At the first crossing (Romilly Street) pause and look left; do this preferably (perhaps before or after eating at Kcttncr’s) in a warm hazy London dusk when the sky is green, and against it the weird tower of St Anne’s Soho makes its hauntingly exotic silhouette, almost Russian, bulbous under its dark lead spire. Little of the church remains from the blitz except the tower, which is very eccentric early nineteenth century (1802 6, by S. P. Cockerell), added to the original Wren church. Somewhere here Hazlitt is buried, and a memorial to him is on the wall of the tower; he died a few hundred yards away, at No. 6 Frith Street, in 1830. On the west side of the church, on Wardour Street, is a garden with seats excellent for sunning in. The second crossing going northwards is Old Compton Street, a main axis for restaurants, delicatessen, and wine shops here you can at times almost float on the aroma of coffee and garlic, and here arc famous long established restaurants from Wheeler’s (fish specialists) to Chez Auguste, and a French butcher and an Algerian coffee shop, mixed into the espresso bars and displays of sausages and cheese from all over the world, and the odd nudist cinema, with Cinerama bulking huge at the eastern end. Northwards again Dean. Frith and Greek continue in the same vein, with a flowering of neon and photographs of glossy nudes at the strip chibs. Every house seems to carry a minimum of three establishments; thus some of the moderately priced but good restaurants tend to be on the first floor or in the basement. Drinking clubs (for which a nominal introduction by a member b needed) are legion, and in them the afternoons flower beyond the English licensing laws into strange oddly submarine alcoholic dusks; time slows and through it move brilliantly vivid creatures like neurotic angel fishes a surrealist world charted with precise accuracy in the works of Mr Anthony Canon.
Restaurants, in a survey as broad as this, arc perilous to particularise; they change character almost overnight with the passing of a chef, and expert up to date minute advice should be taken before indulging if your time is too limited to allow of an empirical exploration. But in Soho you can eat as well as anywhere in the world (and just about as expensively), but the traditional accent is on the small and intimate. The pubs arc equally legion and equally
famous the best known perhaps the York Minster (Dean Street, Shaftesbury Avenue end), known as French’s or Frenchie owing to its long established French prt always packed, thick with beards and Gauloises that flood out into the street in summer, a rendezvous of artists and writer especially; poets again at the Helvetia or Swiss House in Old Compton Street; artists, and film people strayed from Wardour Street, at the delectable Dog and Duck in Bateman Street, and so on. Off Dean Street is Meard Street, chaste houses of 173a, and at No. 88 Dean Street miraculously still there is a unique survival, a rococo shop front that dates from about 1760. Dean Street runs through to Oxford Street at the north, but Greek (not perhaps from the local Greek inhabitants but from the name of Gregory or Grig King who developed this area in the early i68os) and Frith end in Soho Square This, on the site of the Duke of Monmouth’s house, is nearly all built up offices; the square of green remains, however, Soho’s village green, distinguished by a ghostly weathered statue barely recognisable as Charles II (the remnant of a pompous monument featuring the king set amongst the figures of the rivers of England; the latter have migrated to Grims Dyke, Harrow Weald). On the corner of the Square and Greek Street, behind a bleak if civilised exterior, there is an interior from the grand days of Soho (visitable on Mondays, 10.3012, and Thursdays 2.304.30), the House of St Barnabas, built originally as town house for the Beckfords by Joseph Pearce in 1746, but from 1861 a home for the destitute of St Anne’s parish (a curious and elaborately textured chapel dates from then).
Leaving Soho Square, proceed westwards through Carlisle Street and Sheraton Street which brings you into Wardour Street, once the stronghold of glamour.
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