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Hazlitt’s Soho concierge shares insider tips.

by Andrea on February 4, 2011

Hazlitt's in Soho offers quirky and comfy accommodation - and the hotel's staff certainly know their way around the local area too

Soho is an area I don’t personally know that well.

I used to buy old vinyl in Berwick Street and had a client in video post-production whose offices were in Dean Street – but it was never somewhere I hung around all that much.

So I took advantage of my lovely stay at Hazlitt’s to ask the friendly staff for their recommendations for having a good time in and around Soho.

Several of the places they suggested for a cup of coffee or a light meal were new to me – and well hidden away from the average tourist.

They advised me for example to give the restaurants a miss and head straight for the bookshops.  For instance I didn’t know that Foyles bookshop has a super caff on the first floor and there is sometimes live jazz there too.  You’ll find another good cafe in the National Geographic store on Regent Street – more in keeping with London’s best independent cafes rather than the ubiquitous coffee chains.

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Foyles bookshop near Soho has an excellent cafe as well as around 200,000 books

And if you don’t fancy either of those, try going to church – where St Martin in the Fields has a great little restaurant in the crypt – and a bargain afternoon tea for under six quid!  It’s very atmospheric indeed.

If you want jazz then you could go to Ronnie Scott’s – world-famous and right in the heart of Soho.  But you could also visit the Gaucho Grill, which has a live band from eight in the evening or enjoy Jazz at Pizza Express.

For a proper English pub – apparently a common request  – Hazlitt’s points customers towards the Dog & Duck on Bateman Street.

It’s got some fine real ales including Timmy Taylor’s Landlord, serves proper steak and ale pies and is a listed building with a fine interior (if you pressed me, I’d still rather go to the Harp in Chandos Place but the Dog & Duck ain’t bad and it’s conveniently just a stone’s thrown from the hotel).

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The Dog & Dug is a cosy little boozer very close to Hazlitt's (image credit below)

And while Soho doesn’t have the greatest shopping – Hazlitt’s staff tend to push retail-therapy addicts towards Covent Garden or Portobello Road instead – it has a fantastic range of restaurants and cafes including old stalwarts The Gay Hussar and L’Escargot, not to mention the reopened Kettner’s, which goes back to Napoleon III’s time (it was opened by the emperor’s chef). “They’re old favourites and they’re still good,” I was told.

For cakes, there’s Patisserie Valerie or Maison Bertaux – and for serious coffee addicts there is Bar Italia – often described as “probably the best coffee shop in London”.  Italians in London often say that it serves the most authentic capuccino you’ll find in the city and it’s open all hours too.

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Maison Bertaux Patisserie on Greek Street is a Soho institution and a real favourite of those in the know (image credit below)

If I turned up in Hazlitt’s without a guidebook and not knowing London, I reckon the staff would organise me a great time.  It’s the little secrets that distinguish great concierges – everybody knows about big exhibitions and top restaurants, but a ‘secret’ cafe or shop can really make your day.

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I look forward to checking out some more of their recommendations!

Apart from Hazlitt’s, there are other stylish hotels in Soho including a “crash pad” hotel – the rather excellent Dean Street Townhouse.

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Photo credits: Foyles Bookshop, Hazlitt’s Soho, Ewan-M’s photostream, the_whiteness’ photostream.

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