Summertime and the living is… touristy!
With a dazzling choice of food and drink - including a subterranean bar in the site of an old air raid shelter - Carnaby Street’s restaurant scene has exploded in recent year
10 August, 2017 — By Tom Moggach
The ‘unique food hub’ that is the three-floor Kingly Court
IT’S the best month to be a tourist – especially in your own city. London has a mellow feel this August, which makes it ideal for exploring areas that I often avoid.
Carnaby Street is famed for its shopping, but the restaurant scene has exploded in recent years. Kingly Court is the epicentre: a new piece of gleaming real estate, comprising three floors of bars and restaurants overlooking a central courtyard.
Marketed as a “unique food hub” by the landlords, it’s possibly inspired by the concept of an American mall.
Normally I’d run a mile from such a creation. But the choice of food and drink is dazzling and quality is generally high.
Señor Ceviche, up on the first floor, was one of the first Peruvian places to hit London and is still going strong. (Their classic sea bass ceviche is second to none).
Pizza Pilgrims has evolved into a small chain of classic Neapolitan pizzerias from their humble beginnings as a three-wheeled street food van.
Elsewhere in Kingly Court, you can find Amazonian smoothies, Japanese noodles, Cornish oysters or Greek kleftiko.
I highly recommend the chorizo-spiked Scotch eggs served at Whyte and Brown, which specialises in free-range chicken.
But the most quirky destination of all is Cahoots, a subterranean bar in the site of an old air raid shelter.
It’s high concept: evoking the spirit of 1946, when London was rebuilding after the devastation of the Blitz.
The bar is re-imagined as Kingly Court tube station and stuffed with memorabilia, including Spam posters, sandbags and an entire tube carriage where you can enjoy cocktails such as the Lady of Easy Virtue, a shake-up of citrus vodka, bergamot liqueur, fresh mandarin, cardamom and chamomile tea.
Swing music blares loudly. Every member of staff is in role, decked out in vintage clothes and well-versed in cockney rhyming slang.
In the wrong hands, an idea like this would be a cringeworthy flop. But the team behind Cahoots have done a brilliant job and an hour or two here is guaranteed to be fun.
Outside of Kingly Court, there are several well-established restaurants trading nearby.
Spanish specialists Brindisa have just celebrated 30 years in business and their tapas place in Broadwick Street is always buzzing.
The quality of raw ingredients is impeccable, such as smoked anchovies or silky pata negra ham.
For a more Gallic experience, head straight to Antidote, a classy wine bar in Newburgh Street.
Here they’re known for their list of “natural” wines, which are highly fashionable these days and typically made with less added sulphur dioxide.
The cooking is top notch and highly seasonal. Specials include beef shortrib with artichoke purée and runner beans, or a pudding of gooseberries, greengage and lemon.
During my jaunt to Carnaby Street, I met a pair of American tour guides enjoying a night out before their groups touched down at Heathrow. Their bizarre summer tour of England was entirely themed around quilts and “fiber arts”, culminating in The Festival of Quilts up in Birmingham.