Did you know there’s a whole lot more to Covent Garden than just its marketplace? Seven Dials, Neal’s Yard, St Martin’s Courtyard and the Opera Quarter all come together to form the actual district of Covent Garden. How best to explore this fascinating area? Jump in an Addison Lee and follow our Covent Garden taxi driver’s guide to the best restaurants, bars, pubs and attractions in the area. Amazingly, up until the 1980s Covent Garden was little more than a well known fruit and vegetable marketplace. Approach the West End from the river and you’ll still see road signs for “Covent Garden Market”, an odd anachronism given its role as a shopping and sightseeing hub today. Speak to local residents – there are still many – and they’ll tell you there was a time not too long ago when Covent Garden would be a ghost town at the weekends. The only remnants of its busy weekday industry would be a few rogue apples strewn across the cobbled piazza floor. Today of course Covent Garden is an internationally renowned place of beauty and retail. In fact, with the phenomenal success of local cosmetics company Neal’s Yard, the area has seen a large rise in the arrival of major beauty, clothing and make-up stores. But that wasn’t the kind of beauty we were referring to. We’re talking about the sheer splendour of the streets, alleyways and surrounding buildings that make up this historic part of central London. But of course with beauty comes popularity and, inevitably crowds. Which is why we’ve put together this Covent Garden taxi driver’s guide. So when you need to find the best places to eat out, grab a cocktail or even see the sights, we’re here to help. Addison Lee have been serving the people of London since 1975. Putting the comfort, safety and needs of our customers above all else. Why stop now?
Where to drink
Anyone who enjoys a martini – and let’s face it, that should really be all of us – needs to make their way over to this sultry corner of Covent Garden post-haste. Sunken below ground level is this subterranean den of all things martini. If it’s ever been served in a long stemmed glass, chances are you’ll find it in here. And we’re not just talking the classics either. These guys have taken the relatively simple art of stirring gin and vermouth and run with it. They’ve got every possible variation on a theme on their menu. Including a whole range of sweeter martinis for anyone whose palate isn’t quite up to cold, neat liquor. The fact that the place looks like something out of a bond villain’s homeware catalogue doesn’t hurt either.
11-12 Russell St, WC2B 5HZ
Bedford & Strand
It can be a difficult thing, getting away from the crowds in Covent Garden. But as we mentioned earlier, there are still a lot of people who actually live here. And locals will always need a local. Bedford & Strand may not be the quietest corner in London but it’s probably the quietest in Covent Garden. And that’s an accolade in itself. Serving a particularly excellent range of beer, wine and cocktails (as well as some pretty excellent food), Bedford & Strand can be found by using the American address system (as in, on the corner of Bedford and Strand). Head downstairs to find a place that sits somewhere between a deli style cafe and a French brasserie. Two of the best things in the world really.
1a Bedford Street, WC2E 9HH
Lamb & Flag
This place is your archetypal central London pub. The kind of spot that’s perpetually saturated by local office folk, pints of London Pride and packets of roasted peanuts. And for that, we love it. Like all the best pubs the Lamb & Flag is hidden away down an alleyway. Reputedly this was the place where 17th century poet John Dryden was once the victim of an assassination attempt (we knew you were wondering). Even Charles Dicken was rumoured to have been a regular at one point. Today it retains a lot of the historic features that point to its fascinating past. But does so without ever feeling too fusty.
33 Rose Street , WC2E 9EB
Where to eat
Hawksmoor Seven Dials
Like all of the Hawksmoor restaurants in London, Hawksmoor Seven Dials is rich with oak panelling, warm leather furnishings and a real sense of the austere. And like all of its sister restaurants it also has its own character. The bar staff, for instance, all casually wear chequered shirts of their own choosing which belie their more formal surroundings. Even the drinks menu is unique to the bar itself. Thankfully though the food is consistent with the excellent standards set across the board. A heavy focus on beef based dishes offers up a menu of steaks galore. Although it’s not all red meat so don’t panic if that’s not your thing. As ever, the Sunday roasts are hard to beat.
11 Langley St, WC2H 9JG
If you’re going to eat French food around this end of London – and we strongly recommend you do – then you can’t go far wrong with local institution Le Garrick. As family run traditional French bistros go, you’ll certainly struggle to find anywhere with more of an authentic feel. Step inside to find a place that’s absolutely dripping in Gallic flair and authenticity. Then fall immediately in love with what feels like a bona-fide portal into Paris. The food is a wonderful blend of simple, rustic dishes done using proper family recipes and some slightly more adventurous and pastoral dishes from a back catalogue of gastronomic wonders. We love it, hopefully you will too.
10-12 Garrick St, WC2E 9BH
L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon
Yes, we know this is another “French” restaurant. But as with any global cuisine, there are differences to be found between the cracks. While the Garrick is a small rustic affair, ideal for diners who are on their way to the theatre or just need a break from all that shopping; L’Atelier is a world class, michelin starred culinary adventure, set to the tune of fine dining on a whole other level. Step inside and you’ll find a place that not only feels a little bit like a Japanese sushi parlour, but also one with an altogether more modern feel. The food comes either individually or served for the whole table at once. It ranges in style from classically French right through to completely innovative. Not cheap but definitely worth the expense.
13-15 West Street, WC2H 9NE
What to do
London Transport Museum
When you consider just how vast London is compared to not just other British cities – but cities anywhere – it becomes obvious why transport has played such a crucial role in the growth of our nation’s capital. Located in a massive Victorian glass and iron structure that was once used as part of the market, the Transport Museum provides a fascinating insight into the many means of transport used to ferry the city’s population about over the last two hundred years. Including buses, trolleybuses, trams and trains that stretch back to the 19th century. You can even visit the world’s first underground electric train. A real pleasure for kids and adults alike.
Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 7BB
Royal Opera House
Originally built in 1732, The Royal Opera House is a truly iconic London landmark. From the outside alone its calm white exterior exudes a regal presence that – if it weren’t for all the traffic – almost demands a respectful hush. As home to the Royal Ballet, The Royal Orchestra and of course, the Royal Opera, this magnificent building is as integral to the London landscape as Buckingham Palace itself. Music and theatrical fans should make this a must see, if only to stand outside and gawk at its vernacular majesty. Or go one better and watch a show. Check the website to see what’s coming up.
Bow St, WC2E 9DD
Ever wondered just what was in the middle of Covent Garden if it’s no longer a famous fruit and vegetable market? The Jubilee Market was built in 1904 with the sole purpose of providing a platform for small, independent traders to hawk their wares to passing customers. Today the market is filled with everything from cafes and food stalls to jewellery and antique shops. Worth a visit for the stunning architecture alone, the Jubilee Market is another classic London landmark. Every Monday there’s an antique market while at the weekends it’s dedicated to smaller arts and crafts traders. Free to enter, just stroll in and enjoy.
1 Tavistock St, WC2E 8BD