London

Ben Pentreath’s guide to Bloomsbury

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How to explore London like a local

If there’s a man who knows Bloomsbury today, it’s Ben Pentreath. When he’s not down in Dorset working on the new town of Poundbury, championed by Prince Charles, the architect and designer spends almost all his time in the area surrounding Lamb’s Conduit Street. Not only does he live on Queen Square with his partner, florist Charlie McCormick, but his studio has also been based here since 2006.

More recently, his shop Pentreath & Hall on Rugby Street has become a pilgrimage site for the design-obsessed – famous for its edit of brightly coloured homewares and maximalist collectibles. Here, he tells us how to explore the area like the new wave Bloomsbury Set.

For Work

Where I’d get coffee A flat white at The Espresso Room on Great Ormond Street has been part of my morning routine for longer than I care to remember.

31-35 Great Ormond Street, theespressoroom.co.uk

Where I’d go for a working lunch I like to take a client to La Fromagerie on the corner of Lambs Conduit Street and Rugby Street. It’s also a good place to buy a bite to take home for supper.

52 Lamb’s Conduit St, lafromagerie.co.uk

Where to go for after work drinks with a client Noble Rot recently took over ancient wine bar stalwart Vats.  Amazingly, they managed to change everything and nothing – the old character is still there, but with amazing wines and very good food. Buy your wine by the bottle not the glass, maybe it’s just me but I find the measures rather strict.

51 Lamb’s Conduit Street, noblerot.co.uk

Where for a lunchtime workout Hmm, not relevant. What a terrible idea!

Best place for dinner solo Well, realistically, if I’m having dinner solo I would normally choose to head home, but if I was a visitor to the area and had to make a choice, I would sit outside at Cigala eating tapas and watching the delicate ballet of street life whizzing by.

54 Lamb’s Conduit Street, cigala.co.uk

For Play

Where I buy clothes for myself Oliver Spencer was the first of the contemporary menswear brands to make a pitch up on Lambs Conduit Street, and has been a huge part of street life here ever since.

62 Lamb’s Conduit Street, oliverspencer.co.uk

Where I’d buy a gift Pentreath & Hall, of course. I’d recommend one of the beautiful Alphabet Brush Pots crafted by my business partner Bridie Hall. Costume jeweller Maggie Owen (13 Rugby Street) and Persephone Books (59 Lamb’s Conduit Street) are also wonderful choices if you’re looking for something different.

17 Rugby Street, pentreath-hall.com

The hotel I’d stay at I suppose living here I don’t really think about hotels, but Charlie and I love breakfast at the Fitzroy on Russell Square, it’s both chic and comfortable.

1-8 Russell Square, kimptonfitzroylondon.co.uk

Best place for dinner If I want a cheap, cheerful and hilarious time complete with pianist, bottles of cheap plonk and bounteous portions, I’d go to Ciao Bella, the neighbourhood Italian at the northern end of Lamb’s Conduit Street. Don’t go there if you want a quiet evening; do go there if you enjoy singing happy birthday to a complete stranger.

86-90 Lamb’s Conduit Street, ciaobellarestaurant.co.uk

Favourite building that people might not know You must visit the Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, soane.org

What can I do in this area that I can’t do or see anywhere else Go to the Coram Fields petting zoo on the site of the ancient Coram’s Foundling Hospital – but go with a child, as adults can’t enter the park unaccompanied.

93 Guilford Street, coramsfields.org

The best thing to do for free I can think of nothing better than slipping into the mothership of Bloomsbury life, the extraordinary British Museum, and losing myself in another time or place momentarily.

Great Russell St, britishmuseum.org