The caffeine fueled all night heart of Soho. It's a small place inside with a giant clanking old till and great coffee, best consumed at the outside tables where the full colour of Soho can been seen passing by.
22 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4RF, near junction with Old Compton; 020 7437 4520
A cracking, friendly South London pub/comedy club with great acts and a top atmosphere. Perfect antidote to some stuffy West End night spots. Inside, its like a tardis with a maze of coridors and old fashioned function rooms which are packed by 7 on weekends. Comedian's who have cut their teeth at the famous 'banana caberet' include Dave Gorman, David Baddiel and Ross Noble. Get there early!
77 Bedford Hill, Balham SW12 9HD, www.thebedford.co.uk, 020 8682 8940
In response to a recent tip there is no need to resort to McDonalds to eat at reasonable prices even in central London if you know where to look.
Many Italian and Spanish cafes have good lunch options at reasonable prices and can be found in sidestreets around central London especially Soho. Or, get the Time Out guide to eating in London and make a note of the cheap places!
There are good takeaway options from Chinatown, fresh fruit in Berwick Market (later in the day is cheapest), many cafes in the streets south of Warren Street station off Tottenham Court Road are cheapish and if you are really pushed, chain sandwich bars are a better bet than McDonalds!
If you want a flavour of traditional cheap London food look up a pie and mash shop or an old-style fish and chip shop. The cheapest and best takeaway food option in London is Brick Lane Beigel Bakery but it's not central.
It's in an old warehouse building just off Brick Lane (Hanbury street) running on Sunday mornings. It's far less crowded than the nearby Spitalfields Market which was cut in half by a redevelopment and is now too crowded with too many identikit stalls. It's got craft/jewellery, clothes and food stalls (excellent Ethopian food as well as all the usual suspects). Lots of beautiful stuff from new designers and a few quirky and fashionista clothes stalls. Good world music CD stall. And the Big Chill bar/historic Shoreditch is just round the corner.Get there around 11-12am and it's not crowded. Lock up bikes securely.....
Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street off Brick Lane.Nearest Station/Underground Liverpool Street
At more than 300ft long and 100ft wide, the centrepiece of the Royal Botanic Gardens is no ordinary greenhouse. You can imagine a T Rex stalking its prey among the prehistoric cycads, or close your eyes and let the warmth and perfumes transport you to a tropical isle. Underneath is the equally primordial Marine Display.
Kew Gardens, tube Kew Gardens, Richmond
A great, cosy pub with reasonably priced drinks right in the heart of the West End. Fireside downstairs, friendly bar staff, relaxed vibe, old-style, no-nonsense interior... I've been in Australia for 2 years and am going home for Christmas... save me a seat and a pint of that lager I can't pronounce!
Kingly Street. Turn off Regent Street onto Beak Street, first left, it's on your right. Nearest tube Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus.
Cheap & tasty fried noodles, udon or noodles soups - every which way (meat, seafood, vegetarian) - a massive, speedily served plateful for under 4 pounds.
Not to mention the charms of the Cutty Sark & Greenwich park on the doorstep. Top tip: don't order starters, very few people manage to finish their main courses as it is.
Address: 39 Greenwich Church Street
Phone: 020 8858 2688
Just next to DLR station Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich
Desperately trying to pick up a life size, anime-styled model of Yoda signed by a Russian animator? Can't get enough of the latest hard core manga epic? Then pop into the flagship Forbidden Planet, the temple to all things geek. Even if you're not remotely interested in any of this, it's still worth visiting once, just to see the terrifyingly random collection of licenced tat that people are willing to buy so long as it's endorsed by George Lucas or signed by Terry Pratchett.
179 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8JR; Tel: 020 7420 3666; www.forbiddenplanet.com
This fortnightly reggae/soul/dub club is unpretentious, friendly, fun and cheap (usually about £5 cover charge). But the best thing is, everyone goes there for the music, because the music is so good! The club is run by Soul Jazz Records which puts together some classic Studio One compilations, among other albums. But at the club you'll see the best of what's happening in this scene now - DJs, MCs and a crowd that happily skanks along in a cosy garage space.
Electrowerkz, 7 Torrens Street
Nearest tube: Angel
We loved this museum! It seems impossible that one man could have collected so much. While there is a great deal to see, one doesn't feel overwhelmed as in the British Museum. The Hogarths are wonderful. One of the staff, who obviously loves the paintings, spent a great deal of time with my husband and me pointing out and explaining the hundreds of details in the paintings. A most memorable afternoon.
13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, WC
Free admission: a great benefit in a wonderful, but expensive, city
Not just a London institution, but Fopp offers a credible, intelligent, independent-minded challenge to the hideous megastores on Oxford Street. CDs, DVDs and books are available at excellent prices and the range is hugely impressive.
1 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LL; www.fopp.co.uk
If you like cheese, then you've got two options. One, move to France. Two, visit either of La Fromagerie's two shops in London (one west, one north). They sell to all the big-name restaurants, so aren't the cheapest places in the world, but what's money for if not to buy good-quality cheese?
2-4 Moxon Street, W1U 4EW; Tel: 020 7935 0341
30 Highbury Park, N5 2AA; Tel: 020 7359 7440
Genius. Cheap DVDs, cheap music, cheap books, but it's not a secondhand store. It's like shopping online, but easier, because you really can browse around. If the world was a fair and just place, these are the kinds of prices we would normally pay. As it is, you'll just have to make do with places like Fopp.
1 Earlham Street, Covent Garden
Tel: 020 7379 0883
Nearest tube: Covent Garden or Tottenham Court Road
OK, so, it's an obvious choice, but this is toy heaven, or hell, according to your point of view. They say it's the world's largest toyshop, and even if it's not, it feels like it. Besides the extraordinary array of all things childlike on offer, the best thing is the staff, who are endlessly patient - no mean feat in a toyshop full of screaming children.
A word of advice - before you go, set the ground rules with your kids. If you let them know that you're only going to "look but not buy", then anything you do buy them will be a bonus. If they go with the impression that they're goingto be given their weight in toys, they'll only be disappointed.
It's one of those once-a-year experiences.
188-196 Regent Street, Soho, W1B 5BT
Tel: 0870 333 2455
Nearest tube: Oxford Street or Picadilly Circus
The Transport Museum at Covent Garden is currently closed for refurbishment (until spring 2007), but in the meantime, you can see some of the exhibits while they’re being stored at the Museum Depot in Acton. There are guided tours and open weekends to see some of the old vehicles, uniforms, posters and photos normally associated with the museum.
Gunnersbury Lane, W3 - very close to Acton Town tube
Very inexpensive casserole type veggie foods in dining room of old house. Open when the Centre is open which is weekdays mainly. Best to come around 5-7pm. Very inexpensive, salads available, mainly pasta and veggies with tomato sauce.
Russell Square tube to Southampton Row. Turn left at Russell Hotel and walk along Row to left turn into Queens Square.
Wonderful for people watching. You pick up your food indoors and pay for it. You are given a number and a server brings it to your table ouside on the patio. There is some seating inside. Delicious lattes, pizza, salads, baked potatoes with toppings and more. Closed in winter.
Russell Square - just walk to the square from the Russell Square tube station. Across road from Russell Hotel
The only football stadium with a tube station named after it! Only a stone's throw away from the Arsemal tube station, go savour the atmosphere of a Premiership football match and admire the Art Deco architecture of the listed East Stand Building. Better still, read Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch before going! Matches usually take place on alternate Saturdays/Sundays from August to May.
PS. This review may be a tad biased, coming from an Arsenal fan, but even a non-football fan will enjoy the matchday atmosphere. My wife can attest to that!
Tube: Arsenal, Picadilly line
Address: Avenell Road, London N5 1BU
The best of Soho - quaint but hip at the same time. The chipped crockery, the fading walls, the coolness that comes from being stylish without really trying - effortless. Exquisite cakes served up by the delicious Michelle, a true character who remembers her regulars and makes you feel part of the London scene no matter how long you've been away.
28 Greek Street, Soho
Just off Leicester Square, this is the cheapest indie cinema in London's West End (probably even the UK), with ticket prices at no more than £4, and as low as a quid all day Fridays! They show a great mix of top blockbuster and indie films just off their mainstream run, and also host special themed nights for cinephiles.
You'll find the Prince Charles Cinema at 7 Leicester Place, the street running north off Leicester Square (just up from the Haagen Dazs shop). Visit www.princecharlescinema.com/ to find out what's playing. Give them a call from 1-9pm on 020 7494 3654, and they'll guide you there!
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