London, W1, Westminster, London Property Area Guide
Hedonism at it’s best!
Surely to live in Soho, one must fall into any of the following categories: deranged, eccentric, or pure thrill-seeker. This goes some way to explaining the nature of Soho life – the energy, excitement and mayhem that runs through its characterful streets.
The very word ‘Soho’ conjures up a multitude of images… sleazy Soho, camp Soho, Italian Soho, 40’s/50’s gangster Soho, foodie Soho, jazzy Soho, dive bar Soho… or nightclub Soho! I’ve been entranced by the Soho scene ever since I first stepped foot on it’s neon-lit streets
The Soho I first remember in the 90’s was that of an edgy media haven – at every turn you’d be sure to find a start up film production agency, photographic studio or editing suite. Over the last decade many of these companies have moved east or dried up with the advent of digital photography.
The Soho my mother fondly remembers is the swinging sixties: Carnaby Street, the Marquee club and the emergence of the mini skirt! The Soho that I wish I’d seen is that of tales I’ve heard, books I’ve read and films I’ve watched – 1950’s Soho. A time when gangsters, dirty macs, foxy ladies, poets, writers and musicians mingled in the pubs and clubs – some of which still exist and others that go down in London folklore.
There’s no denying that Old Compton Street is the epicentre of “Gay London.” Many Bar’s, cafes, shops and the famous G-A-Y club co-exist here, attracting London’s most diverse communities to Soho’s focal point – often so crowded it seems the street is pedestrianised. A party atmosphere prevails virtually every night and the streets are always a hive of colourful activity.
Frith Street retains a touch of Italian London, being home to the famous Bar Italia (over 60 years old). If you’ve never watched the world go by from an al-fresco table you simply must! The atmosphere and people watching is something quite special. As well as numerous restaurants, Frith Street is also home to the world famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club – anyone that’s anyone in Jazz will have played here. More recent renovations have made for a swanky nightclub upstairs which is a perfect place to let your hair down to some phenomenal bands and musicians. Around the corner in Dean Street the Graucho Club exists – the legendary haunt of actors, writers, artists and intellectuals. Today sees the club colonised by the stars of London’s media crowd.
If I were to mention the array of restaurants, eclectic bars and raucous clubs I could write forever…
Today Soho is at the heart of a new wave of ultra cool restaurants and bars opening across London. Blink and you’ll miss a new hot spot opening its doors to a queue of food bloggers, armed with instagram (of course), all eager to be the first to post photos of their oozing burger, delectable patisserie or New York slider! It’s not just the food that gets people going it’s the thought and innovation that’s gone into many of the original concepts for these restaurants.
One particularly novel creation is La Bodega Negra, entering through an ‘adult shop’ and down into the clandestine cavernous space that is London’s hottest Mexican restaurant. New York recreations in the form of Spuntino, Polpo and wild nightclub The Box add the wow factor. More casual eateries such as Princi (where Italian friends congregate each night) and a flurry of fancy bakeries complete the menu and give Soho the best cafe culture in the West End.
Dean Street Townhouse was the tipping point for the trendy crew – a seductive restaurant, long American bar, hotel rooms above – why rent when you can just stay here? Right opposite, the old All Bar One is now a ‘Burger & Lobster’ (and there is a line every day of people wanting to pay £20 for a burger here!).
Berwick Street Market
In amongst the fun cafes and fancy eateries that seem to be opening everywhere in Soho, remains the working heart of the area – Berwick Street Market. Fresh fruit and veg doesn’t come better than this. You’ll also find dotted around the street: delicious pies and Ale at The Endurance pub; superb skinny lattes at Flat White and greasy good fish n’ chips at The Dining Plaice.
Between the market and Oxford Street lie old-skool music shops, second hand clothes sellers, karaoke dive bars (Lucky Voice), the best Dim Sum in the West End (Yauatcha) and shops selling something a little naughty…
Parallel to Berwick Street, but over to the West nearer Regent Street is the epitome of cool shopping: Carnaby Street and Kingly Court. Yes they may attract the tourists, but it’s cool Londoners who frequent the cocktail bars, tapas eateries and achingly hip night clubs. Carnaby Street has fashion shops a-plenty, while Kingly court provides solace in the form of food, drink, gift shops and even relaxation at Tri-Yoga. If it’s keeping fit that you are worried about, you may not want to tackle the tourists and traffic to reach one of the Royal Parks nearby, so head into London’s funkiest gym at The Third Space instead, where a live DJ plays while you race on the treadmill, tackle the climbing wall or practice back-stroke in the pool.
Being extremely central and mostly commercial, Soho homes usually consist of flats. There are a smattering of houses (the most quaint on Meard Street). Few large apartment blocks exist – most are small conversions of 3 or 4 flats from old commercial premises. Bourchier Street has a nice block with good security and parking – the alley outside, leading to its entrance can be unsavoury at night though.
Wardour Street is home to the Manhattan Loft Companies development (look up, above Meza restaurant) which offers cool Loft style apartments reminiscent of New York, some with roof terraces. Smaller conversions above the shops and restaurants litter Dean Street, Old Compton St and Frith St. The Hat Factory is a new development of prime apartments nearer to Oxford St.
Soho Square (the place to hang out in the Sun) has a new development coming and there are a few more affordable flats on Windmill Street. Marshall St is home to a mid size block of flats and a large tower block, where some of the social housing flats have been sold into private hands. Be aware that although there is a local Tesco, most amenities are hard to find, parking is a nightmare (even with a residents parking permit) and you will have noise at all hours – even with triple glazed windows.
Refurbished flats or mini-conversions tend to come on the market more than new developments, but we hear a big developer is set to commence with development near Berwick Street market soon.
+ The beating heart of the West End
+ Entertainment, food and drink on every corner
+ Gritty, charming and crazy
+ Great transport links in any direction
+ Becoming more residential, while retaining it’s entertainment core
– Noise (sometimes it’s nice to have a moment of quiet)
– Unsavoury characters hanging around in the early morning hours – although they are part of Soho’s ‘fabric’
– Lack of street parking for residents (underground spaces cost around £6,000 a year upwards)
Dine, drink and sleep at the Dean Street Townhouse. 69 Dean Street, W1D.
Sip an Espresso at Bar Italia. 22 Frith Street, W1D.
Soho’s craziest show: The Box. 11 Walkers Court, W1F.
The Only club to belong to: Soho House. 40 Greek Street, W1D.
£20 buys two things in Soho. One of them is a fabulous burger: Burger & Lobster. 36 Dean Street, W1D.
Burn it all off to the sound of a live DJ (yes, really!) at the Third Space Gym, 13 Sherwood Street, W1F.
North | Oxford Street
South | Shaftesbury Avenue
East | Charing Cross Road
West | Regent Street
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No mainline stations in the immediate area but Victoria, Waterloo, Euston and Kings Cross are all a short bus, tube or cab ride away.
A brand new Crossrail station is being built at Tottenham Court Road – providing a [future] fast route East to Canary Wharf or West to Heathrow Airport.
Tottenham Court Road: Central and Northern Lines (Zone 1)
Picadilly Circus: Bakerloo and Piccadilly Lines (Zone 1)
Oxford Circus: Bakerloo, Central and Victoria Lines (Zone 1)
Leicester Square: Northern and Piccadilly Lines (Zone 1)
Buses do not run through the smaller streets of Soho but all of the main roads outlining the area; Shaftesbury Avenue, Charring Cross Road, Regent Street and Oxford Street run buses to pretty much everywhere in London! For more information see TFL Bus Maps
Soho Parish CofE Primary School, 23 Great Windmill Street, W1D 7LF
All Souls CofE Primary School, Foley Street, W1W 7JJ
St Joseph’s RC Primary School, Macklin Street, WC2B 5NA
None in the immediate area. The next most likely place to send a child would be schools in the London Borough of Camden or Westminster – see the guide for Camden here.