It might be the world’s leading financial centre filled with a bespoke suited multitude during the week but London City or the Square Mile as it’s known works at a more genteel pace on the weekend.
It’s not that the suits have necessarily retired to the home counties for the weekend but they’ve swapped their Saville Row finery for casual jackets and sneakers.
With a little more personal space and no particular place to be, it’s worthwhile investigating the City’s local haunts minus the work day bustle. This could mean seeking out the local pubs for imbibing or slipping just beyond the City’s long-gone walls to savour some of London’s finest dining. Then again, it might just be a reasonable coffee and pastry at London’s oldest café and deli in Little Italy.
Kick-off Sunday with some homely Italian
Dating back to 1878, Terroni Of Clerkenwell sits beside St Peters Italian church on Clerkenwell Road. Here you’ll find the best of Italy crammed into a tiny shopfront, packed with smallgoods, wines, pastas and more.
You could try a quick Italian breakfast of mortadella, sun-dried tomatoes and rocket on focaccia downed with a coffee but the best bet is a pastry. Get there early on a Sunday morning before a horde of churchgoers escaping early mass descend and grab yourself a minimum of one fresh Sfogliatelle – a flaky pastry rolled in butter and filled with a sweet and citrus ricotta. Top it off with a decent espresso and grab a vanilla or chocolate cannoli to go.
Sip a pint in a Victorian pub
Along High Holborn you’ll find the Princess Louise, a well-preserved example of a Victorian era public house. Inside the dim yellow-lit interior, dark wood lined walls and a series of large booths engender another time. A sensitive refurbishment a few years ago ensured the Princess Louise remains the best preserved Victorian pubs still left in London. Moreover, it’s one of only a few pubs to retain its snob screens which were installed to keep the hoi polloi away from the middle class.
Owned by independent North Yorkshire brewing giant Samuel Smith, there’s a fair range of hand-pulled ales on tap.
And observing the (unofficial) code of conduct you’ll stand and slowly sip your pint at the bar “right proper like”.
Don’t forget to step into the loos post-pint as even they have a heritage listing. Yes, you can legally piss all over history.
Eat your fill at the original gastropub
The Eagle Farringdon is the original gastropub in London and more impressively, the world. The term was coined in 1991 when publicans David Eyre and Mike Belben had an idea for a public house where the emphasis was on the food and not just the booze.
A high ceiling, scarred wooden floor and worn bric-a-brac style furniture gives the venue a welcoming and comfortable feel. The ever-changing daily blackboard menu skews towards Mediterranean flavours with the grill chef chalking up new dishes based on (as far as we could fathom) what’s fresh and what the kitchen feels like making. Popular dishes make multi-day appearances although it’s useful for diners hankering for a particularly popular creation to call ahead or visit The Eagle’s Facebook page, as they post photos of menu updates throughout the day.