Covent Garden

Thanks the living statues that line the thoroughfare down to the Piazza and the street entertainers that perform outside the market, Covent Garden has a rep for being a tourist trap. Covent Garden Market, Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard certainly draw in the crowds (it doesn’t hurt that they’re all pretty Instagrammable) and the fact that the area borders theatreland also contributes to its popularity, but there are plenty things to do in Covent Garden that locals can enjoy too.

Of course shopping is a big one. Inside the iconic Covent Garden Market building, Apple Market (the space that used to house the fruit & veg market) is filled with stalls and traders selling antiques and collectables on Mondays, and jewellery, prints, crafts and more the rest of the week. If you’re a secondhand king or queen, there are a cluster of great vintage shops around Seven Dials, and if you like your labels, there are world-class brands scattered all over the neighbourhood.

One thing you’re not going to do is go hungry – the Covent Garden restaurants are as varied as they are numerous. From chains like Dishoom, Blacklock, Din Tai Fung, and Big Mamma (with Ave Mario), to gems like Cora Pearl, Parsons, The Barbary and The Oystermen, there really is something for all tastes and budgets.

If your daily commute just doesn’t give you enough up close and personal time with the city’s transport system, then a day out at the London Transport Museum, the world’s leading museum on urban transport, surely will. And then you can soak up some culture at the Royal Opera House or the Garden Cinema, which is one of the neighbourhood’s best-kept secrets.

THE GARDEN CINEMA

Although its retro vibe makes The Garden Cinema in Covent Garden look like it has been around for a while, the privately-owned movie theatre only just opened in March 2022. And since it’s entirely independent, their screenings are curated collections of the films they think are truly worth seeing, from modern cult faves to golden age classics. They do show new releases too, and with a membership (which is just £20 for lifetime access), you can get discounted ticket prices, access to bi-weekly free screenings and advanced booking for events which are held in the cinema’s bar.

THE BARBARY

16 Neal's Yard, London

The Barbary is situated in the iconic Neal’s Yard and offers food inspired by countries that span the Barbary coast, from Israel to Morocco. Its dishes are made for sharing and kicking off with the freshly baked super light naan and dips is always a good start. Don’t miss the Moroccan cigars which are deep fried pastry rolls filled with a spicy cod mix, and then there’s the cauliflower Jaffa style which is incredible. It’s a bloody great dining option in Covent Garden, but with only 24 seats and food this good, expect queues.

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THE 10 CASES

This unpretentious bistro is centered around an accessible, fun and regularly changing wine list that features 10 reds and 10 whites (plus fizz and rosé), all of which are available by the glass, carafe or bottle. The team really make an effort to keep the list fresh – no wine has been listed twice in all the time The 10 Cases has been open – so it’s the perfect spot for trying something new. You can pair your vino with French-European bistro fare like comté gougères, pan-fried grey mullet with artichoke barigoule, steak frites & peppercorn sauce, and lemon tart. The wine bar, shop and cellar next door switches things up again with the wine offering – there are 16+ regularly-changing fine wines by the glass and more than 300 bottles available to takeaway or drink-in (with corkage).

NEAL'S YARD DAIRY

17 Short's Gardens, London WC2H 9AT

A trip to a Neal’s Yard shop is heaven for fromage-ophiles – and yes, that is the technical term. Neal’s Yard is mainly all about British cheese, but you’ll find the odd French or Italian variety on offer, too. The company kicked things off in Covent Garden – in Neal’s Yard, natch – but went on to set up two more shops, one in Bermondsey and one in Borough Market, so all your cheese needs will be catered for. And it’s all about the experience: go in to buy one cheese but allow yourself time to linger as the cheesemongers – all dressed in wellies, white coats and hairnets – can talk you through your decision, cutting you little slivers to nibble as you go. That’s lunch sorted, then.

OYSTERMEN

The Oystermen Seafood Bar & Kitchen, Henrietta Street, London

Having started small in Covent Garden, Oystermen is now thankfully a bit bigger thanks to them getting the next door premises and knocking the wall down. Here you can get oysters and pretty impeccable seafood in smart but relaxed unpretentious surroundings without emptying your wallet either. They’ve got more than oysters of course, with dishes like anchovy toast with confit garlic and lemon; Portland crab thermidor; Newlyn hake with Cornish mussels, devilled mussel veloute and lovage oil; and braised cuttlefish orzo with braised onions, aioli and red butterfly sorrel.

TANDOOR CHOP HOUSE

8 Adelaide Street, London WC2N 4HZ

Tandoor Chop House is upping the game for Indian food in the capital, combining a traditional North Indian communal eatery with a classic British chop house. The tandoor oven is the star of the show and you can expect dishes to include tandoori chicken masala, beef bolti, Amritsari lamb chops and tandoor masala pollock. Sides come in the shape of a Dexter dripping keema naan and crispy okra, and its hard to resist the sweet coal-roasted pineapple or chai brulée for dessert.

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BANCONE

Bancone, William IV Street, London

Bancone is one of the best places to get fresh pasta in London, and the prices aren’t too bad either (considering it’s in central London). Padella may have kicked off the trend, but Bancone is right up there in terms of quality and also takes reservations, meaning no waiting in line like at Padella. Bancone’s Exec chef Ben Waugh guides the team in creating seasonal dishes such as silk handkerchiefs covered in walnut butter and an egg yolk; cacio e pepe; and ravioli filled with beef shin ‘ossobuco’ and covered in saffron butter. They’re all knock-out good.

DIN TAI FUNG

Din Tai Fung, Henrietta Street, London

In case you’re not already familiar with Din Tai Fung, it’s a multinational chain originally founded in Taiwan that specialises in dim sum, particularly Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings). For its first ever European outpost, DTF has landed in Covent Garden. With close to 250 covers you (hopefully) shouldn’t have to queue too long and there is the first ever Din Tai Fung cocktail bar inside, serving Taiwanese-inspired cocktails and Chinese tea while you wait. The Xiao Long Bao here are indeed incredible; the skins just the right thickness, the soup full of flavour and the filling fresh as you like. Probably our favourite dumplings are the prawn and pork shao mai, made with a fresh prawn topping off the dumpling and with soup inside too, and we also love the pork and veg wontons in black vinegar and chilli oil, and the crispy golden prawn pancake. For dessert it’s worth trying the red bean and chocolate xiao long bao too.

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CORA PEARL

30 Henrietta St, London WC2E 8NA

Cora Pearl, the Covent Garden sister to Mayfair’s Kitty Fisher’s, is named after another working girl Cora Pearl and there are nods to her glam life throughout the space, from parquet floors and velvet banquettes to vintage style glassware and trinkets in the bathrooms. Not only does it look beaut, the restaurant is turning out faultless food, from Bloody Mary mackerel to cheese & ham toasties to veal fillet with bordelaise sauce and possibly the most EPIC chips as well as one of the best Sunday roasts in London.

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RUFFIANS

27 Maiden Lane, London

You don’t just go to Ruffians for a quick trim, you go for an experience. You can get a coffee or a bourbon and you can enjoy a seat by the open fire…yep they have an open fire right in the middle of the barbers. With exposed brick work, animal skulls, and cages acting as lockers for everything from cups to coats, it all looks very cool. The cuts, beard trims and close shaves are all done properly too, and there’s zero pretentiousness here.

CHICK 'N' SOURS

1a Earlham Street, London

The Seven Dials branch of Chick ‘n’ Sours is worthy addition to the family, with all the same birds and more on the menu. On the chick front, the tenders have been given an Asian twist with punchy Xian Xian spice, coriander and sesame, there’s also big new bun aka The Colonel, and the Mexi-nese nachos are also a winner. It’s a feast worth flying in for.

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LAMB & FLAG

33 Rose St, London WC2E 9EB

Another rare gem in Covent Garden, the Lamb & Flag is on a site that’s had a pub in one form or another since 1772. We love the tiny alley that runs down one side of the rickety old building, which is also charmingly rickety inside with its classic Victorian design. The pub is owned by Fuller’s now so their ales and beers feature prominently and there’s also a fairly standard menu of pub grub too.

PETERSHAM NURSERIES

Floral Street, London

After branching out from Richmond, the Petersham Nurseries team transformed a 16,000 sq ft Floral Court spot into a lifestyle destination that celebrates nature, seasonality and slow living just like the original. There’s a home and garden shop, deli, wine cellar and florist, as well as The Petersham, an à la carte restaurant and La Goccia, a more informal spot.

MARGOT

45 Great Queen Street, London

The warm and inviting space of Margot has been designed beautifully with classic green leather banquettes, elegant decorative tiles, and a long zinc bar in front of an open kitchen. It serves classic Italian fare, from cured meats, carpaccio and tartare dishes to salads, homemade pasta and a range of meat and fish main courses. You’ll defo be wanting a least a couple of those fresh pasta plates.

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FROG BY ADAM HANDLING

34 Southampton Street, London

Frog by Adam Handling opened in 2018 and a lot has changed since then – there’s been the closure of The Frog E1 and Adam Handling Chelsea on the one hand, and the flagship Covent Garden restaurant winning a Michelin star in 2022 on the other. As well as a new star, the restaurant has a new tasting menu at £195, which comes with a lot of food as standard plus the option to add on supplements. The snacks are a particular highlight, with the crab tart perfectly encapsulating the invention, skill, and zero-waste philosophy at Frog. The bread and chicken butter course; BBQ scallops; wagyu beef with morel mushroom and black truffle; and caramel hazelnut mousse and praline mousse with vanilla caramel custard, milk sorbet and chocolate biscuit are also all excellent. Frog by Adam Handling is a seriously impressive restaurant. Big flavours, intricate dishes, and a zero-waste approach combine to make this one of London’s best Michelin-star spots. 

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THE PETERSHAM

The Covent Garden outpost of Petersham Nurseries is set in the appropriately-named Floral Court, with The Petersham restaurant taking up one side of the courtyard (with the more casual La Goccia restaurant on the other side). Boasting a foliage-adorned terrace and elegant interiors that draw inspo from Petersham House, the Boglione family home in Richmond, The Petersham serves up a refined menu of Italian dishes that showcase seasonal produce at its best. We’re talking dishes like The Petersham garden fritto, summer salad with cherries, peach & burrata, linguine with lobster & Datterini tomatoes, calamaro with grilled peppers, beef fillet with parsley salad, Original Beans chocolate with Zisola olive oil ice cream & honeycomb, and strawberry semifreddo with mint crumble, that all look pretty as a picture too. The wine list has lots of bottles from Italy (although not exclusively so) but the bar is more than happy to mix up cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks too – in fact the service across the board is excellent here. A meal here isn’t cheap but it’s a stunning setting so defo one to save for a special occasion.

MILK TRAIN CAFE

44 Bedford Street, London

Fancy a soft serve ice cream on a bed of candy floss?? Oh yes it’s a thing at Milk Train Cafe; the ice cream spot that serves up vanilla, matcha and hojicha soft serve on clouds of candy floss. It’s the sugar rush – and the insta – we can’t get enough of.

GRIND

42 Maiden Lane, London

Grind will have you hitting up the coffee-come-cocktail bar for more than just drinks thanks to their modern British dinner menu, with small plates like salt cod brandade with garlic crostini, smashed sweet potato, spiced nuts and yoghurt, and hot apple crumble sundae. As usual, Grind has all your coffee and cocktail needs taken care of, the signature Grind Espresso Martini is a real winner…it’d be rude not to have at least one.

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LADY OF THE GRAPES

Lady of The Grapes, Maiden Lane, London

Run by Carole Bryon, Lady of the Grapes focuses on female winemakers, with more than half of the organic, natural and biodynamic vinos on the 80-strong list made by women. As well as the wine (which you can buy to take away), Lady of the Grapes also serves a food menu designed by Victor Garvey of Rambla. It’s seasonal and regularly changing, with a mix of sharing boards and larger plates on offer, so expect dishes like mussels and clams with bone marrow, and steak tartare with ceps and kohlrabi. If you can’t sit in, there’s be a deli full of cheeses, charcuterie and other grocery produce so you can pick up everything you need for a wine night at home.

THE HARP

47 Chandos Pl, London WC2N 4HS

The Harp is a favourite of ale drinkers and was even named pub of the year by CAMRA (campaign for real ale) in 2011. It’s slap bang in the middle of London making it an ideal meeting point, although it is quite tight on space inside. The walls are covered with old oil paintings and the bar plastered with old beer mats from around the world which we love. Yes you will be sharing the pub with fusty old ale nerds but it’s a great spot regardless – especially if you are an old ale nerd yourself.

THE CROSS KEYS

31 Endell St, London WC2H 9EB

Tourist-focused Covent Garden isn’t known for having that many great pubs but the Cross Keys on Endell Street is a gem. If you haven’t been in before you’ll definitely have noticed its facade which is absolutely covered in plants and shrubbery. The ‘busy’ visual theme is continued inside with a dark interior that’s absolutely covered in bric a brac, with everything from oil paintings to old instruments and brass kettles adorning the walls.

PARSONS

Parsons, Endell Street, London

Parsons is a super cute fish shop from the team behind the very popular wine bar Ten Cases, which is just over the road. It resembles an old chop house and note that super cute also means tiny, although there’s some clever use of space like the coat rack attached to the ceiling and the central table that doubles as a wine chiller and till. The menu of super fresh seafood includes simple grilled prawns; sea trout tartare with Bloody Mary jelly; and octopus with duck fat potatoes. All bloody brilliant

ST. JOHN BAKERY

3 Neal's Yard, London WC2H 9DP

As well as a perm home in Neal’s Yard, there’s a St. JOHN Bakery arch in Bermondsey too. Both sling out Eccles cakes, sourdough bread, rye loaves, raisin loves, those MEGA doughnuts and a range of other tasty pastry treats, and you can also pick up some of that St John wine too. Brownies and vino…don’t mind if we do.

MAISON BAB

4 Mercer Walk, London WC2H 9FA

Stephen Tozer and Ed Brunet, the pair behind Soho’s Le Bab – which we are big fans of – have also opened sister site Maison Bab in Covent Garden. Whilst by no means massive, it’s a significantly bigger restaurant than the original and they’ve nailed the millennial interiors with pink neon, patterned tables, green banquettes and a very jazzy floor. If you’ve been to Le Bab you’ll be familiar with the menu, though it’s not a carbon copy of the Soho site. There are more rustic and bolder dishes on show here, like the doner beignets with both garlic and chilli sauces, meat butter naans and iskender fondue fries. There are new sandwiches on offer too but the kebabs are always the winners – we can never resist the pork shawarma, slow-cooked for 15 hours and served with chermoula mayo.

BLACKLOCK COVENT GARDEN

The basement restaurant has 110 covers and offers all your Blacklock faves as well as a brand new exclusive pie for Covent Garden – although get down there quick if you want it as it often sells out. There’s huge piles of skinny chops to tuck in to, bigger steaks and cuts to share, an excellent burger, crisp beef dripping fries, and THAT legendary white chocolate cheesecake served straight from the bowl. Even in the heart of one of London’s most touristy areas, Blacklock still does what it does best – straightforward, banging dishes all at a wallet-friendly price point.

DISHOOM

13 Water St, London E14 5GX

Inspired by the old Irani cafes of Bombay, Dishoom became an instant hit thanks to its bangin’ sharing plates and beaut decor, and all their sites have regular huge queues out the door. The lamb samosas, masala prawns, house black daal and chicken ruby are spot on every single time, and we’ll never say to no to THAT bacon and egg naan with a chai for brekkie.

PATRIZIA MANIAS

Milan brand Patrizia Manias has a shiny salon in Covent Garden and the space is molto elegante, we’re talking polished floors, orange leather chairs and a sleek black central unit with mirrors rising up from the middle. In fact if you were walking past and couldn’t see someone with foils in, you could easily mistake for it a gallery or high-end furniture store. These guys are known for innovative colouring techniques and super bouncy blow-dries. And, if it’s not just your hair that needs a little TLC Patrizia Manias can take care of your body too, as they offer a range of beauty services.

GLOSSIER

43 King St, London WC2E 8JY

After popping up in the neighbourhood in 2019, Glossier is back in Covent Garden for good. The cult beauty brand’s permanent store is inside a townhouse that’s actually one of the oldest buildings in the area, dating back to the 17th century. As with all Glossier shops, the interiors are just as ‘gram-worthy as the products – this one features the brand’s signature pink plus herringbone wooden floors, rose marble, and ‘You Look Good’ mirrors. There’s also a Wet Bar inside where you can test out the skincare, and a Glossier conveyor belt where you can pick up your products from. All the Glossier faves from Boy Brow to Milky Jelly Cleanser are available to buy as well as GlossiWEAR merch, and an exclusive London-themed passport holder – £5 from the sales of the passport holders are being donated to Hatch, a social enterprise that supports underrepresented entrepreneurs.

LAHPET WEST END

The second location of Burmese restaurant Lahpet, opened in Slingsby Place, a new development just off Long Acre, in 2022. The original Lahpet in Shoreditch did much to popularise Burmese food in London, and seeing as travel to Myanmar is off the cards for the foreseeable future, Lahpet offers a taste of a country we fell in love with when we visited back in 2016. Our advice is to go big on the salads – the tea leaf salad  ‘lahpet’ from which the restaurant takes its name; the ginger salad with toasted chickpea flower; and the green tomato salad with shallot oil. Don’t miss the split pea fritters, served with an addictive tamarind dip, and the coconut noodles with chicken and crispy wonton either. 

SYCAMORE VINO CUCINA

Inside the Middle Eight hotel in Covent Garden, Sycamore Vino Cucina is an all-day restaurant and bar inspired by northern Italian cuisine. Think bomboloni and fresh-baked bread for breakfast, hand-rolled pasta for lunch and pit-grilled meats for dinner, with some highlights including oxtail tortellini with fava beans & truffle oil; burrata served with wild garlic, orange & pine nuts; chianti-braised beef ragu reginette pasta with parmesan; and slow roast pork rib with soft corn polenta & kale. Drinks-wise, expect a selection of wines from the northern regions of Piedmont, Lombardia and Tuscany, as well as signature negronis and Italian draft beers.

LONDON TRANSPORT MUSEUM

If your daily commute just isn’t enough time spent in London’s transport system, then spend a day at the London Transport Museum. The institution, which is the world’s leading museum of urban transport, showcases the past 200 years of history of travel in London as well as the stories of the people involved in it. Most of the museum’s collection is held at the depot in Acton (which is only open to the public for certain events throughout the year) but you can see everything from tube roundel designs and vintage posters to early trams and modern black cabs.

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