tables at Bounce. Once the game ends, it’s time to head out to the Comedy Store and shout out ludicrous suggestions…
…and as ludicrous suggestions go, heading out to the Theatre is not one, given that you’re in Theatreland, and all.
Dinner at last. Obviously there’s a lot of competition here, but The Barbary is one hell of a competitor. It’s no-booking, but if you do end up in a queue, the’ll come out with food while you wait. Then you can sit at their gorgeous bar and order some and huge Galician sirloin steaks.
If you’re after something more refined, then Frenchie has you covered with some of the first French food in the nation. Or, if you want something less refined, then Chick N Sours can furnish you with some fried chicken, Szechwan aubergine, and picked watermelon.
After that – if you have the right company – you can both head down to The Whiskey Exchange on The Strand to buy a bottle of liquor to share (don’t worry, it’s open ’til 8pm most nights). Why, pray tell, are you buying a bottle of liquor..?
…Because of the booking you made a BYOC earlier. You’ll both take that bottle and head to the juice bar in Covent Garden, where you’ll walk behind the counter, down the stairs, and into the second candlelit, underground gin-joint of the day. They don’t serve actual alcohol (hence the fact that you’re bringing your own), but they will take yours and mix it into the finest cocktails you’ve had in a long stretch.
By now, you’re well-watered, and in need of a place to dance away all that energy, preferably on a digitally enhanced, interactive dance-floor, on which you’ll be avoiding (virtual) sharks and participating in (actual) shot-laden surfboard limbo contests.
And Tropicana Beach Club is kind of perfect for that.