27 Must-Visit Covent Garden Hotspots
It’s been a year since blow HQ set up base in Covent Garden, and between us we’ve drunk, dined and danced our way through all the local hotspots, because we live by the philosophy ‘if you’ve got good hair and fabulous party makeup, go out and flaunt it’. Now with the launch of our new Girls Night Out campaign, we thought it was time we shared our knowledge.
We’ve poured over our past nights outs (and headed out for a few more – all in the name of research, obvs) to put together the 27 best places within walking distance (complete with insider tips) so you’ll always find somewhere to flaunt your fabulous makeover…
1. Dirty Martini
If you’re looking for the best martinis in town, look no further than Dirty Martini, perfectly located on Russell street, mere minutes away from Covent Garden tube station. We love their twists on the classic martini (the Almond and Hibiscus variation is divine), as well as the menu of original cocktails – pictured above is the Jam De Bois, rum shaken with lemon & lime, apricot jam and a hint of vanilla.
Top Tip: the 50% off Happy Hour runs 4pm – 10pm Mon to Thurs, 4pm – 8pm Fri, 12pm – 8pm Sat and ALL DAY Sunday.
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2. House of Ho
Headed up by Bobby Chinn – a shining star of the asian culinary world – House of Ho is Bobby’s first London-based restaurant. His eponymous first restaurant is located in Hanoi, Vietnam, which should give you a hint to the authenticity of House of Ho’s Vietnamese cuisine. The light plates are made for sharing, and the perfect warm-up to drinks – make sure you stick around for a HO’rny Devil (lemongrass and chilli infused vodkas, coconut water and lemongrass syrup) or two at the bar!
Top Tip: House of Ho is celebrating their first year at Taste of London by giving away an all-inclusive trip to Vietnam (with runner up prizes from blowLTD)! Enter HERE.
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When hugely successful ShakeShack landed on London-shores fresh from conquering the US, it caused a foodie-furore the likes of which we’ve never seen – we’re talking around the block queues and enough Instagram snaps to sink the titanic. Serving burgers, hot dogs and fries you’ll find most of blow HQ behind its doors come lunchtime (don’t judge us, we’re right next door to Market Building, who can resist? WHO??).
Top Tip: make sure you try one of their infamous ‘Concretes’ – frozen custard blended with mix-ins like Peanut Butter Marshmallow Swirl or Caramelised Peach.
4. Cellar Door
Head down purple lit steps descending under the Aldwych pavement, and you’ll find yourself in a diminutive Cabaret bar that’s half 30’s Berlin, half New York basement dive. Converted from a Victorian loo, the intimate venue houses some of London’s best cabaret and burlesque artists, and a menu offering absinthe and cocktail odes to Edith Piaf alongside its margaritas. If it’s a night with more than a hint of vintage debauchery you’re looking for, this is your stop.
Top Tip: cocktails are priced according to the quality of spirit used, so if you’re a Tanqueray 10 or nothing at all kinda gal add a few quid more – and if you’re not, a few quid less!
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‘The hottest table in town’. ‘Brilliant’. ‘One of the most exciting eateries to open in London’. Just a few of the words used to describe Polpo in the METRO, Sunday Times and more. This Venetian ‘bàcaro’ claims to be a humble restaurant serving simple food and good local wines, but in reality it’s one of the most sought after eatieries on the London foodie scene. Head to Maiden Lane Covent Garden for your dose of Venetian tapas-style dishes.
6. Sticks N Sushi
If Japanese food done by the Danish doesn’t sound like a good idea to you, you need to let Sticks N Sushi prove you wrong. Lauded as the Nordic-region’s market leader in Japanese food, the concept is simple: sushi for the fish lovers, yakitori sticks (grilled skewers of chicken, pork, beef and vegetables) for those less-inclined. Or, just sticks and sushi for everyone because they’re SO SO tasty. Find their Covent Garden branch on Henrietta Street and be prepared for a paradigm shift on how Japanese cuisine should be done.
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If it’s a proper London clubbing experience you want, Jewel’s got the goods. Chic, simple and equipped with award-winning mojitos, you’ll go for post-shopping cocktails and find yourself staying for a late-night boogie. Go on a Friday night, and you’ll be getting down with half of Covent Garden out for a post-work night out!
Top Tip: the 5-8pm Happy Hour has cocktails at £5, Becks £3, £10 off selected champagne and 50% off selected wines!
8. The Hawksmoor
Renowned as the best steak in London, the Hawksmoor’s British beef (from famous butcher, the Ginger Pig) is served dictionary thick and cooked to perfection whether it’s well-done, medium or rare you’re after. If you’re less meat-inclined, opt for one of the deliciously simple seafood offerings – we’re in love with their lobster roll. Just make sure whatever you’ve ordered is washed down with one of their reworked vintage cocktails.
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9. The Lobby Bar, One Aldwych
Though part of the luxurious One Aldwych Hotel, the Lobby Bar is fast becoming a destination all on its own. It’s not hard to see why, when you’re seated amongst towering arrangements of flowers under a double-height ceiling, being served cocktails created by some truly talented mixologists. The real wonder however is their Afternoon Tea, which often changes to match the local west ends shows. We still can’t get over the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired offerings (pictured).
Top Tip: West End-themed afternoon teas are often available as a package with matching theatre tickets!
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10. Circus London
Ladies and gentlemen, roll up, roll up! Behold the Circus London: restaurant, bar and cabaret all in one. It has to be seen to be believed. Serving pan-asian cuisine and cocktails, the star of Circus London is the show. And by show we mean dancers in hoops twirling above guests, acrobats performing death defying feats, fire-breathers, sultry singers and more, all appearing intermittently throughout the night before vanishing without a trace.
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11. Foundation Bar
Located halfway between Covent Garden and Leicester Square, the Foundation Bar is a peculiar underground hideout. Here you’ll find cocktails served in jam jars and tea pots, doors made of Lego, fully grown trees, giant pop art roses and even a little lobster on the menu. Don’t let its hidden location fool you either, this is one of the most buzzing drinking hideouts for in-the-know Londoners with now infamous club nights.
Top Tip: get there early to grab a space at the bar – and to take advantage of Happy Hour, when there’s 50% off all cocktails and platters 5 – 7.30pm!
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12. The Covent Garden Cocktail Club
A hidden gem of a cocktail bar, their members-only policy means you’re guaranteed sanctuary from the tourist crush. Luckily, getting hold of a (free!) members card is easy enough, if you know where to look (their website) and SO worth it for the fabulously innovative cocktail menu – our current favourite is the Bacon & Egg (bacon-infused Jack Daniels, maple syrup, orange bitters and lemon juice) – and eye candy behind the bar.
Top Tip: head over between 5 – 7pm for a 2-for-1 Happy Hour, or go wild on Monday when it runs all night.
If you’re looking for a little New York right here in London, look no farther than Balthazar. An exact replica of the NY original, it’s a blend of New York city cool with Parisian style. We recommend skipping out on the French fare and heading right to the cocktail bar, to sip on old school Negronis, Martinez and Aviations and imagine you’ve landed on the set of Mad Men.
14. Adventure Bar
It’s the buzzing atmosphere at Adventure Bar that keeps people coming back for more (though the Ulysses-sized menu is something to behold too). One of the liveliest spots in Covent Garden, we love this party hot spot as it refuses to take itself too seriously. Sleek and chic it may not be, but if you and your girls just want to have fun, Adventure Bar is where it’s at.
Top Tip: the Happy Hour has 6 different cocktails at £6 and house beer at £3.50, running all night Sunday – Thurs, and 4pm – 8pm Fridays & Saturdays.
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Hidden in the heart of London’s West End, this underground cocktail bar is easy to walk past, but so worth discovering. Head to the top of Monmouth Street and descend the narrow staircase below Shaftesbury Avenue’s pavement to enter a dimly-lit hub of cool kid regulars, complete with a cocktail menu to die for. We recommend grabbing a Holy Lynchburg Lemonade (lychee and elderberry lemonade with a vodka kick), the ultimate in late night summer sippin’.
16. The Pajama Game
Given a 5 star rating on Time Out (beating out The Lion King, Matilda AND Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), this west-end performance of the Doris Day film is a must-see. Directed by five-time Olivier winner Sir Richard Eyre, this whippet sharp, dazzlingly exuberant re-do of the 50s classic will make you forget the original ever existed (and this comes from a die-hard Doris Day fan).
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Billed as a Bombay cafe in London, Dishoom takes inspiration from the old ‘Irani cafes’ of post-colonial India, with softly whirring fans overhead and vintage Indian ads on the walls. Serving dishes to satisfy any Indian-addict, there are gorgeously tasty biryanis, bhel and bhajis all available to pair with a ‘Tipple’ – think Bombay Pimms, chai-tea themed cocktails and Gin Fizz.
Top Tip: in the evening Dishoom only takes booking for groups of guests, and queues can be long. Get there early or keep your group large and get a reservation!
18. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Run by Joel Robuchon , celebrity chef and holder of 26 Michelin stars, head to L’Atelier for one seriously good dining experience. With a michelin star, three floors and a host of celebrity fans to spot, this is the big daddy of Covent Garden’s dining scene. The cooking is French with hints of Spanish and Japanese, food is served sushi-style, in bite size morsels with intense flavour packed in. If you call yourself a foodie, this is your heaven.
19. The Top Secret Comedy Club
When it comes to comedy, there’s only one secret you need to know about – the Covent Garden Comedy Club. Where the biggest comedians in the UK (we’re talking Dara O’Briain, Eddie Izzard, Russell Howard and more) come to perform their material before they take it on tour, to the O2, to Live at the Apollo or anywhere else for that matter. Check their credentials, they have the best online reviews of ANY London comedy club. You’ll find them on Drury Lane, but you didn’t hear it from us!
Top Tip: buying a ticket = instant drink promotions.
20. Dalla Terra
Located about 20 seconds from the doorstep of our Covent Garden Beauty Bar in St Martins Courtyard, both blow LTD staff and customers alike LOVE Dalla Terra: you’ll often spot ladies having a cheeky glass of wine pre or post blowdry here. Tucked off the main streets of Covent Garden, you’ll find locals enjoying post-work drinks and small plates of authentic italian antipasto, rather than tourists. Primarily a wine bar, the wine list houses over 180 different bottles – we’re slowly working our way through!
Top Tip: book in a sneaky blow or mani before you head for drinks – we’re just opposite!
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21. Jamie’s Secret Basement Bar
We shouldn’t be telling you this, but Jamie Oliver and his buddy (and fellow famous chef) Chris Bianco recently opened an underground, top secret bar. Squirrelled away in the basement of a bare brick building in North Hall, Covent Garden (hint: it’s opposite Union Jacks restaurant), the bar runs from 5pm until 11pm, serving award-winning beers, London-inspired cocktails and of course, fabulously British snacks! This is one secret that’s too good to be kept for long, so make sure you get there ASAP before the crowds set in!
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22. Flesh and Buns
One of the buzziest new restaurants to open in Covent Garden recently, Flesh and Buns is masterminded by the team behind Bone Daddies – one of the most famous noodle bars in London. Head to bustling Seven Dials, descend the steps and take a seat at the long dining table for a taste of London-does-Japan style small dishes: sushi, sashimi, hot plates and of course, the name sake, DIY steamed buns with a selection of crispy meats from duck to sea bass.
Top Tip: head over on a Sunday for the all-you-can eat Sunday Brunch – £29 a head for a cocktail on arrival, unlimited prosecco, unlimited hot and cold dishes, the signature flesh & buns and a dessert for the table (we seriously recommend the s’mores with green tea chocolate).
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23. Opera Tavern
Situated in the very heart of Covent Garden theatre-land, opposite Drury Lane theatre, Opera Tavern serve Spanish and Italian style tapas, most of it cooked on their huge charcoal grill downstairs. Their tapas is so good, you’ll even spot it mentioned in Tatler’s 2013 restaurant guide as one of “the very best of the new generation of sharing-plates restaurants”.
Top Tip: book an upstairs table if you’re looking for a little more peace and quiet – it’s generally calmer up there!
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24. Opium ChinaTown
Head down Gerrard Street until you get to an innocent looking jade door, with a serious-looking bouncer stood in front of it. Get past him (he’s lovely, we promise), head up the winding stairs and you’ll find yourself somewhere you’d never imagine was hidden in the walls of ChinaTown. A cocktail bar and DimSum parlour that’s a hybrid of cool-kid secret-hideaway and Chinese smoking den, this place is well worth finding for their signature smoking cocktails and some of the best DimSum we’ve ever tasted (served until 11pm weekdays and 1am weekends!).
Top Tip: Opium now have live 1930s and 40s style Jazz at the bar on Mondays, for die-hard speakeasy lovers.
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25. The ECC
Another Chinatown speakeasy (there’s quite the underground cocktail community building above those Chinese restaurant-filled streets), ECC stands for Experimental Cocktail Club. Despite the name, the cocktails aren’t madcap at all – just unusual enough to stay different from the run of the mill – and are often described as some of the best in London, if not THE best. The bar ain’t too shabby to look at either (major understatement), with three floors of gorgeously colonial decor. To find them, walk along Gerrard Street and look for the black door with a man in a red bowtie guarding the entrance.
Top Tip: while ECC keep half of their capacity for walk-ins, booking a table is worth doing!
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26. La Bodegra Negra
Worth visiting at least once if just to say you’ve been – this is one seriously infamous Soho hangout. Hidden inside a sex shop, with a mannequin in a gimp suit to welcome you in, you know you’re in for an experience. The lightbulbs have been blacked out so there’s a nightclubby atmosphere, the mexican food tastes like home cooking and the whole place has a deliciously naughty feel. No wonder the likes of Kate Moss, Usher and Kylie Minogue have all darkened La Bodega Negra’s door.
Top Tip: if you fall for Bodega Negra after your first visit, make sure you ask for a loyalty card. On your sixth visit they’ll reward you with £25 off your bill!
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Overlooking the Piazza of Covent Garden, Tutton’s is one of the most famous, and longest-standing restaurants of the area. Don’t worry about its age though – it’s recently been refurbished and is looking better than ever! We recommend coming here for the outside tables perfect for people-watching, or for a light pre-theatre meal.
Top Tip: go for a Pre-Theatre menu and you can get two courses for £14.50 or three for £16.50!
Make sure you’re prepared for your Covent Garden night out with our edit of the Top 10 Handbag Heroes for a Girls Night Out:
– Emma Cooke