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Guests on the pavement outside Chotto Matte on Frith Street in Soho, central London, after lockdown. Soho has been pedestrianised by Westminster council to aid the recovery of the hospitality industry and the wider economy of central London
Guests on the pavement outside Chotto Matte on Frith Street in Soho
Michaël Protin/Eater London

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This Is What Soho Restaurants Look Like Post-Lockdown

One of London’s epicentres of hospitality has been transformed into a pedestrianised space of outdoor drinking dining

In the first two weeks since lockdown restrictions were lifted — and since restaurants have been allowed to reopen their dining rooms — there has been a tentative return to venues across the city, reflecting a wider public nervousness towards returning to spaces which are synonymous with social proximity. Businesses that have always relied on bustling spaces and service at close-quarters are now operating with Covid-secure safety measures in place: face masks, temperatures checks, sanitiser, and floor markings to encourage safe physical distancing, the enforcement of which is left to the discretion of the individual operator. It is a reality that is now part of hospitality and will be for the foreseeable future.

But, like New York and other European cities, pockets of London have embraced a relaxation in the regulations attached to street-trading. Nowhere can its effect — aided by temporary road closures — be seen more obviously than in one of London’s most central and historic enclaves of hospitality venues: Soho. Westminster council seeks to aid the recovery of the hospitality industry; on behalf of its landlords, tenants, and for the wider economy of central London, which operators have cautioned risks becoming a ghost town — with fewer tourists and office workers.

Soho though, for now, has been transformed. The streets have been busy, especially at weekends, with customers taking advantage of the expansion of outdoor seating. This is what it looked like this week.


Frith Street Soho, looking south.

Frith Street in Soho, pedestrianised after lockdown lifting measures
Frith Street in Soho
Michaël Protin

Old Compton Street has been among the busiest in Soho over the last fortnight. Here, guests occupy tables outside the Soho House group’s casual Italian restaurant, Cecconi’s pizza bar.

Cecconi’s pizza bar on Old Compton Street, Soho, London, after lockdown
Cecconi’s pizza bar on Old Compton Street
Michaël Protin/Eater London

Left, one of London’s original espresso bars and most famous cafes, Bar Italia, has extended its terrace out onto Frith Street. Right, one of Soho’s few speciality coffee shops, Milkbar on Bateman Street, gives customers the option to drink from a deckchair.

One of London’s most famous cafes, Bar Italia, with customers occupying a new, extended terrace after lockdown restrictions were eased on hospitality venues in London
One of London’s most famous cafes, Bar Italia, with customers occupying a new, extended terrace
Milkbar, a new-wave cafe, now with deckchairs for customers

Staff are being encouraged to wear masks in hospitality venues across the city, although it is not mandated by government. Below, left, a barista at Milkbar on Bateman Street and, right, a waiter at Cafe Boheme elected to wear a face-covering while serving customers.

A barista in Milkbar wears a mask
A waiter takes card payment from a guest outside Cafe Boheme

One of London’s most popular pizza chains, Pizza Pilgrims, with customers on Dean Street outside the restaurant.

Diners sit outside Pizza Pilgrims
Pizza Pilgrims on Dean Street
Michaël Protin/Eater London

Customers occupy a street table outside Vietnamese restaurant Cay Tre, next door to Ducksoup — one of the city’s early natural wine and small plates restaurants — which remained closed. Temporary barriers have been installed throughout Soho to encourage physical distancing. Right, guests being served outside the Michelin-starred Spanish tapas restaurant Barrafina on Dean Street.

Diners next to a temporary barrier on an outside table on Dean Street
A waiter attends a table outside Barrafina in Soho
Guests occupy a small table outside tapas bar, Barrafina
Michael Prötin/Eater London

Jacob Kenedy’s beloved gelateria, Gelupo, on Archer Street with the smallest and most unobtrusive queuing aids.

Gelupo gelateria on Archer Street

Customers sit on the terrace outside the French House — a pub and dining room — on Soho’s Dean Street.

The French House, pub and upstairs dining room
Gelupo gelateria on Archer Street

Service staff at Malaysian and Singaporean restaurant Rasa Sayang on Frith Street wear masks and visors to serve customers on new tables set up in the road. Right, a waiter from cocktail bar and restaurant Dean Street Townhouse serves drinks wearing a mask.

A waiter with a mask and visor serves a guest outside Malaysian and Singaporean restaurant Rasa Sayang
Outside Dean Street Townhouse

The John Snow, one of Soho’s most famous pubs with a handful of drinkers outside on Lexington Street.

One of Soho’s most famous pubs with a handful of drinkers outside

Berwick Street, which was already pedestrianised now with much more seating positioned outside cafes and restaurants.

Drinkers outside the Blue Posts at the top of Berwick Street


Old Compton Street, looking west, with new temporary road blocks in place, with a sign indicating the new restrictions.

A temporary road block on the junction between Old Compton Street and Dean Street

Elsewhere, individual venues are restricting the number of guests allowed on the premises in order to comply with Covid-secure guidelines. Other venues are encouraging physical distancing with floor markings.

Restrictions on the numbers permitted inside the John Snow pub
Compton’s pub on Old Compton Street

Mildreds, Soho’s longstanding vegetarian restaurant on Lexington Street with a sign announcing what it feels like to have reopened.

A waiter in a mask outside Mildreds on Lexington Street
Mildreds in Soho with a sign outside the restaurant post-lockdown

Frith Street, looking north. Ronnie Scott’s jazz bar to the left, Bar Italia to the right.

Customers walk past Bar Italia on Frith Street

DUCKSOUP

41 Dean Street, , England W1D 4PY 020 7287 4599 Visit Website

Milkbar

3 Bateman Street, , England W1D 4AG 07910 941134 Visit Website

Pizza Pilgrims

11 Dean Street, , England W1D 3RP 020 7287 8964 Visit Website

Barrafina

43 Drury Lane, , England WC2B 5AJ Visit Website

Gelupo

7 Archer Street, , England W1D 7AU 020 7287 5555 Visit Website

Soho House

76 Dean Street, London , W1D 3SQ Visit Website

The French House

49 Dean Street, , England W1D 5BG 020 7437 2477 Visit Website

Cafe Boheme

13 Old Compton Street, , England W1D 5JQ 020 7734 0623 Visit Website

Dean Street Townhouse

69-71 Dean Street, , England W1D 3SE 020 7434 1775 Visit Website

Bar Italia

22 Frith Street, , England W1D 4RF 020 7437 4520 Visit Website

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