Covid-19: London’s best online grocery deliveries

In these crazy times, bring London’s gourmet scene to your doorstep. 

With online delivery slots booked up until next year, and a trip to the local supermarket now involving long queues, mask-wearing stewards and a one-in-one-out policy, it’s time to get a bit creative when it comes to stocking up on food and drink.

Many London businesses – whether restaurants, cafes, delis – have now ventured into the world of deliveries, which means you can get top quality produce from your favourite London eateries delivered directly to your door. Some of these are taking advantage of the wholesale prices that they, as restaurants, get, and are passing them onto us.

Of course, these strange and uncertain times call for a little luxury — why not treat yourself to some posher wine or some slightly pricier cheese? You’re probably saving money when it comes to travel and pub trips, so stocking up on some gourmet treats – whilst supporting London businesses – seems like a win win situation.

Check out some of the places offering delivery services:

 

Boozing: Wine and Beer

Renegade Urban Winery

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Try the ‘Marc’ – Renegade’s zesty 2018 Riesling  (left)

 

 

Bethnal Green’s popular urban winery, Renegade, has some of the tastiest vino in town. Although we will miss sitting under the railway arches and sipping our tipple of choice, Renegade’s delivery option is the next best thing. They’re also offering 10% off orders over £100 with the code ‘LETSDRINKTHROUGHTHIS’ — which is, I reckon, a very valid mantra to have throughout this whole palaver.

Humble Grape

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An Islington favourite, Humble Grape is a wine bar with a selection of bottles to envy. Prices start at £16 per bottle — filter by wine type or region, and treat yourself to something a bit nicer than whatever Sainsbury’s has on offer.

Hammerton 

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Islington’s own brewery, Hammerton, has migrated online so you can enjoy a few of their pints at home on your sofa. Try the N1 Pale Ale for a refreshing and fruity session beer, the bestselling N7 IPA, or go a bit rogue and give the tropical Buoyancy Aid, the berrylicious Red Berry District or the downright outrageous CRUNCH Peanut Butter Milk Stout a go.

Delis and Speciality Shops

Brindisa

Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 12.04.39For the best chorizo in town, more Serrano ham than you can shake a stick at, creamy Manchego or a bag of proper paella rice, Borough Market’s Brindisa is your one stop Spanish shop.  Head here for cured meats, storecupboard items, deli goods and, if you want to cook like a true Spaniard, pop their very own Brindisa cookbook into your virtual basket.

Provisions

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The cheese is what you want to go to Provisions for — try something a little different such as some 30 year old parmesan-esque Trentingrana cheese, or a hunk of Saint-Nectaire raw cow’s milk cheese. Of course, you’ll need some wine to go with that cheese — luckily Provisions also stocks a decent selection of booze, with fancy French wine as well as the tasty Kernel Table Beer, amongst others. Beef up your cheese order by adding in saussicon, Grignoton (parmesam wrapped mini saucisson), olives and a whole host of other bits to make your evening that little bit more exciting. Or why not make a night of it, and order the Feast Platter?

Ruby Violet 

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The weather may not totally be playing ball at the moment, but it’s always time for ice-cream, right? Ruby Violet of King’s Cross specialise in the most unique flavour combos you’ve seen — forget Ben and Jerry’s and get a tub of Salted Caramel with Almond Brittle, Marzipan and Orange Blossom, Matcha Green Tea or Coffee Mocha Ripple delivered to your door.

Grow Wild Acai

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If you’re struggling to get your vitamins in, why not fill your freezer with some purple goodness – aka Acai. Based in South London, Grow Wild Acai do what they say on the tin – they sell Acai, which is an antioxidant rich berry from Brazil. They make it super easy for you, and sell it already pureed and frozen in individual packs, ready to throw into your blender and knock up an epic smoothie. At the moment, for every kg of Acai bought, Grow Wild donate a kilo to local NHS hospitals, so the staff can have fresh smoothies to get them through this Coronavirus pandemic. Not only will you be helping fuel NHS staff, but you can feel good knowing that Grow Wild are a sustainable, carbon neutral company — even the packaging is completely compostable!

A Bit of Everything

Apres Food Co.

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Clerkenwell’s favourite healthy cafe, Apres Food Co. has transformed into a mini supermarket, offering deliveries or collection. Direct from their organic suppliers, Natoora, you can put in an order of everything from vegetables, dried goods, beer, cheese and meat. You can also order things made by Apres themselves – which are all gluten and refined sugar free – such as homemade pancakes, gluten free bread, thai curry, and a selection of homemade cakes. Think of it as an alternative ‘veg box’, but one which you can personalise, is not just veg, and reassuringly organic, free range and conscience friendly. If you go and collect your order, you’ll even get to meet Apres’ adorable cafe dog, Archie.

Crosstown Doughnuts 

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Thought Crosstown only did doughnuts? How wrong you are. Given the current climate, a shop selling just doughnuts may not do so well — after all, man cannot live on doughnuts alone. Crosstown have therefore taken some initiative, and partnered up with various suppliers to create their take on a veg delivery box: The Crosstown Collective. Not only will you get veg, bread, eggs, milk (vegan alternatives available), but you will also get a six pack of Crosstown’s famous doughnuts to help make WFH that little bit easier.

Farmer J 

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Like Crosstown, Farmer J have decided to expand their offerings — after all, they say they do indeed Give A Fork. Choose a small, medium or large Farm Box, which contains a selection of fruit and vegetables, seven seeded sourdough, milk and eggs, and you can add on extras such as rice, pasta, cheese, meat, or Farmer J’s own very special sauces, all bottled up and ready for you to use at home.

Yoobi: A Hands on Sushi Experience

Looking for sushi with a bit of a twist? We reckon Yoobi‘s got your back. This Soho joint specialises in Temaki, or hand rolls, with flavour combos to keep you on your toes, and prices that won’t break the bank.

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No one is going to look elegant trying to eat Temaki. The cone-shaped package of nori, sushi rice and all manner of tasty fillings is just not made to fit inside any normal person’s mouth in one go. Sure, this may not be first date material, but when it tastes that good, do we care?

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As well as the usual maki (small rolled sushi), and nigiri (the fish on top ones), Temaki are Yoobi’s real winning dish. They’ve got all the classic combos like salmon avocado, but also have a number of fusion options, and plenty on offer for the veggies. The asparagus and avocado Temaki with baby spinach and a white miso sauce was particularly fresh and vibrant; the smoky chipotle tuna maki as well as the citrus salmon tamaki, with orange, avocado, croutons and chives also stood out.

At under £15 a head, this is a great little lunch option for when that sushi craving strikes.

Yoobi, 38 Lexington St, Soho, London W1F 0LL

Burr & Co.

For the REAL DEAL aka proper tea in a teapot, deliciously smooth coffee, and a fabulous selection of baked goods, look no further than Burr & Co., the newest addition to the Russell Square coffee scene.

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A Proppa Cuppa

Ok, so up until this point the ‘scene’ has basically consisted of Pret, Nero, Starbucks or Leon — all fine when you want a caffeine fix but hardly hubs of culture. Burr & Co., part of the newly renovated Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel, is a different story. With more than enough seats — and comfy ones at that — and plugs a plenty, this a place where you can truly rock the freelance lifestyle and feel somewhat sophisticated doing so.

Granted, the coffees are a little more expensive than your average chain latte, but they taste a hundred times better for it. The baked offerings are unique — everything from giant cookies and classic scones, to the more avante-garde pumpkin pie croissant and pistachio tart adorned the counter on my recent visit.

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To croissant or to doughnut, that is the question…

For the savoury lovers, there are sandwiches and sausage rolls — a million miles from a Greggs rendition — and if it is just ONE OF THOSE DAYS, they even have wine on tap.

The toilets are snazzy, music chilled, tables in abundance and staff friendly. What’s not to love?

StrEATlife at Alexandra Palace: Music, Food and Epic Views

This summer, Ally Pally is hosting StrEATlife, a craft beer and street food festival, over four weekends. I checked out the first edition (27th and 28th May), which proved to be a roaring success.

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London in summer is a glorious thing, but sometimes the dense city centre can be slightly trapping. When it gets that bit warmer, I like to go in search of some green space, something that, luckily, London has a fair amount of.

If you head to the northern part of the capital, you’ll find  greenery a plenty in the parks surrounding Alexandra Palace — at the same time as feeling completely removed from the city, Ally Pally offers hands down one of the best views of our stunning city you are likely to find.

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Ally Pally is a beautiful place to visit anyway, but what made this the perfect destination on a warm and sunny bank holiday weekend was the fact that the grounds were buzzing with festival vibes.

StrEATlife, a street food, craft beer and live music festival, saw over 30 street food traders, plenty of drinks choices, and a decent range of live music, take over the grounds surrounding one of London’s most iconic buildings. This was the first edition of StrEATlife, which will pop-up another three times over the summer.

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Whether you’re an ice-cream aficionado or craft beer connoisseur, a fried chicken fan or a lover of wholefoods, StrEATlife’s selection would have ticked your box.

To the soundtrack of live acoustic tunes, jugs of Pimms were being shared and churros were being chomped, the masses dressed for the sun with a similar ‘holiday-vibes’ frame of mind. Family friendly and free, StrEATlife is an all-round crowd-pleaser.

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Away from the stage and the street food, the grassy banks were full of Londoners and families picnicking, playing games and enjoying the sun, not to mention taking in the incredible view of the city that Ally Pally offers. I’m pretty sure this is the only place you can see all of London’s landmarks in one fell swoop, without having to pay a premium to get to the top of the Shard — Alexandra Palace is worth visiting if just to see our capital in all its glory.

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StrEATlife didn’t disappoint: there were decent prices all round — a good size meal from most of the vendors will set you back around £6, and the variety means that you can keep everyone happy.

Put the dates of the next StrEATlife festival in your diary — if the sun is shining for the next round (17th and 18th June), I can highly recommend trying a watermelon mojito – served in the melon – to keep you refreshed.

Pack a picnic blanket, have some cash on hand, and get ready for a chilled out mini-festival where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city, yet take in the most instagrammable London view that there is.

StrEATlife takes place at Alexandra Palace on 17th and 18th June, 22nd and 23rd July, and 19th and 20th August.

Freelancing? Studying? These London cafes have fab coffee and super wifi

If you’re on the lookout for somewhere to caffeinate and get productive, check out these wifi offering, coffee brewing locations in central London.

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Ah, the freelancer lifestyle. The freedom to work from the comfort of your bed, donning last night’s PJs with a cuppa in hand. Sometimes, though, that just isn’t productive. As a student and writer, I can work pretty much anywhere (except when ancient tomes and obscure books mean the library is my only choice).

The question that has been dumbfounding London millienials since, well, ever, is where exactly to set up shop and get a few hours decent work done. Wifi is obviously a major factor, as is the quality of the coffee – caffeine is, after all, the fuel to all productivity – and a plug, chilled atmosphere and comfy chairs are all things to consider.

If you’re mooching around central on the lookout for an oasis to open up your laptop in, be it for uni, freelancing, or just inevitable life admin, check out my list of where to get into work mode.

  1. Timberyard

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These guys are the kings when it comes to remote working, even offering up meeting rooms to rent out. Head to their Seven Dials or Soho branches for super-fast wifi, a relaxed environment, and a plethora of other people around you tapping away on their Macs. They also have an impressive selection of teas, as well as a tempting selection of homemade bakes. The Covent Garden café can get pretty busy, but the comfy armchairs downstairs are worth a bit of a wait

2. Covent Garden Grind

Grind have expanded over the last couple of years, recently opening outposts of their much-loved coffee spots in Exmouth Market and Covent Garden. The latter is quite tucked away, behind the Piazza, and pretty much next door to the old-school Rules (you may or may not find yourself having a coffee with the doorman). There’s cracking coffee, service with a smile and not to mention some delicious snacks (think seeded energy balls) and the ultimate avo-toast. The thing which gives Covent Garden Grind the edge has to be the Bowie quote on the wall: I reckon with the inspiration and wifi here, we could all (think we could) be heroes (if just for one day).

3. Hubbard and Bell at The Hoxton Holborn

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An all day café, restaurant, bar and freelancer office, The Hoxton on High Holborn can be anything and everything you want it to be. Stay through from morning coffee to a lunchtime bite, rewarding yourself for the day’s productivity with a sophisticated cocktail come early evening. For the hungover, there are fresh juices and smoothies; for the super hungry there are pancake stacks drenched in maple syrup. Pretty much everyone here in the daytime is working away, which can be a useful source of motivation. Plenty of plugs around, chilled background music and some snazzy toilets with that posh hand stuff mean this place is a winner.

4. Tinderbox

For any fellow stationary geeks and organisation freaks, Paperchase’s flagship store on Tottenham Court Road is heaven. Head upstairs to their Tinderbox café, which as well as being full of light thanks to the huge windows, offers wifi, coffee and is usually relatively quiet. Feeling broke? Get yourself a Paperchase Treat card and you can get a free filter coffee every week (or upgrade to another drink by paying the difference). You can then feel totally justified about forking out a tenner for some uber-cool gel pens and notepads.

5. Planet Organic, Tottenham Court Road

Vegans, veggies, omnivores and carnivores will (I’m fairly sure) be satisfied with the range of yummy options at Planet Organic’s café on Tottenham Court Road. This is the one just by the station, as opposed to the other branch down the road on Torrington Place. Grab a coffee, bar, smoothie or lunch and get to work upstairs in their light and airy seating area. The wifi is good – phone signal a bit iffy. Plugs a plenty, nourishing grub and the opportunity to get a bit crazy with your coffee (coconut oil coffee and superfood coffee – with mushrooms – are on the menu). They also offer student discount with a valid card, which can only ever be a good thing.

6. Waterstones Tottenham Court Road

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This is one for those who like a bit of silence to work in – the basement of this new-ish Waterstones is an oasis of calm and a good place to knuckle down and get stuck in. There’s wifi too, as well as a coffee bar, but unlike other dedicated cafes, you don’t feel any obligation to make a purchase at the shop or café to work there. Obviously the book selection is a massive bonus.

7. Foyles, Charing Cross Road

Another bookish site, but this one, instead of being tucked away underground like the Waterstones option, is high up on the 5th floor of this flagship store. The shop itself is open until 9pm, and the café shuts 45 minutes beforehand, which makes it a great place if you need to crack something out when other places have shut their doors. There are regular events on in the shop too — why not combine a few hours work with an author’s reading, a panel discussion or a music concert?

8. Leon, Brunswick Centre

If you’re a regular at the nearby Senate House Library, or a student at UCL, Russell Square will be your stomping ground. Leon, the chain which prides itself on its healthy fast food, has a pretty big branch in the Brunswick. Their wifi is bang on, food reasonably priced, and they do 15% student discount – if you’re feeling particularly skint, get their filter coffee, which works out at 85p with a student card.

London Start-Ups Making Use of the City’s Food Waste

There’s an awful lot of food that goes to waste in a non-stop capital like London. Some people, however, are making use of the bits that no one wants: meet the sustainable eating initiatives that are being creative with the ‘rubbish’.

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As with any city, London produces a shedload of waste – think of the amount of coffee cups, sandwich wrappers, newspapers or beer cans in a pavement bin and multiply by hundreds of thousands.

As well as this recyclable and non-recyclable rubbish that is constantly piling up, much of what gets thrown away is food waste. Most of the time, what restaurants, supermarkets and suppliers class as ‘waste’ is entirely edible, yet for one reason or another, it gets put in a bin and sent off to landfill.

The Evening Standard recently launched a campaign in order to tackle London’s growing waste problem, highlighting the fabulous Felix Project. This is an initiative using up surplus and waste food to transform into meals for the homeless. Others are also catching on to the fact that there is huge potential for culinary creation with the food that is getting thrown away.

Meet five geniuses making delicious things out of rubbish:

  1. Snact

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Set up in 2013, Snact are the people making ‘jerky’ out of waste and surplus fruit. Blending up knobbly, discarded produce from London markets to create chewy dried fruit snacks in all kinds of flavours, Snact even uses compostable packaging, making it a wholly sustainable snack. The Apple and Mango flavour is a tropically taste-bomb that counts towards your five a day.

 2. ChicP

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Houmous, once a dip reserved for the middle classes, is now a supermarket staple and as standard in the fridge as milk and butter. ChicP’s versions of the tasty chickpea mush are not only more colourful and adventurous than your usual pot, but have the added bonus of tackling food waste. Hannah McCollum is the brains behind ChicP, creating raw houmous with surplus and wonky vegetables from supermarkets – think a vibrant beetroot, horseradish and sage, or a sunny looking carrot, ginger and turmeric. There are even sweet options for the truly adventurous – the banana, avocado and cacoa would be the perfect toast topper.

3. Rubies in the Rubble

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If you’re more of a cheese-and-chutney-rather-than-houmous sort of person, you’ll be pleased to know that you can now satisfy your cravings whilst championing sustainability. Rubies in the Rubble makes delicious ketchups and relishes from London’s discarded market produce, which would be wasted because of looks, or due to insufficient storage. After collecting bin-destined fruit and vegetables from wholesalers such as New Covent Garden Market, Rubies in the Rubble transforms them into creative condiments – a fig, pear and port relish would be a perfect partner to a block of cheddar, and the ‘Top Banana’ ketchup could really jazz up you bacon sarnie.

4. Toast Ale

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If the lack of alcohol in this article has been worrying you, keep calm. BAsed in Hackney, Toast Ale brews beer from surplus bread (aha, you say, the name makes sense now) in Yorkshire. From unsold artisan loaves from bakeries to crusts from supermarket sandwiches, the bread is combined with malted barley, hops and yeast to create something quite different. Not only are you reducing waste by drinking this beer, you are also championing sustainability –  all profits go to the charity Feedback, a charity fighting food waste. This is ale with a conscience – try their pale ale, craft lager or session IPA.

5. Urban Orchard

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Although we live in a big big city, there is a surprising amount of green space. In this space, as well as back gardens, allotments and community gardens, there are fair few fruit trees – many of which are not used. This is where Urban Orchard come in. These guys make cider from your donated apples – simply exchange a minimum of 5kg of your produce for some of their fruity cider, at donor stations all over the city. The best thing? Someone in London is probably drinking your apples.

10 Awesome Coffee Spots Around Covent Garden

Give the Starbucks a miss and head to these fantastic places for a caffeine hit in central London.

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1: For books and brunch: Drury 188-189

A newbie on the Covent Garden scene, Drury 188-189 offers coffee, cake, lunch and brunch with a side of vintage books. Drop in for a freshly pressed juice and a selection of their salads for lunch or check them out at the weekend where they serve a cracking brunch menu until 2:30pm.

Tip: Get your omegas with their avocado toast 

 

2: For insane cake: Peyton and Byrne

Just around from Matilda is a vintage style, small but perfectly formed café which makes the perfect pit-stop for tea and cake. From carrot cake to muffins, cookies to giant Jaffa cakes, there is a sweet treat for every palate – head downstairs for more seats.

Tip: Their salted caramel tart is out of this world

 

3: For a colourful lunch: The Black Penny

With a selection of indie magazines to flick through, and a daily changing menu of warming soups, wholesome salads and inventive bakes to tempt your taste-buds, The Black Penny on Great Queen Street is not to be missed. Their brunch is also something special – choose from options such as ‘The Gatherer’ – eggs, halloumi, toast, mushrooms, spinach and baked beans- for a veggie feast, or Crispy Confit Duck Hash for a serious morning-after cure.

Tip: A top spot for fussy friends with almond and soy milk options and gluten free toast

 

4: For travel inspiration: Stanfords Coffee House

For those of you that don’t know, Stanfords is pretty much a London institution when it comes to book shops. Dedicated to travel writing since 1853, this Covent Garden beauty has maps and guide books galore for your upcoming trips as well as tons of ideas of where to venture next. Tucked at the back is a café; a rare oasis of calm amid Covent Garden’s bustle where you can refuel and peruse your purchases.

Tip: Try their Venetian Rose loose-leaf tea with a slice of carrot cake for the ultimate book-reading accompaniment

 

5: For remote working: Hubbard and Bell at The Hoxton Holborn

It’s true that this hip all day café/eatery/bar and restaurant seems to sometimes have more Macs than people staring back at you, but that is partly why it makes a good spot to settle down with your laptop and get working. Super-fast wifi, plenty of plugs and attentive staff that won’t shift you even after hours of furious typing, you can stay here from morning coffee, through scrummy lunch to much-needed cocktail.

Tip: Balance out a crazily chocolatey brownie with a rejuvenating juice to aid your work

 

6: For a quiet haven: Fleet River Bakery

Tucked just behind Holborn Station and a mere five minute walk from Covent Garden, Fleet River Bakery could easily pass you by: this would be a huge mistake. Fleet River’s lunch options change every day, but if you think along the lines of roasted carrot salad with tahini, chorizo, cream cheese and potato frittata, and cake combos such as chocolate and Guiness or almond and polenta, you’ll have a good idea of what a treat you’re in for. Make a beeline for downstairs, where a quiet atmosphere reminiscent of your auntie’s living room awaits.

Tip: Their hearty daily soups are always a winner

 

7: For hipster vibes: Covent Garden Grind

The popular GRIND chain has moved west, so you can get the Shoreditch experience right here in central (beards optional). Their cafes have a reputation for awesome coffee, and I can attest that it is indeed pretty impressive – what also stands out is their cracking music choice and various lunches and brunches on offer. Smoothie bowls and avocado toast most definitely feature for full-on East London feels.

Tip: Espresso Martinis here are magic

 

8: For award winning blends: Monmouth Coffee

Don’t be put off by the limited seating in this Seven Dials’ café – the coffee is more than worth squashing up to a stranger for. Over 35 years old, Monmouth Coffee has branches dotted around the city that are answering our calls for incredible coffee amidst the avalanche of Starbucks’. The baristas at the Covent Garden original are award-winning coffee experts and worth talking too- they really know their beans.

Tip: A classic flat white here is unbeatable

 

9: For catch ups and meet ups: Timberyard

Timberyard Seven Dials is the perfect place to network and host meetings if you are living the freelancer life. There are rooms to hire, decent wifi, and also a fabulous selection of cakes and bakes. Their Covent Garden café is also a relaxing place to settle down with a book and a sarnie – roast salmon, romesco and watercress toastie anyone?

Tip: Head here for breakfast and try the coconut, orange, date and chocolate overnight oats

 

10: For rawsomely healthy treats: Wild Food Café

Neal’s Yard, the most colourful corner of London, is hope to the famous Wild Food Café for when you want a perhaps more wholesome treat to accompany your coffee. This plant-based eatery creates culinary magic so you won’t even be able to guess that your dessert is a nutrient bomb. From vegan banana bread to completely cheese-free Smoked Apple Cheezcake and even Salted Caramel Mylkshake made with coconut, cacoa and almonds, these creations have to be tasted to be believed.

Tip: Chocolate-lovers will love the Forgotton Ecstasy smoothie (literally indescribable)

Drury 188-189: The New Covent Garden Coffee Gem

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To say that Covent Garden is chocca-block with cafes and places to stop for coffee is an understatement. As well as the usual Starbucks and Prets, there are the slightly fancier, usually tourist-filled, ones in the Piazza and a plethora of pubs and restaurants where you can also get your caffeine fix.

When a new café opens, therefore, I always greet it with trepidation, wondering if it will manage to compete with the 10 other establishments within the surrounding five square metres. A little out of the manic hubbub of the actual market, a new opening on Drury Lane, aptly named Drury 188-189 (just to make locating it that bit easier), may indeed survive the competition.

With a stunning spread of cakes, bakes and salads on offer, and a rather rustic-styled interior, Drury 188-189 is immediately welcoming. Another bonus is the fact that their coffee is actually pretty darn good – smooth and not too strong, and unlike a lot of the chi chi hip cafes, a decent size.

The lack of wifi is remedied by the selection of vintage books on each table, crying out to be read – maybe the bubble of disconnection may encourage Londoners to interact and take their eyes of their screens? Perhaps that is too much to ask…

If you want somewhere to switch off in Covent Garden, this beautiful value for money coffee haven is a gem.

Wilton’s Music Hall: Head East for Entertainment

Looking for an evening’s entertainment or a quirky cocktail? Look no further.Tucked away between Tower Hill and Aldgate Stations is a hidden gem of an establishment: introducing Wilton’s Music Hall.

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If you think that all of the city’s best theatres and show venues are in the West End, think again. Despite the majority of musicals centring around Soho and Covent Garden, and perhaps the more ‘serious’ plays taking place at the National or the Globe, there are plenty more hidden away, off-West End performances that are equally, if not more, mind-blowing. If you look hard enough, a short walk from the Tower of London will show you one such place: Wilton’s.

For a spectacular venue that, yes, may lack the light up signs and the overpriced merchandise that is synonymous with London shows these days, the unique Wilton’s Music Hall is definitely worth a visit. Having started out in 1839, this Grade 2 Star listed building is still going strong today after some recent renovation, and as one of the oldest grand music halls in the world, hosts a variety of top-class acts and entertainment.

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On first glance (when you have finally located the place having walked down several side streets), Wilton’s may not strike you as a fabulous night out. But step inside, and you could be mistaken to think you have been transported back to the era of music halls and gin dens. Low lighting, subdued hues and cosy décor meets a thoroughly relaxed vibes to create one of London’s best-kept secrets.

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The Mahogany Bar and upstairs Cocktail Bar serve up some exceptional and inventive cocktails amongst the usual beers, wines and softies for the drivers. Hearty pre-show food, courtesy of The Gatherer’s, is available, with local Brick Lane Beigels and the likes of chicken scratchings on the menu.

Recently, I was lucky enough to see one of the stunning performances that Wilton’s hosts – this one was a play cum cabaret cum musical and was gripping from start to finish. Titled ‘City Stories’, the show told four individual love stories set at different points in time, but all based in our beloved London. Exceptional music accompanied the drama thanks to one (very talented) woman and her piano, who also happened to have written the score.

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This, alas was only a two-night affair, but the constantly changing  programme of events is just why Wilton’s is so fantastic. From jazz bands to plays, cabarets to comedy, the variety in entertainment coupled with its one-of-a-kind atmosphere makes Wilton’s Music Hall the ultimate fusion of venue, entertainment, drinks and history.

The Ship Tavern: a Gin Den in Central

An old-school pub with a fabulous gin selection? This place has got it covered….

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Step outside Holborn Station, and head towards the Wetherspoons, that reliable, cheap, generic chain where you can pretty much guarantee to get a drink that won’t break the bank. Aim for this vaguely satisfactory but not hugely awe-inspiring establishment, and then just before you get there, step off the beaten track. Take a left down an admittedly dodgy looking alley and you will find a beacon of Real Pubbiness staring at you in the face: The Ship Tavern.

On a weekday past 5pm, there are crowds of savvy city workers who know of this hidden gem hanging around outside The Ship, but don’t let that put you off from venturing inside. In fact, see it as a sign of The Ship’s success as a Proper Pub. This is a cosy place to have a decent pint or a civilised glass of wine; an unpretentious inn which has not submitted to the Gourmet Gastro-Pub overhaul that many seem to go for these days (although, admittedly, the food on the next table looked pretty decent). What is particularly special about this place, though, is their crazy selection of gins. This is not the sort of place where you can simply ask for a G+T. If you do, be prepared to answer to a barrage of interrogations – which gin, which tonic, and which additions to your beverage – you’d like, and make you wish you’d gone to the bar with more of a rounded gin-based knowledge. Of course, you could just go for the gin of the day, which so far has not disappointed.

It is much more exciting, however, if you peruse the gin list and choose from the large selection of different gins with various additions, to see what takes your fancy (from experience, though, this may take a while). I opted for the ‘Brockmans’ which was served with sliced strawberries, blueberries and blackberries – a wise choice if I do say so myself .(I would have taken a picture of the impressive drink, but it is a testament to how good it was that I was distracted in the drinking of said drink rather than joining in on the ‘fashionable’ trend these days of instagramming/snapchatting anything that passes ones lips).

Whether best served with orange peel, grapefruit wedges, fresh berries or various herbs, these people know what goes best with each gin, and advise this on the list (and then go ahead and adorn your drink). Served in gorgeous wide glasses, these are, I reckon, some of the best gin and tonics on offer in the city. If you want to bag a table in the office rush, however, I’d keep this gem a secret.

http://www.theshiptavern.co.uk/