Frugl Local: Covent Garden

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What was once a thriving Central London market area full of the smells of flower sellers, chestnut-roasters and London’s equine transport system going about its business, in all senses, is now one of the most popular destinations for shopping, theatre and spangled nights out.  In amongst the towering theatres, carnival barking street performers and endless human statues there are a world of original and entertaining bargains to be had in Covent Garden. Take a look inside and explore Soho’s more demure and sophisticated little sister…

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1. Wildwood Kitchen – The perfect place to spent a relaxing lunchtime or throw down some delicious Mediterranean cuisine before heading into Theatreland.  As well as an inventive selection of pizzas under a tenner they also offer some twisted classics including a wild boar and chorizo burger. Opening Times: Monday – Saturday Midday – 11pm;
Sunday Midday – 10.30pm. 184 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2 8JB

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2. Tristan Bates Theatre – The in-house theatre at the legendary Actor’s Centre is a great place to see some of the most original, inventive, touching, funny and exciting Fringe theatre in London.  It’s also the perfect place to spot the stars of tomorrow in an intimate setting as many productions here have transferred to major venues. Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 10am – 10pm; Sunday 10am – 6pm. 1A Tower St, Covent Garden WC2H 9NP

kopapa

3. Kopapa – Easily one of the tastiest and most creative chefs working in Central London, Kiwi Peter Gordon has presided over this inviting and sophisticated cafe-cum-bistro-cum-cocktail-bar-cum-restaurant for almost five years.  Located just off Seven Dials, it is perfectly positioned for pre-theatre or mid-shopping bites and also incredibly competitively priced.  Our favourite time to hang out there is Sunday mornings, when their spotless fry-ups or more exotic spiced banana French toast with bacon and orange blossom labne are a tremendous way to soak up the excesses of the night before (probably caused by somewhere else lower down on this list!) Opening Times: Monday – Friday 8am -11pm; Saturday 9am – 11pm; Sunday 9:30am – 9:45pm. 32-34 Monmouth Street, Seven Dials, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9HA

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4. Scoop – In our opinion, this classic parlour sells some of the tastiest ice cream in town.  Normally we’d recommend the authentically Italian straccitella or biscotti flavour, but for this week, it’s hard to look beyond the black hole of dark chocolate temptation that is Cioccolato Extra Fondente, straight from good old Madagascar. Opening Times: 11:30am – 11:30pm. 40 Short’s Gardens, WC2H 9AB.

Monmouth

5. Monmouth Coffee – A fixture of Covent Garden for almost 40 years, Monmouth coffee is the perfect example of the area’s ‘village within a cosmopolitan city vibe’.  If you want some good old-fashioned caffeine injections, without a hipster beard in sight, this is one of the best places in town. Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 8am – 6:30pm. 27 Monmouth St, London WC2H 9EU

Photo: Paul Winch-Furness

6. Polpo at Ape and Bird – One of our favourite small plates restaurants took over this cracking pub on Cambridge Circus earlier in the year and since then they haven’t looked back.  There’s not a single dish on the menu that costs more than £9 and you can choose from a variety of miniature pizzette (although why you’d choose anything other than the fig and prosciutto is beyond us) and then gorge yourself on their hefty (in both size and flavour) meatballs. Opening Times: Monday – Saturday Midday – 11:30am; Sunday Midday – 10:30am. 142 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8HJ

Vintage showroom

7. Vintage Showroom – Outside of Camden Town, Covent Garden has some the biggest and finest thrift stores in town. Vintage is at the higher end of this and has become one of the leading resources for vintage menswear in the UK, with the archive covering the early mid 20th century and specialising in international work, military and sports clothing, classic English tailoring and country wear.  Whether you’re searching for theatrical costumes or want to grab a military jacket and relive the Libertines fashions of 2004, there’s so much on offer here. Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 11am – 7.30pm; Sunday Midday – 6pm. 14 Earlham St, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9LN

Tatty

8. Tatty Devine – Covent Garden is the perfect antidote to the bedlam of Oxford Street when it comes to retail therapy. Not only can you enjoy a leisurely stroll around its picturesque lanes, but there are an array of original independent vendors.  Whilst the high end products at Tatty Devine are a little bit pricey for our tastes, they have some cracking unique bargains.  Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 10:30am – 7pm; Sunday 11:30am – 5pm. 44 Monmouth Street, London, WC2H 9EP

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9. Timber Yard – If you’re looking for a bright, fresh, unpretentious and modern coffee shop then Timber Yard is right at the top of the tree.  In 2014 it was named Best Independent Coffee Shop in Europe (just imagine how much that will have pissed off the Italians!) and also won the prestigious 5 Cup Standard – the coffee equivalent of a Michelin star.  Combined with this top quality produce is a menu brimful of sweet, moist cakes and the sort of sandwiches that taste like they’ve been designed by God and made by Elvis.  If we could set up our offices here we would! Opening Times: Monday – Friday 8am – 8pm; Saturday/Sunday 10am – 8pm. 7 Upper St Martin’s Ln, London WC2H 9DL

Watkins

10. Watkins Books – One of the finest thing about living in London is that there are all sorts of second hand book stores that are as fun to explore as its museums.  Specialising in new, second-hand and antiquarian titles in the mind, body and soul field.  Entering this place is a little bit like heading down Diagon Alley, but with a slightly higher chance of meeting a patchouli oil encrusted hippy! Opening Times: Monday – Wednesday & Friday 10:30am – 6:30pm; Thursday & Saturday: 11am – 7:30pm; Sundays Midday – 7pm. 19-21 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ

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11. The Poetry Cafe – Whether you want somewhere for a quiet cup of coffee with a friend, a cubby hole to work in or somewhere to discover some exciting new verse, this is another wee gem.  The entire room bursts with the spirit of invention and there are regular performances from poets, comics, improv troupes and artists. Opening Times: Monday – Friday Midday – 11pm; Saturday 7pm – 11pm. 22 Betterton St, London WC2H 9BX

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12. Gaby’s Deli – It might not look like much on the outside, but this London institution nestling right next to Wyndham’s Theatre can provide a slap up meal of North African and Middle Eastern cuisine that knocks some of the pricier eateries in town into a cocked Fez. Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 11am – Midnight; Sunday Midday – 10pm. 30 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H DE

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13. Adventure Bar – Central London venues can sometimes be a little too old-fashioned and stuffy, so it’s great that Adventure Bar is at the forefront of Covent Garden nightlife and doesn’t take itself to seriously as it goes about its business.  They host an array of tongue-in-cheek themed nights, pub quizzes and even a chance for punters to get behind the bar and design their own cocktail menus. Opening Times: Monday – Thursday 5pm – 11:30pm; Friday – Saturday: 4pm – Midnight; Sunday 5pm – 10:30pm. 20 Bedford Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 9HP 

Top secret

14. Top Secret Comedy Club – Central London is absolutely brimming with some of the finest quality comedy in the world and over the past few years this new club has been at the heart of that.  Curated by former street perfomer Mark Rothman, Top Secret is located on Covent Garden’s main piazza and runs shows every night of the week where you can see quick-witted improv, major acts cooking up new material and packed out Saturday night shows.  Keep an eye on their Twitter feed as they often have free preview shows starting at 7pm, before the main show kicks off.  As well as the top acts on the UK circuit all sorts of superstars have dropped in over the years including Eddie Izzard, Katherine Ryan and Jason Manford.  Opening Times: Monday – Friday 7pm – 11:30pm; Saturday 6pm – Middnight; Sunday 7pm – 11pm. 170a Drury Ln, London WC2B 5PD

homeslice

15. Homeslice – For quick, simple and delicious wood-fired pizzas, Homeslice is an absolute home run of a restaurant.  Huge slices cost £4 or you can gobble down a 20″ monster for £20.  From humble beginnings as a street food stall, they now serve wonderfully unusual takes on classic Italian food, including toppings such as goats shoulder, savoy cabbage and sumac yoghurt and aubergine, cauliflower cheese, spinach and harissa. Opening Times: Monday – Saturday Midday – 11pm; Sunday Midday – 10pm. 13 Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP

wild food

16. Wild Food Cafe – Hidden away in the haven that is Neal’s Yard, the Wild Food Cafe offers up the sort of delicious organic and vegetarian food that puts paid to any questions that healthy food lacks flavour.  You can also buy difficult to find superfoods from its shop or even enjoy workshops about healthy living for the full socks, sandals and mung-bean lifestyle. Opening Times: Monday Midday – 5pm; Tuesday – Friday Midday – 10pm; Saturday 9:30am – 10pm; Sunday 9:30am – 7pm. 1st Floor, 14 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9DP

blend and ress

17. Blend and Press – If you’re feeling the need to be offensively healthy then head to the Mecca of all things juiced, squeezed and vitaminised here in Neal’s Yard. Opening Times: Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm; Saturday 10am – 6pm;  Sunday: Midday – 6pm. 16a Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP

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18. Iris Theatre – Located in St.Paul’s Church this independent theatre company works in a huge variety of forms, from opera to physical theatre, burlesque and circus to Shakespeare to develop the newest and freshest talent of tomorrow.  As a world leader for theatre the talent on display is often outstanding and, happily, the ticket prices are much lower than the rest of the West End. Opening Times:  Iris Theatre, St Paul’s Church, Bedford St, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9ED

rock and sole

19. Rock and Sole Plaice – The sort of the iconic chippie that realy deserves its own blue plaque. Without a shadow of a doubt the tastiest, most authentic chips in town – fat, thick, cooked in sizzling oil and tremendous as vinegar and ketchup sponges – plus creamy, flaky cod to go with it.  Possibly the most excellently English 500 square feet in town. Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 11am – 11pm; Sunday Midday- 11pm. 47 Endell St, London WC2H 9AJ

Rokit inngang

20. Rokit – Over the past three decades, Rokit has recycled over a million tonnes of discarded clothing and accessories to become the highly regarded regular haunt for style savvy Londoners with a worldwide online audience. Rokit burst onto the scene with a stall in London’s iconic Camden Market in 1986 specialising in vintage denim thrifted from American cowboys.  Since then it has expanded to Brick Lane and Covent Garden and always has a startling array of clothes all the way from the 1930s to items that look like they’ve been beamed in from the 2030s! Opening Times: Monday – Wednesday/Friday-Saturday 10am – 7pm; Thursday 10am – 8pm; Sunday 11am – 6pm. 42 Shelton Street, London, WC2H 9HZ

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21. Craft Beer Co. – Formerly the dayglo cocktail bar Rudy’s Revenge, this excellent bar on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and High Holborn is proudly riding the crest of the craft beer wave and has a huge array of excellently made booze available to match every taste. Opening Times: Sunday – Wednesday Midday – Midnight; Thursday – Saturday Midday- 1am. 168 High Holborn, London WC1V 7AA

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22. Pineapple Dance Studio – Even if you’re not going to end up on the next series of Strictly, you can always pop on your leg-warmers and live our your Dirty Dancing fantasies at an array of classes in a huge variety of styles every single day of the week. Opening Times: Monday – Friday 8:30am – 10pm; Saturday 9am – 7pm; Sunday 10am – 6pm. 7 Langley Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9JA

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23. London School of Barbering – If you’re feeling brave enough you can sign up to be a model and get a free wet shave from teachers or (gulp) students.  Dispel all thoughts of Sweeney Todd, as you’re pampered with hot towels and come out feeling sleek, smooth and like a real old fashioned gentleman.  Read more about our experience hereOpening Times: Monday / Tuesday 11am – 9pm; Wednesday – Friday 11am – 6pm. 1st Floor, 186 Drury Ln, London WC2B 5QD

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24. Big Easy – A little bit of Louisiana in downtown London.  We fell in love with this place the moment we saw their multi-story bar complete with antiquated library ladders to help barmen get to the really good stuff.  Add to that cracking music and stunning pulled pork, crab and punchy sauces and you’ve got the perfect venue to start a night out. Opening Times: Monday – Wednesday Midday – 11:30pm; Thursday – Saturday Midday – 12:30am; Sunday Midday – 11pm. 12 Maiden Ln, London WC2E 7NA

chandos

25. The Chandos – We know it might just look like any pub, but with its stained glass windows and position right on the corner of Trafalgar Square, The Chandos is one of our favourite archetypal London pubs, especially for a well deserved post-work pint.  Plus, as it’s a Sam Smith’s pub getting a round in makes it feel like it’s 1995 all over again! Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 11am – 11pm; Sunday Midday – 11pm. 29 St Martins Lane, London WC2N 4ER

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26. Tenderpixel – Dwarfed by the nearby National Gallery, this boutique venue showcases a diversity of creative positions within culture, economy and politics, helping with the development of emerging and mid career artists through a programme of curated exhibitions and events as well as research based solo presentations in London and abroad. Opening Times: Wednesday – Saturday 2pm – 6pm. 8 Cecil Ct, London WC2N 4HE

cafe in the crypt

27. Cafe in the Crypt – Not only is this a cracking little haven away from the bustle of Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square, but it also hosts regular concerts of choral music and jazz, along with the sort of cakes that would leave Mary Berry bubbling with dignified joy. Opening Times: Monday / Tuesday 8am – 8pm; Wednesday 8am – 10:30pm; Thursday – Saturday 8am – 9pm; Sunday 11am – 6pm. St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 4JJ

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28. Davenport’s Magic Shop – It’s not often that a simple shop is iconic, but as the Guinness World Record holder for the oldest continuously owned magic shop, Davenport’s is more than just a vendor of curiosities and tricks.  Plus if you want to push the boat out a little, their children’s magic workshop for £30 are a great present. Opening Times: Monday – Friday 9:30am – 5:30pm; Saturday 10:30am – 4:30pm. 7 Charing Cross Underground Arcade, The Strand, London, WC2N 4HZ, A4, London WC2N 4HZ

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29. National Gallery – This should be on the itinerary of any visitor to the city, but even grizzled long time Londoners could do worse than drop by.  It’s pretty easier to forget that you can see works of art by the actual Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet for FREE.  There’s no better offer in town. Opening Times: Monday – Thursday / Saturday – Sunday 10am – 6pm; Friday 10am – 9pm. Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

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