Yes, it has become a tourist mecca, and no, it is not the hotbed of seething nightlife and breeding ground of artists that it used to be, but Soho in London is timeless and still pretty great. Old Compton, Frith, and Greek Streets are still great places to get a late night drink, or a budget meal anytime of the day or night. There are still lots of tiny bars tucked away if you can find them, and lots of “members-only” clubs (don’t fear – those guarding the doors seem to consider that if you’ve found the place and say you’re a member you must be). Places like the Groucho Club, where you can still see A-grade celebs coming and going really are members-only so forget trying to get through the slew of paparazzi to gain entry there.
My favorite place for a coffee is Bar Italia on Frith Street; in a city obsessed with chain coffee bars, it’s a relief to come to this authentic Italian café. For more modern Italian flavours go to Princi on Wardour Street – oh the cakes! For an excellent Australian coffee (better than it sounds) head for Flat White in Berwick Street; for a drink go to the Coach and Horses pub or the French House where artists and writers such as Dylan Thomas and Lucien Freud used to drink.
My cheap and quick vegetarian choice is Vitaorganic on Wardour Street. And then of course there is shopping. The key to Soho is to walk slowly as you never know what gem you might be passing by. If you get tired and need a quick facial or foot massage before heading into the nightlife, go to Cucumba walk-in spa on Poland Street. Then head for Soho’s newest addition and latest addiction: Box Nightclub and Cabaret, which aims to put a bit of the risqué back into Soho.