On the left bank near Notre-Dame in the heart of tourist territory, just round the corner from a whole batch of these awful restaurants with waiters outside trying to entice you in, you will find La fourmi ailée– the flying ant (8 rue du fouarre 75005), which is an entirely different proposition.
It has been refurbished recently, and I am not so keen on the new decor (changed from looking like a cosy old library to a more modern diner style), but everything else is as good as it has always been. The clientele are still mainly students and canny tourists.
The food is fresh and plentiful, and shock horror for Paris, the staff are friendly. Very suitable for taking your Vegetarian friends.
It is also a Salon de thé, providing you with a good venue for relaxing over tea and pâtisseries.
Unless you are in an area that specialises in Tea Shops, its often hard to find good venues to relax with a coffee or tea and eat cake. Why go to the big chains like Starbucks, when you have alternatives.
If you really want to go up market and have Afternoon Tea somewhere grand, like The Athenaeum or The Berkeley, then great, but if you are looking for something cheaper, then here are a few options.
Actually the Starbucks I have been to in New York are a lot better than London. I had an amazing piece of Cognac and Pumpkin cheese cake in one on the Upper East Side, but for something more unique try:-
Bloomsbury, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Holborn, Marylebone, Mayfair, Seven Dials, Soho, St James and Westminster.
That is a pretty large area, so I am going to focus on the centre of the West End or Tourist Central, i.e., places around Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. This is mainly because finding a decent restaurant or bar in this area is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.
So here are recommendations, in no particular order.
Thai Square, Trafalgar Square – it’s not the best Thai restaurant in London by any means, but it is part of a reliable chain. (It has recently won an award to say it is the best – so judge for yourself). It is also a good location for larger groups.
Asia de Cuba, St Martins Lane Hotel – Very stylish and expensive venue, food is specifically designed for sharing, so ideal for groups of 4 or more.
The Mint Leaf, Piccadilly – a stylish, Modern Indian Restaurant and Bar. Good Pre Theatre venue.
5th View Bar & Food, Waterstones, Piccadilly – For a book store cafe, this place is great, it does good reasonably priced cocktails and the food is way better that you would expect (limited choice though). Nice selection of cakes – the carrot cake is particularly good.
The Wolseley, Piccadilly – European Style Brasserie, very popular, stunning room – great for people watching if you can get a table.
Atheneaum Hotel, Piccadilly – The restaurant focuses on British style food. The hotel also does a really good “Afternoon Tea” and has a bar that is both cosy and stylish (and expensive!).