For years Sicilian Avenue near Holborn has been a culinary wasteland. An adorable Edwardian promenade right by the British Museum it held so much promise and delivered only a Spaghetti House. But new-comer veggie caff, The Orchard, is bringing change. The place oozes cute and cosy wood-worked wholesomeness that begs you to linger over lunch for a coffee and cake. You’d never guess it had pedigree as the little sister to haute veg resto, Vanilla Black. The reasonable prices especially bear no relation, which is lucky as the portions are on the ladylike side. The menu changes daily, but there’s always a soup, a couple of sandwiches, a selection of salads and something a bit more daring – melty, cheesy profiteroles on a recent visit – perfect for a lunchtime pick-me-up.
We’re big fans of Gail’s Kitchen. Though walking past the piles of cakes and pastries at the coffee-shop entrance to the restaurant is definitely a wrench that requires heroic amounts of self-control, sometimes cake just isn’t a meal. And trust us, it’s worth it. Housed in a hotel just on the cusp of Bloomsbury, the space is light, airy and unpretentious and can pretty much bend to whatever occasion you need. It can segue from coffee shop, to brunch spot, to long, boozy lunch location and seamlessly on into a laidback dinner place. The service is friendly, and the mood’s relaxed. The menu’s split into meat, fish and veg and is meant for sharing – a good thing since otherwise you’d have some tough decisions, and trust us, this is a place you want to leave room for dessert.
This rollocking Italian in Bloombsbury is always packed to the rafters with a laid-back crowd soaking up the kitsch, but undeniably charming atmosphere. The food is solid – giant portions of pizza and pasta with a few of mama’s classics, like veal Milanese, chucked in for good measure. The crowd is mixed – big groups chugging back gallons of lambrusco rub shoulders with couples looking for a lively (and cheap) date spot. A live pianist gets the party started of an evening with classic Italian ditties and no one seems to mind the gruff Italian service that can border on rude but is always efficient. A giant awning and gas-guzzling heaters make the outdoor tables a pleasant spot even when you have English weather to contend with. Booking is essential and when you call try to make sure they don’t shove you down in the basement, which is fairly soulless and much less fun.