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How do you avoid the hungry hordes when you hit the high street for a spot of sales shopping? Forget department stores,
chain restaurants and the usual suspects: the streets behind and surrounding Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street offer up some real gems – if you know where to look. Don’t let your fashion
fizzle when it comes to food: here are Square Meal’s top 10 tips for lunching in style.
The beauty of this Soho tapas bar is that you can just turn up – there are no bookings. The daily changing menu offers authentic Spanish morsels such as home-marinated boquerones or creamy ajo blanco, plus loads of wines by the glass and a bustling, informal atmosphere.
Hidden from Oxford Circus’s maddening crowds, Degò’s restaurant and bar offer exemplary Italian dishes with unusual flavour combinations, and plenty of interesting by-the-glass wine options. The dining room’s low-slung leather banquettes and modish lighting give the restaurant a sassy, young-at-heart vibe – perfect for rejuvenating jaded shoppers.
This buzzing café attracts media types holding morning meetings and Soho caffeine addicts after a five-star fix. The space is airy and modern, service is brisk and friendly, and the tempting display of cakes and sandwiches makes for a satisfying and wallet-friendly light lunch. Then there’s the coffee: made from a seasonal blend sourced by independent roaster Has Bean, it will have you fit for the shop floors in no time.
As its name suggests, Hush doesn’t shout about itself, and its quiet, secluded location just steps from bustling Bond Street make it a welcome hiatus for shoppers with taste. Despite this location, prices aren’t prohibitive, and there’s plenty of choice from the appealing, Mediterranean-influenced menu. Plus, afternoon tea – taken in the smart first-floor Silver Room – is a popular treat.
This elegant Mayfair destination draws its inspiration from the glamorous French Riviera, with dishes such as whole roast black-leg chicken with foie gras and bread, or monkfish cassoulet all served to share. The restaurant’s hospitality will have you feeling like a celeb, and you might even spot one or two real ones in the dining room. All in all: absolutely fabulous.
A haven for foodies who find themselves at the bottom end of Regent Street, nearby Nopi brings Yotam Ottolenghi’s widely acclaimed cooking to Soho. The fizz and verve of the menu’s small plates – from roasted aubergine with spiced yoghurt, dukka and coriander, to hibiscus-and-tea-smoked quail with kumquat and clementine relish – will have you back at the coalface with a spring in your step before you know it.
This subterranean Thai restaurant is a fun find, and an enlightened escape from the maelstrom of Oxford Circus. Choose from the usual stir-fries and curries, interspersed with flavourful specials such as grilled duck breast with tamarind sauce, or marinated lamb chops with lemongrass. The minimalist lounge bar is also a tempting spot for post-splurge cocktails.
Although hidden away on the ‘wrong’ side of Oxford Street, this trendy all-day joint has become the destination of choice for post-work Sohoites since it opened in April 2011, so expect crowds at peak times. However, its combination of sharing plates of international gastro-hits, fun-loving cocktails and laid-back feel are worth the detour.
For fashionable nibbles, fabulous cocktails and the heady feeling of being an It girl-about-town, drop into Sketch’s louche Parlour. Snacks include macaroni cheese with celeriac rémoulade, mixed salads, bagels and pastries, while the afternoon tea is a dinky delight served on mismatched china. The psychedelic decor will take you a world away from shopping stress.
Mixing straightforward self-service and economical prices with top-notch Italian fare, Vapiano is a canteen with a difference. Choose from antipasti, salads, pasta and pizzas, pay before you eat, then pitch up at one of the shared tables, and tuck in. It’s a pit stop, people, but not as you know it.