Toady's instalment: eateries and drinkeries in the centre of the town that are worth elbowing your way through the tourists for.
Gordon's Wine Bar, Embankment - http://www.gordonswinebar.com/default.php Tiny underground bar-come-sherry-cellar. Best at 4pm on a Friday for conspiratorial conversations over a glass of red at the end of a hard week, but tiny and heaving so book a table if you're planning on going at anything like normal drinking hours. Also does a hearty ploughmans of a lunchtime but make sure you get there bang on 12noon.
Muffinski’s, Covent Garden - http://www.muffinskis.co.uk/ Fresh muffins, not too big, every flavour and every dietary neurosis catered for (low fat, no added sugar etc). Very dense and not unlike scones – in a good way - so ask for some butter to go with them. Or get a hot chocolate for dunking.
Navajo Joe’s basement bar, Covent Garden - http://www.navajojoe.co.uk/navajo-joe.htm. Restaurant is handy and food is fine but overpriced, but the bar below does a mean gin martini (£10) and it doesn’t tend to be packed even at 8pm on a Friday. One of those and you’re basically done for the night so it’s a good investment of a tenner.
The Churchill Arms, South Kensington - http://churchillarmskensington.co.uk/ I never got the whole English pub serving Thai Food thing until I came here for the first time last month. While I still hunt for a regular Thai haunt this will do nicely. It’s so popular there’s a 1 or 2 hour timeslot per table, but the green curry and pad thai was so good we ate ours in about 15 minutes so it wasn’t a problem. Famous for its hanging baskets outside and vast plethora of random knick-knacks hanging low from the ceiling, it’s a slightly convoluted wander from South Kensington so needs to be google mapped first.
Le Pain Quotidian, London Bridge http://www.lepainquotidien.co.uk/ This place just makes me so happy!! Order a coffee and a bread basket to share and they’ll arrive accompanied by a selection of giant jars of toppings, from exquisitely rich hazelnut spread and heavenly white, milk and dark chocolate spreads, to fig and apricot conserves. Last time I was there 3 big full sized pots of toppings arrived with the bread and I asked if we could have all the other toppings as well, and the lovely waitress was more than happy to oblige. The fruit and nut bread lathered in both hazelnut and dark cholocate spread had me in raptures. Best alternative afternoon tea ever. They salads are excellent also, as is most of the rest of the fresh, varied and reasonably priced menu. All tucked between Borough Market and Vinopolis. Very snug, lovely for both day time and evening, and a great lists.
Giraffe – South Bank, but also Marylebone, Spittlefields etc. - http://www.giraffe.net/ Globe trotting menu means something for everyone and they do a v.good breakfast deal for a fiver. My favourite for breakfast meetings is a sausage, bacon and egg sandwich of extra thick brown bread and a hot chocolate. How every working day should begin. Also recommend the brunch menu and enchiladas.
AMT, Euston / Marylebone and some other national rail stations -http://www.amtcoffee.co.uk/ Best for Chai Lattes. And sometimes free giant gold chocolate coins at Christmas. they offer to put ice cubes in their herbal teas which no other café ever seems to do (hello burnt tongue.)
Two vegan-friendly hippy raw-food and fibre filled favourites for when your body needs a deep cleanse: InSpiral Lounge, Camden - http://www.inspiralled.net/ and My Village Café, Camden - http://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/my-village-caf%C3%A9-london-2. Raw chocolate brownies, multicoloured salads, stews and quiches: the quickest way to a week's worth of 5-a-day.
Still to come: The mighty South West