While running some errands in central London today, I found my new favourite spot in town. It is lovely and warm and WONDERFUL and absolutely worth writing about, so, tada!
I was actually in town to pick something up and visit two galleries (that are part of the Condo collective exhibition across 8 galleries in London), but neither was particularly engaging. Since both were in Soho, I figured I could take a trip to Foyles, because Foyles is awesome, and there should always be time for Foyles.
Imagine my dismay, then, when I emerged from a dank alleyway to discover that FOYLES IS GONE! The iconic red signboard on Charing Cross road now reads: O YE S. Oh NO is what it is. Devastating!
As it turns out, Foyles did not leave. Foyles did not disappoint. On the contrary, it shifted down the road to a huger, gooder, swankier location. Which sounds and looks pretty heavenly.
Sadly, I was only to find this out about 5 minutes ago as I sat at home in my PJs and googled it. Back in the afternoon, reeling from the presumed loss of Foyles, I wandered down the road, past TCR station, and not 5 minutes away I stumbled upon a brand new Waterstones in the first floor of the big black building that houses Odeon. Of course this was quite a relief; seems I was going to get my literary fix after all. From afar I spotted the ubiquitous ‘W’ sign sticking out like a hitchhiker’s thumb; a chalkboard at the entrance read ‘Foyled again? Maybe we can help …‘, and in my head a collection of voices chimed, hooray!
Walking in, it looked a lot like heaven. Actually, that’s probably what it is: This Waterstones is heaven incarnate, and it’s only a tube ride away. In their typical style, shelves of books line the walls, while selected titles are gathered on tables in various categories. The lighting is warm and comforting; the array of wooden furniture calls to mind a snug but stylish Scandinavian residence. From the ground floor, the cafe on the second floor is visible through glass panels, and a sign points out that upstairs is the world of coffee and fiction. I’ve never been big on non-fiction (what a strange thing to say, huh), so I trooped upstairs.
The second floor was smaller, but equally lovely: again, wooden furniture was scattered around, both to peruse the books and to sit down with a coffee. After poring over a handful of synopses and noting some pretty covers, I ordered a hot chocolate and sat down to mull over life.
The coffee bar is small and the menu simple, but I personally think it more than suffices. An extensive, fancy menu doesn’t seem congruent with a bookstore, where, presumably, sensible people hang (*eyebrows**eyebrows*). Evidently, the staff were still ironing out some bumps in the service and finding their footing a little: my hot chocolate took way too long to be served, especially since it was self-service and I had to hover awkwardly while waiting for it. If she was a tad fumbly, the barista more than made up for it by being sweet, and besides, a bookstore isn’t quite the place to rush through things.
Disappointingly, the hot chocolate was, quite frankly, bad. I had trouble finishing it: the chocolate wasn’t very good, and the whole milk just overwhelmed the flavour so it just ended up tasting like sweet milk. Hopefully their coffee is better, but anyway, from my own experience working in a cafe, these things improve with time.
In addition to a second floor, there’s also a basement. Another sign points out that the basement is for, among other things, the travel section, and a BAR! How cool is that? Cafe, bar, books: Told you this was heaven.
You had me at ‘cocktails’.
The vibe is gud and the happy is many!
Downstairs, I found a selection of art, cooking, and travel books. In the middle of the floor, as pictured above, is a bigger seating area than upstairs, and the dim lighting suggests more of an evening venue than a daytime spot. I slowly browsed the shelves, and the collection was great, so vast that there’s definitely something for everyone in there. Again here the staff seemed to be fumbling slightly: I heard a crash and glass shattering, and then the waiter sheepishly came out to tell the man at the table nearest to me that his drink would be coming in a bit, just that they’d dropped the one they’d already made. Oh well! No big inconveniences I suppose, and its rather nice to catch an establishment in their early days, when it’s still wobbling ever so slightly on its feet.
Me thinks: So cool! I adore it (evidently) and am defo coming back, hopefully for evening drinks sometime. I wish more bookstores would branch out like this; this store, in particular, did it in such a well-rounded manner. It helps that everyone working there has such a sunny disposition, real pleasures to be around. A sacred haven away from the bustle of central London, you’re sure to find something here to like, whether its words on a page, coffee in a cup, or something less innocent to rub out your week’s troubles.
Cheers (to books, brews & booze!) x
19-20 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 1BJ
(The new and improved) Foyles
107 Charing Cross Road (the old Central St Martins college)