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Your guide to Eating In Cafes and Bars in London

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Henry's Cafe Bar - Piccadilly

The Piccadilly branch (there are two more in London at Liverpool Street and Covent Garden as well as others around the UK) is right on the edge of Mayfair. Opposite Green Park and Buckingham Palace and close to The Ritz, it couldnít be handier for a stop-off after a hard morningís shopping in Piccadilly or Bond Street or whizzing round the latest exhibition at the Royal Academy. Itís a big room on two levels, with a long bar. The decor is smart and welcoming for a drink and a meal. During the week Henryís opens at 8am (Saturday and Sunday from 10am) so you could start with a good breakfast and then do your shopping or sightseeing. As well as the main menu thereís also a brunch menu, a sharers menu and a comprehensive cocktail and wine list. And between courses or drinks you can have access to free Wi-fi.

Henryís is eminently more civilised, the sort of place where you can take the whole family and big enough to accommodate party bookings large or small. No doubt earnest breakfast meetings, power lunches and serious dinners are the main part of Henryís business, but tempered with visitors and tourists seeking inner refreshment. The all-day brasserie has become a boon to everybody and Henryís seems to be high up on the list of recommendable places to go at any time of the day or night for a satisfying meal or just a drink.

Starting with breakfast thereís a full monty in the all-day breakfast or the traditional English brunch (bacon, sausages, eggs, tomato, mushrooms, hash browns and toast) or a vegetarian brunch with vegetarian sausages, plus eggs several ways, pastries, muffins and tea cakes. For lunch thereís a classic Ploughman's of ham, pork pie, vintage Cheddar and creamy Stilton with pickles and chutney and ciabatta bread, or classic and deli sandwiches and wraps, burgers, pasta dishes and salads. If youíre not too hungry, there are sharing plates (with potato wedges, nachos, antipasti, fish and chips and Greek mezze options) or a Classic platter of assorted bites and dips.

Main courses include steak and fries, sausages and mash, chicken with mustard and tarragon, shoulder of lamb, chicken or beef curry and Scottish salmon. Henryís Fish Pie is one of the best, packed with prawns and hearty pieces of cod and smoked haddock cooked in a creamy white sauce with mashed potato piped on top. It comes with a separate dish of fresh seasonal vegetables. Beef and mushroom baked suet pudding may not be to everybodyís taste, but then itís not every day you find suet pudding on a menu. Not for the faint-hearted, this has chunks of juicy beef with mushrooms cooked in a rich gravy, all packed into in a light suet pudding.

For dessert, the Chocolate Puddle Pudding is a chocolate sponge with a rich chocolate sauce and whipped cream, a luscious pudding if ever there was one - unless of course youíre having the chocolate fondue with a warm chocolate fudge sauce into which you dip pieces of strawberry and banana, slices of fudge brownie and sweet waffles. Itís like dying and going to chocolate heaven!

The list of cocktails includes long drinks such as Mai Tai, Raspberry Fizz, a Key West Cooler, Long Island Iced Tea, or mojitos, Martinis, short cocktails such as a White Russian, Bellinis, Kir Royale or the classic Champagne cocktail.
80 Piccadilly, Piccadilly, London, W1J 8XH Phone: 0871 971 6887

The ICA Bar and Cafe - Piccadilly

Boasting an association with something as innovative as the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the ICA Bar and Cafe has a lot to live up to and its recent transformation at the hands of Peyton and Byrne ensures you could quite happily ignore all of the art and go and get sozzled instead. Itís an impressive makeover, perfectly in keeping with the Institute and boasting a deliciously modern decor. A long walkway leads visitors seductively into the main hub where a large tiled rear wall shows off the fancy modernist motif. Itís predominantly simple with immaculate minimalism and plenty of space, whites and sweeping lines ensuring itís reflective of the Institute itself. The main bar area is up a small set of stairs, illuminated by skylights and bright lighting, whilst the cafe is situated downstairs and kept nicely atmospheric with more moody lighting.

Itís not just ICA visitors who youíll see here. The ICA Bar and Cafe is trendy and central enough to act as a destination venue, and consequently youíre likely to see a host of creative and fashion types who clearly arenít idle gallery visitors. The strength of the stylish atmosphere means that itís conceivable that this place could be a fashionable hangout, transporting a little bit of East End cool to Central London. It can even get pretty funky in the evening so if youíre in there late make sure youíve got your dancing shoes at the ready.

Proof of the ICA Bar and Cafeís foray into being somewhere to visit, as opposed to an extension of the Institute itself, can be found in its superb range of drinks. All the usual beer suspects are accounted for, and are kept very well on tap with some more exotic bottled options in the chiller. The cocktail list is sound, with a particularly delicious Mojito Royale - the addition of a little bit of good quality bubbly making a well made concoction even more desirable. Whatís more, you might even see the confusing sight of one of the scruffy arty types ordering a bottle of Taittinger - who says you have to suffer for your art? An immaculate venue that complements the Institute well, the ICA Bar and Cafe could quite easily stand alone as a bastion of quality in even the trendiest parts of London.
The ICA,
The Mall, St James, London, SW1Y 5AH Phone: 020 7148 4396


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