London’s beating heart… Difficult to picture it as it originally was: fields, later walled off by Westminster Abbey to be used as arable land and orchard hence its nickname, the garden of the Abbey and Convent, shortened to – you guessed right – Covent Garden. Elegant houses were built in the 16th century, leading to taverns, theatres, restaurants all around. A market, too, with the stunning neo-classical structure it still is known being added in the 19th century. And now? It ticks all the boxes: iconic fashion and beauty shops all around, street entertainment for all ages, cultural hub, trendsetter… and a real foodie’s paradise. Hotels.com, a leading online accommodation site passionate about travel, asked me which my favourites (and yes, they do have a Covent Garden hotel to recommend, should you need one!). Follow me – I have selected 10 delicious addresses you simply have to try.
This Californian-style restaurant is devoted to the king of superfood – avocado! Expect creative, super colourful, plate licking-good twists: smashed avo on sweet potato toast and coconut labneh, incredible tacos with halloumi, jalapeno and sour cream, velvety feel-good smoothies, even an avocado pina colada… The star of the show, though, is their signature, the insta-famous Avo bun burger. Eating your greens has never been more delicious.
Avobar | 24 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8ND
2. The Lebanese Bakery
A heart and soul-warming little haven serving traditional Lebanese flatbreads known as ‘Manousheh’. These are made and baked on-site in a traditional basalt rock oven then topped with tasty ingredients: za’atar (a vibrant blend of thyme, sesame and sumac), lahmeh bi ajin (minced beef and lamb infused with pomegranate molasses), akkawi (a soft, unripened brine cheese) and so much more. Coming with friends? Try their mouajjanet (savoury bites). Think Sirene cheese/thyme flower, beef mince/pine, halva/pistachio… It does feel like a feast! Finish with a cardamom-infused coffee.
The Lebanese Bakery | Drury House, Russell St, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5HA
3. Petersham Nurseries
Petersham Nurseries – a Richmond favourite (restaurant, teahouse and garden centre combined) – has recently opened a refined oasis in Covent Garden…The menu, inspired by the season, celebrate the finest ingredients through elegant dishes. So, yes, the prices are on the high side. But oh, what a treat both for the eyes and tastebuds. Impeccable, dream-like presentations and superb quality. It’s the perfect place for a romantic meal… In a hurry? They do have a deli a few steps away.
Bonus points for their sustainable philosophy: the meat is sourced from their organic family farm, the fish is line-caught by day boats off the Cornish coast… Recycling too is part og their ethos from food waste to wine corks via the staff uniform (made from recycled bottles!).
Petersham Nurseries | 31 King St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8JD
A modern French brasserie, with vibrant, generous dishes presented like edible masterpieces. Think smoked sea bream tartare with a chive sabayon, salsify tagliatelle, wild boar ragu with cacao, red currants and dried orange… Each plate offers a fascinating palette of flavours of textures but even the sides will leave you voiceless (do try the maple-sweetened bacon scones, served still warm from the oven). Polished to perfection.
Frenchie | 16 Henrietta St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8QH
5. Red Farm
Known of its modern take on Chinese cuisine, Red Farm made quite a buzz with its PacMan dumplings, so cute you might hesitate to devour them… Each comes with a different filling: lobster & ginger, prawn & bamboo shoots, mushroom & curry, crab & coriander and fried sweet potato with mashed avocado. Their soup dumplings (which come with a straw!) are quite a hit too.
Red Farm | 9 Russell St, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5HZ
6. Cinnamon Bazaar
The story started with Cinnamon Club, set in the historic Grade II listed former Westminster Library. Executive Chef Vivek Singh brought together the essence of traditional Indian food and innovative, creative twists. Now an institution of fine dining in London, it was followed by sister addresses: Cinnamon Kitchen; Cinnamon Soho and now Cinnamon Bazaar, inspired by the atmosphere of marketplaces and street food. A souk atmosphere, yes, but in extravagant elegance: silk awnings, flower baskets hanging from the ceilings, red, yellow and green teapots neatly lined, earthy style plates piled high, pastel walls stencilled with dusky rose, blue and gold patterns. Go crazy and order a selection of plates: loo tikki chaat (spiced potato cakes served over a curry of white peas), Lamb galauti kebab (meat minced finely, cooked in butter on a piece of saffron bread, crab bonda (delicate balls of spiced crab flesh and beetroot, dipped in a chickpea batter then fried). 100% happiness.
Cinnamon Bazaar | 28 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7JS
7. Mariage Frères
France’s oldest tea house, Mariage Frères is housed in a beautiful five-storey listed Georgian townhouse. Known for its expertise, the UK flagship offers the largest collection of teas in the world… The 19th-century atmosphere, with hundreds of caddies lined up on the shelves, simply is irresistible. My tip? Go straight to the Salon de thé on the first floor: its ornate gallery, flooded with natural light from the atrium above offers a splendid view on the below counters and the staff in uniform, preparing orders the old fashioned way, with vintage scales and weighs…Sit down and leaf through the poetic lists of black, green, white, red, blue teas and signature blends. The cakes are a must! I’m in love with the Etoile Mystérieuse, which designes equally remind me of a Tintin adventure and Yayoi Kusama artwork. This delicate cheesecake is jewelled in a thin layer of white chocolate and tea glaze. And who wouldn’t be instantly cheered up by gold speckled raspberries?
Mariage Frères | 38 King St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8JS
The original Balthazar opened in downtown New York in 1997 and founder Keith McNally has endeavoured to remain as true to the Manhattan original as possible. The menu offers an abundance of fruits de mer as well as a wide selection of bistro dishes to die for but do put their American inspired afternoon tea on your list too. Savouries feature quintessential NY ingredients such as a pastrami bun with egg, pickle and mustard while sweets include their signature baked cheesecake and Cookies ‘n Cream Tart. Oh, did we mention their bar counts no less than 150 varieties of American whiskeys on its shelves?
Balthazar | 4-6 Russell St, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5HZ
9. O Craquelin
This cosy pâtisserie is all about petits gâteaux, handcrafted desserts so beautifully put together you instantly feel VIP. Their voluptuous flavours (Madagascar chocolate, praline, caramel, Assam tea…) bring the perfect touch of luxury to the day. Love at first bite!
O Craquelin | 42 Tavistock St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7PB
Known for its unique blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine, Sushisamba’s ‘living ceiling’, alive with lush South American & Japanese plants, really takes your breath away as soon as you walk in. Winter chill and rainy days suddenly feel very far away. Japanese lanterns, black and white marble floor, art deco style banquettes complete the scene. A little pricey as a consequence but here is a tip: the Samba Fixe menu (Monday to Sunday from 11.30 am to 6.30 pm) gets you 3 dishes for £28. Or simply stop by for one of their divine cocktails… The Pear Nashi (Grey Goose La Poire vodka, St Germain, passion fruit, yuzu) is nirvanesque…
Sushisamba | 35 The Market, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RF
The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own