Soho’s been one of the capital’s most fashionable hotspots for decades, but if you look hard enough, some of its ever-so-slightly grittier underbelly is still there to be enjoyed. Whether an old-school wine-bar, one of London’s oldest pubs or a patisserie that’s been there since the mid-1700s, these are the last remaining bastions of old Soho.
1. Maison Bertaux
Don’t be put off by the faded exterior, Maison Bertaux is one of the finest patisseries in the capital – if only because it’s thoroughly eccentric. The proprietor’s a charming and suitably plucky lady who’s as likely to shoo you away as she is to welcome you in with a flourish. The patisserie is great, but the ham and cheese croissants are superb, too.
2. The Jon Snow
This pub needs no introduction really, it’s one of Soho’s oldest, most central, and most well known. It takes its name not from the Game of Thrones character, but from Dr Jon snow, who discovered cholera in 1854. Today, it’s a Sam Smith’s pub, so head in there for a pint of Taddy Lager or Extra Stout from Yorkshire’s oldest brewery.
Open 11am-12pm all week, 39 Broadwick Street, W1F 9QJ
Quite possibly our favourite wine bar in London. The decor hasn’t changed since the ‘80s, and the dark green walls, framed Private Eye illustrations and dark, polished bar feel reassuringly old fashioned. The food’s good (liver, bacon, mash and onions – all the way), and while the wine list is filled with curiosities, its not necessarily expensive. A great place to while away a civilised evening, getting slightly pickled in the process.
Open 11am-11pm, Monday to Saturday, shampers.net
4. The French House
The French House was founded in 1910, and from the outset was an enclave for European artists and writers, who gravitated to Soho in the 20s with its promise of a suitably Bohemian lifestyle. It’s small, rowdy and sits across two floors of a former storage warehouse. The owner, who in her youth was one of Soho’s finest snake charmers (the old photos are there to prove it) is fiercely proud of the pub’s tradition, and keeps punters coming back with the promise of half-pints only, an awkward nod to Europe’s metric system.
Open midday to 11pm all week, thefrenchhousesoho.com
5. Ronnie Scott’s
Yes, Ronnie Scott’s is the most famous jazz club in the UK. Even so, it’s a an old Soho institution, and everything that you’d hope a jazz club would be; small, smoky and raucous in the best possible way. Of course, the jazz gigs are good, but if you’ve not been before, take a tip and grab tickets for ‘Soul Family’ on the last Sunday of the month. Hosted by British soul diva Natalie Williams (who’s about to release her sixth album, no less), it’s a feel-good, on-your-feet introduction to the club, guaranteed.
To book tickets, visit ronniescotts.co.uk
One of few remaining independent whisky vendors in central London, Milroy’s first opened in 1964, and from the outset gained a reputation for procuring the weirdest and most wonderful whiskies the connoisseur could wish for. Today, it’s still going strong, with the addition of a cellar bar and a dedicated whisky bar on the ground floor to sample various alcoholic exotica, too.
One of Soho’s last hidden drinking clubs, critics have heralded Trisha’s as the epitome of ‘so bad, it’s good’. A ramshackle subterranean bar with paint-stripper spirits and a dilapidated decor, it’s perhaps one of only two or three places in the centre of London where you can mix with characters that are seemingly beamed into the world from another time; aged anarchists, die-hard ‘80s socialists and Bohemians that never left the ‘60s mix there in abundance. It’s great fun and truly surreal. It’s purportedly a member’s club, but if the doorman likes the look of you, (hint: turn-up wearing something zany) you’ll get in without fuss.
Trisha’s is hidden in a basement beneath 57 Greek Street. Good luck
Soho’s oldest French restaurant (that’s also half-member’s club) remains as cool today as it was in when it first opened its heavy oak doors in 1927. The restaurant has always stuck to its roots, and serves classic French food with traditional polish. The snails, of course, are a signature dish. Previous members (and diners) include Coco Chanel, John Gielgud, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Ralph Richardson, Judy Dench, and the late Princess Diana. Like all good Soho haunts, it’s a little bit kitsch (the carpets are truly horrible) and achingly cool all at once. Phone round your friends, and draw straws on who’s signing up.
Membership is £450 per year, apply at lescargot.co.uk