|A few years back you could be forgiven for asking 'Fitzrovia - where's that?' It was often thrown in with Bloomsbury or Marylebone and a little ignored as a vibrant central London area with history and appeal all of its own. Recently however there has been a lot of interest in the area with some streets almost unrecognisable from how they were even ten years ago. As if to validate the district newcomers have attempted to re brand it as 'Noho', i.e. 'north of Soho'. It is maybe something to do with the history of Fitzrovia that the name has mercifully not caught on and Fitzrovia it remains. It is the area surrounded by Euston Road to the North, Oxford Street to the South, Portland Place to the West and Tottenham Court Road to the East. It takes its name from the magnificent Fitzroy Square in the north of the area.
It has a unique central London mix of thriving media companies and agencies such as Saatchi and Saatchi and TBWA, and TV and post production houses such as MTV Networks and Nickelodeon. One of the world's leading publishers, Dennis Publishing is in Cleveland Street - and has been in Fitzrovia for the entirety of its 50 years in business. Felix Dennis first set up office above a paint shop in Goodge Street. Time Out is in Tottenham Court Road and the area is packed with small art galleries. It has been at the cutting edge of the arts and publishing in general for over a century. What makes it unique is that it is also a popular residential area with a charming calm atmosphere.
Charlotte Street Hotel
Perhaps not surprisingly, Fitzrovia and in particular Charlotte Street and Goodge Street are home to a plethora of some of London's very best restaurants, bars and hotels leading to a truly continental social feel. Here you will find the very best in eating and drinking. In short - it is a place to see and be seen.
Modern Spanish cuisine and tapas is at Fino and Salt Yard which compliment the more traditional and slightly less expensive Navarro's. Roka and downstairs bar Shochu offer modern Japanese food in a truly world class setting. Newcomer Tsunami is also serving modern Japanese cuisine. The Charlotte Street Hotel might be one of most rewarding bars/restaurants to stop for a drink and do a bit of people watching, and if you are after a truly old world feel, visit Elenas L'etoile which has been a destination of choice for many in its 100 year history. A few doors down Charlotte Street is 'Pied a terre' - which has one Michelin star. Moving further north up Charlotte St is Pescatori an established Italian Fish Restaurant and Tsunami. Chez Gerard sits opposite Bertorellis, founded by the Bertorelli family over 90 years ago, and on the corner of Percy Street and Rathbone Place is Bambou with it's French Vietnamese cuisine and private members style interior always proving popular. For Greek food in a lively setting go to Andreas. For the ultimate in exotic food visit the charming Archipelago in Whitfield Street. In Grafton Way is Sardo serving Sardinian food in a very relaxed environment - always busy. Virtually any style of cooking can be found in the area and it's not all-fancy Michelin starred stuff.
Many of the influences in Fitzrovia stem from its rich history, it has always been an area where immigrants have settled. In the late 50's Bengalis settled in the area and the modern British Curry House was born. The Agra in Whitfield Street was one of the first curry houses to serve tandoori chicken in London and remains in the same location today. The Gaylord in Mortimer St is an up market Indian Restaurant and Charlotte Street has the Palms of Goa and the Curry Leaf. So all you curry gourmets have plenty of choice.
Charlotte St and Goodge St may be the centre of Fitzrovia when it comes to restaurants, however they are dotted all over the area. Market Place to the west (at the southern end of Great Titchfield St) is turning into a great al fresco eating area with Carluccios and Strada taking pride of place amongst the many eateries that are here. Gt Titchfield St also has Sergios, a large Italian Restaurant again with al fresco eating during the summer, Efes serving Turkish food has been here since 1974 and newcomer the Scandinavian Kitchen is a great café serving Scandinavian food and a deli selling all things 'Scando'. The junction of Langham St with Gt Titchfield St is a very social patch - especially in summer with all the restaurants having outdoor seating, together with the busy pub the Yorkshire Grey. It is sufficiently far away from Oxford Street to have a more local clientele and always feels very relaxed.
Because Fitzrovia gives itself over to the people who work there during the day, it also has a fantastic range of 'cheap' or fast food alternatives. Goodge street has too many to mention in full but you can take your pick from Mexican, French, Italian, Japanese and many more. Charlotte St has an excellent Zizzi for Italian pizza and a Pizza Express, Ecco a huge fast and inexpensive pizza café. Tottenham Court Road has a plethora of fast food establishments - many of which follow the modern trend of selling food which is considered to be healthy and virtually fat free.
Fitzrovia over the years has had its fair share of famous residents, however it is perhaps most associated with artistic and bohemian characters. A great many of these bohemians frequented the Fitzroy Tavern in Charlotte Street - Quentin Crisp, Dylan Thomas, George Melly. The term 'Fitzrovia' was apparently coined in this historic pub in the 30's and 40's by its drinkers. Fitzrovia became a popular area for such bohemians in around the 1920's and 30's as they shifted further west from Bloomsbury. Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw were both residents of Fitzroy Square - a square still favoured by writers and actors such as Ian McEwan and Griff Rhys Jones, who live in the area today.
If pubs are your thing, there are many that should be on your list to visit. Some remain steadfastly traditional in style and others have opted for a more continental approach.
The Lukin is one of the latter, based in Conway Street, next to Rebecca Hossack's second gallery. Just around the corner is Potion - popular with an after work drinking crowd. Warren Street has the Smugglers Tavern
Grafton Way has The Northumberland Arms and the Grafton Arms. Whitfield Street has the Carpenters Arms a popular pub serving good food, and The Hope on the corner of Tottenham Street.
The Newmans Arms in Rathbone Place, was built in 1730 and having housed a chandler, an ironmonger, picture framers and finally a brothel, it became a tavern in 1860. Just up the road is the Duke of York also in Rathbone Place. This is on the corner of Charlotte Place a pedestrian street between Rathbone Place and Goodge St, This little street is really coming into its own with Blackfoot Butchers (owned by Salt Yard/Dehesa), a tiny Italian Deli, Dino which stocks many of the items that you might visit a better known deli for. A great modern café run by Australians Lantana, a walk-in back rub centre, a hairdresser, health food shop and an Italian Restaurant - all in a street that can't be more than a fifty metres long.
It is difficult to know where to stop on our imaginary pub-crawl. Hidden away in Riding House Street is the Green Man a cider pub selling the very best of English cider. Newman Street has The Blue Posts. The Champion in Wells Street is worth a visit for the stained glass windows alone. There really are too many to mention in this space - after all this is not a Pub Guide.
||There are also many 'bars' in the area, some with music and entertainment and offering a different experience from the traditional Pub. These bars are on the increase but there are many that are already well established such as Bourne and Hollingsworth, Jerusalem and Shochu beneath Roka. One of the most popular bars in the area is the Crazy Bear in Whitfield Street between Spaghetti House and the British Transport Police - it's worth knowing where it is as there's no sign or indication that there's a bar in the premises, it could be the most requested address in the area. The Eagle Bar Diner in Rathbone place has DJ's through the week and serves good food. The Social on Little Portland Street is a long running music venue which was responsible for the birth of 'Big Beat' and ultimately the career of Norman Cook in his Fat Boy Slim guise. He first saw the Chemical Brothers DJ there. A recent addition to the list is Vanilla in Great Titchfield Street. The long bar at the Sanderson Hotel in Berners St continues to pull in a crowd and gives a great chance to see the interior of this Phillip Stark/Schrager designed hotel. There is a bar at the top of the Saint Georges Hotel in Langham Place with a great set of views over London - from three sides in fact and is usually very quiet. Perhaps it is the 60's concrete of the hotel itself that has put people off - it just seems that few people know it is there, it is imaginatively called ' The Heights'. On the subject of heights, there is now also a members club called Paramount at the summit of Centrepoint, just outside Fitzrovia but well worth a visit for the astonishing view, so long as you know someone who can sign you in!. Again, it is not possible to mention all the bars in the area, suffice to say it's going to take you quite a few evenings to visit them all!
Shopping is what you would expect from being so central. Tottenham Court Road has everything you will ever need from clothes to hi-fi, cameras to furniture. During the 70's it had a reputation for being the place to visit to buy your hi-fi but it has diversified over the years. Heals has been in Tottenham Court Road since 1810, it was bought by the Conran Group and has shared it's fantastic building with Habitat for the last twenty years. For more clothes and accessories go to Great Portland St and Gt Titchfield Street. John Lewis with it's good food hall is in Cavendish Square, and of course Oxford Street runs along the south of Fitzrovia giving easy access to all the major chains and department stores. You will rarely have to leave Fitzrovia for your shopping needs.
Architecturally there is plenty to see from the tranquil splendour of Fitzroy Square (partly built and designed by Robert Adam), to the deco curves of Broadcasting House, Nash's All Souls Church, the almost 'Florentine' Langham Hotel, all in Portland Place and all presided over by the BT Tower, itself an icon of the sixties. As the area was largely developed by small landowners the streets are a maze and include some of the oldest 'passageways' in London - Newmans Passage features in the Beatles 'Hard Days Night'.
The western border of Fitzrovia is Portland Place, one of London's most prestigious streets linking Regents Park with Regent Street and St James's.
In spite of the central London location, there are some schools: in Foley Street, All Souls C of E Primary School with around 200 pupils aged 3 to 11. St Vincents RC school is a short walk away in nearby Marylebone. In Whitfield Street, and recently, magnificently refurbished, including the provision of a colourful and bold adventure playground, the Fitzrovia Nusery has opened. This nursery must be unique in central London. It is impossible not to mention that Fitzrovia is also home to UCL and the LSE, the seasonal flow of the area is as much marked out by the comings and goings of students, as it is by the weather. It may be why it seems to remain perpetually fresh.
Fitzrovia is very well served when it comes to transport. Tube stations at Warren Street, Gt Portland Street, Goodge Street, Tottenham Court Road, Regents Park and Oxford Circus mean that virtually any tube line is easily accessible - you can get to Paddington for the Heathrow Express within a few minutes. Victoria for the Gatwick Express is two stops from Goodge St. St Pancras with Eurostar is a short walk away. The entire area is also well served by buses. Regent's Park is a five-minute walk away - a walk which if you continue, will take you all the way to Primrose Hill without leaving parkland, or to Camden using the canal route.
Always cool, always interesting, Fitzrovia is a pearl in the heart of London. Historic, perpetually hip, it's one of a kind.
Finally, don't call it Noho to a resident.
FITZROVIA QUICK LINKS
Charlotte Street Hotel
Pied a terre
Palms of Goa
The Northumberland Arms
The Newmans Arms
Duke of York
The Blue Posts
Marquis of Granby
The Black Horse
Charlotte Street Blues
The Crown and Sceptre
The King and Queen
The Slug and Lettuce
Bourne and Hollingsworth
The Eagle Bar Diner
Charlotte Street Hotel
The Paramount Centrepoint
Walk in Back Rub Centre
Charlotte Street Hotel
The Rathbone Hotel
The Berners Hotel
The Grange Fitzrovia
The Holiday Inn Fitzrovia
The Saint Georges Hotel
All Souls C of E Primary School
Fitzrovia Nursery School
Pollocks Toy Museum
All Souls C of E
All Saints Margaret Street