I'm heartened by three new places that have sprung up in the last few months in our area. All of them serve good food and all of them are independents.
The newest is cafe Gitane, 60 Great Titchfield Street. This is the best place on the street for homemade cakes. They also serve a lovely selection of fine teas, as well as a few hot a clod dishes at lunch time. The black tea with rose petals looks beautiful, try this with a rose velvet cupcake. It's eccentric and homely - just what you need at tea time.
The purple outside tables with a flower on each one are lovely if the sun shines. Like all good coffee shops they have free wi-fi.
Just up the road is Bonnie Gull, a fish restaurant which has grown up out of a street food eatery in the East End. This is sophisticated and quite pricey, in a stripey, beach cafe kind of style, but the fish is fresh and generously served. We had a lovely Portuguese Vino Verde with out skate with beurre noir and a haddock muffin. Delicious!
They have a raw fish ice box, and a catch of the day. The staff, as you can see in the shot are friendly and happy.
This is a small place, perhaps twenty interior seats, but they also have outside tables too. It is 21a Foley Street, which is just round the corner to our B&B in Great Titchfield Street.
My third recommendation is Honey & Co, which is a good ten minutes stroll away in Warren Street. But it is worth the walk. This place has caught attention of every food critic in London, and rightly so. The chefs come from Ottolenghi, and have brought with them a very fresh take on middle eastern food - sans frontieres. It has started as a lunch cafe, but they are beginning to open in the evening as well. Once again this is very small, so you might need to book.
I'm wondering if this is a sign of the recession fuelling something interesting. Bad things often bring out the best in some people, encouraging them to go it alone. With some of the the chains struggling, and others suffering from bad publicity over their tax affairs, it seems that there might be a bit more room for a few new ideas.
Even some of the small chains are doing rather well too. Wagamamas are opening three new branches this Christmas, and deserve their good fortune. They have not forgotten why they became so popular. The food is as good as ever. Remember every chain started with just one branch.