28 Feb Things you will love about Covent Garden

Even though native Londoners are supposed to be a bit sneery about tourist hotspots, I am unashamedly in love with Covent Garden.

My enduring relationship with London’s first ever piazza was probably partly responsible for my equally committed devotion to shopping, food and theatre. Covent Garden was where it all began; so its apologies should go to my parents & bank manager.

Covent Garden Theatre

Some of my most abiding memories take place here. Every school holiday we would be taken into town to see a show; it was where my love of the theatre & lifelong dream to star in Cats – as yet unfulfilled but you never know- was born. For a stage brat with ambitions of West End stardom, these trips held easily as much anticipation as Christmases & birthdays rolled into one.

Every theatre holds a memory, from the first time I ever saw The Nutcracker at Christmas to the time Dad, against Mum’s advice, took me to The Woman in Black. I was eight. And it gave me nightmares for about four year[1]. More recently, when I took my own children to The Lion King and saw the magic all over again.

Covent Garden Restaurants and bars

Many Covent Garden restaurants have been there for ever. I remember childhood dinners at Christopher’s, Joe Allen, & Eds Diner, founded in 1991, 1977 and 1987 respectively and, unlike many tourist spots these days it is still possible to get a really great meal, from dinners you want to take your time over at Balthazar, The Ivy and Clos Maggiore to somewhere to grab a bite such as Mamies and Chick n Sours.

In the 90s, nights out would usually start around Seven Dials & Soho and end at The Intrepid Fox, the Wag Club or the Astoria. And, while many of these clubs have since closed, the multiplicity of bars in Covent Garden, Seven Dials and Soho makes this still a great night with something for everyone.

Covent Garden holds a special place, not just in my own personal history, but also in London’s. It’s where Henry Higgins meets Eliza Doolitte; reportedly where Charles Dickens bought his pens and nibs; where the first Punch and Judy was ever performed, and where – in 1762 – the famous Earl had his lunch between two pieces of bread and changed the face of snacking forever.

My apartment in Covent Garden

So, as you can imagine, I was pretty pleased to be staying at one of Clarendon London’s newest properties, Wellington Street Serviced Apartments. Five minutes’ walk from either Leicester Square or Covent Garden tubes, the door is nestled between Peyton and Byrne and the Coach and Horses pub. You couldn’t be more central Covent Garden unless you pitched up in the arcade, however, as I ascended the stairs, silence fell and it was incredibly peaceful.

The apartment was beautifully furnished, with snuggly sofas, giant cushions, a great bed and some very nice interior design. It was  unique and homely, like walking into a friend’s flat [2]. Throwing open the shutters to the streets below, I was looking down at The Fortune Theatre where The Woman in Black (her again) has been terrifying audiences since 1990.

I had planned ahead and got myself some food and a bottle of wine from M&S which, by the time I’d unpacked, was cooked and chilled respectively. I curled up on the sofa with Netflix, watched a few episodes of a boxset and had an early night.

And I didn’t even have Woman in Black flashback nightmares.

Other things I loved about this apartmen[3]

  • Everything isn’t stripped back or nailed down like in a hotel. Real hangers, cushions, a real clock radio and a hairdryer you won’t grow old waiting to dry your hair with. It’s just more civilised.
  • A decent iron and ironing board. I’m far from the world’s keenest ironer but anyone who’s ever tried putting a silk shirt in a Corby trouser press will be with me on this one. It’s important.
  • Having breakfast without having to interact with other humans [4]. When you’re in a hurry, sometimes you just want some real coffee and juice in your pyjamas and then leave quickly. No hassle of breakfast and checkout.
  • Plenty of space for all your stuff. There was a a truly palatial bathroom shelf in this apartment.

Things you will love about Covent Garden

  • The theatres. Well obviously.
  • Neals Yard: if you’re a fan of ethically-driven retailers, veggie or vegan food, then this is for you. Even if you’re not, it’s a very instagrammable spot and has an interesting history https://nealsyardlondon.co.uk/history/ .
  • The restaurants: personal favourites are Balthazar and Clos Maggiore (if someone else is paying) and with friends or kids we always enjoy Souk Medina or The Barbary.
  • The shops: the full list is here https://www.coventgarden.london/womens/lululemon-athletica Sandro, Burberry and Lululemon Atheletica are always good for a browse. There are also shops devoted entirely to both Tintin and Moomin. And if that’s not something to love, I don’t know what is.

 

Things children will love about Covent Garden

  • The street performers: you can spend hours watching these and kids of all ages will usually find something they like.
  • Benjamin Pollock’s toy shop and the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre delighted kids for decades until the latter tragically closed its doors in 1999. Pollack’s is well worth a visit if you’re looking for a unique gift. If they are old, bookish, or European enough to be into Tintin and Moomin they will love these as well.
  • Ed’s Diner (it’s in Soho but close enough). If the 1950s American Style décor isn’t enough, there are also working jukeboxes and the best milkshakes ever. If your kids are fans of Grease they will just die. See also Souk Medina for a dining experience straight out of Aladdin.

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[1] I’ve since got over this childhood trauma, exorcised my demons & TWIB remains one of my favourites. It is scary though.

[2] A very rich, tidy friend. With great taste.

[3] And apartments generally.

[4] Or, indeed, lunch and supper

Victoria Jackson

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