The 5th View @ Waterstones in Piccadilly is a real find, an oasis in the heart of the West End. It has however now “been found” by a lot of people, and has grown to handle its success. It now takes up the entire top floor. The expansion is extensive, as well as a larger bar area and more seating, there is now an attractive Champagne and Seafood Bar, which can be booked for private functions. To find somewhere stylish and quirky that delivers good quality food and top notch cocktails in a book store is unusual to say the least.
The expansion also extends to the menu in the main bar and food area, which now includes a range of breakfast options.
Plus I do love their carrot cake, especially when served with one of their lovely cocktails, a real indulgence.
We spend a couple of hours at this event, sampling the wares of a few interesting chocolatiers. There was a display of chocolate art and a number of stands. The exhibitors ranged from the lower end of the scale, i.e., high street brands like Thorntons and Hotel Chocolat, right up to the high end bespoke chocolatiers like Paul A Young.
Chocolates can be a bit like wine, once you have tasted the really good stuff there is no going back, or to quote Michel Roux “Once you have discovered the pleasure, richness, complexity and taste sensations of fine chocolate, you will never look at chocolate in the same way”. So sorry Thorntons we walked right passed your stand.
From what we could see, there were two real standouts, they were both relative newcomers in the field.
The first was Paul Wayne Gregory a former sous chef who also gave one of the talks, he is definitely going places with 9 of the chocolates in his selection being award winners. PWG is at the top of his game, he currently provides chocolates to Michelin star chef Gary Rhodes, and his latest addition a rum chocolate is stunning.
Update: I have just tried another one of his chocolates – called “Space Dust”, superb!.
The other standout was based in Leeds of all places, they were Lauden Chocolates who presented their selection in very simple but elegant transparent boxes. However the presentation alone would not have sold me on them, if they had not got the taste right. Like PWG, they are all about intense flavours, that really work with the chocolate.
As part of my chocolate indulgence weekend I also managed to squeeze in a chocolate martini at 5th View.
5th View Bar & Food is a standout for a cafe/restaurant.
Surprisingly it is also located in a book store. It does really good inexpensive cocktails. We spent a couple of hours there relaxing over cocktails, sharing a meze plate and finishing with coffee and cakes (the carrot cake has to be one of the best I have had – sweet, light and moist).
The menu choice is limited, but what they do provide is simple, good quality, nicely presented food.
There are two dinning areas, one of which has a lovely view over the roof tops.
Unless you are in an area that specialises in Tea Shops, its often hard to find good venues to relax with a coffee or tea and eat cake. Why go to the big chains like Starbucks, when you have alternatives.
If you really want to go up market and have Afternoon Tea somewhere grand, like The Athenaeum or The Berkeley, then great, but if you are looking for something cheaper, then here are a few options.
Actually the Starbucks I have been to in New York are a lot better than London. I had an amazing piece of Cognac and Pumpkin cheese cake in one on the Upper East Side, but for something more unique try:-
Bloomsbury, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Holborn, Marylebone, Mayfair, Seven Dials, Soho, St James and Westminster.
That is a pretty large area, so I am going to focus on the centre of the West End or Tourist Central, i.e., places around Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. This is mainly because finding a decent restaurant or bar in this area is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.
So here are recommendations, in no particular order.
Thai Square, Trafalgar Square – it’s not the best Thai restaurant in London by any means, but it is part of a reliable chain. (It has recently won an award to say it is the best – so judge for yourself). It is also a good location for larger groups.
Asia de Cuba, St Martins Lane Hotel – Very stylish and expensive venue, food is specifically designed for sharing, so ideal for groups of 4 or more.
The Mint Leaf, Piccadilly – a stylish, Modern Indian Restaurant and Bar. Good Pre Theatre venue.
5th View Bar & Food, Waterstones, Piccadilly – For a book store cafe, this place is great, it does good reasonably priced cocktails and the food is way better that you would expect (limited choice though). Nice selection of cakes – the carrot cake is particularly good.
The Wolseley, Piccadilly – European Style Brasserie, very popular, stunning room – great for people watching if you can get a table.
Atheneaum Hotel, Piccadilly – The restaurant focuses on British style food. The hotel also does a really good “Afternoon Tea” and has a bar that is both cosy and stylish (and expensive!).