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Eating Out: an outdoor chance of success

There’s a happy hum at restaurants in the West End that have been lucky enough to reopen

16 April, 2021 — By Tom Moggach

Eating out – literally – in the West End

THE buzz is back outside our pubs and restaurants. Yet the impact of Covid is truly heart-breaking. Some venues could re-open this week and report brisk trade. But the majority have no outdoor space and are still waiting; hundreds of others have closed for good.
I cycled around the West End to survey the damage and it’s a mixed picture. On the northern half of Charlotte Street, for example, the atmosphere is bleak: most restaurant sites are abandoned and up for lease; the offices remain largely empty.

But there’s a happy hum elsewhere – if you know where to look. Here are a few suggestions:

Chinatown
It’s feeling vibrant in Chinatown, where special licenses allow restaurants to spread out their tables beneath strings of red paper lanterns. Wan Chai Corner is a good bet for dim sum and hot pots; Gerrard’s Corner is another trusty favourite. The streets are wide here so there’s lots of capacity. You shouldn’t need a reservation.

Soho
Thankfully, most Soho treasures have survived – including Maison Bertaux, Bar Italia, The French House, The Coach and Horses and Bar Termini. Westminster Council is repeating their special scheme from last year that permits temporary road closures.
Book ahead if you want to eat out. If the weather is fair, wander up to Soho Square where there’s a mellow carnival atmosphere with music and outdoor table tennis. Nearby, the Sussex Bar and Restaurant is serving oysters and bubbles on their new terrace. Visit early to avoid the crowds.

Neal’s Yard
This peaceful enclave is home to some excellent places to eat and drink. There are legendary pizzas at Homeslice, quality wines at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, divine Sicilian home cooking at Casanova and Daughters and vegan delights at Redemption.

Bloomsbury
There’s a sweet spot here on the corner of Cosmo Place and Queen Square. The Queen’s Larder is an 18th-century pub perched on the corner, with plenty of outside space and views onto the garden square. Enjoy a drink here then grab a table outside Master Wei Xi’An next door – a terrific, no-frills restaurant specialising in dishes from Shaanxi. Their signature dish is biang biang noodles, glistening with chilli oil. Other highlights include smacked cucumber salad and chicken in a ginger sauce.

Fitzrovia
Remedy Wine Bar, one of my favourites, is serving again and now has extra tables outside on Cleveland Street. Book a spot here for sublime glass and a succinct Italian menu. On the same road, Passyunk Avenue is a guilty pleasure. This fun American bar and restaurant will transport you to Philadelphia, with pale ales, cheesesteaks and crispy fries. For a touch of glamour and sophistication, reserve a table on the terrace of Roka, the cult Japanese restaurant. It’s not cheap but their sushi is sensational.

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