Charlotte Harding discovers a foodie scene in the heart of London.
Carnaby Street conjures up images of the swinging sixties, Mods and a mix of high street and independent stores.
However what many people probably don’t realise, I certainly didn’t, is that it is an absolute dream for those that love their food.
Located in London’s West End, just a short walk from Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus tube stations, there are over 60 restaurants to choose from with 30 global cuisines on offer.
Whenever I go to London if I am thinking food I head to other parts of Soho but Carnaby has it all.
When we visited it was hosting its annual Street Eat food festival, where Carnaby is transformed with food stalls spread across the 14 streets and various seating areas - a picnic table down the centre of the street itself with bean bags and deck chairs dotted about.
Here you can experience a range of what is on offer.
We sampled oysters from seafood restaurant Wright Brothers Soho based in Kingly Court.
It uses daily fresh fish and seafood from its own wholesale company, along with local produce, so the menus are subject to change.
The oysters were perfect and obviously fresh, and every day between 3pm and 6pm at the Soho restaurant you can enjoy one for a £1.
There were also kebabs from LeBab also in Kingly Court, I went for falafel while my husband opted for chicken, both were equally full or flavour and nothing like you get from a takeaway.
Drink-wise we both enjoyed a cocktail from Cahoots, an underground 1940s themed bar with bespoke cocktails in Kingly Court and a Prosecco slushie from Italian restaurant Pastaio in Ganton Street.
There was also a delicious and fresh crab sandwich from Claw Carnaby in Kingly Street and a shaved green tea ice cream from Jinjuu.
There is so much choice catering for every taste and occasion. We easily could have enjoyed cakes at Crumbs and Doilies, noodles from Ugly Dumpling or sausage and mash from Mother Mash, and Street Eat, which usually takes place in August, is the perfect opportunity to sample a range.
Having decided to make a weekend of it we decided to head to Kingly Court for dinner.
With its 21 restaurants, bars and cafés including new pop-up bar Casa Bonita, which will be open until January, there was plenty to choose from. After much deliberating we opted for Señor Ceviche with its Peruvian cuisine and amazing sounding cocktails.
The aim to choose a few different dishes and share, and the dishes are brought out when cooked so the meal can be staggered.
We went with the recommendations of our server and chose the chifa chicharrones (£8.50) slow-cooked, crispy pork belly with smoked sweet potato purée and chancaca soy, calamares (£8) crispy baby squid with pickled jalapeño miso salsa, Señor Ceviche (£9.50) sea bass and octopus ceviche with ají amarillo tiger’s milk, sweet potato purée, avocado, coriander, red onion and crispy baby squid, corazon de res (£8.50) grilled beef heart with sweet potato mayonnaise, ají panca, botija olives and mint, and a side of the repollo a la parrilla (£7) charred hispi cabbage with burnt butter, garlic miso and roasted pecans.
The first one out was the pork belly, the knife cut through it like butter and the smoked sweet potato puree was divine. The calamari followed with crisp batter and the kick from the salsa added another flavour dimension to it.
Its signature dish - the Señor Ceviche was one of the standouts. Ceviche is a South American dish of marinated raw fish or seafood, and to start I was a little apprehensive as the thought of raw sea bass. But it was a really fresh dish that, although looked very beige, was bursting with fresh lime from the tigers milk, which is the Peruvian term for the citrus-based marinade that cures the seafood in a ceviche.
For anyone who likes kidney and liver the beef heart is along those lines - rich and intense.
Usually I would never order cabbage off a menu but with its charred edges and garlic miso it was so good my husband is determined to recreate it at home.
There was a very relaxed and welcoming atmosphere to Senor Ceviche and the staff were excellent, I just can’t wait to go again.
For our weekend we stayed at the Courthouse Hotel next the Palladium a stone’s throw from Carnaby and ideal for time away in the thick of it.
I cannot recommend Carnaby enough for food, the mix of cuisines and overall vibe makes it a great evening out, I’m only sorry it has taken so long to discover what it has to offer.
For more information and see the full range of restaurants that Carnaby Street has on offer, visit www.carnaby.co.uk